Friday, May 29, 2020

Behemoth are not in a forest anymore

News of coming Behemoth material are very hard to miss now and their new EP is a mini-release consisting of their adaptation of The Cure's classic song "A Forest", a live version of that and a couple of tracks from the I Loved You At Your Darkest time. Nergal also got ridiculously photogenic Niklas Kvarforth for a very fancy video clip, who was hired for his "psychotic appearance, attitude and vibe". If you're giggling already, just wait to watch the actual video.

While I enjoy the Shining albums, Kvarforth has been a shameless sell-out for many years now and just the fact that one person can maintain a self-destructive project for more than two decades gives me the shivers. Behemoth's The Satanist will probably be the last album I will enjoy by them, even if the affection has faded a bit after six years of listening, and I Loved You At Your Darkest really wasn't for me.

In my opinion, they didn't serve any good justice to the song at all, it doesn't fit their style and it was a baffling listen, apparently overproduced with a high budget, as Behemoth in general for some reason choose to come out as some kind of evil Power Rangers. The edge has completely disappeared from this band by now, so if you want some painfully mainstream metal just check it, but be careful if you are fans of The Cure. Frankly, Carpathian Forest did a much better job covering this specific track.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Armagedda - Svindeldjup Ättestup

A quick glance at Svindeldjup Ättestup could almost fool someone that this is not actually a new album by Armagedda but a remake of older material. Produced by Mgła's M.Z. at No Solace, an artwork done by Erik from Watain, at the same colors and aesthetics as where they left off in 2004, along with the first track after the introduction even named "Ond Spiritism", this record at first serves as a joyous flashback into their discography. As I have always been fond of this part of the Swedish black metal underworld, and the fact that Armagedda are masters of this craft, had me excited as a young child in a carousel and the music doesn't disappoint. The band proves they're always on point, they are so effortlessly dominating and mark a return of the project the best possible way, with some of the best musicians of the genre being involved in its release. Svindeldjup Ättestup is very well balanced, at times calm but strong spirited at the same time, definitely a highlight of the year so far not only for the captivating music but also for the fact that Armagedda showed such signs of activity again. Doesn't the beginning of "Ond Spiritism" sound like the intro part of Shining's "Du, mitt konstverk"?

Listen to Svindeldjup Ättestup:

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Winterfylleth - The Reckoning Dawn

Even if this album wasn't as good as it is, it almost feels like it would have been what the audience would desperately want from Winterfylleth for the last five years or so, making its case an even stronger banger as in reality. The Dark Hereafter in 2016 was solid but a bit short (could have been a fine EP), and The Hallowing of Heirdom in 2018 was fully acoustic and directed to a part of the listeners that is more selective. I've always been comfortable with the band's acoustic parts but it's the atmospheric black metal that actually hooked me to them, and that's exactly what is openly given in The Reckoning Dawn. Potent tracks with amazing riffs one after the other, well catered production, excellent flow and once again beautiful lyrics is what characterizes what might be the absolutely flawless Winterfylleth album to date. Don't skip any song in the record, but make sure to check the limited edition that contains three additional new recordings, including an amazing cover of Enslaved's "Wotan" from the Frost era, named by Winterfylleth as "Woden". I salute the best atmospheric black metal band from the United Kingdom.

Listen to The Reckoning Dawn:

Monday, May 18, 2020

Precambrian - Glaciology

By listening to Precambrian for the first time, one would be correct to relate them musically to Drudkh and that's not by accident, since it is a essentially a side project by the same members: Krechet, Vlad and Roman. While all the side projects of these musicians are fairly interesting, I've always had Precambrian as an even more isolated case in an already isolated environment. This fellowship of bands remains as private as possible and whatever we know of them is only communicated through their music. 

Glaciology is not technically an album but a compilation of the band's first two (and only) EPs, 2014's Proarkhe and 2016's Aeon. However, the first three tracks in this release are new recordings that were meant for a third EP, which was then converted to this full compilation that basically includes all the material under the Precambrian moniker. What draws the attention is the heavy thematic inclination towards geology, paleoclimatology and the study around the nature of snow, which is usually very superficially touched in black metal, but this time it's possible that these guys did some actual research on these subjects.

There are no lyrics available so I imagine whatever I can from the titles only, which are still giving up a lot of hints on the band's inspiration. And while I have university education in this area, I am wondering if Roman also has done something similar, or they spent time researching online about these terms. The track list of Glaciology goes as follows:

1. Voice of Snow
2. Cryolithozone
3. Firn
4. Basalt
5. Lava
6. Permafrost
7. Sulphur

Just for the sake of knowledge, we can break down some of the words we see, starting from the band name and compilation title:

Precambrian refers to a vast period of time of the age of the Earth, namely starting from its formation and almost reaching the era when the first multicellular organisms started appearing on the planet, which is called the Cambrian era. Precambrian takes up a huge percentage of the Earth's lifetime and is still not strictly defined, but you can think that our planet is ~4.5 billion years old, the Cambrian era started 570 million years ago, so the time span before that to year 0 is a time period so big that it's hard to comprehend. A series of profound events happened during the Precambrian era, that ultimately led to the formation of complex lifeforms on the Earth.

Glaciology is the study of glaciers (huge moving bodies of dense ice), and the band's decision to name this collection like that, makes me think they wanted to have a concluding release and close the Precambrian chapter. The tracks from all the three EPs are similar so a compilation is a reasonable wrap-up that also offers a consistent listening experience, but let's continue for a little bit. "Lava" and "Sulphur" are more popular terms, so:
  • basalt is a common igneous rock (rock that forms from the solidification of lava / magma), 
  • firn is a type of granullar snow, it looks like sugar but it's quite dense and it's found at the heads of glaciers, 
  • permafrost has to do with places that remain constantly frozen for more than two years, most commonly in the poles of the Earth
  • cryolithozone is another way of describing permafrost, yet the two terms are not completely the same (nevermind the details for this). The word can be broken down to: cryo (=cold), litho (=rock), zone
I'm sure you were hot into geology before, and you are even more into it now. Returning to the topic of the music in Glaciology, if you have ever heard of Drudkh or like minded bands then you will not be caught off guard by this. The guitars are thick and slay hefty, repetitive riffs, the dusty production is pompous and the vocals are quite harsh and on point, this time not following the recipe of deep growling like it has been done in Blood of Kingu or Hate Forest. "Cryolithozone" is a mammoth, 14 minute track that features slight noise / ambient in different parts, something that was also used in the track "Firn", yet other than a handful of changes like this, the compilation remains an aggressive and monotonous cacophony that reflects on an even more straightforward side of the band members. I guess they needed a separate project entity for this musical subject, before moving on to more romantic patterns with Windswept. The compilation was released in June 2019 by Primitive Reaction, and it's a must for the fans of anything Drudkh-related.

Listen to Glaciology:

Monday, May 11, 2020

Fauna - The Hunt

While listening to The Hunt, only recently I realized that the release has been remastered, reworked and granted a tracklist, splitting the original one-hour long compositional into sequential parts. Live drums were recorded for the re-release, and the cover art was updated to what is seen below, making this record quite more accessible and at the same time, not putting any of its merit to jeopardy. It's easier to suggest The Hunt to someone when it consists of seven tracks, than one long piece, however the audience that has been molded into the band's work surely never had a problem with the immersive ambiance and repetitiveness of Fauna

As the originators of Cascadian black metal, in my opinion, this group resides on top of the ladder within this subgenre, even above the widely more popular Wolves in the Throne Room, offering listening experiences that are deeply introspective, unique, and simply mindblowing. The Hunt is the band's second album, and instead of describing it I will retrieve an answer from an interview found (and you should read all of it) here:

""Could you tell us a bit more about The Hunt, and any plans the band have in the near future?

The Hunt” is a mythic journey into our ancient past, an exploration of the transcendent wisdom of hunting in all its ramifications. An attainment to totemic consciousness, we worked with the skins, bones, spirits and meat of our ruminant brethren, enacting a psychic journey from the hunger of our modern catastrophe to the rejoining of our animal selves to the flesh of another through the rite of consummation.

Thus sated, we moved on to our 3rd Cycle, known as Avifauna. For this chapter we worked with the bodies and the metaphor of birds, weaving owl, seagull and falcon into our world as part of an ascensional rite of flight and transcendence. Our 4th Chapter, undertaken in MMVIII, took us further into the Red Light of the Earth, and was performed thrice on Cascadian soil.

“The Hunt” has been reworked and will be re-released on Aurora Borealis on or around this summer’s Solstice. We will be recording and releasing our 3rd and 4th Cycles at some point in the coming years, and will be returning to the spiraling skyward that is “Avifauna” in live environments throughout the West Coast this year. We are also currently seeking assistance with a journey we wish to take on European soil this Fall.""

In this reply, Fauna also mention what would later be released as Avifauna in 2012, their most outstanding album and one of the best of its decade. I am not certain if the band is still active today, but Echtra, their vocalist / guitarist, has moved on with his own project of the same name. Bear in mind, that you would need to invest more time and attention before going into the material of this set of musicians, but it is rewarding all the way. 

Listen to The Hunt:

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Sinmara - Aphotic Womb

In 2012, I had made an order to a local underground label containing various goodies, yet one of the tapes that I had asked was actually not available anymore and the owner, took the liberty to include something else of his own as a gift. When we talked, he mentioned this swap of items and expressed his curiosity on my opinion after I open the package. Back then, I bought albums as frequently as I do now, which is not frequently at all so I was quite meticulous with my picks and where my pocket money were going, yet I trusted this distributor and his work in the scene around my area.

And while I cannot recall the complete order, I do remember the extra gift tape was the debut EP by an upcoming band from Iceland named Chao, a release that had already been taken care off by Terratur Possessions, a label I was fascinated with at the time. The name of the mini-album was Spiritus Sankti, it featured three tracks and merely twenty minutes of music,  presenting an ambitious band with intrinsic potential that made me stick to the material of the tape for quite some time. The Icelandic black metal scene had not yet exploded worldwide at that time and the only similar album in my knowledge was Svartidauði‘s debut Flesh Cathedral, a to-be-considered classic record I had acquired from the same distributor.

Two years later, Sinmara left a serious mark by releasing their aggressive debut Aphotic Womb, which made it impossible for me to miss it as it was completely within my musical demographics and absorbed one positive review after the next from all around the internet realm. I didn’t realize maybe until 2015 or so that this band was actually the well-reformed progression of the young band Chao I had discovered almost by accident two years ago, who, along with changing their name, had grown and improved their craft all across the board. Only a handful of albums I have listened to whole on repeat so much like I have done with Aphotic Womb, more because of how violent and pleasing it is, than perfect.

I maintain a belief that instrumentals and interludes in albums can tell a lot about a band’s mindset despite taking up a small portion of the total content, and the two instrumentals in Aphotic Womb are totally dominating. The opener “Katabasis” is a proper rocker with some distinctive riffing, as is “Stygian Voyage”, where more melodic passages are employed and a more noise / dark ambient part towards the end, but thankfully Sinmara don’t rely on that.

After the introduction and when “Cursed Salvation” kick starts, the record’s heavy atmosphere takes control completely. The band unleashes a load of menacing guitar lines, played in fast tempos but showcasing eerie melodies that flourish above the intensity of the compositions and the harsh, raspy vocals. Aphotic Womb‘s flow is nearly perfect, just the sequence of “Cursed Salvation” to “Verminous” and then “Shattered Pillars” is impressive to say the least, and has many of the album’s highlights. From the outstanding drumming in “Verminous”, to maybe one of the most memorable black metal guitar riffs I have ever heard in the introduction of “Shattered Pillars”, Sinmara had carefully forged this masterpiece to be poisonous no matter where you touch it from.

They were also pretty comfortable in writing as long of a track as they wanted to, with the last and longest piece “Mountains of Quivering Bones” being another potent highlight. It is hard to find a musically comparable record, maybe a way to describe Aphotic Womb, and part of the Icelandic sound, would be a distant bastardization of Deathspell Omega and modern Swedish black metal (bringing very slight notes of the latter in the ominous introduction of “Teratoid Crossbreed”), but it is impossible to relate to anything else accurately as this is, the personal sound of these musicians.

I finally bought Aphotic Womb, along with the second full length album of the band, Hvísl stjarnanna, at a gig I attended last year when I saw them live for the first time. The band delivered the strangling mayhem I wanted to experience that night, where the only words that came out of them apart from executing their setlist was the emphatic statement “We. Are. Sinmara” after everything had been set up for them. Needless to say how neat the package is with this jaw-dropping cover art, displaying some additional, awesome drawings and the brilliant lyrics of the album throughout the pages of the booklet.

By now, this scene has took off and achieved high popularity around the world and outside of the underground, after the outbreak of Misþyrming and their debut in 2015, but they are not the only band in these ranks. Sinmara are definitely one of the most interesting acts out of the country and a fine example of heavy loaded, pompous black metal that looks as high up as possible. Go through the album in its totality, there isn’t a single track to spare, and that’s the case with the band’s rest of discography too.

Listen to Aphotic Womb:

Monday, May 04, 2020

Karmacipher - Introspectrum

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Sutekh Hexen - Yule XV

1. Yule XV

We bid your company, to this handful of ashes held to the sun, this glint of silk and flashing anthem, this child’s tear shining before the grave. If your heart measures its meter by sea tide, if the razed earth cries out through your throat, if the moon tugs at your fingertips and the winter is to you a summons; migrate to our verdant rainscape, join us, as more than mere audience but as congregation, poised on the razor’s edge of significance, an ephemeral convergence of souls who might by our integrity participate in something grander than the amnesiac spell of this age. For our collective howl of beseeching and joy and weeping demands a mass to instantiate the sacrament, and thus your dedication means more than mere spectatorship—it is necessary to make meaning, to make our collective honoring of sun, dark, and the deeper things of mortal consciousness substantial.