Last week we kicked off our new series of genre-specific columns with Prog, and this week we’re turning our attention to things a little nastier. We’ve asked Cheryl Carter to give us her insight to the past month (well, month and a bit – we’re just getting into the swing of this whole “regular schedule” thing, after all) in Black Metal…
1) Ahh, the music video. That lovely medium whereby a band can show off their skills and ideas and that great song they’ve got that they want people to be able to visualise. Where most bands will release some bullshit “lyric video” that does absolutely nothing for them or for fans who may want to catch a glimpse of how their favourite guy pulls off that sick riff, some bands actually take their time in creating an actual narrative that is interesting and thought provoking. Step forward Schammasch, who probably don’t want to be called black metal but for these purposes, are definitely dark enough to be included. ‘Golden Light’ is taken off their second full length, Contradiction; a record that if you’ve heard it, you love it, but one that is woefully under heard. Sure, Behemoth released a banging album this year, but Schammasch aren’t far off their heels as the next big thing.
2) Taake are about to drop their new record Stridens hus – but as a lovely little taster, they have (he has? It’s just one fella after all) also seen fit to throw out an EP to prepare you for what is to come. 2011’s Noregs Vaapen was a masterclass in modern black metal and included what can only be termed as “the best banjo breakdown in the history of anything” on the wonderful ‘Myr’. With that information to hand, what can we expect on the new record? Well, if Kulde is anything to go by, then expect the unexpected. Black metal cover version of The Cure’s ‘Cold’ anyone? Nope, did not see that coming. The track features guest vocals from Vrangsinn of Carpathian Forest and is predictably bonkers but somehow really bloody good.
3) Mysticum finally released Planet Satan. Whaaaaaat. Wild right? The band have been hinting and promising new material ever since they reactivated in 2003 (and 2011 – but who’s keeping track?) with Planet Satan being touted a few years ago as being mostly recorded. But the songs took their sweet, sweet time in seeing the cold light of day and Mysticum seemed to be confined to be “black metal legends never to return” category of bands. With the phenomenal In the Streams of Inferno already under their bullet belts, it looked as though the band had thought it best to quit while they were ahead. Lucky for us, Hail Satan, the Norwegians had a change of heart and Planet Satan dropped via Peaceville Records and all was good in the world. Also, any album that includes a song with the words “Lucifer in the skies with demons” as part of its chorus is one to be worshipped.
4) Ascension are back! Holy shit! Unholy shit?!? Whatever. The German’s are back and it’s great and you can see them in London next year along with some other excellent bands that will help you lose your entire mind for a night. Don’t know why you should be excited? Ascension are orthodox black metal to the absolute core and they’re far too cool to admit who is even in the band – that’s how you know they’re super serious and kvlt and trve. 2010’s Consolamentum firmly put them on the proverbial map and despite the band being fairly un-prolific, the promise of new material this year brought them back into the minds of the elite. URGH. Just look at how good this show will be. Disgusting.
Rest assured, The Dead of the World is completely worth the wait. The Dark Tomb Shines is perfection and you can hear two new tracks via World Terror Committee right now.
5) 2014 saw the twentieth anniversaries of a few records which are incredibly important in the black metal scene. Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger, Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse, Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas – you may be seeing a distinctly Norwegian pattern here – Satyricon turned in The Shadowthrone (and depending on which side of the fence you lean on, Dark Medieval Times) while the Brit’s had Cradle Of Filth’s The Principle of Evil Made Flesh. Don’t knock ‘em though, the first couple of Cradle albums are actually –prepare yourself – pretty damn good. It all got a bit weird after Midian, but praise where it’s due, Cradle Of Filth were once a very real prospect on the scene. September though, was the turn of Gorgoroth and the thirty minute, hate filled blast that is Pentagram. Listen. Consume. And note that the fella with the icy, cold vocals is a chap named Hat. Cool.
6) Vorde have been bubbling away in the New York underground for a few years, with two small rehearsal demos surfacing during 2012 and 2013 which showed promised and an intriguing approach to the modern black metal template. Vorde sees the band challenge with their chaotic rhythms and vibrating vocals that call to mind Atilla of Mayhem or Inquisition’s Dagon, while seeping under the skin and creating a disturbing feeling of deep, unholy filth. There’s an unsettling discordance to the tracks on show here, with ‘Hatewave’ rolling on punishing beats and ‘Blood Moon’ taking a leaf out of Circle of Ouroborus’ bizarre book. The track progresses from slow, cloying, overwhelming dissonance to faster, alien signatures that warp and implode with nary a warning. Vorde are beyond the orthodox and instead choose to create music that leaves a horrifying imprint on the mind and constantly drags you further down into their black, sickly abyss. ‘Crown of Black Flame’ pins its drive on a significant drum beat that overrides the throaty voice beneath before switching its pace and pushing forward with off-kilter rhythms and sickening proclamations of dread.