Kvlt Kolvmn // June 2024

The AC in my house is fried. Feels like literal hell as I wait for overworked technicians to squeeze me in for a repair mission. So I sit here and

a month ago

The AC in my house is fried. Feels like literal hell as I wait for overworked technicians to squeeze me in for a repair mission. So I sit here and melt, waiting for black metal to hit me with an icy blast to soothe my boiling skin. Alas this is not an Icebreakers commercial from my childhood. Only my heart remains cold. That will do for now. 

Fuck summer. 

Despite the general sweaty unpleasantness pervading my life, black metal delivered a veritable treasure trove of goodies in May. More than in perhaps any month this year, May felt truly dynamic and interesting, delivering releases that have a high likelihood of making my year end list at an alarming clip. We’ve got a few of those selections here, and are utterly confident in their quality. Give them a listen and let us know about your favorite releases from the month in the comments. 

Unlike my melting self, stay frosty. 

-Jonathan Adams

Winter’s Crown

Saidan - Visual Kill: The Blossoming of Psychotic Depravity

Confession: Until May 24th in the year of our infernal underlords 2024, I had no idea Saidan existed. I’d not heard a solitary note from a single song of theirs until, entranced by some visually arresting album art and a few trusted sources hyping it up, I hit play on “Genocidal BloodFiend”, the opening track to the band’s (apparently) third full-length release Visual Kill: The Blossoming of Psychotic Depravity. To say I was blown away would be a grave understatement. Where in the fuck have I been that would facilitate this band not existing in my metal lexicon? What spirit of possession or interdimensional portal has been blocking Saidan from my radar? It’s a conspiracy, I tell you. A mystery the must be solved. But until such time I’ll drop a “my b” and give Saidan their much deserved flowers. Because Visual Kill slaps. 

To be honest, Saidan’s visual motifs coupled with their (from what I can tell) Japanese horror aesthetic led me to expect something a little different than what I’m hearing on Visual Kill. But whatever darkness I was expecting would be hard pressed to compete with what this Nashville-based duo puts on display here. This is major chord, lush, vibrant black metal that is equal parts uplifting and powerful. Think Astronoid meets Alcest with punk vibes. It’s a strange, wildly inviting stew that only gets better with each new composition. Thrashy opener “Genocidal BloodFiend” sets the stage for the album perfectly, displaying the band’s sharp ear for melody without sacrificing aggression. The riffs here universally slap, and the blending of genres here never feels forced or unnatural. But Saidan also excels in the moments when they dig into more traditional black metal roots as well, with tracks like “Desecration of a Lustful Illusion” and hard-hitting banger “Veins of the Wicked” offering plenty for the average BM purist to enjoy. But Visual Kill is most electric in its genre bending moments, which successfully permeate nearly every track on this record. Memorable moments are too frequent to cover in full detail here, but suffice it to say that those who love melodic black metal in any capacity will not be disappointed. 

I’m still trying to wrap my head around how good Visual Kill is. Saidan has without question been my most exciting black metal discovery of 2024, and I cannot wait to dive into the rest of their catalog. On songwriting, performance, and aesthetic fronts Visual Kill has immediately jumped onto my list of favorites for the year, and I can only imagine more time will improve its standing. If you’ve yet to give this record a listen, I strongly suggest you change that. Superb stuff. 


Best of the Rest

Aquilus - Bellum II

Australian one-man blackened symphony Aquilus has the distinction of releasing one of my favorite black metal records of all-time. 2011’s Griseus was a watershed moment in the growth of my appreciation for black metal, and remains one of my favorite projects in the genre to date. So when that record’s long-awaited sequel was announced (far too under-the-radar) a few years ago my anticipation was intense. No record could fully match the emotional connection I made with Griseus, and while an excellent record in its own right, I never completely fell in love with Bellum I. Knowing there was a sequel coming, I reserved judgment on the full project’s quality until Bellum II saw the light of day. Now that it’s here, I can definitively state without reservation that this two-part epic is Aquilus’ most ambitious and thoroughly gorgeous run of tracks to date, and may well eclipse my love of Griseus

Such monumental shifts in favoritism take time, but wherever Bellum lands on my list its quality is unimpeachable. This is an absolutely gorgeous and well-written record from top to bottom. Opener “By Tallow Noth” is a beautiful and dramatic opening that sets the stage for the delicious and opulent feast of symphonic black metal to come. Balance is the name of the game for Bellum II, presenting what is in my estimation the project’s most meticulous sequence of tracks. Straightforward yet magnificent compositions like “Into the Earth” herald in absolutely humanity epics like “Nigh to Her Gloam”, allowing the album’s more extended compositions to get special highlight without overwhelming. Lighter instrumental serve to fill out the record’s edges in a manner that feels uncharacteristically intentional for these kinds of interludes, serving as another example of how intently this project focuses on detail. It’s simultaneously free-flowing and intricately crafted, striking a unique and powerful balance between the epic and the swift. 

While Bellum II won’t be for everyone, those who’ve already fallen deep into Aquilus’ charms will find a record that is as robust and beautiful as anything the project has conjured thus far. This is a thoughtfully and expertly crafted opus that is both oddly accessible and gorgeous to the point of transcendence. There’s nothing in black metal like Aquilus, and I’m hoping we get music from this project more frequently. But if the whole thing were to shut down tomorrow, Griseus and Bellum I-II by themselves are a deeply powerful legacy. Strongly recommended for symphonic black metal fans. 


Markgraf - Hohenbaden

Fun fact - if you take heavy metal and give it some worse production, you get black metal. I’m only half joking but a more charitable way to say this is that, being too of the older sub-genres of metal, heavy and black metal share a lot of common DNA. This was even truer when black metal was just getting started, right around the time that doom was also busy reconfiguring heavy metal’s foundations to make some new, and extremely good, music. Markgraf swim in this river of possibilities and permutations and insist on not choosing any of them, instead fusing everything into one heady elixir of riffs, screams, and punishing music. 

As a result, Hohenbaden can best be described as “Cirith Ungol smashing into a Bathory concert” and if that doesn’t make you want to listen to it then I don’t know what will. OK, actually I do - just throw on “Allerheiligen”, the opening track of the album, and listen to that caustic, powerful hybridity. The vocals are immediately recognizable, the sort of high pitched, abrasive, and flamboyant scream that is associated with Cirith Ungol and Satan to a lesser degree. The guitars though are pure lo-fi joy, intense riffing turning into drawn out, groovy, proto-doom goodness at a second’s notice. The bass is also pure proto-doom joy, present, metallic, and ready to embellish things at all times with its unique tone. 

Throw in a lot of cymbals, a medieval theme, and long, expansive tracks (including the closing, self-titled closing track which is just over twenty minutes long and is so good I could have just reviewed it by itself) and you’ve got everything you need for a good time. If you long for the way metal sounded all that time ago, when the newly born sub-genres were still fluid and open, then Hohenbaden is for you. Markgraf are extremely good at blending all of these sounds and influences from metal’s primordial stage into a crackling powerful album. Spin it loud!

-Eden Kupermintz

Jonathan Adams

Published a month ago