Atmospheric black metal is a genre known for a fairly specific style: shrieking vocals, clean leads soaking in reverb, and guitar riffs that create crushing walls of noise. Giants in the genre, like Wolves In The Throne Room or Weakling, pioneered this blend of ambience and aggression in the early 2000s, and 15 years later, the genre still sounds pretty much the same. Sure, there are plenty of groups that have taken the sound and twisted it around, like Saor and Panopticon, who both add folk instruments to their music, or Epitimia, who throw in jazz and electronic elements to spice up their sound.
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Entrails – Obliteration
Not everything that glitters is gold, someone once said. This is painfully obvious when listening to Obliteration, the Metal Blade debut from resurrected Swedish death metallers Entrails. We are so used to the label releasing stellar records left, right and centre that when one comes along that stinks up the place, it comes as a bit of a shock. But for a few (barely) redeeming factors, Entrails have dropped a clanger. A big, gory, death metal clanger.
A key phrase by which many black metal bands operate is “less is more.” The idea that a piece of music is at its best when it’s as simple and stripped-down as it can possibly be is a common belief in the black metal community, but unfortunately, as with the untitled debut album from Terra, less can sometimes be too little, especially in a genre like black metal, where experimentation is necessary to stand out.
In their formative years, Mayhem developed a reputation in the underground before committing a single note to tape, claiming to be the best and most extreme band the metal world had ever seen. Although “best” is a subjective term, they would certainly back up their claims in the highly publicized Norwegian church burnings, singer Dead’s suicide, and the murder of founding guitarist Euronymous by Burzum’s Varg Vikernes. Bands built on hype, legend, or myth run the risk of flying below the critical threshold for musical merit. Luckily for Mayhem, the post-scandal musical landscape they’ve built has continuously pushed boundaries in speed, dissonance, and psychology, aiming for the jugular with every whirlwind blast beat, minor chord flurry, and mind bending lyric.
Stay grim, my friends.
I mirror the sentiments made by The World’s Most Interesting Man In The World; black metal isn’t really my thing. I do dabble though, and one of my favorite black metal bands at the moment is Deafheaven. Earlier this year, they released their demo, which you can purchase right here for 10 cents (or more, if you’re not a terrible person.)
With the demo sounding good, my eyes have been on them for news of a proper full length debut. It wasn’t too long after they blew up online that they were picked up by Jacob Bannon’s label Deathwish Inc and announced their debut album for 2011!
Here’s the short version of the press release, which describes the band’s sound and gives some detail on the upcoming album:
Deafheaven are a genre defying aggressive band from San Francisco, CA. Their hybrid musical approach is outright stunning. A melding of epic Post Rock leanings (Envy, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) with experimental Black Metal (Xasthur, Weakling, Leviathan), and classic era “Screamo” (Orchid, Crimson Curse) into something never successfully experienced before.
Deafheaven will soon enter the studio to record their new album titled “Roads to Judah” with Jack Shirley (Funeral Diner, Loma Prieta). This highly anticipated album will be released on Deathwish in 2011.
Did you get that? Roads to Judah will be out on Deathwish Inc. in early 2011! Keep up with Deafheaven on Facebook for news and updates.
Spawning from the bay area, the band Cormorant broke forth into the metal scene by creating two unique releases titled The Last Tree (an EP) and Metazoa. With a fusion of talent, diverse influences, minds, and immense passion the band Cormorant have gained love and fans across oceans without ever playing outside of their native California. In a few moments, you’ll be reading my attempt at picking the brain of Arthur von Nagel, the long winded, kind, and very intelligent bassist and vocalist of the band.
The teeth of lions sown by the wind,
Spurned by the salt of the
Earth’s fallow and barren skin,
Find fertile ground in me.
Rains of red poppies
Burst from the blue.
Fireflies and harpies
Beat their wings anew.
The wine from man’s fountains
Imparts courage to implore:
“Gods, step down from your mountains.
Fish, rise up from the shore.”
[wpaudio url=”http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Salt-of-the-Earth.mp3″ text=”Cormorant – Salt of the Earth” dl=”0″]
MW: How old were you when you first got into music, and how did the interest come about?
AvN: My first musical memory was my mother taking me to see Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. I was 3 or 4. Looking back on it now, the whole production was very metal. Huge sets, bombastic music, crushing drums, horses, betrayal, myth, swords, blood. All it needed was Manowar. I regret that I fell asleep halfway through, but then again the damn thing was four hours long. I still love opera. I’m looking forward to the San Francisco Opera’s take on Faust later this year.
Growing up there was always music. My father was into lots of late 60s counter-culture stuff like Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan, and King Crimson. My mother always had me listening to classical, lots of Tchaikovsky, Handel and Bach. We had a beautiful old jukebox stacked with French traditionals and classic rock songs. When I was a kid, I would fall in and out of love with different genres. I had a hip-hop stage, a jazz stage, a folk stage, and I even recall not being interested in music at all sometime in my early teens. I don’t know what I was thinking. Probably rebelling against nothing.
How did you decide you wanted to make Cormorant a band?
Brennan Kunkel (drums) and I met playing in a thrash/punk band when I was 16. It was fun but a bit limiting. We got bored. So we started creating quirky, poorly produced progressive black metal demos as a two-piece. While the sound quality was garbage and we had no idea what we were doing, there were some cool ideas there and a lot of those early riffs went on to become parts of Cormorant songs. We brought in Nick Cohon (guitars), a friend of Brennan’s from high school, and his style immediately clicked with ours. We recorded our EP The Last Tree as a three-piece. Apart from the song Ballad of the Beast, I don’t think we had quite discovered our sound yet. It was when we met Matt Solis (guitars/vocals) at an Enslaved gig that we were really able to fully realize that expansive, progressive style the EP hints at, and Metazoa embraces.
How do you go about mixing the influence from other genres in your music? Or does it just come naturally?
We don’t really think about it. It’s a natural thing. We’re just writing what we enjoy listening to. I don’t know what genre Cormorant falls into anymore anyway. That’s why we laugh along with the silly “Tiberian Ass Bastard Folk” tag fans have given us: it’s just as accurate as any of the more convoluted descriptions of our sound. “Progressive blackened death-folk NWOBHM?” I’ll pass.