Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Black Metal Tuesday: Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum

Deathspell Omega - Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum

First of all, I understand what a poseur move it is to miss Black Metal Tuesday on the week of Xmas. I don't have a decent excuse, and I know how many evil points I just lost. Time got away from me. Forgive me. Anyway, happy new year - bring it in with black metal.

France's Deathspell Omega (DSO) started as a rather straight-forward blackened thrash metal band before embracing abstract melodies and quasi-religious philosophy on their 2004 album, the rather impressive Si Monumentum Circumspice. The follow up, 2007's Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, takes the abstraction to a whole new level of prog/math/art rock, presenting a chaotic and mostly atonal slab of miserable noise that stretches the limits of most listeners. I would challenge hardcore fans of tech-death acts like The Faceless or Spawn of Possession to tell me that this album is an easy listen. Between the bouts of cacophony is near-silent ambience that merely lets you catch your breath until the next assault. 

Technically speaking, there is some impressive stuff going on. The drums are madness, turbo-charged blasts and broken time signatures, completely unpredictable and exhausting. The guitars are playing a great number of things, all at once. There are sometimes 4 independent melodies going on simultaneously - giving the feeling of being between two radio stations - hearing two unrelated tracks at the same time. 

If the goal is to make one feel uneasy, then DSO accomplishes the task. The lyrics read like prayers to Satan - the band supposedly wholeheartedly embracing the theistic Satanic religion. Maybe this makes it more legit, or maybe not. At any rate, it certainly sounds evil and is essentially anti-music for the antichrists. If you look at DSO's entire catalog, this certainly is not representative of their sound, so it is essentially a concept album - I can respect that. What I can't do, is enjoy listening to it. It gets a 2 out of 5. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Black Metal Tuesday - Rain Upon the Impure


Another one-man project, this time from Germany, The Ruins of Beverast play an ambient form of black metal similar to the USA's Wolves in the Throneroom or even Xasthur. What Ruins has going for them (or him, more accurately) is an airy, vastness in their production that creates an impossible sense of space. This album sounds massive, keeping all the themes slightly hidden as though to demand repeated listens. And repeat you will, many times. 

This album is dense and darkly compelling with enough melody to draw you in and keep you there. It plays from track 1 to track 7, as one complete idea, lovingly crafted with meticulous attention to detail to eventually sound effortless and organic. Keyboards drift, just beneath the surface, establishing the dark atmosphere and subtle melancholic melodies throughout the album. Vocals are growled from the depths of hell, or sang, Gregorian Chat style, in the distance. Each track takes a journey through various tempo changes and multifaceted themes, complex and involved in composition. Ruins are a band with vision and purpose, an accomplished musician, but focused on atmosphere above technicality. 

Rain Upon the Impure feels weighty and massive from start to finish. Fans of the depressive and atmospheric black metal movements will be drawn to this. I found myself thinking of the aforementioned Wolves in the Throneroom quite a bit as I went through this album again - yet significantly darker than their work, the comparison stands. There are expansive passages that are painstakingly slow and heavy, and occasionally wandering and aimless - it's clearly for the purpose of atmosphere, so I'll cut him some slack. Overall, it's a dynamic album and one that remains entertaining despite its massive length. Highly touted among several black metal bloggers, Rain Upon the Impure deserves the attention and earns 4 out of 5. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Black Metal Tuesday - March to the Black Holocaust

BELKETRE - March to the Black Holocaust (split)

As black metal matured and diversified, many mini movements started in different countries throughout Europe. In France, a group of bands started a movement called the "French Black Legion" - very similar to the "Black Circle" in Norway during the early nineties. The Black Legion can be characterized by extremely lo-fi production (most of the albums sound like 4 track demo recordings from the 80's), and dark and dismal melodies. The muddiness of the whole thing, adds to the atmosphere. 

French Black Legion band, Belketre are one of the more a approachable bands in the Black Legion. At times, they sound like the logical progression of early Bathory, particularly in their vocal approach. March to the Black Holocaust (a split with fellow Legion member, Vlad Tepes) is a grim but varied lo-fi affair, occasionally discordant and ugly, other times, aggressive and downright rocking. This is Belketre's only "official" release. The song(?) "Hate" is 3 minutes of a sloppy clean guitar riff, and down-tuned demon growling, genuinely creepy. "Night of Sadness," is a mid-tempo rocker mixed with atmospheric clean guitar underneath the fuzz. "Those of our Blood" is a more traditional black metal track, erupting into a storm of impossible speed. 

I like to approach albums such as these as if they were recordings found in the basement of a creepy cabin in the woods (ala Evil Dead), made by some unknown entity - could be human, or maybe not. I think Belketre is most effective when viewed in this light (or more appropriately, in this "dark"). It's got a very home-grown feeling to it - if they recorded this in the studio, they got ripped off. There's a primitive charm to March to the Black Holocaust, one that will likely be lost on many. There's also the loose connections of black metal and neo-Nazism to consider: the inclusion of the word Holocaust and the given song titles may raise a brow. I choose not to explore such things, the vocals are unintelligible as it is, and no serious political agenda could be communicated through this medium in my mind. It gets a 3.5 out of 5. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Black Metal Tuesday - Sheol


The Swedes eventually jumped onto the black metal wagon with Norway, but Swedish black metal is distinctly different from Norwegian. Usually more aggressive and with a polished production, Swedish black metal is likely more accessible to your average metal fan. Enter Naglfar, a Swedish band who sound strikingly similar to Dissection, a legendary Swedish black-death hybrid. Sheol is their third full-length release, and their first for current label, Century Media. 

Five years after the fantastic Diabolical, Sheol is very much more of the same: great melody, lots of tempo changes, plenty of ferocity and touches of groove. Naglfar are black METAL, riff heavy and with classic rock song structures, using somewhat sparse traditional black metal elements to remain relevant to the genre. Ryden is a fantastic vocalist, he sounds plenty evil and pissed off which is a very effective combo. "I am Vengeance" starts the album with a definitive "we don't fuck around" attitude, and it never really lets up. 

Naglfar are on the upper tier of the black metal Swedes, mainly due to their sense of melody and groove. "Black God Aftermath" is a good example of this. They have moments that call Norway's Old Man's Child to mind, a similarly riff-driven black beast. No keyboards really prominent here, Naglfar uses guitar overlays to produce that "wall of sound" so necessary in the genre.

If there is a weakness to this effort, it's that it sounds fairly identical to the previous album. This means Naglfar progressed very little in the 5 years they had to finish this album, but maybe that's okay. They really didn't have anything they needed to fix. Sheol is a slab of vicious black metal driven by catchy, well-written riffs. It's nothing strikingly original, but that doesn't always matter. It gets a 4 of 5.