Welcome back to Kvlt Kolvmn! Another month, another insane amount of premium black metal. For the second month in a row, Scott is back in the saddle, churning out sterling recommendation after sterling recommendation. Hell is most pleased with his offerings, and all is again right in the black metal world. In a similar fashion to death metal releases in July, I was skeptical regarding how many quality albums we would hear this month. Let’s be real: July is relatively awful for new releases across all genres of music, but can be especially brutal for metal. On most fronts, July 2017 proved me wrong by unleashing upon us some excellent black metal records that are not only worthy of a solid listen, but are some of the most accomplished to be released this year. Scott and I are happy to share these records with you, and hope you enjoy them as much as we did. So, without further adieu, into the ninth circle we go.
Huszar – Providencia
Other than doom metal and its cohorts, atmospheric black metal has long been grindcore’s foil when it comes to song length. By the time most grindcore albums are blasting through their finale, some atmo-black records are barely wrapping up their first track. Argentina-based Marc Huszar (a.k.a. Huszar) continues in this tradition with Providencia gorgeously orchestrated tome of blackgaze and atmo-black epics. The album is essentially a collection of two mini-EPs and several fully fleshed-out tributes to black metal’s most beautiful, lush moments.
Over Providencia‘s hour-and-change runtime, you can expect the usual gamut of the atmo-black playbook—triumphant, orchestral synths crashing into walls of guitars like cavalries of angels atop galloping percussion. Huszar is particularly adept at crafting full-length interludes that comfortably nestle between his main compositions. Akin to Wolves in the Throne Room‘s masterful interludes on Two Hunters, Huszar knows how to make six-part behemoth feel not only digestible, but also bursting with rich, full-bodied flavor. The result is an incredible atmo-black feat worth every minute of its fantastical journey.
Israthoum – Channeling Death and Devil
There is some nasty black metal dripping from The Netherlands this year. Dodecahedron graced us with some of the most fundamentally bizarre and masterful experimental black metal the subgenre has seen, and now their fellow countrymen Israthoum have unleashed their own feverish nightmare of a record with Channeling Death and Devil. While sharing the same home soil, the sonic templates each of these bands employ are quite different. While the former focuses primarily on warping minds with progressive, experimental structures, Israthoum intends to obliterate souls with an occultic, oppressive mix of traditional and atmospheric black metal that adheres to the structures of tradition while cranking the speed and volume to eleven. Think a slightly more straightforward version of Bestia Arcana or Nightbringer, with a bit of extra jaggedness to the guitars and some incredibly dexterous drum work and you’ll be helming close to the sound this band conjures.
What a sound it is. This album is pure terror. From the opening notes of the title track, it’s apparent that this band has a deep love for the traditional aspects of black metal. This album feels like being dragged through a forest in the middle of a snowstorm by one of Satan’s lieutenants. The frost-bitten edge to the music heralds back to the early days of Norwegian black metal, while the chanting and atmosphere bring in slightly more modern elements that lend the music a sense of dark ritual. “Between the Maze and the Turmoil” and “Acqueiscas Fata” are excellent examples of the above, combining razor-sharp guitar tone with a choir seemingly commissioned from the depths of hell itself. Tracks like “Laceration of the Pliant” and “Drudges of Ruination” (which even includes some solo cleans) represent well the band’s adherence to the spirit of black metal, creating sonic landscapes that could have been created in the mid-1990s in Scandinavia. This is primal music. Debilitating music. The kind you turn on when you’re lying in the dark alone at night, contemplating the horror that existence represents. Listen to it and give in to its hellish charms.
Jute Gyte – Oviri
As longtime fans of Jute Gyte, we’ve enjoyed following Adam Kalmbach’s polyamorous relationship with black metal and microtonal music. Since last year, we’ve discussed how his 2016 release Perdurance uses suffering as a musical dynamic; his approach to microtonality; and his two most recent sonic oddities, The Sparrow and Oviri. Fellow editor and JG-fanatic Simon Handmaker described this latter album as “microtonal serialist black metal fusing in a semi-organic, mostly-robotic lock-step with industrial drum machines for some of the already-labyrinthine composer’s most mind-bending work to date.” As a newcomer to Kalmbach’s music, Simon’s description intrigued me, and my tortured time with Oviri has left me firmly in agreement that JG is one of the most crucial avant-garde black metal projects in the genre’s modern landscape.
For those unaware, microtonal music is essentially the use of notes between notes, or composing music by using intervals between half-steps on a standard octave. If you’re a non-musician like me, that translates to ” a lot of atonal, dissonant notes” in layman’s terms. Juxtaposing this approach to songwriting with black metal’s raw guitar tone and rapidfire tremolos makes for a truly incredible listen, and one I could’ve never previously imagined even considering my affinity for black metal’s avant-garde side. Kalmbach’s studious approach to black metal forgoes a lot of the emotion and atmosphere of other chaotic black metal bands like Deathspell Omega, leaving in its place coldly-calculated bouts of disorienting, suffocating noise sure to intrigue listeners at the very least and, more likely, leave them gasping for air and begging for more.
MRTVI – Negative Atonal Dissonance
There’s a lot black metal fans might blame MRTVI for—headaches, fear, disorientation, etc. But regardless of how listeners interpret the music on Negative Atonal Dissonance to be, proponents and detractors alike will agree that Damjan Stefanović’s latest album lays its mission statement bare without a shred of doubt as to his intentions. Indeed, the negative energy permeating throughout the project stomps through bone-filled valleys of atonal black metal steeped with clouds of dissonance, distortion and vicious, experimental tendencies.
Stefanović describes music as “endless; a spectrum of emotion, of atmosphere, a vibrational connection running through and joining all frequencies; a spiritual, meditative practice, a dream and a nightmare connecting the creation with the creative force.” While it’s a much more beautiful description than one would expect for an album like NAD, his focus on sonic liberation is an integral part of what makes the album such a haunting success. The album maintains this avant-garde aura across just three tracks, all of which take a different approach to inspiring terror. Part one of “As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh” emphasizes the “dark” in dark ambient before its sister track launches into black metal chaos reminiscent of Mastery and Jute Gyte. But as Stefanović demonstrates with this duo and the epic 20-minute title track, he’s unafraid of weaving black metal norms into the equation to help propel his darker experimentations. Heavy, chunky riffs and ripping swirls of blast beats and tremolos whir through the void he weaves, creating a winding tower for his chaotic riffs to encircle in darkness.
Serpent Column – Ornuthi Thalassa
You’ve heard me harp on this before. Few subgenres in metal blend as well as death and black metal. Serpent Column do nothing to dispel this notion with their absolutely fantastic debut record Ornuthi Thalassa, which combines these two genres with such verve that most quibbles one could have melt away from the sheer force of the pairing. While adhering more strictly to black metal composition and formulas, this album utilizes the bludgeoning attributes of death metal to create and extremely hard-hitting record that is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.
Serpent Column waste no time initiating the listener into their brutal world. Opening two-parter “Biogony” unleashes nearly ten minutes of tremolo-picked, riff-bolstered madness that devours the listener whole. This is an absolute knock-out of an opening salvo, and things only get better from here. “Men of the Polis” provides us with a rich variety of black and death metal back-and-forth, while “Feldweg” lets the kit run wild, creating some incredibly percussive passages that are nothing short of spectacular. Pack all of this into an album of just about thirty minutes and you have yourself a bona fide winner of a debut. Solid album. Solid band. Don’t sleep on this thing.
Sinmara – Within the Weaves of Infinity
It should come as no shock to anyone who actively reads the blog that we’re big fans of the Icelandic black metal scene. Adding a jagged sense of melody into an overwhelming fog of atmosphere, black metal from this small country is changing the face of the subgenre and churning out some insanely talented bands. Misthyrming, Draugsol, Zhrine, Svartidaudi, and others are churning out music that is as engaging as it is menacing, and with their latest EP Within the Weaves of Infinity, we can now place Sinmara firmly among the upper echelon of acts from the region, and within black metal as a whole.
Being a band made up of members of many other bands in the Icelandic scene (boasting members of Almyrkvi, Slidhr, Svartidaudi, and Wormlust), it would be understandable if the band’s direction was pulled in a lot of directions. Thankfully, it isn’t. This group of musicians work incredibly well together, and from the band’s debut Aphotic Womb up until this EP, the band has undergone a steady and consistent progression. While their debut record was as hard hitting and ominous as they come, the band have here upped the ante with some long, winding compositions that highlight the bands melodic sensibilities without sacrificing an ounce of their power and potency. The opening title track displays this emphasis brilliantly, showcasing some riff work in the midst of the tremolo barrage that is both forceful and almost catchy. The most notable difference between Sinmara and some of their peers is the drum work, which foregoes blast beats for most of the record, instead adding rolling, thundering fills and double bass to give the music an almost otherworldly quality. Which isn’t to say the band have dispensed with the trappings of the subgenre entirely. This is uniformly and proudly a black metal record, and when it decides to ramp up the intensity, like during the opening of “Nine Halls” or after the first minute of “Ormstunga”, the band perpetuate a manic aggression that can stick with the best of them.
Sinmara just keep getting better and better. With each new release the band see marked improvement compositionally, while maintaining the elements that make their music recognizable. A sterling release from one of Iceland’s premier black metal masters.
Sun of the Sleepless – To the Elements
There may be no subgenre in metal that infuses disparate sounds into its fold more easily and readily than black metal. Folk music, hard rock, death metal, doom metal, electronic music, take your pick; the subgenre has a seemingly limitless appeal to musicians bent on creating new soundscapes while confirming established traditional norms to their sonic agenda. Germany’s Ulf Theodor Schwadorf is one such individual in this mode, willing and capable of mixing various sounds into the black metal framework: ambient, folk, and gothic rock just to name a few. In a similar vein to his other project, The Vision Bleak, his solo project Sun of the Sleepless infuses the black metal tradition with a whole lot of other great elements. What makes this project stick out, however, is how well he conjoins these styles, and how deeply like traditional black metal this music feels. With To the Elements, Schwadorf has crafted a mammoth record that refuses to sacrifice impact and heaviness for style points, and instead creates a rich amalgam of disparate elements that feels like a deeply melodic punch to the gonads.
Sun of the Sleepless takes the ambient, atmospheric nature of the music of The Ruins of Beverast (“The Owl”), mixes it with some of the darker, folkier elements of Moonsorrow or Empyrium (“Forest Crown”), and melds it into a riff-filled, crushingly heavy stew that lends the album a hard rock tinge (“Where In My Childhood Lived a Witch”, “Phoenix Rise”). But at its core, always, is an emphatic love for the more traditional elements of black metal. This love is readily apparent throughout every track on the album, but especially makes its presence felt during “In the Realm of the Bark” and “Motions”, which hold fastidiously to black metal’s most familiar elements while feeling just a bit heavier than other acts making this type of music. The juxtaposition between elegiac and heavy lends the album a unique sonic palette that is increasingly pleasurable as the music progresses. Essentially, if you like metal at all, you will get something out of this record. If you have a particular affinity for black metal, especially so. This is a sterling debut from a longtime musician obviously playing the music he loves. It bleeds from every note, and the album is well worth your time because of it. Excellent stuff here.