Welcome to Kvlt Kolvmn. Spring has sprung, but the very last vestiges of our dearly beloved winter cling like icy hands to the soil. My home state is preparing itself for a very late snow storm over the next few days, which fills my deadened heart with something akin to joy. Is this change in the weather due to the advent of another month of delicious black metal picks? I like to think so. THUS IS THE POWER OF KVLT.
Either way, it’s a good time to be a black metal fan. Continuing the banner year the genre is already experiencing, April was loaded with excellent releases that tickled our fancy over the past month. As is tradition, Scott joins me to deliver unto you the goods.
Comment with your picks for the month below. As always, stay frosty.
Nekrasov – Lust of Consciousness
Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical at the genre tags given to Lust of Consciousness, specifically regarding the idea that Nekrasov employ enough “noise” in their sound to warrant that descriptor. But moments after pressing play, I tossed my initial judgment and braced myself for one of the most abrasive metal albums of the year. Nekrasov indeed uses harsh noise to enhance the heaviness of their sound, and they do so in a way that feels organic to what the band executes on the black metal side of their sound.
Right off the bat, “How to Break the Spell” erupts in a twisted, shrill soundscape, suffocating in its scope and the individual samples employed. Once the band launches into view on “Living Where I Vanish,” the use of noise becomes all the more understandable and welcome. Nekrasov’s take on black metal is unrestrained and massive, like a more focused and composition-oriented take on Mastery‘s blackened free improv.
In the process, the band willingly shift between different aspects of their handcrafted style, with dark ambient and harsh noise passes bleeding into raw, violent flurries of lo-fi black metal. There’s never a moment without a twist or turn in another direction, thanks to the band’s fast-and-loose approach to playing whatever segment of sound strikes them most prominently. This is the kind of black metal that fans and skeptics of the genre can both get behind, as long as they’re familiar and comfortable with the wildest tendencies of experimental music.
Remete – Into Endless Night
In the five years since I discovered Woods of Desolation, I’ve been waiting somewhat impatiently for another installment of the band’s signature take on post-black. What drew me in to As the Stars was the album’s ability to root itself in black metal’s current state of affairs while simultaneously retaining the elements that have defined the style since its inception. Though this piece isn’t highlighting another Woods record, it’s hard to be disappointed with the solo project that Woods mastermind D. has focused on in the interim.
Remete bears many qualities consistent across D.’s repertoire, though Into Endless Night still feels fresh and fully-realized inits own right. Again, the strong influences of modern, post-black aesthetics upon a strong traditional core is what drives the album’s quartet of tracks. Driving blasts and tremolos are wrapped up in just the right balance of aggression and melody, before ultimately erupting in a crescendo befitting a heavier post-rock track. The runtime is concise, but the quality of each composition feels like its own singular, exceptionally-crafted experience. The results will ease the desires of Woods fan anxious for a follow-up, since D. is clearly capable of dropping a black metal gem under any moniker.
Wishfield – Wishfield
The facade of novelty is a common trap that befalls avid music listeners. This isn’t the place to rattle off names, but we’re all aware of some artists that have garnered praise due more from their uniqueness than their actual songwriting skills. On the other hand, being well-versed in genre cane help illuminate records that stand above the torrent of new releases. Such is the case with the self-titled debut from Wishfield, an inventive blend of genres bolstered by some unique instrumental choices.
This largely revolves around the use of fretless guitar and fretless bass, a subtle shift that provides an immediate impact on opener “Something.” The lack of frets, in conjunction with a generous dose of reverb and effects, enhances the album’s chord progressions with aa distinct, hypnotic fluidity. On “Something” in particular, the melancholic melody of the central riff makes the tremolos sound even hazier and engulfing than a standard blackgaze track.
It’s also worth ruminating on this note about the album’s overarching style, given how agnostic the band clearly is when it comes to the genre game. On a track-by-track basis, Wishfield effortlessly bounce between a more alt-rock leaning brand of blackgaze and what can best be described as blackened dream pop with a keen focus on the “pop” elements of this equation. This is especially true on “Three Seconds (Radio On),” which sounds like a more aggressive, effect-heavy Cloud Nothings song. Yet, the band prove they’re more than capable of flipping on the heaviness. “The Fishbowl” sounds like a more raw, youthful take on Deafheaven‘s agressive romps on New Bermuda.
Among the band’s man strengths, Wishfield’s greatest asset is their prowess at blending and transitions. The amalgamation of styles here could have easily been an ambitious but unfocused mess. Instead, Wishfield is a triumphant recognition of an enticing vision; an album that breathes new vigor into black metal’s youngest offshoot. With more time, focus and well-deserved major label recognition, this quartet could easily be black metal’s next great crossover act.
Wormwitch – Heaven That Dwells Within
Vancouver’s own Wormwitch made a name for themselves back in 2017 with their promising debut record Strike Mortal Soil. While a more than adequate slab of crusty black metal goodness, the album left a bit to be desired in the songwriting department, which was something I hoped would be rectified as the band matured and released future projects. With the release of their sophomore outing Heaven That Dwells Within, my hopes have been fully realized. This is a consistent, engaging, energetic, cohesive and often stunning record that amplifies the band’s strengths in every conceivable way, heralding Wormwitch as a fast-rising force in the world of black metal.
For those unfamiliar with the band’s sound, think a more epic Watain, mixed with the melodic intensity of Dissection or Uada and some fringe crust-adjacent sounds reminiscent of Black Breath. It’s a potent sound, for sure, but not one altogether unfamiliar to anyone who’s spent time with a Tribulation record. But Wormwitch aren’t shooting to break the mold, but rather break your brain with high-octane songwriting that is as catchy and effectively menacing as music of this nature gets. Track “Two Wolves” even includes some death-esque riff passages that add additional heft to the band’s already heavy sound. This amalgamation of sounds serves the band well throughout the record, with not one track feeling stale or overly derivative of other bands. This is due mostly to some utterly fantastic songwriting, which allows the band to showcase their talents front-and-center throughout. In short, it’s just about everything a fan of melodic black metal could ask for.
While there’s still plenty of time left in the year, I would not be surprised if Heaven That Dwells Within makes it onto my year-end list. It’s a consistently fantastic body of work by a band that deserves all the recognition coming to them. More soon, please.