Black metal

Depression Overload – metal playlist

Funeral doom and depressive black metal is the bread and butter of this album (a playlist really, but I consider my playlists albums). It visits only a few other despairing terrains. This is no melancholy walk in the park as my previous playlists (Monumental funeral doom melancholy and Post-rock melancholia) but pure despair and depression. The darkness on the album is not sourced from incoherent extreme sewer sounds but tightly sounding bands that combine a great melodic sense with a feeling of hopelessness and misery.

1. It would not make sense to reveal all the cards in the beginning, so the beginning of the album is a light descent with some melodic funeral doom.

Shape of Despair is a band many of the melancholic melodic funeral doom bands model after. Their second album Angels of Distress (2001) is the biggest landmark yet strangely I seem to have picked tracks from their two newer ones in my playlists. Entwined in Misery is the best piece of their 2004 album Illusion’s play. It features hauntingly beautiful background keys that have lasted the touch of time extremely well. Pasi Koskinen’s growling kept getting deeper as Shape of Despair progressed in their career, peaking here. The new vocalist Henri Koivula (Throes of Dawn) does a tremendous job on their newest release, Monotony Fields (2015) as well.
All these years in absence
…forgiveness does not reveal itself…

…and emptiness falls before me…
And silences this life,


2. One of the best releases of 2015 Leviathan’s Scar Sighted is based on black metal but at it’s darkest it is pure nihilistic funeral doom. The title track is especially gloomy. The tortured screams and bright piano create a real contrast of depression and light.
Nil light reigns
Only tattered accusations
Paling to the comparison
Now utterly drained
And all wonder is banished
Life after life
Absorbing
Nothing


3. Evoken – Mournful Refusal. Evoken could be called a successor of nihilistic old school funeral bands like Esoteric, also having more in common with Thergothon and Skepticism than Shape of Despair. 2005 release Antithesis of Light (what a title!) benefits of its modern and crushingly heavy production. Hear also the dynamics, how beautifully Evoken has crafted a chorus with clean guitar and lovely bursty double bass drumming.
Waiting only prolongs the wanting
Living only prolongs the arriving
Death knows no regret of a mournful refusal

In sporadic tone, the composition of beauty
Turned grim and cold…


4. Lifelover (what a band name!), a lot of people loathe them and for a reason. Their sounds take some time to get used to, drum machine and quite amateuristic guitar sounds. Upon listening their masterpiece, Konkurs for the first time I thought: “Is this the masterpiece? Really?” But it’s a stunning grower with a soul that is very hard to find on any other release. The pitch-black humour in the depressive lyrics is the icing on the cake.

Stängt p.g.a Semester (closed because of semester) is an interlude unlike anything else on this album. A beautifully haunting acoustic track with despairing lyrics. One of the only instances were being forced to study ~8 years of Swedish in school has paid off.

På Svenska
Vem behöver glädjas åt sig själv
När vi kan skratta åt andra?
Vem behöver ha ett syfte
När det är urvattnat och saknar mening?
Vem behöver säga att “Jag mår bra”
När ändå ytan är det viktiga?
Innan jag åkte, lämnade jag bomber,
Där ni känner er som mest trygga
Jag kommer inte tillbaka
English translation
Who needs to be happy about their selves
When we can laugh at others?
Who needs a purpose
When it’s all dried up and lacks meaning?
Who needs to say “I feel good”
When the surface is what counts?

Before I left, I planted bombs
Where you feel most secure
I won’t return

5. A lot of people thought it a dick move when a couple years ago Ghost Bath swindled in being a Chinese band, but turned out to be American. They said that was because they wanted to keep actual identities/location anonymous and for affection of Chinese culture.

Prejudice labelled aside Moonlover is a fine release but Happyhouse is the lethal injection Ghost Bath is at it’s best in prescribing. Happyhouse brings in mind the “Mental Central Dialog” themes of Lifelover. It’s bright melodies and incoherently painful screaming vocals clash together to create a feeling of an mental asylum. The melodies are a bit predictable but twisted a little obscure, perhaps wee bit out of tune and so fucking good, all this predictability is a strength. A downright shuddering tune.


6. Drudkh – Solitude. Yes it’s a great track and yes it’s pretty long with a lot of repetition, in the right mode Solitude becomes a very meditative track. Solitude is one of the only instances of more melancholic terrain than the rest of the tracks, it’s true potential lies in its slow and somber orchestral main melody.

Solitude’s lyrics are from a poem of an Ukrainian artist Taras Shevchenko (Thoughts of mine, О thoughts of mine, 1839). The familiar slavic dramatic melancholy is easy to discover.

Ukrainian
Журбою
Не накличу собі долі,
Коли так не маю.
Нехай злидні живуть три дні –
Я їх заховаю,
Заховаю змію люту
Коло свого серця,
Щоб вороги не бачили,
Як лихо сміється…
Нехай думка, як той ворон,
Літає та кряче,
А серденько соловейком
Щебече та плаче
Нишком – люди не побачать,
То й не засміються…
Не втирайте ж мої сльози,
Нехай собі ллються,
Чуже поле поливають
Щодня і щоночі,
Поки попи не засиплють
Чужим піском очі…
English translation
Never knew I joy, nor will it
Come to me if I
Grieve ’thout end…. Let grief be short-lived,
Let it snake-like lie
Coiled within my breast and hidden
From the evil sight
Of my foes…. And may its laughter
Reach them not…. By night
And by day my thoughts are ravens;
Let them croak while my
Heart, a songbird, trills and warbles,
While it softly sighs,
Sighs and moans with none to hear it
Or to taunt it … Pray,
Let me weep, and do not try to
Wipe my tears away.
Let them flow and flood the alien
Field till that a priest
Comes and covers me with alien
Earth…. Ah, me! No peace
Grief will bring me….

English translation by Irina Zheleznova taken from http://taras-shevchenko.infolike.net/t-shevchenko-tr-by-irina-zheleznova-poem-thoughts-of-mine-o-thoughts-of-mine.html) I cannot speak Ukrainian so the English and Ukrainian parts may not match exactly.


7. Moonsorrow – Kuolleiden Maa. Listen, Moonsorrow is not most known for their depressive black metal vibes. But on Kuolleiden Maa they are nothing else.

Finnish
Olen siellä mistä kaikki alkaa uudelleen
Missä valo ei värejä näytä
Kaikkialle levittäytyy tasainen niitty
Vain taivas ylläni vaalenee
Käy rauhaisena vierelläni tuuli
Itse silmäni suljen ja itken
Tänne jään, kaipuuta vailla
Rikotun henkeni veden virtaan annan
English translation
I am there where everything
starts and
Where the light shows no colours
An even meadow stretching everywhere
Only the sky above me growing lighter
A calm breeze is blowing beside me | I close my
eyes and weep | Here I
shall remain, without yearning | My broken spirit I shall give to the streaming
waters
depression overload_edit

Illustration from British Library free to use Flickr

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.

Music Quickies – Paradox, Deathspell Omega, Wilderun, Barren Earth

Paradox – Pangea (2016)

573798These old thrash raptors are on the chase (2nd track Raptor, Jurassic Park)! In their manhunt (5th track Manhunt, Rambo) for the second best thrash album of 2016 with Blaakyum’s Line of Fear. Which one comes 2nd then?  I really cannot say but both are really positive surprises.

However, 6th track Cheat & Pretend is an offshot, and by 9th and 10th tracks, Alien Godz (Prometheus) and El Muerte, the biggest joy is gone. 59 minutes is too much for a thrash album, these three tracks could have easily been left out. The younger cosmic-rogues, Vektor still hold the cataclysm force (1st track Apophis, Stargate).

Solid album nevertheless, I had no idea speed metal heritage could still sound fresh!


Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones (2016)
deathspellomegaarvosteludeathspell-omega-the-synarchy-of-molten-bones-e1475279012978Quote is from their last.fm wall. Free form jazz is a pretty good explanation why I have a hard time appreciating some of Deathspell Omega’s latest efforts. I feel they do hit right notes but I much prefer when they actually try to compose a song instead of section1->section2->section3->section4->section5->section6->section7->section8->section9->section10->section11->section12->section13…

Over random sections there’s vocals that do not really correlate with the music except in a sense that they are quite crazy too. On the other hand, how could you vocalize over this? I guess it’s as good an effort as any.

On Paracletus there were songs that had a more approachable structure and hooks. Quite a few of those hooks were memorable and the album is a solid entity. But Drought and Synarcy are just a mess.

Deathspell Omega is definitely experimental which is why I’d hope that they would realize not to run the damn clean guitar sound above everything on all of these three records. Perhaps Synarchy needs more time to fruition. 4 listens within a month merely crosses my irritation threshold.


Wilderun – Sleep at the Edge of The Earth (2015)

492322Simply the best album to come out in 2015, I have yet to find it’s equal from 2016 either.

Try it if you do not hate any of the following:
metal
symphonic
folk (dibbly-dabbly beerfolk excluded)
clean vocals
guitars
cinematic music



Barren Earth – On Lonely Towers (2015)
onlonelytowersp19com8m781mjt11t431p1i4to4m4The title track On Lonely Towers is the centerpiece of Barren Earth’s 2015 album and welcomes them back into form after the disappointingly tame The Devil’s Resolve (2012).

On Lonely Towers is somewhere between their first album Curse of the Red River (2010) and The Devil’s Resolve on heaviness scale. It’s not a deathdoom-donkey or blastbeat-beaver but occasionally uses both of these tricks to its advantage. Unlike some sections of The Devil’s Resolve it does not sound like Opeth’s Heritage. Unlike some sections of the Curse of the Red not a Swallow The Sun copy either.

Especially welcoming is the great vocal performance by the Faroe Island native Jón Aldará (Hamfero). That is not to say the previous vocalist Mikko Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) didn’t do a good job on previous albums, but the more powerful voice of Aldará is a really welcome change.

On Lonely Towers, is a true gem of a track and none other ecplises it. The crooked and deliciously sung Shapeless Derelict and Chaos, The Songs Within, are also A class progressive metal. Frozen Processions and Howl are good examples of melodies and progressive twists that make some people deem Barren Earth “Amopeth”.

AlNamrood – Diaji Al Joor – Saudi Arabia

525517Too many bands from the more exotic metal countries try to sound like their western counterparts. While it is interesting to find a band from Saudi Arabia that sounds like it could be a mediocre German thrash metal band, it doesn’t add much to the experience besides novelty value. Luckily AlNamrood is not one of those bands.

AlNamrood is usually titled a black metal band, but they are far from the traditional sort. In fact, often it feels like the tracks are based purely on Arabic elements with distortion guitar and metal elements added on top. It is really refreshing not being able to know who to compare them to or even what genre they are. They could even be described as constantly overpeaked heavy metal band with basis on Arabic instrumentation.

The beginning of the record got my hopes up immediately as I’m a sucker for all things unexpected in my metal. The raw Egyptian-like intro Dhaleen, turns into stylishly minimalistic tremolo instrumentation with wind instruments and “aaaaaa”-chanting.

All the more the surprise when the vocalist Humbaba stats barking away with his monotone and quite unique vocal style in the second track Zamjara Alat. At 2.05 Al-Namrood tunes in a better melody I’d ever expect this obscure band to be able to deliver. It’s a c-part after the first verse straight from the boiling desert, accompanied by beautiful backgrounds. Already during the second track it is clear that this is not a normal metal experience but a lot more thrilling one.

The drumming first felt like a bit flat drum machine but because it is nicely overpeaked it invokes more raw power than in most cases. The sound really grew on me and on further listens the unpolished sounds stopped bothering.

On first listens it was also easy to disregard some unharmonic passages as amateuristic. Like Hawas Wa Thuar which is an particularly odd piece, with melodies that seem out of tune. Only later it started to feel like this atonalism (?) must come from Arabic music heritage. AlNamrood uses melodies that are straight out of European scales. Especially the said Hawas Wa Thuar succeeds in invoking a real diabolical feel with tastily unharmonic melodic patterns. Where as Hayat Al Khezea is a ritualistic piece where the monotonic vocals heighten the atmosphere and the majestic and eerie end speech sounds to discurse some serious, sacred or esoteric issues with conviction.

Actually I cannot think much that I dislike. If I have to start picking, the melodic folk metal influences, the backbone of most of Ejhaph, is not much of my liking. Ya Le Taasatekum is a bit mediocre but on the other hand conceives of a more rapid pace than its counterparts. It also really excels in varied and intense vocals and an outro with rumbling drums, very much a counterpart to the cover image. It’s not really mediocre after all, I gotta take that back. And even Ejhaph has mightily interesting percussions and eerie guitars in its last two minutes.

All in all, all tracks have something unique to offer, every track differentiates from the crowd. Like massive Adghan with double bass landslides and bright acoustic instrumentation or Ana Al Tughian’s mystic woodwinds and rhythmics.

Diaji Al Joor is a grower, after putting it aside for a while the true excess of unique elements and exceptional atmosphere kept growing. It took about 3 months to process into 9 /10 level.

Bandcamp: https://shaytanproductions.bandcamp.com/album/diaji-al-joor

Music quickies – Vektor, Current 93, Katatonia, Devin Townsend Project, Behemoth

vektor-terminal_redux Vektor – Terminal Redux (2016)
Vektor’s hyped 2016 release is astronomically progressive metal. Vektor was the best modern thrash metal band for years, it is about time for them to get recognition. For an album that sates me midway, it is astoningly good but it would be more enjoyable shorter. It’s really not a better album than their previous efforts but still ridiculously good and full of everything tasty.
9/10
Listen: Mountains Above The Sun + Ultimate Artificer

0Current 93 Calling For Vanished Faces Calling for Vanished Faces (I: Funeral Music for
Us All) and (II: Love, Sleep And Dreams) (1999)

David Tibet’s overtheateritical aesthetics drove this Sol Invictus fanboy mad for half a decade. “Maybe, I might finally appreciate something of theirs?” I thought. I: Funeral Music for Us All starts as an oddities collection I cannot recommend less but picks up on Coal Black Smith, staggers to its most annoying pieces and picks up decently at Hourglass (For Diana) soon to turn into 1 hour 30 minutes of pure neofolk bliss. Probably my favourite release on which I completely skip 1/3 of it.
I 7/10
II 10-/10
Listen: The whole second side, except the 4 ending tracks, is blissful.

570160Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts (2016)
Some outerworldly charm with heartbreaking atmosphere. Drags time to time yet still wrenches heartstrings every minute. Passer‘s descending scale should be obnoxious yet it is genuinely alluring. How on earth did they make it work.
Listen: Decima & Residual for angsting in a dark room, Passer for prog.
Grade upcoming

 

devintownsendprojecttranscendencecdDevin Townsend Project – Transcendence (2016)
Middle aged Devin is zen and re uses his components but those lures still amount some catch. Not bad, but I may have heard too much “c-grade progressive metal” (quoting their own making of documentary) to fully appreciate this kind of polished sound anymore. Danger lurks somewhere else. Here’s hoping the next album goes permanently Higher.

The second album is simply too much as can be noticed from the lack of recognition it has gotten. The (demo) titles are a very Devin Townsendish joke, the stuff is nearly as polised as the first. Love the commercial suicide though, it could have well been released it as a lone piece.
Listen: Higher
7ish/10

395440Behemoth – The Satanist (2014)
If you can think of a more epic way to start a track than in the title track of The Satanist please let me know. The track does not carry the weight of its beginning but the album does. The wall-of-sound production, mildly reminiscent of Emperor, gives it weight unlike many releases.

Incorporating a massive and satisfying finale that only runs through the last minute of Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel requires so much finesse. O Father O Satan O Sun! towers above the rest of the release with another finale, this time based on a monster riff and oration like an esoteric sermon. Here’s hoping The Satanist won’t be the last of Behemoth like Nergal hinted in the past.
Listen: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel & O Father O Satan O Sun!
Grade upcoming

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.

launeddas2b022bcerdec3b1a

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/