Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Black Metal Tuesday - For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike

Kvist - For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike

This Norwegian troupe showed up in 94 and released one solitary full length in 1996. They are an oft overlooked band because they disbanded so quickly, but this album is pretty solid. Kvist (Norwegian for "Twig?") play a somewhat similar style to Emperor, however the production is more upfront and almost "garage" in tone, with a fair amount of keyboards mixed low. The vocals remind me of Immortal, as he is speaking more than screaming, in that "creepy troll" sort of way. 

Kvist's strong point is their use of melody and keyboard-guitar interplay. "Stupet" is a nice example of this, alternating a midtempo staggered attack with soulful keyboard surges. The bass is also unusually audible, which is a nice addition along with the drums which are mixed a little hot, and very aggressive. Given the time of its release, Kvist's debut was probably regarded as just another Emperor clone, but in retrospect, most of the symphonic black metal from 96 was not nearly this well done. The blast beat sections are tight and well executed, the songs are long with plenty of variation, and the songwriting is superb, particularly for a debut. 

As you delve into the black metal genre, it's important to research and know about bands that few people have heard of, it makes you more kvlt. Kvist is therefore, essential listening, and not too damn bad either. It gets a 3 of 5. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Black Metal Tuesday - Autumn Aurora

Drudkh - Autumn Aurora

The Ukraine is home to a smattering of black metal bands, and Drudkh is probably one of the best known. Drudkh is modern black metal band that is actually a full band and not just one guy. Autumn Aurora is their second album, and was released in 2004. 

Drudkh are not the typical, occult / Satan worshipping black metal. They come from the Burzum school of soulful, hypnotic, ambient black metal - recalling Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tarr on more than one occasion during the 5 tracks (closing track, The First Snow is a dead ringer for that album's opener). As the album title implies, this is a concept album based on the Autumn season and the powers of nature. "Summoning the Rain" is a slow, repetitive track with multiple guitar layers that drop in and out. It sounds like music to sleep to. 

There is a warmness and almost positive feel to this album, which is weird to say about any black metal. The track "Sunwheel" sounds downright happy at the beginning, which is a bit bizarre. Somehow, it works and Drudkh have created a interesting thematic work with Autumn Aurora. On the downside, it is a bit monotonous at times, and may frustrate some listeners expecting a high-energy black metal band. Drudkh are like the mighty trees - sturdy and predictable. The vocals are also a bit of an afterthought - not much emotion or deviation in them,  he sounds rather disinterested with little emotion. 

Drudkh have a fairly devout following out there. They appeal to fans of the Northwestern black metal movement in American, like Wolves in the Throneroom. Unlike Wolves, however, Drudkh are very straightforward, particularly on Autumn Aurora (and their debut). 2006’s Blood in Our Wells is a tad more forward-thinking and a more interesting listen in my mind, but this offering is not without its charms - particularly if your looking for black metal that is less dark and oppressively evil (call it gray metal perhaps?). It gets a 2.5 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Black Metal Tuesday - Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera

Mortifera - Vastiia Tenebrd Mortifera

A French solo band created by Noktu Geiismort (also of Celestia), Mortifera's full length debut was released in 2004. Though not officially part of the notorious Les Legiones Noir, Mortifera sounds like they would fit right in, and are perhaps a logical progression from that movement. 

Geiismort's vocals are truly special on this album. He squeaks in fits of anguish, communicating utter sadness in a language I don't understand. It is tragic that he changed his approach to a much more generic screech after this, because it really makes this album something special. From the sound of it however, it may be reasonable to assume he couldn't make those noises any longer by the time album two rolled around. Musically, Mortifera play a lofi depressive style with tremolo-picked minor chords over usually slower drums with only the occasional blast-beat. "Le Revenant" starts after the instrumental intro, sounding like something off of Ulver's Bergtatt, rendered completely unique once the vocals come in. Track 4 is a short piece on classical guitar that is really quite beautiful. It's powerfully sad-sounding stuff and could probably bum out a great number of people. This isn't something you put on in your car as your driving down the freeway on a sunny day. This is quiet winter night music. 

As I said, this work sounds very much like the black legions' stuff, like Mutiilalation or Vlad Tepes, but the clarity of production is really a welcomed change. None of the atmosphere is compromised, but when all is said and done, you don't feel like you just heard some guy's demo tape. Also, though I don't remember enough from my two years of high school French to understand the lyrics, the content seems personal and introspective and not concerned with the occult or the Christian satan. This is the precursor to US bands like Xasthur - proving the whole range of human emotion can be expressed through the medium of extreme metal. That's a crazy thing to imagine, I know. This is a nice intro to the whole “depressive” sub genre for those unfamiliar, it gets a 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Black Metal Tuesday - Sóknardalr

WINDIR - Sóknardalr

We move from the profoundly abstract to the ridiculously accessible this week. Windir hail from a small town in Norway called Sogndal. They were the brainchild of Valfar - a musician with a knack from writing catchy hooks who died years ago from hypothermia while lost in the Norwegian forests (how fitting). Before his untimely death, Windir released four albums of catchy, medieval-sounding black metal. Sóknardalr is their first album, released  after the Helvete store closed, Euronymous was murdered, Varg (Burzum) was arrested, and the black circle had dissolved. Even in 1994 Norway was still the center of the black metal movement,  and still introducing variations to the initial concept. 

Windir's debut is 8 songs of moderate length, all very triumphant and downright positive sounding compared to many of their darker and more evil peers. Windir probably has the most in common with Enslaved, focusing on Norwegian ancestry and mythology rather than satan. The result is a black metal album that could appeal to those who thought they couldn't like black metal. Vocals are standard black metal screeches mixed with quite a few clean / sung vocals and various flourishes including a nicely out of place "yeehaw" in the first track. Windir is big on guitar harmony, typically placing a higher pitched guitar line on top of your standard tremolo-picked chords. I Ei Krystallnatt and Likbor are highlight tracks for me, because the harmonies are particularly cool. 

Windir would go on to create one of my favorite black metal albums, 1997's 1184. On their debut, they are still perfecting their style and some songs are a bit too simplistic and sing-song for my tastes. Like I said though, it's instantly infectious and will get stuck in your head. This a good beginner album for those new to the genre who want to ease in with something that lacks the in-your-face harsh production or juvenile satanism of so many others. It gets a 3.5 out of 5.