Metals Around The World

Numen – Basque Black Metal

Like Catalonia, Basque Country has stated its interest in independence from Spain. I do not know whether Numen is one of those who wows for independence or not but a big attractor in their uniqueness is the Basque language, Euskera.

They could be described as oldschool black metal with folk influences and folks, THIS is how folk influences should be used. With the likes of Moonsorrow and Primordial Numen integrates folk to their sound without unnecessary hobbit-like dibbling and dabbling ’round the tree with beer cogs in hand. Folk is just one of the elements, not constant flute frenzy. Numen should even appeal to Black metal purists as their sound really takes a bow to oldschool black.

numen-logo

The idea of Black metal from Basque country isn’t that far fetched for me. Pretty much my first touch to black metal was Numen. Which still to this date is among my favourite Black metal artists. I found Numen through long-defunct Audiogalaxy in about 2002(?). In Audiogalaxy groups it was normal for people to send tracks to everyone in that group. Numen is one of the many class acts I discovered that way.

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Their first EP Haize Sorginduen Intziriak (2000) (Screams of bewitched winds) never went to my regular listening cycle, except Ehitzari Beltza which was an instant favourite. I’m still not sure what it means, or how the hell it is pronounced what really stood out for me was the obscure sounding language. Not even mentioning the sound of a thunderbolt in the end and odd laughing at 3:04 both of which are such a cliche but then were awesome. Still, unlike some of my favourites from that time, the song is still decent and the harsh but beautiful language fits the mood perfectly.

495646300-galdutako-itxaropenaren-eresia-coverThe album that kicked off the Numen fever was their first full length Galdutako Itxaropenaren Eresia (2001) (Chant of the Lost Hope). It is still a strong effort with some really unique instrumentals. My personal favourites are Iheslaria which is both beautiful and brutal at the same time and the overly melodic Ama Lurra.

After Galdutako, Numen set the standard even higher with a good EP …Jarrai Beza 29785Kondairak (2003) and what many think is their best work, full-length Basoaren Semeak (2004). The most interesting piece of …Jarrai is Mari (Su Ta Gar Cover), it embraces the melodic aspects of Numen, being a cover of a heavy metal band. It is also an intriguing piece of history as Su Ta Gar is one of the most known Basque metal bands and also controversial. They’ve been around since the end of 1980s and released multiple albums.

45657Basoaren Semeak is a thick, haunting but natural sounding record which has obviously been influenced by a lot of Norwegian black metal greats. Its sounds are a huge step up from Galdutako… and the band developed in both song-writing and instrumental proficiency.

 

Their latest album is a self-titled album from 2007. Its sounds are not 174819as aggressive as Basoaren Semeak and the songs are longer and more complicated. There is a distinctive increase of epic, almost cinematic qualities, like the melancholic brilliance in the finale of Gauaren Irrifarre Izkutua which turns from standard but charmingly crooked black metal to a wonderful mixture of depressive black and clean acoustic guitar.

It is a pity that Numen has not released anything since as their discography is packed with quality. They seem to be still active as they have played gigs now and then.

It is also impressing that I can still spell stuff like Galdutako Itxaropenaren Eresia correctly!

You can find all their releases from bandcamp: http://numenblackmetal.bandcamp.com/

2018 edit, 2007 s/t album is now in Spotify:

 

 

Zuriaake – Afterimage of Autumn (葬尸湖 – 弈秋) – China

afterimage20of20autumnZuriaake’s (romanized from 葬尸湖, roughly translated Sepulture Corpse Lake) first album Afterimage of Autumn was released in 2007. It has some exceptional qualities, for this Chinese Black metal band is not mimicing Norwegian Black Metal sound but taken excepts from Chinese culture to their metal mixture. Their Black metal focuses on entwining natural atmospherics, ambience with very overdriven guitars and depressive black metal vibe.

山神 / God Of Scotch Mist starts the album with delicate and lovely instrumentation that turns into a lot of punch and sets a suitable depressingly heavy undertone but also introduces a lot of worthy melody work. Zuriaake creates a lot of shamanistic ritual feel in their tracks and God of Scotch Mist is probably the finest piece. In the mid-part of the record the songs turn slower and oftentimes you could argue it is ambient with distortion guitars. But guitar-tremolos, occasional blastbeats and vocals reminiscent of depressive black metal prove that the band is not here just to float around.

In the albums most stunning moment the chorus of 歸兮 / Return Journey Zuriaake seamlessly adds a traditional sounding Chinese tremolo melody to a slow doomy basis. Tell me this is not (un)divine. Unfortunately I could not pick the name of this guitar like string instrument as the booklet is all in Chinese (except track titles).

The album is an extremely well flowing entity but it could have more highlights. One of them is the title tracks somber pace and wind-instrument and piano melodies. It has a feel so close to nature it’s incredible especially considering that the piano and woodwind sounds aren’t perfect. On the other hand the next song 暮林 / Forest Of Twilight is very similar in nature but does not seem to go anywhere. 荒山 / Desolated Mountain then seems to consist of two songs, first near-shoegazing with bloodthirsty shrieks all the sudden turning into a solid mid-paced black metal track only to end ambiently again.

The use of delicate abnormal black metal flavours adds so much essence to this release. Even though the release is sometimes so shoegazing it’s on the verge of boring, the atmosphere and unique Asian black metal elements redeem a lot of it. It is also a grower that gets better with time and does not reveal its secrets easy.

40f56887ba3dAlso kudos to their label Pest Productions who not only sent the double LP I ordered in a beautiful packet but also included 2 cd’s as extras! Split with Yn Gizarm – 悲赋之秋 / 司命楼兰 (Autumn of Sad Ode / Siming of Loulan) and Winter Mirage Ep. Both stellar releases, at its best Yn Gizarm can be downright stunning. The vinyl version also includes Winter Mirage EP and a couple of remastered tracks from the split.

I am starting to sound like a marketing person, but I can’t stress enough that if you feel that you’ve heard it all when it comes to Black metal, China has an answer you.

8/10

Zuriaake on Metal-Archives

Afterimage of Autumn in Bandcamp

Gu-Yan (2015 album) in Bandcamp

Empty – Etica Profana Negativa – Spain

Bleak and atmospheric depressive black metal with careful attention to detail.

Etica Profana Negativa is the fourth album by Spanish black metal band Empty. They’ve developed album-by-album and Etica Profana Negativa continues that flow. It reaches out to catch gloomy atmospheres and does it well. Considerably more midtempo and thoughtful than its predessor The House Of Funerary Hymns. It creates more magic from the somber parts than vicious blastbeating. Many a time I have been impressed by a track only to be impressed by a different track on the next listen.

The record does contain quite a few uninspiring and clumsy moments but it is easy to forgive as they do not ruin the overall feel. In best tracks, Terrifying Lucidity of The Wakefulness, A Funeral Song To Be Sung and The Tree of Dying fruit the band really takes care to build the songs up and at times creates true magic, but also often lingers on the edge of their composing skills. This is a metal record that doesn’t lack danger. The only uninspired track is Born Under The Sign of a Moribund Star which isn’t bad just a very average black metal song.

For example the beginning of A Funeral Song To Be Sung, starts with rhythmic drumming, guitar sweeping and a bass lead. Even with over 10 listens I still cannot say if it is a bit clumsy or not. It launches into a brilliant blastbeat which after a second repeat turns to the magnificient albeit too short centerpiece of the track. The track ends with some surpremely tasty and atmospheric rhythmic drumming and guitar leads.

If composing skills can sometimes be put to question same cannot be said of their instrumental proficiency. The band plays tight and woves a real symbiosis. At best each instrument gets a possibility to be in the front in the same section of a track. Especially the session drummer Naemoth does a really fine job with clever fills and effortless versatility. The vocals deserve a mention too as they vary from different kinds of black metal rasp growling to extremely inhuman screeches a la Fleurety (whose EP A Darker Shade Of Evil is widely regarded as containing some of the most inhuman vocals in metal).

The sounds have also taken a step forwards to emphasize the bleak atmosphere of the tracks well with bass standing up in the mix. It is justifiable to expect great things from the next album.

8½/10

Mona De Bo – Nekavējies, Šīs ir Spēles Ar Tevi

This latvian oddity is a different kind of beast to encounter, effortlessly combining post-rock, drone, metal, brass instruments and ambient with movielike atmospheres. Atmospherically somewhat resembles Noir by Callisto, but musically Nekavējies, Šīs ir Spēles Ar Tevi is much more experimental and drone.

Unlike many other droniacs the melodies here are almost uplifting even though the songs are usually very slow. Still the melodies rarely wander deep into melancholy or impenetrable heaviness. Playfully crooked, surprisingly soft under the surface; bursting with distortion. Often almost ambient.

Mona De Bo really does not spare the use of guitar-distortion, even the clean melodies are usually entwined with distortitive waves. Unlike Sunn O))) distortion is used with the guitar INSTEAD to replace the guitar. Wall-of-sounds are sparse on Nekavējies, Šīs ir Spēles Ar Tevi. It does not disguise itself behind 16 tons of guitarwall, a refreshing feat.

I even deeply adore the drone-ambience of Dejosim! that teethers on the verge of cracking for minutes but never pinnacles unlike Priekšpēdējais. With Mona De Bo it’s much more about the journey than about the destination. Just please ignore the cover art: a 70 year old hobo vomiting its entrails off.

9/10

The album is available for free listen and paid download on band’s bandcamp: http://monadebo.bandcamp.com/album/nekav-jies-s-ir-sp-les-ar-tevi

Mythological Cold Towers – The Vanished Pantheon

“Epic monumental doom metal”

The Vanished Pantheon was released in 2005 by a Finnish label Firedoom music. Even though it was definitely one of the best releases of 2005, it was perhaps too odd and distant for most Finns to understand. It stands as only the 3rd release of the Brazilian Mythological Cold Towers, found in 1994. Their first two releases were received with quite indifferent reviews. The first, Sphere of Nebaddon got more positive publicity, but for me the second, Remoti Meridiani Hymni is stronger of the two. However neither of the first two albums become even close to the 3rd release.

It seems Mythological Cold Towers really found themselves on The Vanished Pantheon. Massive doom metal accompanied with a feel of mythic remote civilizations, and old cultures getting grinded to the dust.

The gigantic atmosphere sometimes slips to being humorously overdramatic. But if you have a personality that can appreciate extremely dramatic compositions (à la Bal-Sagoth) you should find this a very interesting release. Quite raw and unpolished, yet very natural sounds fit Vanished Pantheon perfectly and give a lot of primeval power to the compositions. The sounds remind me of Keep Of Kalessin’s Kolossus, but unlike KOK, Mythological Cold Towers succeeds in having lots of strength and rage within a natural sound. Mythological Cold Towers already released their 4th album Immemorial in October on the German label Cyclone Empire. I sincerely hope that The Vanished Pantheon wasn’t just a one album miracle.

9/10