Ever since Tom Dare swanned out of our lives and back into the editorial fold over at Terrorizer, we’ve had a bit of a black metal-shaped hole in our coverage here at Thrash Hits. That’s why we asked prolific scribe Cheryl Carter, she of Metal Hammer magazine, Cvlt Nation, Scene Point Blank, and her own website, Bleak Metal, if she fancied writing a few words for us on a black metal topic of her choice…
Independent and underground labels are the lifeblood of the black metal scene and through them band’s find an audience as well as a home. From the UK to America, China to Australia and much more besides, these small operations curate some of the most exciting music that the more extreme scenes have to offer.
One such label is Pest Productions. Based in China but with a far-reaching team that stretches to South America and back – Pest Productions deal with some of the most beautiful and staggering modern black metal that the genre has in its midst. Instrumental work sits neatly next to DSBM whilst Cascadian sounding music blends with ease against darkly tinged, hardcore influenced black metal.
So, with that in mind, let us look a little closer at a few of their most recent releases.
Thy Light – No Morrow Shall Dawn
(released 20 July 2013)
Brazil’s Thy Light are – sort of – a one-man band; Paulo Bruno takes care of everything except the lyrics (weird, but who are we to pass judgement?) which are handled by a chap named Alex Witchfinder, who has also written for Abske Fides in the past. The band released the well-received Suici.De.pression demo in 2007 (which Pest reissued last year) meaning that the wait for new material has been incredibly long in a world where we expect a new record every two years at least.
The time away has done Thy Light no end of good as No Morrow Shall Dawn is a wonderfully accomplished and mature work that steps into as many shades of darkness as the human mind can handle. And many that it can’t – such is the nature of DSBM (depressive suicidal black metal for those not in the know) and the intense and despondent lyrical themes that are its hallmark.
Thy Light begin No Morrow Shall Dawn with the melancholy sounds of the instrumental ‘Suici.De.spair’ and the light strains of sadness flow into ‘Wanderer of Solitude’ with graceful ease before the track bursts into heavier life and howls of total anguish colour its progression into the highlight (lowlight?) of the record – ‘No Morrow Shall Dawn’. The title track sweeps with a heart-wrenching desire for the end and the immediately recognisable intonations of guest vocalist Tim Yatras (Germ, ex-Austere, Grey Waters, Woods of Desolation, any Australian black metal band worth knowing) adds to the overwhelming atmosphere of finality.
Moments of peace are shattered by sudden and soaring guitar lines that wrap around the bittersweet cleans of Yatras and deftly placed string sections lift the song into new realms of utter desolation. Thy Light have certainly stepped up their game with their second release; the sound is crisp and each element is allowed the space to breathe and grow and Bruno’s voice has matured, both in terms of the physicality of his expression and in his writing as well as the introduction of the more atmospheric and Latin-tinged guitar lines of ‘Corredor Seco’.
‘The Bridge’ closes No Morrow Shall Dawn on a distressingly morose note with climbing walls of guitar and Bruno’s howls of complete agony fighting against the inevitability of the end. Thy Light may have been quiet for too long, but the wait was absolutely necessary.
Sadhaka – Terma
(released 16 April 2013)
Cascadian black metal has been a mainstay of the many sub-genres that black metal incorporates ever since the mighty Wolves In The Throne Room burst onto the scene back in 2006 with Diadem of 12 Stars. Although, if you don’t have Weakling’s Dead as Dreams then you should stop reading and get involved immediately. They were doing this long before the Weaver brothers came around and despite not hailing from that particular region and yet it wasn’t really until the mid-00s that the Cascadian sound really came to prominence with bands like Agalloch, WITTR, Skagos and Fauna taking a new perspective on the black metal sound.
Fauna are one of the more well-respected members of the aforementioned scene and drummer Vines is also a part of a new entity – Sadhaka. Sadhaka is comprised of members of Fauna, Møllehøj and Vradiazei and as such each of the quartet brings a little something of their own into this new project. Atmospheric glances spill off blackened progressions and folk-tinged passages play against raw emotion. Sadhaka are the sum of their parts and Terma benefits from these different elements and the cohesive flow of the record is made all the more apparent as first track ‘Dissolution’ sinks into ‘Padmasambhava’ with a stately majesty.
Harmonised and almost choral vocal lines settle into the opening stages of ‘Impermanence’ before a deep and bellowing voice cries out from behind steady strikes of guitar and drum and the track kicks into a higher and fiery gear. Sweeping guitar movements (Sadhaka – slightly confusing but it’s also the name of a vocalist/guitarist) take in extraordinary depths of emotion which leads seamlessly into final offering, ‘The Ancient Ones’. The use of clean, layered vocals cut through with ethereal tones that lends this closing piece a sadness that is amplified by the sorrowful guitar riffs that fall over the ebbing tides of the song. Quite simply, it’s beautiful.
Celephaïs – Tir n’a n’Og
(released 25 December 2012)
Alright, so this one is a bit older but it’s really great so let’s delve into it anyway? OK. Not much is known about Celephaïs save that the project is based in Germany and may be named for a H.P. Lovecraft story. One thing is for sure, is that Celephaïs is one of the most stunning creators of instrumental black metal/post metal.
With shades of Tenhi and the dreaminess of Cold Body Radiation shining through this EP, Celephaïs steps back almost entirely from the out and out black metal styling’s of debut Becoming the Deceased and the band seizes on the post-rock elements with a renewed energy and belief in their ability to pull it off, and pull it off well. And do they? Heck yes. ‘Wisdom’ is a serene and acoustic passage which sets the stage for the extended and otherworldly emotions of ‘Tir n’a n’Og’. Deft touches of echoing guitar overlay blast beats and a sheen of blackened sound is found in the occasionally rough pace yet Celephaïs never let the more extreme side of their sound overtake what is ultimately a wonderfully gorgeous track. The raw edge that creeps in twists into the drums and the guitar is allowed to inhabit for only a short time before melodic flashes of beauty form from their ashes and take ‘Tir n’a n’Og’ into ever more enchanting territory.
This EP is a huge step forward for Celephaïs and with it should come the kind of recognition that the Alcest’s of this world get.
Other great albums to get on board with include Tahoma by Alda, Black Clouds Gathering by Vallendusk, Falls by The Phantom Carriage, as well as the compilations the label has put together. All Pest Productions releases can be heard and purchased on their Bandcamp page. Check it out.
As we mentioned above, Cheryl Carter writes for a whole heap of people such as Metal Hammer, CVLT Nation, Scene Point Blank, and her own site Bleak Metal. Maybe she’ll write some more stuff for us as well.
Cheryl is also putting on Year of No Light’s pre-Damnation Festival warm-up show at The Black Heart in Camden this Friday – tickets are just £8 in advance, so hurry up and buy yours ASAP.