This week we have a set of surprise guests that we announced last week! I guess that's not really a surprise, huh? It's Eric and Drew from TABPxDSME, in other words The Aurora Borealis Project and Drewsif Stalin's Musical Endeavors! We have a good old time trying to talk about their amazing upcoming album The World Is A Colder Place Now. Well, we try anyway. Since Drew and I are both invested in derailing as much as possible, it goes to different places. I had a great time! Then, we talk about the news of the week. What news of the week? Stuff like Misha of Periphery doing a song for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Heri Joensen of Tyr killing whales and defending his actions, Stereogum's monthly metal roundup, You Bred Raptors playing to an empty venue, then new music or teases towards such by Departe, Saor, Destrage, System of a Down, Anaal Nathrakh, Anciients, Alcest, Negura Bunget, Hannes Grossmann, and Allegaeon. Eden gets pretty mad about the last one!
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
Like all metalheads, I listen to a handful of artists who are conspicuously unknown. One such band is Skogmark, an atmospheric black metal band hailing from the frozen grandiosity of St. Petersburg, Russia. Their full-length debut Sworn to Paganism is a particular favorite of mine that I would like to see get more recognition. Although Skogmark is primarily an atmoblack outfit, don’t mistake their music for the pleasant, wafting melodies of Saor. They more closely related to a meaner, more clinically depressed Windir.
There’ve been some pretty bitching black metal albums of late. I guess an obvious name to mention would be Saor, but there are some other great artists doing similar things. The Frozen Ocean managed to renounce a lot of black metal tropes and make something completely new out of an old sound with this year’s EP The Prowess of Dormition. Forndom also fucking killed it this year by renouncing the general sound (but not the spirit) of black metal with Dauðra Dura, and Goatpsalm did something very similar too with Downstream. This article, however, is going to cover a band that’s playing around with more symphonic elements rather than folk-influenced black metal (though there are still elements of folk): Darkestrah.
I’m not incredibly knowledgable on folk metal, but I have noticed a recent trend of bands that have done a great job putting folk elements into their music. Wintersun and Saor are the first to come to my mind, but even other, lesser known groups, like Forndom (which will hopefully find its own HLT in the future) have done incredible jobs reinventing the folk metal sound.What Russia’s Goatpsalm brings to the proverbial folk metal table is, in my opinion, incredibly original, at least in presentation. It’s as if the band has been able to strip folk metal down to its barest elements—the sounds of nature, the occasional acoustic guitar, and an assortment of ethnic instruments—and sort of build their sound up from there.
The last few years have proven to be excellent years for other forms of black metal. In earlier editions of “Hey! Listen To This!”, I mentioned a great black metal group, Barshasketh, whose 2015 album Ophidian Henosis was one of my favorite albums of the year. While Barshasketh plays a sort of standard—albeit ear-catching—black metal, there are other bands that are doing different things with the genre that still stay within the bounds of standard black metal. France’s Hegemon is one of these bands, with a specific nod to their latest release, 2015’s The Hierarch.
Going over the twelve entries we've selected as the cream of the musical loner crop, it's amazing to see not only the variety of genres present, but the fact that such enormous, impactful music can come from a single individual. From guitar porn to one man black metal to a whole slew of electronic subgenres, these artists prove that "strength in numbers" may not apply to everyone. Because while this crew may not have been the most social group on the playground, they spent their alone time producing some of our favorite music and proving that collaboration isn't a necessity for quality tunes. So without further ado, sit back and reminisce with us over our favorite one person projects, or enjoy discovering what any one of these twelve musicians has to offer. And of course, feel free to comment with further suggestions of exceptional musicians who handily do it all.
For a musician like Andy Marshall, whose experimentation ranges greatly on his Saor releases, this is a loving pause and meditation on a style of music that has considerably progressed in the past two decades. If you like standard black metal, or are even just starting out in the genre, this is an album to at least listen to. It offers none of the frills of Saor, and it is unapologetic of that fact. One must simply take it as it is: solid, traditional, black metal.