One of my favorite albums of 2012 was the debut from Greece’s Hail Spirit Noir. The insane psychedelic and progressive elements mixed with black metal made for one of the most unique releases I’ve ever heard, in any genre. So a few months ago when I was emailing the band about if they had plans to release it on vinyl I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were putting the final touches on their follow-up. Titled Oi Magoi (The Magician) it is now complete and will be unleashed in less than two months, a quick turnaround to be sure. Look for the album on January 20th via Code 666. The track list for 49 minute album is as follows:
1. Blood Guru
2. Demon for a Day
3. Satan is Time
4. Satyriko Orgio (Satyrs’ Orgy)
5. The Mermaid
7. Oi Magoi
Things have been quiet of late. Most of my time has been focused on my new job and metal musings for Metal Bandcamp as that site and my passion for it grows. Proper reviews may still occasionally pop up here, but not as consistently as they once did. In terms of the music I’ve been listening to, I have been trying to split my time between the latest/greatest and lesser-known gems I may have skipped over in years past. Three releases in particular have grabbed and held my attention as I continue to explore the annals of black metal’s more melodic and experimental side.
The first may be well-known to anyone who digs deep into the side-project world, but 15 years later it still strikes me as an incredibly unique listening experience. Diabolical Masquerade was a project of Anders Nyström of Katatonia and the prodigious Dan Swanö. It takes a goofy, less serious approach to black metal; filling it circus-like symphonics and off the wall compositions. Their 1998 final proper album Nightwork perfected their sound and is a must for anyone who needs a break from bullet belts and christbashing.
The next album I found laying in the depths of the internet is Black Lotus’ Harvest of Seasons. The short-lived Canadian group managed to pull off a fantastic piece of atmospheric black metal for their swan song, focusing on the seasons and the natural changes undertaken by the world on a yearly basis. It’s an uplifting, majestic journey. Unfortunately the album is almost impossible to find as their label pulled all digital rights for it (aforementioned new job is in the digital music world, so I get to see firsthand how these things work), but if you can track it down I can give you my word you will not be disappointed.
Finally, we travel back to Europe for a band that is very much alive and kicking. Norwegian/English group Code just released the fantastic Augur Nox a few days ago, but it’s their 2009 album Resplendent Grotesque that really caught my ears. In the vein of Enslaved of Borknagar, the band shines black metal’s rough patches to a glimmer and fills them with clean singing and slick guitar work. They’ve undergone massive lineup changes and take roughly four years between albums, so it’s safe to say the band will not likely outdo their sophomore masterpiece.
Look for my end of year list in the next three weeks or so. It may be a bit later this year as I’m trying to absorb everything I still need to pick up and be more mindful of what music truly affects me. My top five or so have been set in stone for the past few months and while I don’t expect those to change I look forward to organizing and reflecting on all the rest.
Corpse paint is one of the longest-running symbols of black metal. While many think it has more than outstayed its welcome, it lives on and always will. Starting as a staple of shock rock, it naturally migrated to the most shocking genre of music the world had ever seen, the second wave of BM of the early ’90s where it flourished and ultimately peaked. It was a symbol used to show a great number of things, but ultimately became more associated with the Norwegian scene and they style they created than any metaphorical meaning.
When you see a band wearing corpse paint, you can safely assume what their music is going to sound like before they even pick up an instrument. Relentless, high energy and most likely satanic or occult in theme, the image is as – if not more – important than the music itself. There’s many forms the black and white face paint can take, ranging from the deadly serious of Gaahl to the cartoonishly comical of Abbath.
But in the end, it will remain an important aesthetic component to these bands, and I’ll admit it can be tastefully done on occasion. Above are a few shockingly intense photographs of Natremia, highlighting the effect good corpse paint can have on a band’s image. Taken by my friend who is an amazingly talented photographer, the high contrast pictures brings out the bleak qualities defined by both the paint and the music. The Bordeaux-based horde will debut their first full-length on September 16th.
Last year, Anicon quietly debuted their EP – and themselves – simply by posting it on Bandcamp and waiting for the world to discover it. Word quickly spread as the Colin Marston-mastered release was quickly identified as something more than just another Brooklyn-based BM crew. And now we have a new, free release from the clandestine group; a three track demo of the highest quality. “A Nest of Suns” reminds heartily of something as delicate and intriguing as Cobalt would produce, proving this is just more than just black metal as it’s defined.
No word on whether the three songs are unrefined creations of an upcoming effort or just the band appeasing those of us who have been gorging on last year’s release for too long. But just like last year’s release, it’s a welcome addition to the thriving scene of USBM.
Two incredible musicians have just announced a split together, and it instantly became one of my most anticipated records of the year. Stevie Floyd of Dark Castle/Taurus/awesome tattoos fame is collaborating with Drift of a Curse’s Erik Moggridge to release a twelve track collaboration seeing the musicians trade vocal and guitar duties. Moggridge, a veteran of the Bay Area thrash and death metal scene, has spent the past few years on his solo acoustic project, Aerial Ruin. I’m not normally one for lone acoustic music, but 2011′s Valleys of the Earth is one of my most-listened to relaxing albums, and most metalheads will find solace in his gloomy, almost doom-ridden folk. And while I haven’t listened to too much of Floyd’s Taurus, Dark Castle put out some extremely interesting and crushing doom that fits nicely on the Profound Lore roster. Additional dark wizardry will be provided by infamous USBM lurker Wrest.
Unfortunately there are no samples of the split to check out yet, but it promises to be “a wholly absorbing, folk-centric offering” so it’s not hard to imagine something similar to Aerial Ruin. The split will be available for preorder on digital or vinyl via either of the artist’s Bandcamp pages. The still-untitled album will be available August 1st.
After an extremely successful 2012 which included a flawless EP, a full US tour, and a record deal with the mighty Century Media, atmospheric greats Vattnet Viskar have announced their next full-length. I’m insanely excited for Sky Swallower, but it’s clear it will be different than their previous efforts. The band has parted ways with the rhythm section and picked up two new members. I don’t want to sound skeptical, but Matt St. John’s devastating drums was the absolute highlight of their self-titled EP. Hopefully the new recruits can integrate as effortlessly. Sky Swallower will be released on September 3rd, following a Summer east coast sting. No new tracks available yet, but in the meantime here’s “Barren Earth” which never, ever gets old.
Release: LP, 2013 (Gilead Media)
Genre: Atmospheric Black/Doom
Sonic Brethren: Wodensthrone, Dawn, Kvist
Gilead Media has become one of the foremost purveyors of underground extreme metal in the past few years. The Adam Bartlett brainchild is a label where quality and consistency are king, making every single vinyl release a must-own for any heavy collection worth its weight. So when it was announced that the imprint would be debuting a full-length from a new black metal horde from the UK, well, suffice it to say I was intrigued. The label tends to focus on homegrown heroes so the fact that it was reaching across the pond could only mean good things, and what was unleashed was yet another gem from the filthy depths.
Born from the ashes of the one-man atmospheric project Archaicus, Lychgate evolved into a full band and transformed their sound into something more indescribable. It’s an amalgam of all things extreme, combining black metal and death-doom with fantastic results. The occasional symphonic flourish by way of creepy organ adds a horrible beauty without falling into the common clichés committed by bands who try to compete with movie scores. Subtlety is key, and that’s where Lychgate succeed.
As we spiral deep into the madness, the occasional familiarity will present itself. By the time the album is halfway through, the band’s penchant for clarity and precision has become apparent, and unexpected influences creep through the terror. The first half of “Sceptre to Control the World” sounds positively Opethian. And it’s not the only nod to the prolific Swedes you’ll hear, as the final track’s melancholic leads and off-kilter percussion reveal a sort of instrumental experimentation and cohesion that would only be expected from a group compatible beyond their years. These unexpected twists and turns become more and more apparent after repeat listens, rewarding patience. Drummer Jon Valelly plays seemingly on his own accord, adding a maddening, almost impromptu jazzy sheen to the mix which is beyond refreshing for a black metal debut. His ability to play both in sync with the rest of the band and up to his own demonic devices is unparalleled, a masterful feat.
With such a dense and dizzying output, I was hoping for a longer offering in both in track and album length; 38 minutes including an intro and interlude leaves you wondering what other sort of madness these occultists could have conjured up if they experimented with stretching their movements past the 6-minute mark. But with such mesmerizing songs and an overall impressive first album it’s hard to fault the Brits with much at all.
The record is available from Gilead’s webstore.
Final thoughts: Gilead Media puts out another incredible debut from a band who satisfy the need for all things heavy, without forgoing melody and intrigue.
The Howling Wind - Vortex
Anagnorisis - Beyond All Light
Carrier Flux - Objection
Tribulation - Formulas of Death
Thy Light - No Morrow Shall Dawn