Welcome to Kvlt Kolvmn, hellions. Here’s hoping your holiday is as frosty as the metal gods intended it. We’re approaching the end of the year, and prep for our Kvlt Kolvmn prospectus is in full swing. But in the midst of the maelstrom, we offer you a few choice selections that caught our attention over the past month. The last few months of the year tend to be less stuffed release-wise, but per its inherently winterized nature, the black metal world continues to churn out the goods. All is as it should be.
Read, listen, reflect, then pulverize us in the comments. Or, you can post your favorites from the month. But above all, listen. There’s quality black metal to be had.
Karg – Dornenvögel
Post- and atmospheric black metal haven’t necessarily had a field day in 2018. But for the small, sometimes-maligned subgenre this year has seen several quality releases from high profile bands. Deafheaven continued their strange and beautiful path toward metal immortality, and Respire, Møl, Bosse-de-Nage, and Harakiri for the Sky each released what may be their best work. While not nearly as prolific as death or traditional black metal this year, the post-black world has nevertheless made a fine showing. Not satisfied with one monumental release this year, Harakiri for the Sky mastermind J.J. brings to us Karg, a solo project incorporating heavy amounts of post- and atmospheric black metal into a detailed, unswervingly uniform package of melody and intensity. Accompanied by a veritable who’s-who of collaborators (including guest work by members of Downfall of Gaia, Lunar Aurora, Ellende and Ancst to name a few), the project’s sixth full-length record is a sweeping work of art that leaves little to the imagination.
Clocking in at over an hour and fifteen minutes, there’s little ground in the musical worlds listed above that isn’t covered. “Meine Freiheit war ir Tod” is as CinemaScope as atmoblack gets, riffing close to the hardest portions of Alcest, but never feeling particularly derivative. Album standout “Petrichor” is a lush, utterly gorgeous piece of music, melding the gentlest and most enchanting portions of Deafheaven in slow-build that eventually erupts in breathtaking fashion. It’s one of the most mesmerizing black metal-infused tracks I’ve heard this year and should go down as a career highlight for the project. Throughout, these various sounds and influences congeal into a work that very rarely diverges from its chosen path. Consistency is the name of the game, with each track united sonically by songwriting and production aesthetics that complement one another throughout the record’s lengthy runtime.
If I were to lodge one complaint, it would be the record’s length. Perhaps I’m just losing my attention span, but my patience for records that exceed an hour is growing very thin. The saving grace here is the absolutely stunning nature of these tracks. Whether listening through or hopping from track-to-track, there is a veritable smorgasbord of quality music that cannot be denied. And while I tend to enjoy my meals a bit leaner, I cannot fault J.J. for stuffing these many good ideas into one cohesive, thoroughly enjoyable project. So strap in for the long haul, but know that the long trip will be well worth it. A fantastic release.
Psicósfera – Beta
I’ll be honest – black metal vocals aren’t my favorite. That’s not to say I don’t love a good, well-executed shriek layered over my frosty tremolos of choice. But I’ve always been much more of a guttural guy, and when it comes to black metal, I prefer unique vocalists like Attila Csihar who had a different spin to an established genre that’s infatuated with conventions. Along these same lines, I’ve had a growing interest in pursuing instrumental black metal, which is why Sannhet‘s post-black vibes have appealed to me since Revisionist. While the list of bands that fit this description is still small, I’m glad to be able to add Psicósfera and highlight their incredible, instrumental take on a slew of black metal subgenres. Sometimes you can easily judge an album by its cover, and the morbidly beautiful artwork that adorns Beta is the perfect representation of the albums dark, cavernous and multifaceted sound.
Though numerous blackened subgenres are on display here, Psicósfera employ musical influence from elsewhere in the sphere of metal and music in general. There are doom and post- influences abound on the album, and some moments even dip into the realm of psychedelic sludge with a blackened edge. It’s experimental in all the right places, introducing plenty of dissonance and angular riffing into the mix while still providing listeners with a hefty core and crushing chord progressions. Perhaps if Krallice amplified the low-end in their sound, drizzled in some mid-paced Deathspell Omega riffing and dropped the vocals, it might sound ab it like what Beta has to offer.
To bring things full circle, the lack of vocals on the album is an incredible asset that reveals itself slowly over the course of the tracklist. I didn’t notice the “instrumental” tag on Psicósfera’s Bandcamp page, and as a result of discovering this fact organically, I was able to do so while already fully absorbed in the atmospheres the band presented. Instrumental music approaches the concept of “space” in music in a wholly unique way, and the way the band attack that sonic device perfectly compliments the expansive, atmospheric core of black metal. This is a shining example of how black metal continues to have the strongest inherent potential for sonic innovation of virtually any genre. Of course, this doesn’t always come to fruition, and Jonathan and I sift through mediocre and downright bad albums whenever we converge to write this column. But when bands like Psicósfera dedicate themselves to furthering both their craft and the confines of the genre, triumphant accomplishments like Beta can come to fruition.