I had my cursor hovering over the “Purchase” button for tickets to The Dark Knight Rises the night of the Century Aurora shooting. I grew up going to that theater, as it was about ten minutes away from my childhood home. I decided not to purchase them an hour before showtime because I had homework to complete. Which was… weird. I’d been to every Nolan Batman movie on opening night up to that point, and I’d skipped out on schoolwork to do it. To this day I don’t know why I didn’t go through with that purchase.
I woke up the next morning to dozens of text messages checking to ensure that I was alive. I had friends and acquaintances in that theater, one of whom was shot in the head (and survived). The thought of being anywhere near that night of hell frightens me in a way that I don’t know how to describe. Grieving with my city as the weeks rolled on, followed by total silence once the latest tragedy occurred, was a truly terrible experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Yet here we are.
I have a personal axe to grind regarding mass shootings because of my proximity to them. Century 16. Colorado Springs. Columbine. Their persistence is a cultural cancer that we have yet to come even close to destroying. Fueled by absolute hatred of their fellow man and a self-absorption I will never understand, last week two individuals exacted an immeasurable toll on hundreds of lives, both living and dead.
The ideologies that spurred their homicidal actions. Their bullshit “manifestos” filled to the brim with nightmarishly absurd and racist propaganda. The forums where they spewed their hate. The people who promoted and encouraged it. Everything about them. Fuck all of it.
Hug your friends. Love on your families. Know that you have a place here, and that we stand as a community of writers and friends firmly entrenched against the racial toxicity that is poisoning this country, the world, and distinct corners of the music we all hold dear, promoting exclusion and extinction. White supremacy, specifically NSBM, and all the pure evil it represents will continue to receive no platform here.
Here’s some good black metal that Scott and I liked. Hope it gives you some solace after a grisly week.
False – Portent
Black metal frequently struggles with the concept of progression; ideologically and musically, but today we’re focusing on the latter. There’s an abundance of highly linear black metal records in the depths of Bandcamp. You know the drill: a simple kick, cymbal, snare d-beat pattern with fuzzy tremolos consuming the atmosphere and shrieks periodically jumping through the mist. Even sunbgenres outside of the raw and atmospheric slants struggle with developing interesting ideas within each track, let alone over the course of an entire album.
Among its many strengths, Portent is a master class in maintaining intrigue over the course of a black metal record. False have been rising stars in the genre for a little while now, but they’ve truly outdone themselves with their second proper full-length. Jonathan already went in-depth on how exceptional the the album is with his review (and for Editors’ Picks). I’m glad I have a chance to say my piece, because this is easily the strongest “traditional” black metal album I’ve heard this year.
To revisit my initial point, each of the four tracks on Portent is a window into a complex, ever-changing sonic world. Every shade and hue of contemporary black metal is on display throughout each track, yet the seams of the transitions between the band’s ideas are nearly invisible. Everything develops so smoothly, both with the band’s compositions and technical arrays. Monolithic tremolos flow into melodic riffing and borderline atonal, sinister moments, all while the percussion changes tempo effortlessly from slow dirges to faster and faster blast beats.
It may be cliche to describe an album as an “experience,” but the description is apt in this case. Portent is both a celebration of everything that makes black metal great, while also being its own unique, landmark success. False may not play the trvest form of black metal, nor are they most avant-garde. But their take on the genre is still incredibly refreshing and expertly crafted, making for some of the most thought-provoking and genuinely enjoyable albums from the genre this year.
Read More: Review
Falls of Rauros – Patterns in Mythology
There are many bands that have attempted the daunting ascent to Deafheaven’s modern black metal throne. Love or hate them, it’s hard to deny their position as black(ish) metal’s premier contemporary force. But of all the band’s battling toward that lofty stage, Falls of Rauros have, in my mind, come the closest to supplanting their tyrannical reign. If Patterns in Mythology is any indication of the band’s trajectory, they may be poised to eclipse Deafheaven and all other challengers in the process. The band’s fifth full-length record is not only their best, but one of the most expertly performed, beautifully executed, and well-written black metal records to drop this year. If you haven’t heard it yet, drop what you’re doing (including reading the rest of my decidedly lame musings), scroll down to the link and hit play right now. You won’t be disappointed.
For anyone unfamiliar with the band’s sound, the simplest classification for their music would be to place them in the atmoblack vein along with bands like Alcest, Panopticon, and Wolves in the Throne Room. But what makes Falls of Rauros so special is their ability to move like liquid through various metal aesthetics without ever losing their sense of gravity, intensity, and propulsion. “Weapons of Refusal” deftly displays this characteristic, as the track moves from soaring melody to tremolo-heavy madness to acoustic noodling and back again without ever breaking a sweat. The band’s post- influence is present throughout the record as well, particularly in “New Inertia”, which is one of the most post-rock heavy tracks in the band’s discography. “Last Empty Tradition” and finale “Memory at Night” incorporate both the atmospheric and post- tendencies of the band’s music perfectly, culminating in a stirring album conclusion that reaches the emotional highs of Der Weg einer Freheit. It’s essentially everything I want from my modern black metal and then some.
Whatever your feelings on the modern black metal scene, it would be difficult to deny the sheer exuberance present on Patterns in Mythology. It’s a record that is both very easily accessible to listeners outside the genre but never strays too far from its roots in black metal. It’s all that I was hoping it would be and more, and I strongly suggest you give it a go.
Read More: Review
Jute Gyte – Birefringence
Extreme metal has its own set of workaholics. Bands like Full of Hell, Tomb Mold, and The Body spring immediately to mind when contemplating the style’s hardest working groups. But there are few, if any, whose body of work eclipses in sheer magnitude and frequency that of Jute Gyte. Since his debut in 2006, multi-instrumentalist and mad musical genius Adam Kalmbach has released 29 full-length records, along with a collection of EPs, collaborations, and splits that alone equal more than some bands produce throughout their entire careers. Quick math indicates that Kalmbach has released music at a pace of almost three recordings per year for thirteen years. This is insane. But that’s nowhere close to the most shocking element of Kalmbach’s incredibly productive career. That distinction would belong to the fact that almost all of these recordings are excellent, and that his latest offering, Birefringence, stands among the most exceptional among them. If you are in any way, shape, or form a fan of experimental black metal, there’s something for you to both love and chew on here.
To be perfectly candid with you, Jute Gyte is a hard act to write about. Melding black metal with atonal, ambient, noise and deeply experimental songwriting elements, there are few records in Jute Gyte’s discography that feel remotely similar. Which is part of the reason why Birefringence is so special among his voluminous amount of releases. Opener “Angelus Novus” kicks off with an absolute headrush of chaotic, discordant tremolo-picked guitar work, layered overtop Kalmbach’s maniacal vocal delivery and some absolutely insane drum blasting. It’s a veritable swarm of noise that’s as disorienting as one would expect from a Jute Gyte record, and as the track progresses even the record’s slower and more spacious passages feel unnervingly off-kilter. The entire track is a thoroughly disorienting nightmare that eventually cascades into “Dissected Grace”, which is an oddly warm, inviting, and strangely accessible track. The record vacillates between incredibly disciplined experimental deviations and immediately enjoyable passages with a skill and consistency that is truly rare for albums of this nature. “Prosopons” and “The Unformed Volcanic Earth” in particular exemplify this songwriting variety, and end up being two of the most interesting tracks Kalmbach has written. Couple this with a sonic consistency which ensures that you never forget that you’re listening to a Jute Gyte record and you have yourself one of the most wild and utterly mesmerizing listens of the year thus far.
If you’re just dipping your toes into the strange waters that are a Jute Gyte recording, Birefringence is most certainly not a bad place to start. There are layers upon layers of depth entrenched here, but with just enough accessibility to keep the uninitiated engaged and intrigued throughout. A thoroughly fantastic and consistently spellbinding release from one of black metal’s most complex and unpredictable voices.
Read More: Review
Cult of Extinction – Ritual in the Absolute Absence of Light (war metal)
Nevel – Leven (atmospheric black metal, post-black metal)
Wandar – Zyklus (atmospheric black metal, melodic black metal)