Ván Records, 24.11.17
Underground fetishists became clammy in unspeakable places, and outdid each other in their eager for praising Canadian Sortilegia through the roof when the band debuted with Arcane Death Ritual three years ago.
At least, that's the impression I was left with after visiting various online forums.
That the clamorous orchestra sounded trve to the bone, most likely made it authentic enough for the most necrotic ultra-orthodox filthmongers out there.
They didn't persuade this sceptic, though.
Not entirely. Not until now.
If someone loses their cred when Sortilegia returns with a tad more civilized sound, it's more likely that it's my head, and not the skulls of the barbarian Toronto duo that'll be rolling. My best bet is that sincerity provides me with the necessary integrity, for mercy and compassion are unknown concepts among the primitive berserks that have plunged to the bottom of the underground. Truth be told, I never really found the time to give Arcane Death Ritual a proper chance, but I honestly didn't have the biggest expectations either.
Sortilegia consists of Koldovstvo, tearing at barbed wire and twisting ill-natured articulations from his throat, and Haereticus (live for Vemod), who turns to sadistic violence with his bare fists. Together, the two savages create a resounding inferno of charred frenzy as they shake the hell out of the listener with an astonishing centrifugal force. This is black metal from the torture chamber in the catacombs in the depths below the courtyard of ruins of ancient castles.
Sulphurous Temple is a 40-minute manifestation of obscurity and misery, an ode to disgust and aversion, an artistic phonetic installation dedicated to pain and hatred. With screams that penetrate the spinal cord, and ominous notes of the darkest kind, the duo conjure up smouldering depressive retaliation that can easily be recommended to fans of old Burzum, although the expression ain't terribly similar. Associations to the Abruptum classic De Profundis Mors Vas Consumet also occurs, and may (just) as well function as some kind of reference.
This is not music as such. It's a spiritual expression of painful emotions when having reached rock bottom and landed hard, conveyed through a sonic medium. Rating this pitch black emotional outbreak is difficult. Besides, it's Sortilegia who judges and condemns me and you, and not the other way around.
This work is excellent for its purpose, and do as such deserve a higher grade, but in the big picture, Sulphurous Temple becomes just a cog in the wheel, bearing a limited substantial scope. Either way, you get what it's all about. Besides, you can listen for yourself below, and you'll soon learn whether this needs to be in your possession or not. Rating: 4+
Dark Essence Records, 24.11.17 Hoest, as everyone should know, is the prime mover behind Taake, one of few one-man bands that enjoy full recognition and respected among black metal connoisseurs, both in its own home country (where nobody supposedly becomes a prophet) and abroad.
Not only have Taake excelled and earned a well-deserved place among the crème de la crème. Although a wee bit late out of the starting gate, the band should also be considered as one of the innovators who helped pave the way for the classic tnbm expression of the nineties.
Taake - intro
Hoest is a veteran with long experience in the scene. The pioneering work started under the name Thule in 1993, and continued under new moniker in 1995. Taake has over 20 releases under the belt, and Hoest has got a long merit list in other constellations as well, in addition to his employment in Deathcult (who will release a new album in mid-December). Among the full lengths, Kong Vinter (meaning King Winter) is number seven in the row.
The previous album, Stridens hus, came out near the end of 2014. It took quite some time to get that release under the skin, but I eventually succeeded. The rating was set to 5 points, which was basically a bit gentle, but 4 points simply felt too strict. Thus I still stand for the grade. I predicted that we would have to wait until 2018 for a new disk to be dropped. With just a few months left, I'd say that's close enough. Kong Vinter is once again a time-consuming release to absorb, but no matter how much time I invest, it refuses to grow to the expected levels.
There's no big point in discussing instrumental skills and applied techniques. You know where you've got the band (and if not, start at the beginning of the back-catalogue, and work your way forwards). Let's rather talk about melody choices, barbed hooks (aka memorability) and sound. But first; moods - the alpha and omega of the genre.
Kong Vinter, a traditional Norwegian personalization of winter, and a brilliant albeit not very fitting title, has the mood of a cold shoulder. Cool, reserved, indifferent. Black metal should preferably aim slightly higher. Even biting, tentatively hurtful sarcasm, will basically come to short. A hostile, hateful glance can of course come in handy, but it's not until the extreme expression stabs you in your throat with a sharp blade in a dark alley, that true Norwegian black metal achieves the desired satanic level. I might be blowing things out of proportions here, but only because Hoest don't do so himself this time around.
Kong Vinter is laid-back, and, in some extent, reflects Bjørgvin on a chilly afternoon in fading daylight. The sky is leaking, everything is colourless, grey and dismal, and everything seems to blend in a paltry, tedious way. Neon lights and street-lights are mirrored in a flashy and garish manner from soaking wet slate down-town, while people without identity hastily rush back and fort to fuck knows where and what. Just a few a stone's throws away, the teeming activity die out. The lights become more sparse. Naked trees points in all directions with emaciated branches, unable to decide on a common direction. There ain't no remarkably malicious atmosphere or feel of danger around, just a persistent mood of resigned indifference. And this appear as rather aimless, directionless.
Traces of arrogant satanic pride with head held high exist, but grim glances pas along while the sky opens its sluices to drain and lift rain-heavy clouds coming from the ocean higher, in order to hoist them over the mountains on their way eastwards. When the worst weather eases a bit and one catches ones breath in short periods of no precipitation between apparently never-ending rain showers, any inhospitable glance is a long forgotten chapter.
Over the course of the last few days, I've taken the welcome opportunity to revisit randomly selected songs from each album in the discography. Often, these have a fierce, hostile atmosphere that will come across as discouraging on most people, and they all have melodies that makes the blood boil and that drags me along for the ride, in common. They've got sharp sound, but rich punch, and they do something to body and soul. Rhythms and riffs make my head rock, my feet vibrate and my fingers drum along on the table top. Even though Stridens hus also offered rather introvert, and not particular loathsome moods, Kong Vinter is nevertheless an entirely different story altogether. The album offers a passive-pessimistic atmospheric approach with far more toothless content, and an extremely naked, thin and tame soundscape. I admittedly get rather used to the sound eventually.
This, of course, ain't a feeling I'm left with just because the older material is more familiar. I've been fortunate enough to be in possession of this promo for quite some time, and when Taake is on the menu, I'm not the one to postpone the first listen until just before “deadline”. There is an occasional bright spot, or should I say dim spot, but also parts where apathy prevails. Sverdets Vei gives me nothing. Inntrenger have sequences of classic Taake riffing, and at times a suggestive drive, albeit in a fairly monotonous manner. Huset i Havet appeals less, before Havet i Huset again offers some classic Taake sequences in a landscape of alternating appeal. Both that one and Jernhaand nevertheless ends up on the plus side, before Maanebrent again reduce the impression. The boring, lightly post-metallic whining style just doesn't work. In the end, almost eleven minutes long Fra Bjoergegrend mot Glemselen ends up on the positive side of the scale. Barely. The song has a nifty touch of folklore, among other, but it's also schizophrenic, going in all directions. Much like the contour of branches against a leaden sky. The song is symptomatic of Kong Vinter in the sense that it lacks a coherent course of events, and becomes haphazard. The accuracy of the melodic choices chop and change, and the memorabilia becomes as unstable as the weather - at any given time of year.
Kong Vinter - a lukewarm Monarch
I take my hat off to Taake's discography, but I put it back on when Kong Vinter announces its arrival. And not because it gets too cold around the ears, unfortunately. The album, however, ends up “just above the election threshold”.
We've talked a lot about indifference in today's episode. But it should be said that dejected resignation ain't all bad. It's also negative. And I guess that's a comfort. Kong Vinter is a bit dark and gloomy, a little melancholic and pessimistic, just like a stroll through Bergen when darkness strangle and devour the daylight at dusk, and the rain pours down endlessly. Indifferent or not, it's a minor-key atmosphere worth sensing. Or to put it another way:
When the rain hammers on the window, when all motivation is record low, when the body is tired, the mind is fatigued and the head is empty, when a sense of meaninglessness, discouragement and despair comes sneaking, a dose of indifference just might come in handy, and that's when Kong Vinter could serves as a sonic ration, as good as any. Rating: 3+
Ván Records, 24.11.17 Almyrkvi is the side project of Garðar S. Jónsson from Sinmara, where he compose all the material single-handedly, and even plays all instruments except drums.
The band was formed in 2013, and dropped its first EP last year. Pupil of the Searing Maelstrom quickly made its way to my wanted-list, but time and fate didn't act in my favour. Although the EP is good, Umbra is still of another world.
Meanwhile, Almyrkvi also participated on the live compilation Oration MMXVII, and was briefly brought up in that context.
The music we're exposed to on Umbra, provides Garðar with an outlet for creativity that differs from the kaleidoscopic malstrom of the mother-band. It sometimes swirls quite vigorously in the intense undertow from Umbra too, but where Sinmara offers seismic tremors in the underworld, Almyrkvi depict unstable cosmic conditions such as radioactive radiation and runaway meteorites. The draw toward annihilation is rather as of a black hole than a vortex of earthly magma.
Almyrkvi combines asphyxiating moods of ominous nightmares with an astral sphere of unknown origin. A mild industrial aspect can also be heard as undertones from the engine compartment. Terrifying intensity à la Akhlys, Desolate Shrine or Terra Tenebrosa, goes hand in hand with an ethereal ethos known from acts such as Below the Sun, Khonsu or Mesmur, just to give you an idea of direction and environment. I guess you could say that certain stylistic similarities to Caïnan Dawn's last album, F.O.H.A.T does exist.
On the debut, as on the EP, Bjarni Einarsson (Sinmara, Slidhr) steadily handles the percussion. The drums chase through the universe when the meteor rain is at its worst, and shifts into more progressive strokes when colossal voids are to be traversed.
An enormous onerous hypnotic state occurs when resounding punch collides with spherical atmosphere in vacuum. Black holes absorb all mass, even electromagnetic radiation, like light, and other wave forms, like sound, in a steady pulling stream. Only to pull everything apart and break everything down into the tiniest imaginable sub-particles with tremendous force.
That Umbra consists of music “of another world”, doesn't - as initially suggested - mean that the EP didn't also portray otherworldly themes. Umbra, however, simply feels more thoroughly composed, more detailed, and sonically more reverberating. With Umbra, Almyrkvi assumes their place in the top echelon of the Icelandic extreme metal scene as the most natural thing in the world.
Although the six tracks don't spend more than 42 minutes on their astral journey, those feeling small whence looking up on the starlit night sky, risk having their spiritual abilities shrunk to unimagined proportions, for as the press-release best sum up Umbra: “suffocating soundscapes, delving deeper still into melancholic darkness of the cosmic abyss.” Rating: 5+
Sepulchral Voice Records, 24.11.17
In 2015, four years after the debut, Swedish Degial released their sophomore album Savage Mutiny, a showcase in violent black and scorched death metal. I never got around to writing about the album myself, but I seem to remember most critics lauding the album at the time. The sound was raw and flaming as of sizzling anger, quite fitting of the infernal material. Predator Reign sees the Swedes return to the intense part of the death region that borders on black metal, with an innate spirit of barbaric old school eagerness and attitude.
We might as well start with a quick presentation. Degial was born in the ashes of Degial of Embos when three of the members started a new band after the first was left in ruins in 2006. In 2014, after a few replacements, the band's latest addition, bassist P.J, fell into place. A couple of the quartets members have links to Watain live, another couple of guys have former links to Malign live, and two of the guys are active in Vorum.
The sound might not be quite as primitive when Degial anew goes to war, but a resolute spark of the death-defying mercilessness of the past, is still a vital part of the band's proto-extreme metallic approach. And, of course, we still encounter unpolished reckless violence. The stench of sulphur and hell-fire hangs heavily over bulging heaps of rotten corpses, whose odour - burning in the nostrils - ain't by no means any less foul.
Predator Reign is a dance on infected intestines and mutilated remains. The nocturnal night-time predators come out of their hiding places to participate in the ecstatic celebration. Fire from piled up body-parts, burning cars and buildings ablaze, cast flickering orange lights over the streets of urban areas once ruled by mankind in a somewhat civilized manner. Out of every nook and cranny, murderers and vile souls having survived the epidemic, flow out in the streets in the darkness of night in order to revel in their dark and perverted desires.
That is the immediate mood Predator Reign injects into ravaged ears. Degial once again deliver fuming charcoaled death metal in crazed disrespectful rage. The guitar's wild dance in ecstatic intoxication, and the feral savagery of the rhythms midst flames, fronted by rasping and monstrous, yet relatively clear vocals, as if from an inhuman grotesque beast, bred from the most morbid of imaginations.
But that's not for you, now is it? Surely, you're not a loathsome, sickening creep, right?
The expression is killer and gruesome, and the sound is dark and powerful, while slaying guitar licks are scattered all over the album, but the material's memorability is somewhat limited. Therefore, Predator Reign don't attain five points. It's fucking close, though. With more riffs as in the early stages of The Savage Covenant, staggering drive as in Devil Spawn and frightening moods like the ones in Clangor Of Subjugation, those five point would no doubt have been secured. Rating: 4+
Heathen Tribes, 19.11.17 Profundum from the US, hereby launch their debut album Come, Holy Death. The band released their first EP, What No Eye Has Seen, independently almost 15 months ago.
The style they perform is heavy and doomy, but also furiously hateful and pleasantly soaring. Everything in a swarming mixture of black, death and funeral. Profundum themselves claim that Come, Holy Death contains a real dose of “black, suffocating, majestic darkness”. I admittedly had my doubts, but when my sight adapts to the darkness, the pattern became clearer.
Something is hiding in the watery mud. Something that has repressed its weaker, but also humane side. Something that was once harmless and blameless, but that due to its surroundings gradually changed and became unrecognisable. Something that has rejected all scruples. Something that has suppressed all empathy and human values. Something hostile that now only feels a smouldering rage.
This inarticulate creature howls and roars at the starry sky, but the celestial vault shows only indifference. And the louder the creature shouts and growls in sadness and disgust, the more silent the forest becomes. For one desolated in solitary, loneliness and desperation becomes yin and yang in a vicious circle.
Truth be told; to begin with, I had some difficulties seeing a whole lot of value in an apparently mediocre release with muddy sound. But when the album eventually begun to grow, wretched melodies, forlorn moods and a strained whiff of anguish, became increasingly prevalent. After an increasing number of spins, the inherent pain of the entity feels more and more palpable. A misty veil dissolves, the textures become clear as the dismal details are being revealed.
Foredoomed to suffering and vindictiveness, the animalistic being seeks comfort in the certainty of death. Death that's always close at hand. Just an infected wound, an ugly plunge or an intentional leap from the cliffs, away. And we're invited to take part in this demise, this symphonic death/doom ode to emotional suffering.
With their debut, the American duo shows that they are capable of processing and conveying negative feelings, distilled into unpleasant, sad and mud dripping moods. Come, Holy Death can feel generic and cloudy at first listen, but does reveal a chapter of sorrow that little by little creates a dying universe of its own. A heavy, dark and gloomy life covered in filthy mire, but with a neglected, ignored, diminished and buried core of beautiful innocence. Rating: 4