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So here we are again, with another one to get you through the Coronavirus doldrums.  Fear not, for these’ll keep on coming so long as we’re holed up with nothing much better to do…well, you know, after that.

And hey, who knows, we may actually wind up catching up on this stuff at last!

Shall we dance?

To Conceal the Horns – Purist (Purity Through Fire) (March 1)

Finnish one man bedroom black metal band.

There’s something about the frankly rather bizarre and aimlessly atonal meanderings he lays down that suggests he’s trying to be Inquisition or perhaps even some weird bridge between the nigh-melodic pop tonalities of post- and Cascadian black metal and the all too standard Watain wannabe thing we’ve been suffering through for several years now…but it’s too screwed up, the music wanders around drunkenly.

There was a band that suffered from the same malady in our last Roundup…looking it up, it was Black Vice. Is there some inane new trend in black metal circles to just throw random notes down and let the fingers walk…and walk…and walk, without any discernible pattern or purpose? It’s fucking bizarre, and utterly pointless.

To Conceal the Lack of Harmony and Sustained Phrases of Melody is more like it.


Hohenstein – Weisser Hirsch (Purity Through Fire) (April 4)

Bleak, depressive, wide and expansive landscapes of despair.

In a lot of ways, these Germans remind of their fellow countrymen Empyrium except for a semi-regular propensity towards a more aggressively distorted tremelo guitar and standard for the genre shrieked vocals.

The production is nowhere near as pristinely crisp, the feel is a lot more folky to volkisch in the sense of Taake, if not Graveland, Absurd or even Kroda at times…but it’s all just downbeat, volume knob turned down, mids heavy distortion jacked guitars with a bit of a bounce to it, accompanied by straightforward and simple drum patterns, lumbering along at a marching pace in the end.

It feels old school, it’s inoffensive and bears few if any of the annoying bits of business modern acts tend to copycat off each other…

Yeah. I liked this one quite a bit, actually.


Thy Dying Light – S/T (Purity Through Fire) (April 11)

UK two man band. Promo materials reference Craft, and you can hear that sort of abrasive later second wave directness and vibe all over this – Urgehal comes to mind, perhaps even certain eras of Tsjuder (or in the sense of blunt abrasiveness, even Impaled Nazarene).

As you may have surmised, the vocals are incredibly raw and abrasive, the lyrics very in your face satanic to the point of coming off Venom comical.  But the flipside of that sinister je n’sais quoi that makes a few earlier Urgehal and Tsjuder albums work is also present and accounted for…so if you dig those bands in their rawest, least pointedly “norsecore” moments, you may find yourself a new go to here.

Have to say, I walked away kinda liking this one. It has its moments and certainly is a throwback to a particular niche and era of black metal not so often regurgitated by younger bands.

Order of Orias – Ablaze (W.T.C. Productions) (April 30)

We’d covered these Aussies’ split with Aosoth and simply weren’t able to get past their perfectly atrocious production (or lack thereof).

Here they correct that problem admirably, leaving them sounding like a cross
between more experimental French acts and the more standard black/death
ringing open arpeggiated chord business Watain stole from Gaahl-era
Gorgoroth and made their own.

It’s therefore simultaneously predictably “safe” and boring and batshit bizarre,
with transitions and connections that simply don’t, like train rails left unattached
and a few feet to the left of the next section they were supposed to connect to.
Gee, think the train will reach its destination?

Not the worst you’ve heard by a long shot…but again, aimless, meandering,
lost, kinda pointless.

Serpens Luminis – Bright Euphoria (Goathorned Productions) (November 15)

ugh, another one of these “occult black metal” jobs, this time out of Switzerland. Lots of shouting between snarling, the same atonal drone “chords” bashed from one track to the next, as if you could tell one apart from the other.


hmm? Oh, sorry. Next?

BÖLZER – Lese Majesty (Lightning & Sons) (November 15)

We’d covered these Swiss oddballs a few times, for Aura (covered twice, here and hereSoma and Hero and not once did they manage to really impress.

Sadly but predictably, these leopards haven’t changed their spots, still a lot of shouting and growling over atonal dissonance and weird-ass off time drumming that brings Manilla Road’s legendarily awful Randy Foxe to mind (the lower tier Mick Fleetwood of metal?)

At least Fleetwood and Foxe were interesting in their sheer strangeness and misapprehension of what it means to keep time…

Yeah, this really hasn’t shown any improvement over the last three releases we’d covered.

(tries to stifle a huge yawn)


Revenant Marquis – Youth In Ribbons (Inferna Profundus Records) (January 20)

Wow. You know the most backwards, no-fi, far beyond speaker capacity yet cavernously reverbed recordings you’ve ever heard out of the Portuguese black metal scene? The sort that make Black Cilice or France’s Vlad Tepes sound like a Scott Burns production?

Yeah. Make that 10 times worse, repatriate it to the UK, and amidst all the cacophony of what must be some sort of overly loud guitar distortion and drumming (though you’ll have a hell of a time making anything out beyond a construction site drone and vacuum cleaner roar), there’s some dick yodeling for his Ricola.

I understand Alpine yodeling is a thing in Sweden, or is that Switzerland?

Yeah. Keep it there.

Hint, hint.



…don’t mind the yodelers, folks, they just don’t want to face facts and throw in the towel.



Bythos – The Womb of Zero (Terratur Possessions) (April 24)

Former members of Sargeist and Horna. Should be awesome, right? We love Horna, we love Sargeist, we even love offshoots by former Horna members like Satanic Warmaster and Korgonthurus…should work.

So why does this feel so generic? And what’s with the terrible vocals, all shout-belches akin to Gorgoroth’s apparent career killer “Atterigner”?

I mean, you’ve certainly heard worse, and you probably won’t run to shut this off because it’s so ear splittingly awful, no. But is it any fucking good?

Much less, is it worthy of the Horna legacy and some of the great bands its members branched off into?

Pfft. No fucking way, sorry.

Who knows, maybe it’s first album jitters. The bit about 4 minutes in to “legacy of naahmah” hints at much better material than we seem to be getting here otherwise.

Vocals still seriously blow, though.

Ritual Clearing – S/T (Eternal Death) (April 24)

Wow. This, on the other hand, is pure black gold…

Ever wonder what would happen if you threw Quorthon into some Les Legions Noires act like Mutiilation or Vlad Tepes? Yeah, now up the grim melodicism,
as if there were Finnish members poached for the guitar spot.

The closer “mensis” is by far the best track here, but all four are surprisingly damn good.

More, please.

Gloom (Slovakia) – Awaken (Slovak Metal Army) (April 8)

Damn! Some seriously killer gothic metal out of Slovakia here…picture an even
more melodic Moonspell circa Irreligious with backing/co-female vocals (apparently uncredited) and the standout radio-ready songcraft of Visions of Atlantis when Wolfgang Koch and Melissa Ferlaak were steering the band ever so briefly in the right direction with Trinity.

Yep, when they’re on point, it’s that good.

Frontman Martin Pazdera isn’t always the most solid frontman, though his deep
baritone vox are dead on Fernando Ribiero and his chest voice is a pleasant lower tenor – tracks like “bleed in my arms” or “fragments of life” show him changing voice and tonality a bit too often and (possibly fighting through a natural accent for the English lyrics) with a weirdly forced puke tone that brings Bela Lugosi to mind (but seriously…you hear what I’m saying here).

But when those female alto vox join in for harmonies or to take phrases (as in “everything ends”) and Pazdera goes deep? Heavenly!

Now, the album is too long for its own good, with a few too many ballads and too many chances to flub what opens up as a very good impression (even starting last track first as we tend to here)…but it’s still some very solid stuff for a genre too often filled with fourth tier acts and bands who delivered their best work more than 15 years ago, but somehow keep dragging things out to an increasing self-embarassment (seriously…is anyone paying attention to Within Temptation or Epica anymore? If so, why?!?)

Bottom line? If Irreligious were put together circa 2002-6, it may well have sounded just like this.

Check out “everything ends” and thank me later.