Check 'Em All: Reviews of latest black metal, dark ambient and noise releases
New selection of latest metal records. For this article, we've chosen latest promos from such acts as Adaestuo, Devathorn (GR) and Inferno (CZ), Mayhem (NO), Mhönos (FR), Revenge (CA), Sjunde Inseglet (SE), Venom (UK).
Adaestuo — "Krew Za Krew"
A black metal supergroup of sorts, where the musicians from various disciplines have collaborated to create a unique and startling work; Hekte Zaren who’s haunting vocals have featured on numerous dark ambient and black releases, Vainaja from Vitsaus and perhaps most famous for his involvement with Horna and Sargeist, and finally VJS of Nightbringer who’s also the new guitarist in Sargeist.
"Krew Za Krew" is perhaps one of the most interesting releases i’ve heard in awhile, originally conceived as a project to produce sigils in an auditory form, it is imbued with a deep ritualistic essence and feels like the kind of marriage that many black metal fans have been hoping for, for a long time — a marriage between Diamanda Galas and the intensity of esoteric black metal. The music is haunting, multi-layered, at times harbouring ritual ambient restraint and malevolent symphonic aspects, only to then give way to more bombastic and traditional black metal sections.
Much like Sektarism’s latest release, Adaestuo’s album is not an endeavour for those hoping to find b-sides of Nightbringer or Sargeist, it’s an experiential album. It’s an album filled with intent and purpose, beyond the realms of 'musical' expression and far closer to the realms of praxis and incantation. Yes, there is good music here but it is much more than just another ‘grim and frostbitten’ record.
Devathorn/Inferno — "Zos Vel Thagirion"
The art of the split EP is something that is in short supply these days, yet some of the best music I’ve ever encountered has been found on splits, whether it be the impeccable "Crushing the Holy Trinity", DSO/S.V.E.S.T. or Aosoth/VI splits, there is something about this format that has the opportunity to really bring forth the best in bands.
The first two tracks by Devathorn are a couple of great cuts, that whilst heavily influenced by the state of 'modern' black metal feel steeping the Hellenic tradition. Powerful, atmospheric and intricate pieces, both songs are full to the brim with ideas, variation and captivating music. Devathorn bring their a-game here and offer a stark reminder of how strong the Greek scene is.
Inferno’s tracks display a duality to Devathorn’s; "The Solitary Immersion into Autarchic Silence" is a tumultuous exploration across many artforms within the black metal genre, in its 15+ minute run-time it evokes Deathspell Omega’s longer tracks by searching and building on dynamics, with unexpected diversions and concepts.
As the title of the record suggests 'body/mind or disputers/adversaries (the antithesis of Tiphereth’s harmony)' this split seems to encapsulate it’s namesake. At times feeling cthonic and of this mortal realm with Devathorn’s half of the disc, Inferno provides an ethereal and abyssic exploration into black metal. One of the best E.P’s I’ve heard in a long time.
Read more about "Zos Vel Thagirion" in the article "Top 15 albums of 2018"
Mayhem — "Grand Declaration of War" (remix/remaster)
Perhaps the most divisive album in Mayhem’s catalogue "Grand Declaration of War" has always been an album that I’ve appreciated, an almost blasphemous statement to the 'True Mayhem' fans that believe things ended with "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". The introduction of Rune Eriksen on "Wolf’s Lair Abyss" onwards created music that was in the tradition of what Euronymous and Snorre originally envisioned; provocative and innovative. Unfortunately when this album debuted people were far too hung up on what they thought black metal 'should sound like', in many ways Rune’s twisted and innovative riffing is now commonplace amongst more modern bands. Often the first to break ground is the one lambasted the most.
Re-visiting "Grand Declaration of War" is equal parts nostalgic and enlightening, the painstaking effort that Jaime Gomez Arellano has put into making this album sound fuller, richer and less compressed has breathed new life into this record. The same mis-steps are here, Maniac’s vocals are a love/hate thing and if you didn’t like the riffs the first time around, I doubt you’ll enjoy them now; at least the album is free of the hyper compressed drum samples and actually has bass present in the mix now!
"Grand Declaration of War" is an album that pushed the boundaries on what people expected of Mayhem as well as trying to be innovative within the genre. I can’t say the same thing for the last two albums which have felt like they’ve been trying to catch up with the black metal trends that have sprung up around them, trying to remain relevant.
Revenge — "Deceiver.Diseased.Miasmic"
Caustic. Abrasive. Divisive — Revenge are a band that sit on the extreme end of black metal, these war metal champions are beloved by so many that hold bands like Archgoat, Blasphemy, Black Witchery in high regard, and rightly so, these Canadian maniacs have churned out consistently high quality war metal for nearly 20 years now. This latest EP is sure to please fans of the band but unlikely to draw in new listeners, it’s lo-fi and nasty.
I can’t say it’s the best I’ve heard from the band but it delivers the same misanthropic aggression that litters every release of theirs, that being said this is an EP strictly for fans of the band, it won’t change your world but it’s something that’s sure to be appreciated by Revenge lovers.
Mhönos — "LXXXVII"
Drone? Ritual Ambient Doom? Black Metal? Noise? I’m not quite sure how to define this record, I can say this though despite its lack of movement and dynamics, there is something oddly captivating about it. Mhönos in some similar ways to how Bell Witch’s perfect "Mirror Reaper" managed to convey the power of minimalism with just bass and drums, Mhönos achieve something similar. That is not to say that "Mirror Reaper" and "LXXXVII" are even musically similar; Mhönos’ album is far more sparse and repetitive but there is something captivating about it all. It eschews most of the trappings of what most would consider 'extreme', yet, at the same time deftly flies in the face of convention and displays a band with a clear goal and understanding of what creates atmosphere and in particular, unease.
The 'music' (if you want to call it that) is almost closer to a film score or soundscaping for some horrifying imagery. When the band explodes with fury it is truly unnerving, coupled with this, is the eerie ritualistic feel to the tribal tom beats that are the sinister pulses of the tracks.
Recommended for fans of Sektarism, Sunn O))), Stalaggh, noise and creepy soundscapes. I can’t say ‘I get it’ and there’s something enthralling in that; for vast swathes of time, very little musical progression happens, and yet, it keeps me hanging in there.
Venom — "Storm the Gates"
"Storm the Gates" marks the 15th outing for Venom and I’m sure it’ll please those stalwarts of the band; it ticks the boxes of what so many became enamoured with on "Welcome to Hell" and the infamous "Black Metal" the only problem is that is doesn’t really do a lot else except for re-hash ideas.
"Storm the Gates" is bloated, across its 53 minutes and 13 tracks there’s a lot of filler, the challenge with having an album that is so tonally similar across all the songs means that the novelty wears off quickly, there’s little in the way of texture or dynamics, opting for all-out swagger majority of the time, which grows tiresome quickly.
Near cringe-inducing is the lyrical content, it’s easy to understand how Euronymous and co. were so easily affected and adopted the adolescent pseudo-Satanic ramblings on Venom’s early records — there was nothing else to really compare it against. Venom now face the challenge of having their lyrical content go toe-to-toe with the likes of Ofermod, Acrimonious and Cult of Fire to name a few; the 'Satanic' verses pale in comparison and give the impression of a lyricist more engaged with the 'shock' factor than any focus on spirituality. And then there’s the laughable lyrics of "Dark Night (Of the Soul)" 'Hey you, mother fucker, What you looking at, born a fucking loser, acting like a twat’ the refrain ending with the profound 'gonna bust your nose' — It’s embarrassing quite frankly and I feel sorry for any individual who listens to these words and finds some affinity with it. Cronos is now the wrong side of 50 and the idea that he feels the need to validate his 'metal anti-hero' status through such bemused ramblings is preposterous.
Sjunde Inseglet — "Kalontas Auton Pou Onomazetai Satanas Kai Diavolos"
'And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour' — Revelation 8:1
There is something to be said about the nature of music solely designed for ritual; it is almost impenetrable to the listener, whilst there may be some influence and effect felt by the third-party listener, it is at its core and by its very design created as a vehicle to enhance the praxis of the creator. Sjunde Inseglet is the new project of one of the adepts of Dragon Rouge, a Swedish borne esoteric order, perhaps most famous for hosting members of Therion, Mortuus, Ofermod and many more.
I struggle to even classify this release as ritual ambient, so much of that genre is as much designed for ritual workings as it is to be enjoyed by the listener, this is not one of those releases, it feels remarkably private. The irony being that in some ways this release embodies exactly what ritual ambient should be, a personal soundtrack filled with intent for the adept.
This is a rare case where I can’t score this release, I truly believe it is not something to be measured and quantified but a piece to be utilised. It is a tool rather than an artwork, my only conclusion is that it is a well constructed tool with great efficacy...why else would it be disseminated otherwise?
Reviewed by Dan Thaumitan