This month’s Kvlt Kolvmn is short and sweet. Two albums. Both of which are fucking phenomenal. That’s it. No padding. No supplemental material. Just the best album each Eden and I listened to on repeat last month.
I kinda like it.
We hope you do as well. Let us know all the good stuff we missed last month while obsessing over these records.
Woe - Legacies of Frailty
The career of the Brooklyn based black metal band Woe is an intricate one. From a solo project spearheaded by Chris Grigg, through a band with decorated members like Lev Weinstein (Krallice, Wayfarer, and a billion more) and Grzesiek Czapla (Sonja), and now, finally, back to a solo project, Woe has been making uncompromising, leftist black metal through all stages of their metamorphosis. Even though Legacies of Frailty, the latest album released under the Woe name, returns to Grigg’s solitary vision, it loses nothing from the urgency and fervor which has always powered this project. In that regard, it lives up to and continues the Woe legacy, building on the by-now well established presence of the American black metal sound and delivery that the band are known for.
The proceedings kick off right out of the gate, with the sweeping yet aggressive “Fresh Chaos Greets the Dawn”. Grigg (who plays basically every instrument on this album, except for additional drums contributed by Weinstein on select tracks) has doubled down on his vocal approach, turning his already present timbre and delivery into a brilliantly abrasive rallying cry. This meshes well with the even more explicitly political lyrics of this release, firmly unfurling the anti-fascist and anti-capitalist flag that always waved alongside their music. As the album progresses, all of these elements are pushed further and further. For example, “Scavenger Prophets”, the following track, sees the drums playing even faster, the vocals turn haggard and acidic, while the lyrics spiral deeper and deeper into derision and fury against the modern state of things. Pay special attention to the almost clean vocals which break through the gutturals near the end of the track and the beautiful contrast they deliver, nailing the emotive message of the track home.
This momentum is, somehow, preserved throughout the release. Just as you think that Legacies of Frailty has reached its apogee, it finds more and more ways to deliver even more effective forms of black metal to your ears. By the time the series of tracks that feature Weinstein on drums come along, mostly distributed in the middle of the album, your heart should be racing almost as fast as the BPM. Legacies of Frailty showcases one of black metal’s leading voices and a true expert at what makes the genre work firing on all cylinders, unleashed to pursue his own, unrelenting vision of what the style can do. The end result is a wonderful album and one which firmly places its hand upon the exposed wire of passion and ambition that lies at the core of black metal.
Best of the Rest
Moonlight Sorcery - Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle
There are certain months that just feel like a full-on circuit overload of content. September was certainly one of those for death metal, as it felt like every week a new host of records was belched forth from the underworld to split my head open. Which is incredible. But an equally valuable occurrence is finding an album in a genre that supersedes, eclipses, and flat dominates all others in that musical space. That record that you cannot extricate yourself from, no matter how hard you try. That record last month, for me, was Moonlight Sorcery’s absolutely stunning work of symphonic black metal art Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle. As a proper full-length debut, I’m hard pressed to find its equal this year. And yeah… it’s literally all I’ve been listening to.
For those wholly unfamiliar, Moonlight sorcery peddle the kind of black metal that makes you want to start a D&D campaign immediately. This is that fantasy bullshit cranked to 11 and god I love it so much. Synths on synths on synths coupled with blazing and deeply melodic guitar work that’s equal parts grandiose and ferocious, slathered atop a precise and punishing rhythm section that holds the whole thing together. Comparison can be made to recent releases from Stormkeep and Véhémence, but there’s also an almost power metal influence at play here in the sometimes sparkling, more frequently blisteringly fast and cheesy guitar work. It’s a combination that creates one of the most immediately accessible listening experiences I’ve had with a black metal record in a minute. If you can get through “To Withhold the Day” or “In Coldest Embrace” without banging your head like a fucking maniac you are medically deceased.
But with albums this immediately inviting there’s often a catch: limited staying power. I’ve found a correlated relationship often in my music listening journey between candy sweet immediacy and eventual boredom, but thus far and many a listen in I’m nowhere close to over Horned Lord of the Thorned Castle. This is in large part due to the band’s varied and exceptional songwriting. While the entire album has a stylistic thread present throughout, tracks will differ wildly in what flavor of black metal they’re giving you. From “Yönsilmä” and its borderline Obsequiae-esque intro that eventually blossoms into a Blind Guardian styled guitar jam, to the anime soundtrack levels of melodic intensity found in “The Secret of Streaming Blood”, the record is unpredictable enough to keep listeners fully engaged on return journeys. Combine that with the fact that there are enough hummable, memorable riffs in this record to fill an entire catalog and you have yourself a genuine winner worth regular visitation.
I honestly don’t have much in the way of criticism for Moonlight Sorcery’s fantastic debut. There’s a glut of fantastic songwriting and musicianship on display from front to back on this thing and it’s honestly a pure joy to listen to. So much so that I’ve pretty much neglected everything else that crossed the desk last month. Did I miss out on some killer releases? I’m sure I did. But I’ll get to them. Maybe after just one more spin…