Kvlt Kolvmn // August 2023

Sweltering heat abides, but the frost endures. It’s Kvlt Kolvmn, baby. Below you will find some of the best black metal releases of the past few months. We hope

9 months ago

Sweltering heat abides, but the frost endures. It’s Kvlt Kolvmn, baby.

Below you will find some of the best black metal releases of the past few months. We hope you enjoy the selection.

That’s it. That’s the message. Now I’m going to find some shade so I don’t die.

Stay frosty.

-Jonathan Adams

Winter’s Crown

Abstract Void - Forever

What is black metal for, exactly? Well, it’s of course for a few different things. It’s for feeling the rush of self-accomplishment and self-determination. It’s for connecting with things grander than ourselves, be that nature or history. It’s for exercising or channeling the difficult motions of hate and anger we often feel. And it’s for many other things; you’ll probably get as many answers the more people you ask. But, years after I finally managed to break through into the genre and “get it”, I find that black metal is for mixing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still joy in listening to black metal for the thing itself, the cold fury of the tremolo riff or the abrasive, harsh scream. But, as time goes by, I find that black metal is one of the more mercurial, versatile, and flexible genres which is really funny because it stands in complete opposition to what the old-head purists would like to imagine black metal is.

There are many examples for this of course; there’s a been a veritable explosion of hybrids with black metal, from the more acceptable blends that make black metal progressive and all the way to extreme experimentation. But today, I’d like to focus on a more recent and “modern” example, which has become all the sweeter for it taking time to coalesce: Abstract Void. The promise is “simple”: what if we could take one of the “hottest” sub-genres around, synthwave, and meld it with black metal? Wouldn’t such a union of opposites please us immensely? However, while the promise was clear, the execution was somewhat lacking. Abstract Void’s previous releases are good, don’t get me wrong, but they seemed hampered by something; some quality was missing.

Luckily, with Forever, the person behind the project has cracked the formula by stepping away from synthwave and closer to electro-pop and vaporwave. The result is, simply put, breathtaking. Instead of the harsher, colder atmosphere of previous releases (which, when you think about it, does seem like it should be the natural egress point of black metal into synthwave), Forever’s production and composition scintillate with joyful, buoyant tones. Both the electronic synths and the guitars, vocals, and heavier drums which make up the black metal side of things are much “lighter”, giving the ideas space to breathe and articulate themselves. This leads to more interplay between the two elements, allowing both flavors to complement each other, and themselves, for having the room to breathe and grow.

Take the title track as an example; the synths on it are loud but there’s way more space for the main guitar riff of the track to be heard “behind” them. So too the drums leave those synths more sound to play with, content to let them create one wall of sound while they create the other with their breakneck and consistent pace. Add in the harsh, unfurling vocals into the mix and you have yourself something that’s still clearly a hybrid but which comes together to sound like more than the sum of its parts. In short, Forever is the culmination of Abstract Void’s vision and mission, much more than just gimmick. It is yet another example that black metal is one of the more unique sub-genres of metal when we let it be that, unrestrained by what is “proper”, “traditional” or “accepted”. After all, is that rebellion not at the heart of black metal?

-Eden Kupermintz

Best of the Rest

Agriculture - Self-titled

I’ve been an unabashed fan of post-black metal since it first hit my ears back in 2012, finding myself immediately transfixed by the dramatic songwriting of Bosse-de-Nage and the shoegaze slather of Deafheaven. I’ve seen the latter at least four times live and they have not once disappointed. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t state that much of the genre’s most recent output was somewhat lacking. I’d be hard pressed to name a band or album that really struck a chord with me in this space over the past few years outside of anything released by White Ward or Wolves in the Throne Room. Which is part of what makes Agriculture’s stunning self-titled debut so special. In a musical valley of dry bones, Agriculture present an oasis of texture, melody, gazy-ness, and good old fashioned tremolo aggression. It’s as good a debut in post-black metal as I’ve heard in years.

To be completely fair, Agriculture’s debut doesn’t pull some Altar of Plagues-style reinvention of the post-black wheel. Nor is it attempting to. Many of the musical motifs contained in this record can be traced back to their subgenre forebears with relative ease. But that’s more a comment on stylistic comparison than anything else. Where Agriculture excel isn’t in bending post-black in new directions, but instead reveling in its best elements with an uncanny and genuinely impressive mastery. This is an utterly exceptional album from front to back, with each track stacking upon the last with an intentionality in songwriting and instrumental execution that is among the most effective and mature that I’ve heard in years. The progressions in “The Glory of the Ocean” alone are enough to fill the entirety of a lesser album, while interludes like “The Well” add a certain acoustic softness not unlike what one would hear in a Panopticon record without ever veering into base indulgence.

Which is another aspect of Agriculture’s debut that stands out. Compared to many of its black metal contemporaries, this record is surprisingly short. Clocking in at just over half-an-hour, it’s one of the few records I’ve heard this year that I genuinely wish was longer. But it’s a small complaint, given the fact that Agriculture use every ounce of space in that all-too-short 30 minutes to pack every track with enough memorable melodies and riffs to satisfy even the pickiest kvltist. This thing is wall to wall good ideas, with almost no excess fat to speak of. It’s an utterly satisfying black metal feast that does something that very few records have done as of late… leave me wanting more.

While the astoundingly frequent output of bands like Esoctrilihum, Krallice, and Hoplites over the past few years has truly been a sight to behold, Agriculture’s strict adherence to concision and economy in a musical space known for traditionally epic vistas in both duration and scope is wildly refreshing. Not a moment overstays its welcome, but the band also isn’t rushing things. It’s some of the most expertly crafted black metal songwriting I’ve heard in a while and with every new fade out of the album’s excellent closer “Relier” I’m left with a strange juxtaposition of complete satisfaction and a craving for more. It’s a peculiar, wonderful feeling to not be completely drained after hearing a black metal record, which has kept me coming back again and again for repeat listens. Which I don’t anticipate will abate any time soon. An excellent and expertly performed work of art that I recommend in the strongest of terms.


Blackbraid - Blackbraid II

I cannot remember a band going from 0 to 100 in quite the way New York black metal project Blackbraid has over the past year and change. After dropping the single “Barefoot Ghost Dance On Blood Soaked Soil” on YouTube and watching it balloon to a viewership in the hundreds of thousands, the project’s debut album came rushing in with a lot of fanfare but, unfortunately, not as much staying power as one might expect after so much hype. I was deeply curious to see how Blackbraid would follow-up its much ballyhooed debut, and I’m pleased to say that my curiosity has been rewarded many times over. Blackbraid II is a rich, deeply melodic, appropriately atmospheric, and vastly more engaging album than its predecessor that more than validates the hype surrounding Blackbraid as a project. In simplest terms, this fucking slaps.

For those who are interested in the project’s Native American roots, I will say that on a sonic level there isn’t a whole lot going on in that regard musically. This record helms much closer to the atmosphere drenched, riff-heavy approach of the Cascadian black metal of Wolves in the Throne Room than it goes any sort of more overt folk tradition. That isn’t to say there aren’t moments of Panopticon-esque acoustics (“Spells of Moon and Earth” and “Celestial Passage” being obvious examples), but generally speaking Blackbraid is here to slap you across the face with killer riffs galore, and does it ever succeed in that mission. From the pure atmospheric second-wave vibes of “The Wolf That Guides the Hunter’s Hand” to the borderline thrash found in the second half of “Twilight Hymn of Ancient Blood”, Blackbraid II succeeds most when it’s attempting to cave your head in. Which is honestly nearly every minute of this hour-long work of black metal madness.

If you like me enjoyed this project’s first record but felt like there was a lot left on the table, Blackbraid II will fully dissuade you from any notions of this project being a hypebeast exclusive. This is an excellent record, written and performed with obvious skill and care, and the kind of black metal that is extremely easy to come back to. I have no doubt that I’ll be listening to this record throughout the fall and winter months, and wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it on my year-end list. A huge sigh of relief for hype for once being justified, and potential being realized.


Mizmor - Prosaic

One-man black-doom wrecking ball Mizmor has been dropping consistently excellent music for over a decade, with the project’s sophomore album Yodh bringing the project into the limelight in a big way back in 2016. Now four full-lengths deep with nary a true dud in sight, Mizmor has become something of a trusted institution in the worlds of black and doom metal. The project’s latest release Prosaic does nothing to diminish that reputation, bringing mastermind A.L.N.’s sonic vision to its most succinct and accessible place yet.

While Prosaic doesn’t present listeners with as much of the sludge-slathered majesty of 2019’s Cairn or the left-field intensity of Yodh, it does provide a compelling evolution in the project’s overall discography. Far more focused than 2022’s strange though sometimes beguiling Wit’s End, Prosaic feels like a distillation of all of the best elements of Mizmor rolled into a compact and digestible package. The musicianship is as always truly outstanding, and A.L.N.’s songwriting continues its fantastic trajectory of genre fusion, blending monolithic doom like that found in “No Place to Arrive” with the blast-heavy blackened aggression of opener “Only An Expanse”. None of these tonal shifts ever feel jarring or out of place, with A.L.N. masterfully blending these sometimes aggressive changes into a seamless and deeply compelling whole. It may not be Mizmor’s most adventurous record, but one could make a strong argument about it being the project’s best.

If you’ve enjoyed Mizmor in the past, there’s little about Prosaic that won’t entice you. It’s a leaner, more balanced, thoroughly excellent slab of blackened doom aggression that is surprisingly easy to listen to on repeat. There’s little more that I can say outside of strongly encouraging you to give it a listen if you’ve yet to do so. One of the project’s finest works.


Oculus - Of Temples and Vultures

It’s a good thing that an entire stylistic division of the black and death metal genres flourished in the wake of Deathspell Omega, because the alleged antics of that act make it difficult to support them in good conscience. You’ll get that in black metal of course, but with this new proliferation of swirling and hazy dissonance, we’ve got options! The latest of which: international (US, Serbia, Czech) blackened death metal project Oculus’ sophomore LP Of Temples and Vultures is menacing, destructively heavy, and downright spooky.

Oculus, as they exist on Of Temples and Vultures, exists somewhere between atmospheric black metal and dissonant death metal, albeit a bit more moderate on the atmosphere. Compared to the work of their contemporaries and assumed inspirations (Blut Aus Nord, Thantifaxath, and the like) Of Temples and Vultures deals more direct blows, with the horror largely unshrouded in fog and hidden in the back of the cavern. Technical, brutal, and muscular, Of Temples and Vultures is more akin to a body horror feature than your elevated arthouse flick. There’s nothing implied about the violence here.

-Jimmy Rowe

Wyrgher - Panspermic Warlords

Fans of fucking weird cosmic black metal, rejoice! In a year mostly bereft of the strange spacey blackened goodness we often get from the likes of Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore, Wyrgher have stepped up to the plate and delivered unto our eager ears an atmospheric odyssey that can be adequately described as epic both in quality and concept. Straightforward Scandinavian iciness this is not, and those looking for a more adventurous listen will find plenty to love in Panspermic Warlords.

On a sonic level, this record is a strange and compelling beast, blending the intensity of the Icelandic scene (think Misthyrming or Zhrine) with a surrealist edge along the lines of Blut Aus Nord, creating a musical environment that is equal parts intensity and open-ended sonic world building. Throw in some distinct dissonance ala Dodecahedron or Serpent Column and you have yourself a pretty compelling and chaotic stew. Which is exactly what Wyrgher give us throughout their sophomore effort. The woozy weirdness of “Destroyer of the Prometheus Path” should give listeners a pretty good taste of what to expect throughout the record with its alternating soul-splintering riffs and spacey spoken-word sections, but it’s on tracks like “Solar Harvest” and the truly electric and titanic “Supreme Leader of a Dying Star” where Panspermic Warlords shines brightest, leveling attentive listeners with an absolute onslaught of unique, premium cosmic black metal that I haven’t found an equal to so far this year.

If you like any of the above mentioned bands, I can wholeheartedly endorse Panspermic Warlords. It’s a unique, dense, beautifully written and intensely performed slab of space-based black metal insanity that has few equals in terms of scope and precision in execution within the genre this year. Prepare for your mind to be melted.


Jonathan Adams

Published 9 months ago