Atmospheric black metal

Monumental Folkish & Folk metal playlist

1. Fleurety – Fragmenter av en Fortid disappeared from Spotify just a while ago, it will be added back when it comes back around. Full-length Min tid skal komme from 1995 is the real jewel of their discography. One of many “lost” metal releases that many consider a classic but most people have never heard about. It’s definitely a must checkup for fans of folkish metal.

1. Fleurety’s place was taken by Pillorian, the newly formed line-up of ex-Agalloch John Haughm. After Agalloch split into two pieces in 2016, the remaining three members went to form Khôrada that is due to release their first album. Pillorian‘s 2017 release Obsidian Arc starts with it’s brightest spots, By the Light of a Black Sun (+ Archaen Divinity) should sate most Agalloch fans.

2. Fen is not a band that I’ve tracked, even though it’s similarities to Agalloch have been known to me since their first full-length Malediction Fields in 2009. It is only lately that I gave a true chance to their unpolished first album and it unveiled a real jewel in Lashed by Storm. The weak clean vocals in the very end are it’s only grey spot. Fen’s 2017 release Winter materialized on my listening cycle; it does have some very atmospheric sections but its also really-frigging-long (75 minutes!). I would deem it very possible that a track from it appears to my playlists later on.

3.-4. As a humble praise, Wilderun‘s Sleep at the Edge of Earth might be my favourite metal release of past 5 years. It has a glorious quaternity Ash Memory (trinity has 3, quaternity 4, yeah i just looked it up from google…), from which 2 well fitting tracks were chosen. Hope and Shadow (II), and the The Faintest Echo (IV). The traces in the beginning of Hope and Shadow that clip in this collection are from the 1st track of the quaternity. Wilderun really took care to make it a logical entity which I then disturbed!

The Faintest Echo’s 3.20 monumental symphonic centerpiece and outro of the quaternity is a prime example why Wilderun’s output doesn’t pale in comparison with any symphonic and folk metal bands of today.

5. Tore Hund is by Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik’s Skuggsjá. It is a project by Enslaved and Wardruna veterans, which may run below radar cause of it’s eccentric name that sounds like artsy folk music. Well um, it is kind of that actually, in a lot of ways Skuggsja sounds more like folk with metal elements than the other way around. Though even the folkier tracks often have a heavy backbone that owes to metal and makes these two elements come together naturally.

6. In Zuriaake‘s Afterimage of Autumn‘s most stunning moment, the chorus of 歸兮 / Return Journey Zuriaake seamlessly adds a traditional sounding Chinese tremolo melody to a slow doomy basis. Unfortunately I could not pick the name of this guitar like string instrument as the booklet is all in Chinese (except track titles). Zuriaake’s black metal focuses on entwining natural atmospherics, ambience with very overdriven guitars and depressive black metal vibe. I also reviewed them in the past (https://likemusictoyourears.com/2016/01/26/zuriaake-afterimage-of-autumn).

7. October Falls is an interesting beast for their first promo was metal but three of the first four official releases were acoustic guitar driven material with a lot of natural ambience. Since then they’ve mostly strolled on the metallic grounds, always with quality but rarely with something that really catches my ears. A Collapse of Faith Part III, from 2010 A Collapse of Faith must be their best track to date. I must admit however that I have spent way too little time in adjusting to 2013, The Plague of a Coming Age. That ought to be my next listen.

8. The noise / drone wall of Sol InvictusEnglish Murder‘s intro make it a significantly difficult piece. But I am not making these collections for layman listeners quick fix. The controversy and paradox of a folk track being actually heavier and darker than the following metal track make it a juicy addon.

9. Logically following Sol Invictus is Agalloch, who have listed Sol Invictus as one of their big influences. Agalloch is one of the very first metal bands that I got into and surely the first folkish metal band. Yet in their sound progressive elements, post-rock and melancholia are also ever present. Limbs 10 minute brilliance is started by deliciously annoyingly long 10 second note after which it goes all post-rock. Climbing to mountains, descending into valleys and drifting among the transparent mist.

I do appreciate a well timed and set up grunt, John Haughm’s 6.35 effort is one of the prime examples! “These boughs were said to be lost! Torn, unearthed and broken –  IYRRRRRRRRRRRR”. What the fuck is he even singing about? There must be something to it as it inspires genuine sing-along grunting from yours truly. When it comes to grunting, Haughm is right up there with Thomas Gabriel Fischer.

10. Skyclad‘s past two albums haven’t been nearly as notable as most of their 12 full-lengths before them (many of them are masterpieces after all). I would only rate A Burnt Offering for the Bone Idol and No Daylights Not Heeltaps on level with the new albums. However, on In The… All Together from 2009 Skyclad formed possibly the best track of their career, The Well-Travelled Man. The vocalist Kevin Ridley is on fire, shouting half of the track. Lyrics and composition communicate perfectly into a folky, dramatic, upbeat, yet melancholic tune with a heart-wrenching ending. Wow.

Monumental metal 4 – Epixperimental playlist

Bring out the weird again, epic experimental tracks! This playlist features bands from experimental terrain that have a solid basis on metal.

1. Rudra‘s Illusory Enlightment is “Vedic” metal from Singapore. Vedic comes from their incorporation of Sanskrit Vedic literature, philosophy and ancient mantras (shlokas) to blackened death metal basis. They also encompass traditional Carnatic music to their compositions. Illusory Enlightment’s top moment is the compelling chanting chorus. See also the review of their album Brahmavidya: Immortal I here.

2. Jumalhämärä is one of the many bands in Finnish experimental black metal terrain that has gotten more attention in the past 10 years. Along with bands like Oranssi Pazuzu, Abyssion, Mörkö, Jumalhämärä is probably the weirdest of the bunch. The title track of their most accessible album Resignaatio is a rare catchy, almost punky, track and in their catalogue that makes it an abnormality. Its deep bass rumbling intro turns into naturally flowing structure, captivating Finnish lyrics with supremely hooking riffing and stylish use of upstrokes. You know what they released after Resignaatio? A drone pipe organ album. Really.

3. December Wolves is one of the many bands I found from Earache presents: Metal – A headbanger’s companion (2007). It is from the CD 2 – Grindcore, but especially CD 6 – Leftfield is a great listen (Cult of Luna, Callisto, Scorn, Godflesh, Akercocke, Crotchduster etc.). Desperately Seeking Satan could be called leftfield, though its roots are firmly in black metal. The heavy use of voice clips, nihilistic lyrics and programmed drums combining industrial with violent black metal guitars make their 2002 release Blasterpiece Theatre have a sound appearance unlike any other.

4. The Meads of Asphodel – Children of the Sunwheel Banner (part 2). You could say that Metatron, the vocalist of Meads of Asphodel takes making lyrics a bit seriously. Their webpage has about 100 pages of text per album about the lyrical themes. So you can imagine it surges pretty deep. It seems the web page is unfortunately down at the moment though.

Sunwheel banner obviously references to nazis. I am not even going into the stuff of them being “nazis” because they are a metal band that has an interest of the atrocities of the past + uses the word “jew”. Oh and one of the 10 labels that has released their music has apparently released an NSBM release, jeez.

Like in one of my previous playlists Monumental metal oddities, I placed “cousin” bands The Meads of Asphodel and Sigh after each other. They have enough eccentric material to use for a few playlists. Also, the keyboard solo in Children of the Sunwheel Banner is played by none else than the main man behind Sigh, Mirai Kawashima.

5. Sigh – A Messenger From Tomorrow (I. The Message – II. Foreboding – III. Doomsday). The most epic track in Sigh’s catalogue. Surprisingly also one of the lightest ones, based on strong orchestral melodies. The lesser amount of heavy distortion guitars does not mean the composition wouldn’t be huge though. A Messenger From Tomorrow only further proves the multifacetedness of Sigh as a monstrously diverse band.

6. Negură Bunget – Cunoașterea tăcută. Negura Bunget’s 2006 release Om is one of the highlights of 2000s black metal in both song-writing and originality. The introduction of Romanian traditional instruments, epic soundscapes, shamanistic repetitive passages, raw production and very oldschool black metal elements blew many a mind. Cunoașterea tăcută includes one of those clean melodies (at 3.00) that makes you wonder on what plane of being it was conceived. Oldschool black metal riffing accompanied with traditional instruments and high-flying folk singing with the catchiness of bubonic plague.

7. Ufomammut – Daemons. What a Monster riff to close up their 2015 release, Ecate. That is all that needs to be said really.

Downfall of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia – Argentina

DownfallOfNur-UmbrasDeBarbagia-CoverDownfall of Nur is a one man black metal project headed by Antonio Sanna. He is originally from Sardinia, Italy but moved to Argentina at 11 years of age. Umbras de Barbagia was released in 2015 with Antonio being just 19 years of age. It is incredible how a 19 year old Argentinian musician could make an atmospheric black metal album so mature this early in his career.

Actually Umbras de Barbagia is not strictly a one man black metal album as vocals were made by another Argentinian metal musician Dany Tee (In Element, Aether, Seelenmord), who also played a big part in production.

The killer track is placed right in the beginning, Golden Age starts with magnificent melancholic instrumentation containing acoustic guitar, woodwind instrument and soon, bagpipe!? In fact these non-metal instruments are not just any instruments, but traditional Sardinian instruments Launeddas and Quenacho flute. Both are woodwind instruments and Launeddas has a similar sound to bagpipe. It consists of three pipes where one serves as a drone and two others function with the melody.

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Launeddas

With a whopping 17 minute length Golden Age takes a while to develop into metal terrains but does it with a bang. Oldschool blastbeating with depressive black metal screeching. For a young artist like Downfall of Nur it is astonishing how well the album is balanced. Both metal and calmer parts have a lot of dynamic and the quality of a recording is really high.

The tracks vary stylishly between black metal, melodic and folk bits however there’s a lot of repetition which sometimes works as a disadvantage. All main tracks are over, or nearly 10 minutes long. Long songs work well in developing atmosphere but every track becomes a tad boring at some point. Most notably the 2 minute outro of Ashes leading to 2 minute intro of the title track where in neither almost nothing happens.

The bread and butter of the album is solid as heck though. From the magnificent interlude of Ashes to brilliant finales of Golden Number and Downfall of Nur which all encompass Launeddas and Quenacho brilliantly. Downfall of Nur travels somewhere near the grounds of Agalloch and Ghost Bath, but has significantly more airy melancholic folk passages. They’ve also picked elements from oldschool black metal with funeral doom seasoning. Atmospheric black metal is such a wide genre that these elements are not anything abnormal but the way they’ve been meshed together makes Umbras de Barbagia an enticingly abnormal effort.

8/10

References:
http://www.nocleansinging.com/2015/11/18/an-ncs-interview-downfall-of-nur-antonio-sanna/

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