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Kvlt Kolvmn // November 2023

The temperature drops. Ice engulfs. Winter is upon us. It’s black metal season. Oh yeah, baby.  For all those who partake in the darkest of genres, Kvlt Kolvmn is

3 months ago

The temperature drops. Ice engulfs. Winter is upon us. It’s black metal season. Oh yeah, baby. 

For all those who partake in the darkest of genres, Kvlt Kolvmn is once more here to deliver the goods. There were some incredible releases unleashed upon us last month, and we’re excited to share our thoughts on them with you. 

End of year content is coming, so look out for a 2023 prospectus soon. In the meantime, feast on the bounty October had to offer. 

Stay frosty, friends. 

-Jonathan Adams

Winter’s Crown

Wayfarer - American Gothic

The Western (whether as a movie, a book, or in any other form) is a cultural object which still hangs heavy on the world at large. Whether through the endless attempts to revive and modernize it or through the morbid fascination of the victims of the American empire with its mythmaking, the Western seems to continue to reincarnate. Unfortunately, many of these incarnations, critical ones included, fails to reckon with the true cost of the enshrining of the Western mythos (and by the way, mythos it is; the Wild Wild West barely existed as we imagine it, just like the samurais to which the cowboys are so often compared). While critical works might point towards the violence and brutal expansionism and extractivisim which the Western myth covers, it rarely deals with how these ideas reincarnated to form the basis of much of the post-Civil War American culture.

Which is why Wayfarer’s American Gothic is a breath of fresh air, as it fuses black metal with the tropes often associated with the Western myth (mostly twangy guitars that call to mind folk instruments like the banjo, the hurdy-gurdy, and the lap guitar) and casts an iron glare on the empire which sprung from the myth. In track names (like opener “The Thousands Tombs of Western Promise”) and in lyrics (“A hail to progress / And еternal returns / From the frontiеr towns / Billows of black / A palace of gold / He who saddled the iron horse / Pulls god's country in tow”), Wayfarer expertly links the Western story to the birth of modern, American capitalism and imperialism and decries it all. It also helps that they utilize intricately constructed and expertly executed black metal to do so.

The aforementioned guitar tones serve to inject the base strata of Wayfarer’s black metal with a lot of groove, dispelling the repetitiveness that is often associated with USBM. Instead, they collaborate with black metal’s penchant for epic canvases and, more so than any previous Wayfarer album, leads the compositions into far-flung and ambitious structures. Thus, we get tracks like “The Cattle Thief” which clocks in at just over nine minutes and continuously builds on the main theme of the track which is introduced at its beginning. As its tale of exploitation, violence, and power unfurls the music builds in aggression, turning the initial riff of the track into a powerful and towering outro.

These qualities make American Gothic the most accomplished and complete form of Wayfarer’s music we’ve heard to date. To be sure, their previous albums were great but this is a whole new level. American Gothic dives deep into the ideological fuel at the core of Wayfarer, their critique of American culture and history of bloodshed and unjust power, and brings it forth to deliver some truly caustic, groovy, and effective black metal.

-Eden Kupermintz

Best of the Rest

Crystal Coffin - The Curse of Immortality

Lurking deep in the black metal underground is a titan waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses. Three albums into their young and already stellar career, Vancouver-based Crystal Coffin are operating on a level of confidence that many bands twice their senior have never been able to achieve. The band’s latest record The Curse of Immortality continues their rapid ascension by creating a sequence of tracks that feel like an appropriate and excellent culmination of the incredible music that came before it. If you’re unfamiliar with this band, I’d like to acquaint you with undersung greatness. Let The Curse of Immortality be your sterling introduction. 

In a similar vein to my thoughts on Laster and their latest record below, Crystal Coffin are executing their vision with an astounding level of clarity and skill. As far as melodic black metal goes, there’s little to fault The Curse of Immortality for. Track “The Undead” presents a great example of all that the band is capable of achieving in a concise, five-minute package. The melodies soar, the drums punish, the vocals pierce, and the emotional tenor of the track balances the line between beauty and unfiltered aggression superbly. They’re also not afraid to experiment with genre, throwing in some thrashy, punk-infused moments into tracks like “The Vortex of Earth and Death” and “Final Breaths” to keep things spicy. Blending adventurousness with grounded melodic consistency is becoming Crystal Coffin’s particular calling card, and it’s thrilling to watch them develop as songwriters and musicians. 

The Curse of Immortality is a genuinely great record that I’ll be listening to on a regular basis for the foreseeable future. All of the band’s work up to this point has been excellent, but the songwriting consistency and superb performances within their latest set it on a pedestal as their very best offering thus far. If you’ve yet to be enchanted by Crystal Coffin you’ll find no more appropriate and powerful a introduction. The Curse of Immortality is exceptional. 

-JA

Laster - Andermans Mijne 

Back in 2017 I reviewed Dutch post-black metal weirdos Laster’s sophomore record Ons vrije fatum. I loved it. It was also one of my first reviews for the blog, and at the time I had a pretty difficult time describing exactly what I was listening to. Fast forward to 2023 and my perplexity with what this band creates continues unabated. I’m convinced that Laster is one of the strangest bands on earth, melding atmospheric and post-black metal with weirdly danceable post-punk and synthy new wave in a manner unlike any other musical collective in my atmosphere. It’s truly batshit stuff that’s as musically complex as anything you’d find on an Igorrr record, but somehow maintains an air of warm accessibility. The music they create is not just experimental and strange, it’s truly gripping. Which is why their fourth full-length effort Andermans Mijne was one of my more anticipated releases for Q4 of 2023. Thankfully, it exceeds all expectations. 

To put it plainly, Andermans Mijne is a truly superb record that presents the apex of Laster’s output to date. This is mainly due to a songwriting style that is both wildly unpredictable and insanely controlled, presenting its looney tunes ideas with conviction and a masterful sense of execution that never overreaches what the band is capable of delivering. Laster is in true, masterful control throughout Andermans Mijne, deliberately moving listeners from song to song (often with intense variation and evolutions in tempo and/or genre) with a confidence and security that is flat-out enviable. From the Fontaines D.C. meets Oranssi Pazuzu opening salvo of the title track to the Deep Purple on more acid than usual vibes of “Poëtische waarheid”, there isn’t a moment where Laster doesn’t feel like they know exactly what they’re doing and why. It may be a strange geometry to listeners, but it’s clear that the band are operating on their own unique wavelength and are uninterested in calming things down. Which is a fundamentally good thing in this case. 

There’s so much to laud this record for. The production is lush and spacious without losing a distinct sense of depth and chunkiness, while the performances on every front are simply superb. The drum work is a particular highlight, vacillating between art rock sensibility (like in “Wachtmuziek”) to pummeling black metal blast beats (see “Vorm Alleen” and “Achterstevoren”) with ease and appropriate pacing. The vocals, provided with a dramatic aplomb as deeply felt as any Broadway musical, are superb throughout, creating evocative soundscapes that are as beautiful as they are unsettling. It’s difficult to imagine a group of musicians successfully tying together this many disparate elements in one record with even a fraction less talent than Laster currently has. This is a masterful record made by expert musicians who are operating on a level of experimentation and accessibility few other bands in any genre can match. 

In case all of the shameless gushing above didn’t make it clear, Andermans Mijne is a resounding success in every measurable metric. In a discography chock full of bangers, the band’s fourth outing takes the crown for me as their very best collection of tracks. If you are open to your black metal including deep levels of experimentation and a distinct post-punk vibe, you may have found your record of the year. It’s difficult not to get completely hooked by this band’s unique and perplexing charm. It may be difficult music to explain, but it sure as hell isn’t difficult to listen to.  

-JA

La Mer - Tetrahedra 

What happens when the ice-cold ferocity of black metal fuses with the sweaty muscularity of 90s rock? If Tetrahedra is anything to go by, an unholy and addictive sound that’s equal parts catchy and evil. 

The fifth full-length album from Scottish solo project La Mer weaves an impressive range of influences and elements into a loosely atmospheric black metal sound. Raw shrieks drop into spine-chilling whispers, contrasting with a haunting guest performance by vocalist Agathe Monnot. The aggressive vocals give La Mer space to experiment with the instrumentation, introducing 80s synths, meaty hard rock guitars, and symphonic bursts in a single track. “Patina” emerges with a synthy new wave passage, bleeding into an eerie, almost-spoken word duet. Our narrators, seemingly tied together in an inescapable and miserable way, quietly cajole and threaten each other until their harsh fate bursts into a symphonic wall of sound. 

Playing contrasting styles off each other is, ironically, one of the few consistencies throughout Tetrahedra. References to a surprising range of artists made appearances with each new listen. The opening bars of “Strach,” for example, echo the opening of “1000 Rounds” by extreme music experimentalist Ghostemane, while a line in “Death Dogs” is a hair too close to the lyrics of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” to be pure coincidence. The uncanny references and unexpected twists on all strains of heavy music make for an fascinating mix. 

-Bridget Hughes

Jonathan Adams

Published 3 months ago