A lot has happened in the world of Black Metal since our resident Black Metal Expert Cheryl Carter’s last column, and there’s never enough room to talk about it all. Curse those bloody word limits / the internet’s embarrassingly short collective attention span. Whatever. Here are the 6 things that Cheryl thinks are worth your time and interest in Black Metal right now.
London’s very own purveyors of absolute wrongness – Voices (that’s them pictured above) – premiered their first music video and naturally it’s an artistic look at the dregs of society. Their second full-length London is a record of disgust, mistrust and grime and talks of a city we think we know. But deep down, that city is much, much worse that we imagined. ‘Last Train Victoria Line’ is a situation some of us know all too well though, and Voices do their best to manifest its impurity through song and stark images.
Voices have also just announced that they are playing with Anaal Nathrakh at the Black Heart this April. We are all going to die.
2) Incineration Festival
In other show news, Incineration Festival upped its game by adding Tribulation, Keep of Kalessin and From The Bogs of Aughiska to an already insanely stacked line-up. Local bands are playing alongside genre legends such as God Seed, Alcest (who promise a more blackened performance than we’ve seen recently due to the occasion), Unleashed and Shining and many, many more. It looks incredible and has grown considerably since last year’s inaugural event with four venues hosting the bands this time around. It’s massive and truly ambitious and deserves to do very well indeed.
1995 saw Ulver release what is roundly considered to be a masterpiece in black metal – Bergtatt: Et eeventyr i 5 capitler. Ulver promptly dropped the musical style after 1997’s Nattens madrigal: Aatte hymne til ulven i manden and have veered into completely different territory on latter works with electronic beats and keys making more of an appearance than a guitar. Violins are more likely to be heard than a riff but that’s fine, Ulver are bloody good are what they do but they will forever be remembered as masters of this style. It’s a shame that frontman and founder Kristoffer Rygg has vowed not to go back to black metal but when you’ve already made some of the greatest records in the genre, there’s not much point in rehashing all ground. A lot of people could learn a lesson from that.
Anyway, Bergtatt is mentioned consistently and with awe for the last twenty years for a good reason, it’s incredible and you’d be an idiot not to listen to it immediately.
Terra are a pretty new proposition but their debut album is fantastically put together and outrageously expansive in scope. The trio mine the same vein as USBM acts such as Fell Voices or Ash Borer or even Wolves In The Throne Room and the Cambridgeshire group hold their own against such established projects. Terra radiates with an epic scale and tracks weave gorgeous guitars through threads of pulsing drums and a vocal that is harsh, cold and ever so slightly hidden beneath the music, creating a world of uncertainty and anguish. The three tracks we hear on this initial foray into the underworld are intense in their execution and the extreme length does nothing to dampen that ferocity.
Dødheimsgard are back and avant-garde has never sounded so good. The black metal that these Norwegians produce is far-removed from the sounds that you’d expect out of a country that spawned church-burning maniacs, but DHG have that otherworldly aura completely locked down and A Umbra Omega is absolutely worth the eight year wait. Vocals are insane and with Aldrahn (Thorns and more recently, The Deathtrip – PS check out Deep Drone Master from The Deathtrip because it’s great, what other reason do you need?!?) and Vicotnik handling the words with finesse and a style that evokes the worst trip you’ve never had, DHG are set to make you feel uncomfortable and bizarre for the foreseeable future. ‘God Protocol Axiom’ continues the weirdness and throws in some stunning sorrow for good measure and again in ‘The Unlocking’. A Umbra Omega moves ever forward towards the inevitable, industrial and dissonant end. It’s a long, hard record but one that is rewarding in its curiosities.
This happened in January but having recently heard The Ark Work, it seemed a good idea to go back to the first track Liturgy have released from their upcoming third record. Liturgy are one of those bands that completely divide opinion – are they black metal or not – more so than even Deafheaven and where the latter band have certainly come across hate, Liturgy have come across even more spite in their career. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix hasn’t done his band any favours and the less we talk about the ridiculous nature of his black metal theory the better, but HHH is a chap with a brain and he’s certainly using it to his advantage. People are talking about Liturgy and they will continue to do so once The Ark Work is out there. ‘Quetzalcoatl’ is weird. The vocals are weird. The music is weird. The Ark Work has this weird celestial aura running through it. It’s just weird. It’s not quite black metal, but it’s also quite black metal. The aesthetic is difficult and unusual and completely anti, much like black metal is in essence. The strange vocal style is definitely not metal at all, but there’s something about The Ark Work that is interesting and….well….if you like weird music than you might actually like this. Fair play to these guys, they’ve taken everything anyone has ever thrown at them and just said “fuck it, who cares, we’ll do whatever the heck we like.” Good on ya. Haters to the left, etc…