Ah… April. Flowers blooming. Trees displaying their green, lush foliage in all their splendor and glory. Grass is full. Rain falls gently. Just the perfect, exact opposite setting for icy black metal darkness. Curse you, sun. Curse you. Or… maybe not? I guess it depends on your opinion of black metal and its most recent manifestations. On the whole, black metal has long held an obsession with the wintriest of months both aesthetically and musically. Focusing primarily on frozen tundras, snow-caked trees and the maelstrom of blizzards, the genre has long given off a cold vibe, evoking a very particular aesthetic that fits the winter months like a glove. Though this penchant for the cold and ominous hasn’t necessarily remained the case as black metal has developed as a genre. Eden and Simon talked about this very topic at length in their excellent piece An Ode to Spring, which I heartily recommend you check out if you have yet to do so. Seasons, nature, and the wilderness have always been important components both the foundation and evolution of black metal, but there seems to be a recent emphasis on a more all-encompassing focus on the natural world, and April provided us with one particular album that focused on this exact topic for its duration. But black metal is nothing (like the forces of nature it so readily employs) if not diverse, which we can readily see in some of the selections we present to you in this edition of Kvlt Kolvmn. From blackgaze and post-black to atmoblack and blackened thrash, April provided a rich tapestry of quality black metal sounds that should please fans from across the spectrum of this diverse subgenre. Let’s once again celebrate the diversity of sound that the evolution of black metal continually brings.
As usual, we are here to present some of our favorite releases from the month of April. Post your own favorites in the comments so we can discover great music together. But let’s get right to it. There’s some quality music to discuss. And whether you dig it cold or warm, there’s plenty of quality black metal to go around.
Møl – JORD
Post-black metal and blackgaze have had their fair share of moments. Deafheaven’s Sunbather being the obvious pinnacle of either of these subgenres’ popularity, with albums from Bosse-de-Nage, Alcest, Ghost Bath, Oathbreaker, and others creating a stir within the metal community over the past decade. Denmark’s Møl enters the fray with their debut full-length Jord, and from the first notes of this record its plain that Møl has to come to contend for the throne. From start to finish, Jord offers fans of this strain of metal a thoroughly enthralling musical experience.
One of the few knocks one could give this record is that it’s not particularly novel. The above bands get special mention here because Møl pulls elements from each (and perhaps even Astronoid, especially during “Penumbra”), creating a blackgaze/post-black metal concoction that will in many ways feel familiar. Kim Song Sternkopf’s vocals certainly channel George Clarke vibes during “Storm” and “Ligament”, but that’s not a bad thing. At all. But these comparisons are truly only a slight knock because this band is more than capable of reaching the atmospheric heights of their peers and then some. Sternkopf absolutely decimates with an impassioned performance in “Bruma”, in which he vacillates from throat tearing screams to guttural bursts that are insanely effective. The instrumentation throughout is absolutely electric, with songwriting prowess that pulls the most memorable and emotionally resonant components from each song and gives them time to obliterate your senses. Every song on this record is strong, including the instrumental tracks like “Lambda”, which paint evocative and memorable landscapes that will stick with you long after the record draws to its epic, raging conclusion in the title track. It’s a complete picture of the history of these types of music up until this point and synthesizes everything this music does well with skill and grace.
If you like blackgaze or post-black metal at all, this album needs to be in your headphones immediately. I sense big things in this band’s future, and with this much talent, one can be confident they can make good on the promise presented in Jord.
Nigredo – Flesh Torn | Spirit Pierced
Let’s get right to it, just like Greek gods Nigredo do in their fantastic and relentless debut record Flesh Torn | Spirit Pierced. With a diabolical blackened thrash attack, this band clearly intends to rip your head clean off your shoulders. This is just insanely, maniacally aggressive black metal mixed with a healthy dose of thrash that is as subtle as a ghost pepper. From note one of album opener “Ten Repellent Antiforces”, there is no relief. No mid-tempo atmospherics. Just pure, raw, unadulterated aggression and speed. Think Slayer and Darkthrone having a baby and that accursed hellspawn drinking six cans of monster per hour and you’ll get close to the level of blind aggression Nigredo conjure here. This is lights out one of the most blistering listening experiences I’ve had this year and without question one of the most fun.
The level of aggression contained in this record could fill a slew of lesser releases. “Necrolatry”, “Chronzon Possession”, and “Mental Glimpses at Cosmic Horrors” offer one of the most visceral opening gut-punches you’ll get in an album. Just a blistering assault of classic riff madness. And riffs there are aplenty. Nigredo is deceptively clever in their songwriting choices, incorporating thrash and black metal passages at just the right time with just the right amount of speed. The transitions between the thrash and black metal are as seamless as one could hope for, jumping back and forth with precision and ease. Start to finish, there isn’t a single track that is anything less than a total banger. If you like your metal possessed of the demon of speed, you’ve found your new best friend. Pick this up and support a label that is absolutely killing the game this year.
Panopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness
Austin Lunn has become a household name in the black metal community. Nearly all of his releases under the Panopticon moniker have made indelible impressions on this space, incorporating bluegrass and American folk music into a swirling maelstrom of black metal aggression that few have been able to duplicate with the level of skill and passion Lunn exhibits. Roads to the North and Autumn Eternal both left a lasting impact on me upon release, and the two discs on Lunn’s latest effort The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness are no exception. It’s another fantastic release from one of black metal’s most powerful voices.
As has been much ballyhooed at this juncture, Scars is a double album, with the first half dedicated to Lunn’s signature folky black metal, while the latter focuses exclusively on the folk component. These albums are most assuredly two separate compositional halves of a thematic whole and can be listened to independent of one another (though listening to the entire opus as it was intended is much recommended). Whether or not one balks at the inclusion of an entire album of acoustic folkery, it would be difficult for black metal fans not to fall for the album’s first and harsher half, which includes some of the best black metal Lunn has yet written. After a brief acoustic instrumental introduction, “En hvit ravns dod” unfurls itself to reveal a rich and emotive black metal tapestry. The sounds of jagged, tremolo-picked riffs and manic drum blasts populate the first few moments of the track, with Lunn bellowing like his life depended on it. Just past the halfway mark, the sound of birds breaks through the cacophony, as Lunn’s signature, emotional atmosphere overwhelms all other sounds, transforming the song from a straightforward black metal composition into something quite epic and emotive without losing its sense of heaviness. This trend is present throughout the record, but that doesn’t mean that Scars is bereft of bangers. “Blatimen” and “Sheep In Wolves Clothing” are both great examples of the direct, brutalizing aggression Lunn is capable of conjuring. Spliced together with the acoustic atmosphere of “A Ridge Where the Tall Pines Once Stood” or the dramatic majesty of “Snow Burdened Branches”, Scars traverses various sounds within the black metal sphere to create a record that feels both cohesive and diverse, culminating in one of his best records yet.
If you find yourself loathe to check out the albums acoustic half, I would strongly encourage you to reconsider. Taken as a whole, Scars is a monumental achievement that presents one of the clearest and most vibrant examples yet of Austin Lunn’s unique and powerful musical vision. It’s worth every second of time you invest in it and is even more rewarding with multiple listens.