November. The end of the year is upon us. What a fucking mess. Politically, socially, ethically, take your pick. It’s all bad, bad, and bad. In 2017, the world found itself repeatedly at moral and ethical crossroads, and opted almost exclusively for the most ridiculous and asinine path possible. Honestly, this is not on the whole unlike black metal, which has found itself recently at similar moral forks in the road. Lo and behold, such moral quandaries have often lead to both dumbfounding celebration and defense of some of the most heinous philosophies among members of its ranks. NSBM in particular has given the most frostbitten of metal’s subgenres a black eye in the public sphere and within the community of fans at large, with bands known for writing racist and politically problematic filth receiving outspoken defense in the name of “freedom of expression” and other such objections. While an American and fierce advocate of the US Constitution’s First Amendment, there comes a time when consumers get to choose what content they ingest and accept. Ultimately, we get to decide what gets airtime and notoriety with our dollars. There’s incredible power in the efficacy of the consumer. In my estimation, it’s high time we put this vile bundle of bad ideas to rest by decrying the music for the garbage fire it is by soundly rejecting to give these artists the platform they want. Will this tear out the roots of fascism and Nazism from the black metal tree? Probably not. But it’s a start. The world is shitty enough without aberrant racism populating our ranks with impunity.
Anyway, some black metal bands that aren’t polluted by brazen idiocy released some fantastic music this month. Old heroes and up-and-coming bands alike dropped some borderline classic material, and we can’t wait to share it with you. I’m once again joined by Scott, master of all things black and evil, to bring you our favorite black metal records released this month. Partake, disagree, and send us disgruntled messages in the comments. We welcome your anger.
Chaos Moon – Eschaton Memoire
Chaos Moon have built for themselves quite the reputation over the past decade, with three unique releases that have mixed harsh and melodic black metal with some funeral doom elements. With their fourth release, Eschaton Memoire, the band expand their sound in exciting and revelatory new ways, culminating in arguably their best material so far.
While still feeling very much like a Chaos Moon record, Eschaton Memoire establishes a highly melodic and atmospheric bent that permeates the entire album to an even greater extent than can be found in the band’s other releases. Which isn’t to say that the record is a moody slog. Far from it. Dizzying riff passages encompass tracks like the opener “The Pillar, the Fall, and the Key I”, which mixes entrancing melody with the hyper-violence and terror of Leviathan with the creeping menace of Skaphe. The music here is filled with a seething melodic undercurrent that is bolstered by long stretches of sheer primordial force, namely in the percussion, which is masterfully performed by Jack Blackburn throughout. Alex Poole and Steven Blackburn’s guitars are no less fantastic, creating soundscapes of serene and reverberating grandeur, as in the profoundly gorgeous “Of Wrath and Forbidden Wisdom”, while periodically and gleefully tearing flesh from bone with jagged intensity in “Eschaton Memoire I” and its companion. It’s a black metal songwriting tour de force, and serves to only further cement Chaos Moon’s place in the pantheon of great American black metal bands.
This is varied, dense, vividly textured and thoughtfully composed music that deserves lots of year-end attention. If you have yet to listen to this record, change that immediately. Fans of all forms of black metal will not be disappointed.
Krallice – Go Be Forgotten
Bold claim: Go Be Forgotten is Krallice’s best record. Yes. I said it. While the band has released one amazing project after another (including an excellent follow-up to Prelapsarian, Loum, just a few weeks ago), it is hard to deny viewing Go Be Forgotten as the culmination of nearly everything the band does well distilled into one dark, angular, technicality-infused package. For the casual and die-hard Krallice fan alike, this album has it all: memorable riffs, impeccable songwriting, sonic unity, instrumental insanity that is both highly technical and relatively easy to follow, and just flat-out great songs. There isn’t much room for debate for me. Go Be Forgotten is the band’s masterpiece.
One thing Krallice isn’t especially known for is hooky songs. Mick Barr and Colin Marston are known widely as incredibly unique and technically proficient axe wizards who have been conjuring stupid fast and intricate riffs for decades. This record displays those talents to full effect, but adds an additional twist to the proceedings: obvious, repeating and easily recognizable themes. “This Forest For Which We Have Killed” is a perfect example of this, sending an immediate earworm directly into the listener’s brain and allowing to gestate in various forms for over 8-minutes, only to eventually reveal itself once again in its original form, creating a perfect cycle of anti-melodic disharmony. It’s fantastic in every way, and one of the most aggressive and assured openers to any Krallice record. “Failed Visionary Cuts” brings back a bit of the more traditional Krallice that their fans have grown to know and love. In this cut, not only do the typically excellent guitars and drums (once more handled by the essential Lev Weinstein) get their day in the sun, but the oft forgotten bass gets ample room to breathe in the mix and shine through sheer dexterity. Nicholas McMaster has here delivered some of his most impressive work, weaving his bass notes in and out of the guitar maelstrom with the stamina and force of a man possessed.
The album isn’t without its quirkier moments, however, as “Quadripartite Mirror Realm” serves as a welcome instrumental interlude. Synths, atmospherics, and choral beauty intertwine to create one of the band’s more unique pieces compositionally, and an out-of-left-field change of pace that feels exactly Krallice. Despite the unpredictability, the album finds itself right back in the clutches of frantic black metal in “Ground Prayer”, which is a mammoth track built to melt brains and punish eardrums. The track is also all over the place in the best way possible, seemingly bending time to its will with the ease that only a band performing at its peak could hope to achieve. It’s a masterclass in black metal composition, and an utterly essential listen.
Krallice have never been a band to sit on their laurels and contemplate the past. Ever propulsive, the band rarely releases albums that sound or feel the same, particularly in regard to their most recent output. But while Go Be Forgotten is very obviously a bold step forward, it takes its time to highlight the aspects that make the band great. If you enjoy Krallice at all, you will love this record.
Thantifaxath – Void Masquerading as Matter
I’ve already written about this EP twice. It was my favorite release of November, and received a full-length review that didn’t do it nearly enough justice. Frankly, every time I sit down to discuss this stellar release I find that I have new things to say about it. That’s the beauty of Thantifaxath, Canada’s most mysterious and best black metal apparition. Their debut record, Sacred White Noise, delivered plenty of hints that this band was onto something special. Void Masquerading as Matter serves as nothing less than a total confirmation that every shred of excitement and goodwill this band has engendered in the metal community is completely founded. This is a mesmerizing work of art.
The tracks here are all fantastic. Opener “Ocean of Screaming Spheres” brings the riff-oriented heat with 9-minutes of pure insanity that is both incredibly dense and intricately patterned so that the melodies and rhythms never get fully lost in a sea of wankery. Thantifaxath exhibit expert control over these songs, not wasting a single moment to bring in instrumental textures that simmer and writhe with maximum impact. Whether the piano interlude in the opening track, the insanely heavy and increasingly propulsive riff that serves as the backbone to “Self-Devouring Womb”, or the utterly haunting vocal pyrotechnics in the final and title track, there are too many memorable and engaging moments in these 35-minutes of music to write here. This EP needs to be experienced to be believed.
Thantifaxath are breaking new ground in their chosen metal subgenre. This is bold and defiantly weird music that few other bands can or are willing to make. Void Masquerading as Matter is a call to better and riskier in the world of black metal, and if their influence sticks, we may just get it across the board. A watershed moment for the band, and one of the best metal releases this year.
Vaivatar – Vanitas
My biggest gripe with symphonic black metal is how many bands allow theatrical moods to overcome the core elements I enjoy most about black metal. This isn’t a “trve” rant, by any means; I enjoy when bands effectively incorporate symphonic element into their sound, such as Emperor and Lychgate. But ever since I first experienced the subgenre when I borrowed my cousin’s Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir CDs, I’ve just never been able to appreciate the aesthetics at play—that level of showmanship and camp that simply aren’t things I look for in black metal. Yet, as with any genre I don’t fully appreciate, I still soldier on in an attempt to find that band that will finally make the style click for me, a quest which led me to Vaivatar‘s excellent Vanitas. Eden, our beloved Heavy Blog overlord, first raved about the album to me and described it in a way that intrigued me, as if the symphonics were more so a part of the music rather than an overwhelming element. His recommendation prompted me to spin what’s easily one of my favorite black metal albums of the year, and another sterling example that the never ending stream of quality music doesn’t trickle to a stop towards the end of the year.
As mentioned above, the symphonic synth pads and orchestral touches serve more as an elevating force than separate entity vying for the attention of the listener. These additions bolster each of these tracks by complimenting the general musical mood in the most effective way possible, whether that’s simply providing cushioning atmosphere or a fitting swell of choral beauty. On the black metal side, the band’s music takes on a baroque affect with brutal undertones, as if they’re personifying the type of music classical fans of lore thought the tritone was bound to summon. Perhaps the best example of the album firing on all cylinders is “Hymn of Blood and Piss,” which opens with a chunky, occult riff over double kicks before exploding into triumph with the aid of tastefully layered choral vocals. On “Punishment Is Due,” the band’s marching melodic black metal locks in beautifully with resonant piano for a haunting display. The band at excels at churning out straight-up solid black metal as well, with stirring melodic tremolos and crunching riffs abound in “Hide and Seek.” Moments like these continue through the duration of Vanitas, a phenomenal display of what the genre has to offer which should easily turn the heads of skeptics like myself.