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So here’s a small batch of bands who came to us directly for coverage, most surprisingly worthy to boot.

So without further ado, let us sally forth…

King Satan – Occult Spiritual Anarchy (Hemelvlam / Electric Spark Records)

Three albums, three labels, and just as many shifts in sound and approach, if you’re paying attention. Here ‘Aleister’ Kainulainen (among many pseudos he’s been known to utilize along the way) comes closest to integrating his former Saturnian Mist occultic heft and (black) metallic soundscape with his new and preferred King Satan industrialized clowning.

With prior releases, he’d curtailed the deeper wisdom and mysteries under a thick veneer of surface clowning (literally living out the tarot archetype of the magician as fool) and oversimplification, delivering to a wider audience but at the expense of not really saying much (that the listener doesn’t really have to dig for and extrapolate from with wild imagination).

But here, lyrically at least, he crafts something that, while perhaps not so eyebrow raisingly revealing as Chaos Magick (the album, not the art), certainly manages to once again rival the dead on metaphysical body check of the late Selim Lemouchi, most specifically reminiscent of his ostensibly unfinished final opus, III: Tabula Rasa. Speaking as someone with awareness, I was quite surprised to see him returning to this level of discourse under the King Satan aegis…

The lyrics are often shockingly direct, without so much of the esotericsm and abrasive black metal sonics to put off the average listener and leave matters to the most inquisitive and serious of audiences (already limited to those who appreciate the less populist forms of that particular musical arena).

Like the Electric Hellfire Club before them, but with far more heft and knowledge of occult history and traditions, King Satan deliver a strangely catchy sound that has now moved beyond the keyboard-driven EDM / industrial style that informed their excellent debut and somewhat less appealing sophomore effort. The keyboards are still front and center, but now the guitars are equally present, neither truly driving the other, but working more in tandem, almost to the point of being in lockstep.

Those who (like yours truly) really enjoyed King Fucking Satan but were a bit nonplussed by I Want You to Worship Satan should find themselves quite pleased by Occult Spiritual Anarchy, which takes everything that made the former album work so well and amplifies it, both musically and lyrically. It’s as if he finally managed to integrate his Saturnian Mist work (specifically Chaos Magick) with the new project, and came out with an integrated whole unlike anything you’ve heard in industrial metal to date, as far from the likes of Gothminster as it is from Nine Inch Nails or even the aforementioned Electric Hellfire Club and its far superior parent My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult (whose I See Good Spirits, I See Bad Spirits and 13 Above the Night certainly could serve as fellows on a playlist with Occult Spiritual Anarchy).

“Human sacrifice” left me thinking of John Whiteside Parsons, burning alive for his devotion to Babalon just as much as more intentional iterations of such like the late Jon Nodtveidt and Selim Lemouchi (whose devotion was much akin to Parsons, if you consider his lyrics, particularly on the final Devils Blood release). Over and over, the album veers between direct ritualism and devotion to an all-consuming fire (selah) and the theme of oneness, or more precisely, monism. All is one, opposites are mirrors of themselves, as above so below. And all paths lead to the centre, there is no escape (that can be discerned by the adept who successively surrenders the entirety of ego and self to the HGA or whatever your analogue, but we speak of deep things. Selah.)

In fact, so unified a front does this album present lyrically, that there’s really little to be gained by continuing to dig through this track by track, as much of a pleasure hearing these is in a musical sense. The lyrics? Hard to hear, perhaps…but a deep truth being hammered home oft is. Choose this day which side you are on, n’est pas?

As ever, the man’s self directed videos provide further confirmation of his serious/absurdist intent, delivering a grim deeper reality through comedy and ostensible foolishness.

The most substantive this time around is “this is where the magick happens”, once again showing our Saturnian Mist seeker in his early materialist days, just coming to the breaking point that severs his ties to the mundane and drives him into a spiritual quest. His workday devolves into a run of bad luck and more than a touch of chaos (selah), resulting in his rejection of same and “freedom” expressed first in madness, then in rejection of established religion (with spiritual battles expressed through the use of super soakers, of all things).

Quickly he embraces the sexual in its most degrading manner, Hosealike submitting to and pledging troth to random street whores (who reject, mock and chase him with their own soakers), ending with what still remains prologue to his Chaos Magick-era adventures as one of them relents and offers succor of a sort. Entry level on a certain measure, but it does closely relate to and in a way bring things (almost) full circle to the man’s earlier, deeper work.

Then comes “the faces of the devil”, which seems to veer from the lyric (relating to the aphorism that all paths lead to the centre) to feature the King Satan character menacing a trio of what may be acolytes or archetypes (or more likely, both) with a “gun” that is actually (wait for it) a banana. After shooting the female figure “dead” (or perhaps “slain in the spirit” would be more apt), he’s shown washing and effectively worshipping (at) her feet, like the seeker of “where the magick happens” devoting himself to the sacred whore (who through jump cuts is clearly paralleled by and shown to be just another aspect of satan).

It’s “the pagan satan” that comes off most awkward and elusive, filled with broken mannequins like a Bill Zebub video and with two masked figures playing fire breather and twirling their two sided torches around a makeshift altar on a tarp with some Mayhem style goat heads on stakes, as band members stand around and watch, or burn one of the reconstructed mannequins till it becomes an old school devil figure in the flames.

What all this has to do with the credo being delivered lyrically is erratic at best if not entirely unrelated and random, an unusual misstep from a voice that routinely delivers such comparatively deep secrets of the left hand path to the masses, which unless you’re speaking of the broad hints and trees without forests often delivered by supposed “serious” corners of the black metal and occult rock worlds, remains a rarity.

Maybe it’s the Finnish in him, but the bluntness is appreciated, and no one can doubt where the man stands or that he understands a lot more than the average bear in relation to this arena. Just be aware that “clowning is serious business”, as he puts it in one of the most revealing tracks herein. Let the uninitiated and initiated alike beware, and remember, “never trust a god”.

CARDINALS FOLLY / PURIFICATION -Possessed in the Ritual Grove (Rafchild Records)

Finland’s Cardinal’s Folly, whose Holocaust of Ecstasy & Freedom and Deranged Pagan Sons both recieved due props in these pages return for a split with Portland, Oregon’s Purification, who get their first exposure herein.

And holy crap, was I happy to hear Cardinal’s Folly opening on a track that you’d be hard pressed to realize didn’t hail from vintage Reverend Bizarre, complete with “cromwell” worthy Albert Witchfinder-style vox from Mikko “Count Karnstein” Kaarainen. And that riff! Damn, does this one rock…absolutely loved it.

“The second seal” follows the Kimi Karki instrumental so often delivered on both Reverend Bizarre and Lord Vicar releases, to close out on a more Vicaresque “prince prospero” (obviously referring to the Poe antihero and the story cum AIP film Masque of the Red Death). Both decent to be sure and very much in the same ballpark, but neither holds a candle to opener “law and enlightenment”, which is just that good.

Purification can’t possibly live up to what Cardinal’s Folly just laid down here, and sure enough they don’t, with a weak instrumental opener (“1st John 2:18”).

Thankfully that weak tea is followed by a more promising cross between Patrick Walker circa Watching from a Distance vox (a more sinister, nasal cackling version thereof, anyway) and Forest of Equilibrium-era Cathedral as married to Solstice (UK) (“the crowning mercy”.)

Then they deliver a Trouble-esque tone and riff for “six horn cult of the sword”, which also manages to retain the slow gallop of Solstice and the weird Patrick Walker’s evil twin with a headcold vox. Not as good as “crowning mercy”, but not bad at all.

Sadly, they go out on a bum note with the suicidally depressive, feedback-driven “adrianople”, which bears the worst aspects of Warning’s final opus and the meandering, aimless nature of Cathedral’s first, without the virtues of either (or the two tracks that preceded it herein.) P-U!

By all means, grab this one for the Cardinal’s Folly half, and you may well find you enjoy the meat of the Purification sandwich. Just throw the bread away, it’s kind of gross and moldy on both ends.

Smorodina Reka – Предвестье

Pleasant Russian dark toned symphonic neo-folk act, comes off like a cross between the excellent The Forest is my Name album from Lord Wind and the likes of Epica or Annette Olzon-era Nightwish (particularly evident on a lovely vocal track like “p???”, which I was sure was multitracked, but the band actually features two backup singers, so this lush, transporting sound could be well replicated live!)

There’s even a Japanese style gravitas to their sound, and it’s often confusing as to where their sound owes most allegiance. Is it Manegarm Urminnes Havd / Ulver Kveldssanger style folk? Or bombastic femme fronted symphonic metal? When those distorted guitars kick in, you’ll be hard pressed to place them…and the occasional fatalistically grim yet emotionally moving underpinnings of so much modern Japanese rock and pop is just the icing on what is already a very tasty concoction.

Special hats off to Alexandra Sidorova, Olga Zaboronok and Alexandra Zaipold on lead and backing vocals, respectively, who transport this beyond the John Renbourn Group / Pentangle / Lord Wind template to being something else entirely.

If you can find it, grab it. Very, very good stuff.

Beermetal – Reign of Terror (Eschatonic Records)

When “on her black wings” came on, it was quite a shock. Here I was, expecting some subpar Danzig cover, and got something different entirely.

Picture Jeff Walker vocals (perhaps a little deeper toned and whispery, but definitely in that tonality) over a chugging riff that could almost belong to Carcass, but with a dry and mids heavy Danzig guitar tone, with almost demo quality lead fills throughout. The actual solo does smack heavily of John “Christ” Knoll.

So how do you classify this, black n’ roll? The band themselves lean on Venom’s Black Metal (though “more amber in colour, and it gets you drunk”!), but this is hardly the USBM biker band thing where they swipe in equal measures from early Bathory, Venom and Motorhead. No, this is slower, more bluesy and pretty damn cool in their self assurance and willingness to step out and make their own way.

Yeah, I’m hearing a lot of early Danzig in the sound, but it’s hardly a xerox, more like married to blackthrash or sludgy blackened doom like Goatlord…just bluesier, more consonant, of more appeal to fans of 90’s acts like Non-Fiction (another band who kept things low and slow with that same nasty mids-driven guitar tone).

And then comes “carved in stone”, all Young brothers riffing with backing gang chants ripped straight from Bon Scott era AC/DC (complete with a “TNT” oy! oy!, yet). How about the traditional doom riffing of “daemon in a bottle”? …yeah, weird stuff when married to these whisper-snarled vox, but right up our alley.

If you dig any of the bands or styles aforementioned, you’ll probably enjoy the hell out of this one. Just crack open a Fosters, throw a shrimp on the barbie and watch out for rabbits. This particular vegemite sandwich goes down pretty damn sweet.

Black mountain – Necromancer’s Moon (Eschatonic Records)

Another of three new acts from Down Under on the Eschatonic label, these guys are far more identifiable as black metal, albeit of a very late 90’s/early millenial bent.

While hardly the sort of early 90’s second wave stuff we gravitate to (or the strangely head and shoulders above the rest dark melodicism of the Finnish scene), this comes off superior to the rote symphonic sound that era was so prone to simply by eschewing keyboards in favor of a well produced, very upfront dual guitar assault that serves the same purpose while feeling more natural to the ear, far more traditionally “metal” than overhyped shite like Emperor or the far more palatable likes of Cradle, Godkiller, Wallachia or even Ancient alike.

Hell, much of the bombast here comes from some super thick guitar ala Solstice (UK), which appears in the smallest of phrases (as in the title track), but still manages to make a profound impression by its very presence in a genre known for its thin, abrasive and tremelo tones. Tag in the comparatively clean production? Bang.

At times they almost come off like a cross between Finntroll and Iron Maiden (“craic”), at others more of a bombastic pagan metal somewhere between Tyr and Primordial (“descendants of the north”), but it’s the more straightforward material like the title track, “as all life dies” and “guardians” that take the lead in their metaphorical charge of the gates.

The only track that trips them up? The absurd march of the dwarves (o-WEE-oh! wee-OOH-OH!) of the spastic “unholy pyres”. Gah! No thanks, mate.

But overall? Another band that, however mildly, pushes at the boundaries of their chosen genre to put their own spin on things, without overstepping and turning unlistenable (as so many young bands do).

Not an across the board win, but the title track, “as all life dies” and “guardians” certainly make this one to check out.

Auld – …of Petrichor and I (Eschatonic Records)

And yet another brand spanking new act out of the land that gave us Men at Work, Nick Cave, AC/DC, Rick Springfield and…er, Rolf Harris, this quartet delivers a slightly folkish take on black metal, but one more blackened and Kroda-esque than the goofy, snooze inducing bounciness of Taake.

Don’t expect to hear many traditional instruments here, this is less blatant than even the likes of Slough Feg. About the closest you get is what appears to be uleilian flute on the title track (and even that is almost buried behind driving tremelo guitars.)

Another fairly well produced and bombastic affair, the three songs here are all quite solid, and seem to improve on the bread side of the sandwich, with previously released single “hollow mews” and the title track blowing a comparatively middling at best “am fear liath mor” all to shit.

Quality stuff, due props and well worth a listen.