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And here we are again, with another big ol’ batch of goodies from the darkside for your due delectation!

Shall we?

Negativa – 01 (Nebular Carcoma) (December 6)

Spanish black metal. While definitely appending to the tropes of post-Inquisition string bend tremelo and the whole “underground” thing of overused, overly cavernous reverb, there’s enough of a sinister earlier second wave vibe to carry them above the riff raff.

Nothing here’s too bad, but it should say something that the only truly standout track was a cover of some band named Atrabilis (if that rings any bells for you)…that one’s kind of amazing.

Still in all, better than average.

Unbegotten – Manifestion (Nebular Carcoma) (December 6)

Talk about terrible production…had to jack this to even find that there were vocals!

One big blur, a construction equipment style roar with some vaguely sinister overtones. Vlad Tepes brings far more clarity to their recordings, just so you get the idea.

Still, they definitely have that “evil” vibe, and probably assume the muddy, murky, almost inaudible recording gives some measure of “mystery” even in this day and age, when the slightest secrets are shouted from rooftops and emblazoned in flashing neon letters for all to see.

Have to give ’em credit for trying to keep the past alive, anyway.

Gaua – Feeble Psychotic Vortex (Nebular Carcoma) (November 15)

Speaking of Les Legions Noires greatest offering to the world at large, these Spaniards display their allegiance to same even moreso than Unbegotten, going so far as to cover “drink the poetry of the Celtic disciple” from France’s finest.

“Misfortune” and “second lament of a star” both appropriately deliver some mix of the Legions sound and the more melodic (but still mournful) one of Finland…it’s only on the noisy, pointless “schlitze” that they lose their shit entirely. A surprise anthemic turn late in the song (starting about 4:40) aside, this one should have been shit canned, leaving this a far stronger release all the way through.

Two more than decent tracks, a strong cover and…well, what, maybe 2 minutes or less of another, if you have editing equipment to lop off that first nigh on 5 minutes of unwelcome detour into Bozo land.

I’d call that pretty good, overall.

Forest Mysticism / Krypta Nicestwa – Mirrors of Glaciated Earth (Nebular Carcoma) (November 15)

Sadly, upending these otherwise strong signs that we’ve got 1. a possible scene and 2. certainly a label to pay attention to here, comes this awkward split.

Two tracks, one from each band, plus a “raw mix” of the exact same two tracks…which somehow manages to sound better than the more produced version while still showing both bands of far less interest or quality than the three we just covered.

…yeah, I was bored, let’s leave it at that. Next?

Marras – Where Light Comes to Die (Spread Evil) (November 18)

Members of Vargrav, whose questionable Netherstorm and Reign of Supreme Darkness we’d covered previously, and the far more appealing and accomplished Forgjord, whose Uhiripuu and Ilmestykset got some rather positive reviews in these pages, join forces for a project that comes off thankfully somewhat closer to the latter than the former in terms of quality and aesthetic.

The big defining element here is that every other track goes ambient or at least instrumental traditional folk. Nothing overly special about it – don’t expect another Ulver or anything – but definitely Finnish in approach and vibe and as atmospheric and gloomily melodic as that implies.

Muvitium – Evighetens Cirkel (Purity Through Fire) (January 31)

The guy behind Musmahhu, whose Formulas of Rotten Death and Reign of the Odious were covered herein and Greve (whose Nidingsdåd utav det Uråldriga we’d covered previously, and whose Nordarikets Strid appears in this very installment), drops another of his projects here, this time working the tropes of (arguably) earlier second wave black metal amidst some piss poor production, so thin and hissy as to invite images of brittle parchment about to crumble into dust.

It’s got some definite atmosphere, but you’ve heard this many times before, with more appeal, melodicism, thrust, you name it. It’s ultimately not a bad xerox at all…but realize it is a tenth generation xerox, and you’ll probably be better satisfied with the authentic articles than this sort of middling copy of a copy of a copy.

Malignament – Demo I (Purity Through Fire) (January 31)

Some vague similarity of summation can be offered of this Finnish oddity, but there’s a huge qualitative difference between what Malignament is delivering herein and the blatant copycatting of Muvitium.

Less locked into a given sound than that band seem to be, these guys are certainly quite evocative of the old school, even at times (like the main riff to “bloodlust”) bringing that brutal first wave blackened thrash vibe to the table.

“Call to arms” goes more pagan/Viking in its odd bombast and “wolf and the moon” veers somewhere between the old Polish scene and a touch of…is it vaguely death metal? Hard to pin down, but you’ll recognize it, and that it doesn’t really belong here somehow.

Bottom line, you’ve heard this many, many times before, though not generally together, on the same release and from the same band. There’s plenty of force and aggression amidst all the melodicism and anthemic feel, but it’s still recognizably Finnish…just straddling and drawing from other subgenres to a weirdly uncomfortable degree.

Goats of Doom – Tie on Hänen Omilleen (Purity Through Fire) (January 31)

From that name, you’d expect some cross between “bestial black” or even “war metal” and doom…but nope, this is straight up melodic Finnish black metal.

Oddly not only melodic and anthemic but catchy, tracks like “aamen” or “juolonkorjaaja” evoke the bouncy folk of Taake while others like “mustan unen aiti” or “sinne mihin valheet ei ylla” go full on pop-punk if not emo at the chorus (complete with dual shrieked and screamo vox, yet). It’s weird and certainly unexpected…

Interesting, I’ll definitely give ’em that.

Greve – Nordarikets Strid (Purity Through Fire) (January 31)

And here’s another one from the guy behind Muvitium (covered herein) and Musmahhu (links to whose reviews are to be found in the review of Muvitium, above).

We’d covered their earlier EP Nidingsdåd utav det Uråldriga which bore enough odd variance from the usual Norsecore template to hold some potential interest.

Here, however, we find a band whose symphonic tendencies overwhelm nearly all else, with keyboards front, center and taking over everything else in the mix in a great, hoary flooding wash, while some of the worst sub-Baba Yaga witch vox you’re ever likely to hear in black metal cackle over the top.

I mean, seriously…if there’s anything else to appreciate about this, good luck finding it. I simply could not get past the uber-loud, pay attention to ME!!! keyboards and those hilariously awful vox.

P-U, and I don’t necessarily mean sulfur and brimstone by that.

Next?

Vananidr – Damnation (Purity Through Fire) (January 24)

We’d covered these long-troubled Swedes’ debut album and Road North and the best we could offer was to praise the drum sound on the former…so that should tell you a bit about these guys.

This one continues along the same trail as Road North, which is to say…shrug of the shoulders.

Well produced, “hunter” isn’t too bad…but pretty much standard black/death fare in the Behemoth mold.  Yawn.

Mavorim – Axis Mundi (Purity Through Fire) (January 31)

HAHAHA…remember the guy who actually titled his album Assfresser?

Yeah, well, he’s back, all one man bedroom band of him.

That bit of comedy aside, there are moments worthy of listening here. The Minenwerfer cover isn’t bad at all, “aus asche auferstanden” is kind of grinding midtempo in a vaguely pagan metal manner…

…yeah, that’s about it. LIke last time, it’s a very middle of the road affair, neither bad enough to offend the ears or standout enough to take note of and exhort new listeners to seek out.

Another shrug of the shoulders.

Valosta Varjoon – Oberpfälzer Wald (Purity Through Fire) (October 31)

Interesting German black metal affair. Opener “die turmwackler”, despite its silly sounding title, really delivers with an oddly postpunk-tinged riff that evokes such odd associations as early U2 (!) – think October, if not earlier.

Subsequent tracks don’t stray all that far from template, working something akin to a postpunk/gothic vibe in riffing style and harmonic motion combined with a generally midtempo feel and lack of blastbeat drumming. It’s really quite good, and there’s no way in hell you expect to hear juxtapositions like this, even forewarned it should come as something of a jaw dropper.

And I’d like to think they pulled that movie quote on “dein ableben” from a Klaus Kinski film…certainly sounded like Klaus’ inflections!

Odd as shit. I kinda liked it.

Nachtig – S/T (Purity Through Fire) (October 31)

A member of the aforementioned Volosta Varjoon works another project, and unsurprisingly it bears some of the same quality and stylistic flourishes.

This time the 80’s postpunk riffing is gone, but we’re still talking pretty straightforward midtempo riffing and non-blastbeat drumming, weirdly processed piano (which comes off sort of harpsichord as run through a reverb-swathed speak n’ spell) and a slow, melancholic feel that resembles the grim yet melodic Finnish school far more than it ever does the more abrasive and occasionally over-experimental German scene.

Another good one from the label, to be sure.

Minenwerfer – Alpenpässe (Purity Through Fire) (October 31)

The (comparatively) lesser half of the excellent split with 1914, this unusual, WWI-obsessed Sacramento duo vary between Marduk with shitty vocals high speed assaults and long, deliberate tracks where they really shine: opener “der blutharsch”, “cloaked in silence”.

There’s enough of a post-black feel here to appeal to listeners outside the usual narrow confines of (true) black metal…but then those vocals kick in again, and all that goes out the window.

Definite potential…just self-sabotaged and boxed into a corner they probably don’t deserve to be pigeonholed into.

Nefarious Dusk – The Wanderer of the Cold North (Purity Through Fire) (November 30)

“The ravens return to the graveyard under the crimson moonlight.”

If they don’t have you at that, I don’t know what to say for ya, man…

UK black metal that clearly hearkens back to the likes of Manes, early Carpathian Forest and vintage Mayhem, perhaps with a touch of Ancient in the questionably shrieky vocals and overuse of keyboard accompaniment.

Even so, tracks like “millorn pt. 2”, “swinside stone circle” and “duddon estuary” are pure Norwegian-style second wave faux-vintage goodness through and through.

Is there room for further improvement? Sure.

But is it really damn good as is?

Hugh betcha.

Griiim – Pope Art (Purity Through Fire) (October 31)

What the fuck is this dance club cut and paste horseshit?

oh, it’s that guy from K.F.R., whose Demonologue and L’enfer à sa source we similarly had to suffer through…

“…so you don’t have to!”

You’re welcome.

Next?

Úlfarr – Hate & Terror – The Rise Of Pure Evil (Purity Through Fire) (October 31)

UK black metal. Fairly one note, occasionally attempting to evoke something more interesting and accomplished like Gorgoroth or earlier Darkthrone, but never really getting what made those bands work in the first place.

I guess if you’re really into Craft or something…otherwise ‘need not apply’.

Shadow’s Mortuary – Kuoleman Portit (Purity Through Fire) (November 30)

Finnish black metal, but on the more abrasive and let’s be honest, forgettable end of the spectrum.

Think Horna, but without the riffs, the anthemicism or even the better of its frontmen…so all you’re left with is the abrasiveness and a hint of sad melody to grasp onto as a lifeline.

Yeah, well…nah.

Should’ve, probably could’ve, but ultimately didn’t.