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So here we are with the second part of our new release roundup.  As noted in part 1, there’s been a huge influx of material over the past few weeks, and while few of these really merit an in depth writeup, they all have some measure of interest and worth and prove deserving of discussion herein.

Thus we present this series of capsule reviews, broken down more or less by subgenre or stylistic leanings, for your perusal and delectation.  As always, art or lack thereof and its interpretation remains mainly in the eye of the beholder, which is exactly what makes it so important.  One man’s gold is another man’s dross, and vice versa, so if it sounds interesting to you, give it a spin and decide for yourself.

So that said, let’s continue, this time focusing on the darker end of the equation:

atomic aggressor + death yell split covers
Atomic Aggressor/Death Yell

Atomic Aggressor clearly wants to be a lo-fi Morbid Angel with touches of Slayer (particularly in the Kerry Kingesque whammy bar solo), but for all that, falls more on the black metal front stylistically.  Like Immortal on Blizzard Beasts, it’s clear what’s being tapped into here, but it’s still a wholly different animal and genre that it hails from.

The same applies to Death Yell – they seem to be striving towards a sort of black metal/death metal/underground thrash mixture, which isn’t half as strong as the band they’re paired with, but the two are indeed well matched.  Not a bad split from Hell’s Headbanger’s records.

Grift – Fyra Elegier

This is better.  Definitely falling under the header of black metal, but not the Hell’s Headbangers’ school of mid-80’s blackened thrash.  This is the more experimental and variegated, yet still adhering to form midtempo black metal of the early-mid 90’s, before things started to devolve into near-pop keyboard driven pap and Kiss-like cartoon imagery or straight out prog-worship with raspy vocals.

The production is somewhat middle-fi, with bell ringing clarity on both the vocals and a certain tone spectrum of the guitars, while the drums are muddy and hissy, with the feeling that the speaker woofer has a hole in it every time there’s a bass drum hit.  It’s strange, but it works.

There’s also an overarching sameness to the EP – like Tribulation’s latest effort, individual tracks don’t really distinguish themselves, it’s more of a holistic approach, a 25 minute trance cum ritual of sorts.  Think Watain meets Burzum, but with some of what in all honesty may be among the worst vocals in the genre.  Yes, they’re passable, given the strength of the surrounding material, but the flat, undistinguished monotone croak presented here falters by comparison with just about anyone you could name – go ahead, make yourself a list and try it for a laugh.  Mind you, this is a release which I like quite a bit, so take criticisms thereof as you will.

The material works despite its inconsistencies in production and, shall we say, unusual vocals, and as such this one does come recommended to serious fans of black metal – casual listeners need not apply.  Swedish label Nordvis are the party responsible for this one.

Monarque – Lys Noir

More dramatic French Canadian new school black metal of the Watain meets Marduk school – it actually reminds me a bit of Crimson Moonlight –  but with more appropriate and stylistically fitting, if somewhat undistinguished vocals than Grift offers.

There’s an infusion of creepy gothic horror film keyboards ala Gehenna circa First Spell here as well, but the production is pretty thin and nasty overall, emphasizing cavernous reverb to the extent that it sounds like you’re in the eaves of a deconsecrated cathedral – all you get when things really start rolling are some incomprehensible thin shrieks and the overtones of the instruments as a whole.

It’s like the absolute opposite of modern, ProTools based production – instead of being up in your face, with every instrument at full volume competing for your attention, it’s all sort of a buried mess, and you get these hollow, hissy throbs of what you think might be bass, and a big mud pie of tremolo guitar/pipe organ keyboard/hissy drums all mushed together and without any real bottom end.

Honestly, while it’s definitely a good example of the type, when it comes down to brass tacks and qualms about the vocals aside, I’ll take Grift over this any day.  Sure, it’s atmospheric and even a bit evocative of dark, abandoned locations deep in the woods long after the world at large has gone to sleep, and yes, it features some relentless Frost-style drumming, but the production or lack thereof proves more annoying than painterly in the end.

That said, they’ve certainly got the right idea here, and I do like what the band is shooting for and the overall feeling they achieve…they should just hunker down and get a real producer to put some measure of bass and body into the mix next time.

This ‘black light’ shines courtesy of Sepulchral Productions.


Niege Eternelle -S/T

Did they port the same vocalist over from Monarque?  Seriously, some of these black metal acts really do start to sound alike after a bit, as much as I enjoy them.  Even worse lo-fi production than Monarque had, and the cheerful drunken howls on ‘cri du guerre’ are just strange.  Hardly my idea of a ‘war cry’…

The drummer appears to be a bit off meter, bringing amusing memories of Ventor from early Kreator and Capricornus from Graveland to mind.  It works, there’s just nothing special about it.  I really don’t dig the vocal style, though – while again, not terrible for the type, they’re pretty generic and likely to hold them back from showing up on most black metal aficionados’ regular rotation.

I was expecting something a bit more evocative, a sort of French Canadian Battles in the North, but all I got was this lousy T-shirt, so to speak.  Depends on the mood you’re in, I guess – second listen sounded better than the first one, but it’s still not going to break any new ground.

The ‘eternal snow’ travels a cold front to your door direct from Sepulchral Productions.

SI 3 - cover
Sacreligious Impalement – III Lux Inferna

Damn, I didn’t realize Watain bore such a huge influence over modern black metal.  First we get Tribulation switching gears from their death metal debut The Horror to go all Lawless Darkness on us with The Formulas of Death, then Grift and Monarque…and now these guys, a Finnish combo, are tapping the same vein.

Do any of them improve on the template?  Well…not really.  But if you’re looking for some extra material to bridge the gap between Erik Danielsen and company’s little audio rituals, and you’ve already dug into Formulas and Fyra Elegier…well, this one’s not a bad one to take on next.

I guess it’s like trying to distinguish bands that recorded at Sunlight Studios in the wake of Nihilist/Entombed and Carnage/Dismember – after awhile, they all start to blur, and it’s all the same damn album recorded by different bands.

Look, it’s not bad.  The bottom line is, if you like the album/style/sound, you’re in luck, it seems like you’ll never run out of new material to dig into.  But trust me, even your favorite records can start to wear thin after awhile – maybe it’s time to pick up the needle and put on something new and a bit different for a change.

This infernal light comes to you courtesy of Woodcut records.

Stilla – Til Stilla Falla

Well, this is definitely the most original black metal record of the current avalanche of material under discussion here today, at least outside Grift (who reservations about the vocals aside, was truly head and shoulders above the rest).

Does that mean it’s a particularly good record, though?  Well…no, but it’s very different from the others.  I think this is the first one I’ve heard in awhile who wasn’t tapping into the whole Watain thing (particularly given their being fellow countrymen), but seemed to be reaching for something different within a general black metal framework.

Again, not overly fond of the vocals, which feel more like a drunken Viking shouting at his troops to rouse them out of their stupor when the bar is closing than any Bathoryesque traditional BM snarl.  Pushing things further into bizarro territory, the guitars drive the band with a weird cut up technique that shifts from dissonant note to dissonant note in an extremely jarring and offputting fashion.

I do like the cover, which like Grift features a lonely house and like Niege Eternelle takes place in the snowy winter, but it appears to be a case where elements of the mix certainly could work, but it’s too disharmonic to recommend.

Think the black metal equivalent of “technical death metal” or “math metal”, I guess – not that these guys are such well versed musicians or what have you, but that it’s pretty much unlistenable to those of us who grew up with a firm basis in musicality and harmony.

It’s like when some death metal acts back in the 90’s were putting things like “death to music” and “no more melody” in their liner notes – it may or may not be deliberate, but it’s certainly not making them any friends, so to speak.   This odd effort comes to you courtesy of Nordvist records.

Summoning – Old Morning’s Dawn

If Kate Bush or Toyah Wilcox circa Sheep Farming in Barnet or The Blue Meaning decided to go all evil and black metal on us, it’d probably come off somewhat akin to this interesting effort from this long running Austrian Middle Earth obsessed concern.

With Era 1 Mortiis style keyboards punctuating the more standard proceedings, this is a really cool cross between Celtic-style pagan folk, Fodt Til A Herske level Conan meets D&D grandeur and black metal.

While not as aggressive as many of the legendary albums or bands of the style (this bears little relation to De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, Heaven Shall Burn When We Are Gathered or Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, for example), it’s still recognizable enough to appeal to traditionalists while giving more than a nod of the head to more expansive Pagan Metal styles (everything from Gehenna’s First Spell to Primordial can be ticked off as somewhat of an influence here, at one point or another, to one degree or another).

Good stuff for when you’re in the mood for something a bit off the beaten
path.  Dawn breaks for you courtesy of Napalm records.

ogdru jahad - cover hi-res
Ogdru Jahad – I (One)

While hailing from Denmark and appearing on a completely different label, these guys could be classified best as in the same ballpark as a typical Hell’s Headbangers’ signing.  Totally lo-fi, totally blackened thrash with a respectful nod towards the original Florida/Brazil/Sweden death metal scene thrown in for good measure.

Apparently the name is taken from (of all things) Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic series, but trust me, it’s worth checking into despite that bit of silliness.

If you dig the sort of sound you get on acts like Gravewurm, Nunslaughter, Joel Grind’s Yellowgoat Sessions and so forth, you’ll love this as well.  It won’t stand out as much as, say, Bestial Holocaust or Cultes des Ghoules, but it’s pretty damn nasty nevertheless (in a good sense).  All appearances to the contrary, this actually comes to you from the folks at Iron Bonehead records, who if this is any indication, I hope to hear more from in the future.  Recommended.

Zom – Multiversal Holocaust

Think of this as a less retarded Von (who have come to unusual and to my ears wholly undeserved attention due to frequent laudatory recommendations from various black metal personages).  The music’s more coherent, and it’s a lot more listenable, unless you’re REALLY into sub-Mortician level grindcore (in which case, Von is your band!).

There’s actually long stretches that sound like straight up blackened thrash, before the blastbeats kick in to meld with all the over-distorted bass and guitar and overly reverb inflected vocals to make mush.  I guess this is closer to Morbid Visions era Sepultura meets Repulsion, but only in a certain sense – Zom are something of a unique entity and sonic experience unto themselves.

There don’t appear to be proper lyrics, it’s more like vocal ululations and
glossolalia, but that may be due to the ridiculously cavernous reverb (trust me, you’ve never heard reverb and delay to quite THIS degree before) and extreme lo-fi production.  Does all that convey the fact that I liked this?  Because I did, it’s actually really cool, at least in short stretches like this 2 song 7″.  If they ever expand to a full album…we’ll see.

This neutron star pulls you into its destructive mysteries courtesy of Iron Bonehead records.