Tag Archives: black metal

Dwarrowdelf – Evenstar

Dwarrowdelf claims to be: “walking the utterly untrodden path of Tolkien-based epic metal”. A bold claim from the UK-based project, as Tolkien and metal have been bedfellows since the early days of the genre (the man himself had little to say about this I’m afraid). Think about Blind Guardian, who soar high to this day thanks to their themed records. Even if you want to ignore bands who on a few occasions used Tolkien material. As a worshipper in the waters of Summoning, one should tread carefully and even if that is considered a band with a sound that is slightly one dimensional, there’s epic black metal from the likes of Emyn Muil. In so far, alone, this one-man project is not, but that shouldn’t stop us from checking out ‘Evenstar’.

Dwarrowdelf: More Elvish Than Twilight Force

That doesn’t mean it can’t be good, however, and Dwarrowdelf is something else in the way of cinematic-sounding metal. I would not go so far as to call it overproduced, but the black metal element is dim and remote on this record. Though, you would probably not say so after the barked vocals and intro of ‘Estel’, opening track on this record that tells the story of Aragorn and Arwen (she being the titular ‘Evenstar’). Sure, there’s the soaring ‘reach for the heavens’ tremolo riffs, but they sound more heavenly than hellish. Not saying black metal needs to be evil, but none of the grim aesthetics remains. 

In a sense, Dwarrowdelf sounds like you would imagine white metal would sound. Full of epic moods, emotive guitars, clean vocals full of heroism and boldness, and of course richly decorated with synths, it is a clean record in the most complete sense of the word and I find myself warming to that. If Summoning is the best soundtrack for reading the books, this is probably what I would have preferred for the movies. I mean, if ‘The Eagle of the Star’ isn’t more elf-metal than even the faithful Twilight Force, I don’t know what is. Now, on this album O’Dell does ad more folk and melodeath to the sound, but I think for this genre of fantasy metal that doesn’t really fit one classic definition, that’s the way to go. More so, the vision of using guests on your solo project shows ambition and a high standard, which is admirable. It’s particularly in the details, like the fantastic ‘In Pursuit of Ghosts’, where the tin whistle from Kristoffer Graemesen adds a haunting element, that this shows itself. 

The following track, ‘The Three Hunters’, is also a more energetic gem on this record, where other songs may take the lamenting tone a bit much to my opinion. But that’s an opinion you can discard. Why? Because, as a whole, this album is a great listening experience and I highly recommend checking it out. 

Artist: Dwarrowdelf
Label:  Northern Silence Productions
Origin: United Kingdom

An Autumn For Crippled Children – All fell silent, everything went quiet

I’ve always found An Autumn For Crippled Children an odd formation, ever since they were introduced to me. Their music feels different, yet clicks with the essential vibes of black metal. Some outlets have described them as a pure proponent of blackgaze, which is a term that not everyone is equally excited about it seems. On ‘All fell silent, everything went quiet’, the band pushes further into the regions in which only a few bands dare venture. 

The new album is the eighth full-length release by the Dutch trio in their 10-year run, making them a very productive collective. The warm tones on this release make me think a bit more of Alcest than the scorned Deafheaven. The music flows like a warm bath, particularly the second track ‘Water’s Edge’ tells you everything you need to know about the sound An Autumn For Crippled Children is going for. The mellow vibe, the major key and gentle jamming contrast sharply with the raspy vocals. There’s an element of rawk and roll with that scrappy sound of the guitars as the two collide, but eventually, all flows together like a stream of sonic honey. 

I wouldn’t call the music joyous, but there is an exuberance in the sound of songs like ‘Silver’—a drivenness and burning energy. It struggles for release that never really comes. I find myself longing to the moments of release when the blast beats fall away, and the melody soars freely. The vocals are frequently buried in the sound frequency, allowing it to merge together. Check out, for example, the track ‘None More Pale’, which is what black metal sounds like when all sounds are clean. Or maybe I just imagine that. It has a certain pop-sensibility to it, but still carries the epic, dramatic movements I love so much. 

What may be an issue for those listening, is that its smooth sound may lack the fire that keeps you ‘onboard’ while listening to a record. To me, songs like ‘The Falling Senses’ work well, due to their relentless pace and energy, but others, like the title track, become hazy summer days. Where your vision becomes blurred, the heat plays tricks on your eyes and you slowly drift off. I think that’s the bridge with postrock, in a very complete and fully immersive manner, but it’s something you have to like and I happen to do. Which is why this is a great album in my book.

Band: An Autumn For Crippled Children
Origin: Netherlands
Label: Prosthetic Records

Paysage d’Hiver – Im Wald

Paysage d’Hiver – Im Wald

Tobias Möckl is also known as Wintherr, and has a love for winter landscapes. That’s, in fact, the main theme for his project Paysage d’Hiver, which has released a ton of demos and splits over the years. In fact, the project is 23 years old and it required a global pandemic for Möckl to finally drop a full-length album with Paysage d’Hiver. In 2020, the album ‘Im Wald’ became a reality.

It’s not the only project of the Swiss musician, he is also active in the fabled Darkspace and runs the label Kunsthall Productionen. Stylistically, Paysage d’Hiver is an ambient black metal project, as the atmosphere of the music is the most important aspect according to the artist. It’s songs all connect to the same story, which tells of a realm of winter, with the same name obviously,

A winter walk in the forest

‘Im Wald’ is the magnum opus, with a running time of 2 hours. Musically, this is the sonic equivalent of a long walk in the forest, under an obvious layer of white, pristine snow… as the darkness of the autumn sets in on ‘Im Winterwald’. The music is blisteringly intense, but the melodies soar above the jagged treetops and create a mesmerizing specter. One can even detect a hint of that Darkspace weirdness, due to the futuristic keyboard lines that interlace the song. It adds wealth to the tapestry of sound.

Icy storms of black metal

All tracks are fairly long actually. ‘Flug’ takes its time, for example, building up through hazy ambient sounds/field recordings that demonstrate the forest is never truly quiet. But that’s how the song unfolds. Now and then, the guitars come to the forefront, but the babbling of a brook is louder than the acoustic twanging of the strings for most of the song. The music serves as a frame for nature, not vice versa, providing a mournful dirge to the wintery forlorn realms. At other times, the sound scours everything else away from your aural perception, particularly on ‘Kälteschauer’ you are subjected to a hailstorm of distorted guitars with the vocals piercing through the noise like a howling wind. At other times, the tracks can be punishing, caustic. ‘Weiter, Immer Weiter’ is that type of song, plowing through the snow, against the wind that blows with an icy gale. It’s intense and punishing, but the journey is rewarding.

Interesting is that the language choice is switching between German and French on this album only once for the song ‘Le Rêve Lucide’. This track actually feels more traditional black metal, with a pleasant rhythm and clear sound. Crisp riffing, thundering drums the way you like it. To me, it’s one of my favorite tracks. Dark, necro vocals, a constant pushing melody, and rhythm. it’s perfect. But it’s not surprising that an album of black metal of over 120 minutes can be so good. It’s music that needs to bewitch, to entrance you, and transport you to other realms. It’s fantastic to have so much in one go.

Origin: Switzerland
Label: Kunsthall Productionen

Tetelestai – Tetelestai

The last words on the cross by Jesus Christ were, according to Saint John, ‘It is done’. Obviously, he would not have said that in modern English, but in the language they spoke in where he was from at that time. And that is probably just something a monk made up, let’s be honest. He might as well have said: “I wish I could at least have scratched my nose…”. Anyway, in ancient Greek, it would have been ‘Tetelestai’, which happens to be the name of the band we’re about to discuss: Tetelestai, and their self-titled record.

Tetelestai hails from Utrecht, the cradle of the New Wave of Dutch Black Metal (I said it, not taking it back). Their members are active in scene pillars like Verval, Nevel, Wrang and Wesenwille. There’s a lot there to already give some promise that you’re in for something good, but I’ll refrain from saying that directly. Anyways, they’ve released an exciting demo that sounds, to me, fantastic as it is. 

There’s a notable rock’n’roll groove to opener ‘Vergiffenis’. I mean, it really feels like I’m listening to a melodic punk rock track with heavy distortion, as the riffing is tight, quick-footed and has those stop-go moments. It makes the music more dynamic, energetic and therefore intriguing. ‘Sluier van Begeerte’ follows, with a more traditional, haemorrhaging rhythm, though the start of the song features some wonderful acoustics. The bellowed vocals make it easy to link the band to a more current sound of traditional black metal. And yes, that includes the Tom G. Warrior ‘Ugh!’. The guitars are excellent though, but I think I’ve mentioned it. 

Time’ follows with what can be best described as a blistering hail storm of guitar riffs. The sound is lo-fi, subdued even, but still crackles with venom. At an average length of about 6+ minutes, each song is a solid slab of black metal violence. The coolest thing is that this is officially a demo according to the description and it already sounds so good! This song packs a punch with the incessant riffs, the violent howls and messy, raw sound. 

We close this release with ‘De Contradictie’. A raucous display of power, which is an unbefitting reference to Pantera. These guys sound nothing like them, which you may have gathered from the statements made before. It’s a furious song, full of deep grooves and heavy, crushing drums. Ok, maybe that reference wasn’t that weird, but it’s a good song to close up. Good stuff, really!

Band: Tetelestai
Origin: Netherlands
Label: self-released

 

Ragana – We know That The Heavens Are Empty

Ragana is one of the bands I keep coming back to. Their mixture of black metal aesthetics, screamo sentimentality and doomy vibes is a treat, but their message is equally powerful and one I gladly receive. This release is titled: ‘We Know That The Heavens Are Empty’ and it’s special.

The title comes from a poem, titled ‘The Toast of Despair’, by anarchist hero Valtairine De Cleyre. A poem from 1892, in fact, from this author. She played a significant role in shaping modern American feminism but was an activist in her lifetime against intermarriage violence and other issues that are still unresolved to this very day. 

The opening is slow, atmospheric and rich in emotional charge. The build-up on the track ‘Waiting’ takes time to reach the point of silence, only to restart again. Ragana was less subtle on their previous work, so as a listener you’ll be intrigued and the wait for that release is a good one. A pained voice cuts through the quiet and pushes the build-up onwards to a dark, thick tapestry of guitars and pained screams that embodies Ragana. The song never fully gets to the point of letting go, of unabated fury, unleashed. We keep waiting. 

‘The Tower’ feels much more powerful, full of threat and looming danger. Yet this doomy track also slowly creeps forward. It’s a slow and tormented track, where the vocals and flow of the song are often opposed, creating a sense of discomfort. It builds to a wail and scream: “Holding, Falling, Holding…” You feel the despair, as the tremolo guitar reaches a high note and stays there, teetering on the edge, almost falling down.

Band: Ragana
Origin: USA
Label: An Out Records

Dämmerfarben – Des Herbstes Trauerhymnen MMXX

Dämmerfarben is Germen for the colors of twilight. It’s also a black metal project with a colorful group of participants. Founder Nostarion started the band as a solo project to explore the mixture of folk, acoustics, black metal, and atmospheric music. He has paved his way in the scene, playing in bands like Seelenfrost, Folkodia, and is currently active as a member of Folkearth, Ulfsdalir, Dystertid and Panopticon (live). And a ton more…

Later he was joined by Dystertid, Idhafels, and Throndt bandmember Fergen Grimnir on bass. Having had a steady rotation of other members, they added Panopticon mastermind Austin Lunn as the drummer in 2015. The result is a band with a remarkable amount of talent among its ranks, and the result is audible on Des Herbstes Trauerhymnen MMXX. As Panopticon is my most important reference point here, it comes at no surprise that Dämmerfarben has elements of that sound too.

Songs for Autumn

The soft acoustic intro is reminiscent of ‘Roads to the North’ on opener Herbstsonne. Still, the transition to the full-on metal is more subtle and smooth. The folk metal influences come up straight here, with some classic heavy metal riffing in the mix. We would remain within the autumn theme on this album if that were still news with titles like ‘Des Herbstes Trauerlied.’ A lot of acoustic guitar work really creates the space and atmosphere for the album’s vibe to set in. It helps bind the songs together, stretch them out, and enables you as a listener to immerse yourself even deeper into their sounds.

It’s interesting to note that the first four songs are, in fact, older songs reworked for this record. You wouldn’t call anything on this album dated, though there is a certain timelessness to the tunes. It helps that some of the tracks are so smoothly meandering, like a babbling brook or the wind through the autumn leaves. I particularly enjoy the song ‘Herbstpfad’, with chanting that creates a bit of that Mittelalter rock vibe the Germans were known for a couple of years ago. The field recordings help put the right frame around that sonic picture.

As we drift off,  with the wonderful ‘Golden Atem Letzter Tagen’, one is likely to always dream of autumn, the golden leaves and light of the setting sun. Soon…

Band: Dämmerfarben
Label: self-released
Origin: Germany

Underground Sounds: Csejthe – L’horreur de Čachtice

Label: HSP Productions
Band: Csejthe
Origin: Canada

Quebecois black metal is of a distinct kind, full of Francophone fury, gritty sound, and evil. Csejthe is no different in any of that. The band has by now released 3 albums and did a split with Monarque and Forteresse, two bands with an equal undeniable force and power in their sound. Just like these guys, actually, who also are active in some other acts.

Named after the castle of the infamous Countess Bathory, who murdered according to myth hundreds of girls, the theme is clear. Remarkably, this is a steady feat in the work of Csejthe. On this album, they even go deeper into it with a title ‘L’ horreur de Čachtice’ referring directly to the horror and telling the tale.

And we fall instantly into the darkness with ‘Terreur Nocturne’, a slow-paced, almost doomy track of drizzling black metal. The sound is hazy at the edges, creating this mesmerizing Burzum-like atmosphere. Slow and repetitive, that’s definitely what Csejthe is going for in their grinding tracks, though it picks up on ‘Lycanthropie misanthropie’ and the following title track. There are these wailing guitar melodies, this all-over barren feel to the songs, a certain grandeur… It’s what sets the scene apart and makes bands liket his so amazing.

The record doesn’t stick to a steady formula though and every following song has different nuances, strengths and expressions. But at times the band can actually surprise you. Not with their grim and dark stories, but when their music takes radical turns as it does on ‘Le Spectre de Soleil’. A moody, jazzy interlude breaks up the blast beats, like a sun ray through the clouds and its such a powerful thing. But when we hit the final track, ‘Sadique lunatique’ a vitalistic, suffocating intensity hits. The melody just creeps and writhes around the listener in an unnerving, illustrious speed. Hard to grasp, before the blade comes down.

Underground Sounds: rāhha – Descension Ceremony

Label: Independent
Band: rāhha
Origin: Germany

I can’t tell you much about rāhha as of yet. Not that I don’t want to, but the German duo seems to come out of nowhere with this their destructive second EP ‘Descension Ceremony’. Their Facebook page made me none the wiser either so I’m just going to tell you how they sound instead.

So think Germany, think Nachtmysticum, think Mgła, think… well, listen. It combines the atmospheric, the raw and the haunting into one epic journey.

Fire and fury erupt when the EP kicks off with ‘Diocese of Endless Strife’. The sound is cavernous but full and immersive. The vocals are in your face, raw and passionate. They are in power, in control of the depths you’ve plummeted into as the thudding drum starts to hammer away. There is not even any noticeable shift when we move on to ‘Korpsgeist’. If you catch the wave, the sonic exaltation of their song, your in for a rapturous ride as the speed and rising cadence has a sweeping power. I just want to punch my fucking fist in the air and scream until I have the same rattling howl.

‘Empty Chalice of Life’ is another firebrand on the holy houses. Black metal in righteous opposition with all the anger and not a sense of compromise as we launch into the final tune. We delve into ‘A Waxen Image Ritual’, where the raspy voice barks and howls. An immersion into the purest darkness with rapid blast beats, tremolo guitars and and a remarkable portion of catchiness to it. Can’t wait for more from this duo!

Underground Sounds: Vanum – Ageless Fire

Label: Profound Lore
Band: Vanum
Origin: USA

Vanum is a cooperation between members of Ash Borer, Yellow Eyes, Predatory Light, Vilkacis and Fell Voices (and 3 of these names apply to one man). That puts them in a particular bracket of black metal, with pure, undiluted fury. This is their second full length, following two years after the ‘Burning Arrow’ EP and it promises nothing but power.

Vanum is all about the grand gesture, the simplified sweep, over the miserly details. That, in itself, is a testament of their power and maximum delivery and I’m glad to have witnessed this life. ‘Ageless Fire’ is the title of this album and for me its an instant elevation to the status of modern-day black metal deity.

‘War’ is like a marching song, into the flames. Slowly, majestic and strong it comes on and delivers us to a mellow tremolo riff at its ending, which fades gradually. It hardly primes you for ‘Jaws of Rapture’, which follows on the heels of a church bell. Like a cold rain, the song hits you with a wall of contentious guitars. The sky is grey, the air cold, but fire burns behind the war engine that is Vanum.

What follows after that is the 10-minute epic ‘Eternity’, which feels like a long baptizing of fire. While furious in its delivery and barked vocals claw at you with maddening fervor, the melody is leading the track. When it drops back to a slower pace, you can even feel a bit of a rock groove emerge. Yet never does it relent as soaring guitar melody enters and carious onwards. By the time you reach ‘Under the Banner of Death’, you’re battered and tired. Yet this track, with its melancholic opening salvo, digs even deeper as we go into the trenches once more.

The music of Vanum always carries both. There’s an overly epic aspect to it, a grandeur and unmistakable beauty, as we hear on the title track. But it always carries the fires of war and the eternal fog arising from it. ‘Erebus’ is then the finalizing track, the last notes, where suddenly a blissful calm has been reached. Has the fire burned everything, or are we in the fire?

Neither flesh nor fleshless,
Neither from nor towards.
Spirit terror in the mortal abyss
Rise through the nexus as the wheel turns.

Underground Sounds: Laster – Het Wassen Oog

Label: Prophecy Productions
Band: Laster
Origin: Netherlands

Laster is an oddity in the black metal universe. Not just in the looks, but musically the band leans heavily on something completely different as their peers. Though 2 of the members are active in more rootsy black metal band Nusquama, their sounds are more like those of Grey Aura than any of the more conservative projects. And their latest statement is another gem.

‘Het Wassen Oog’ is already the third full length by the Utrecht band, maintaining their sound and visual aesthetics. This time on Prophecy Productions, a label open to that which lacks categorizing. I’m not sure if it will appeal to the more conservative listener, but as a fan of the experiment and expressive, I enjoy very much the sound these guys produce on this album.

‘Vacuüm ≠ behoud’ maybe references clearly one of their influences, by addressing the theme of a different world and closing with the line ‘Ceci n’est pas un souvenir’. Is that a nod to Alcest (‘Souvenirs d’un autre monde’). It wouldn’t be surprising as the music is filled with the sweet sounds of postrocky/shoegazy passages. Dreamy, yet also containing harsh screams, the music offers a strange contrast, that is eerily beautiful. It allows you to sink into the obscure dance music.

Often there are these peculiar, repetitive parts that have something carnivalesque, that mesmerizing mystery of the circus. It is a different kind of dark, but equally alluring in their music. This can be heard on tracks like ‘Ondersteboven’, which also has a funky bass line, but also ‘Weerworm’. In between, ‘Haat & Bonhomie’ breaks the mold and surges into classic black metal in all its formal fury. Yet, there’s always a mystique. A movement, a dance between the instruments. It simply feels enjoyable, inviting, and fills you with excitement.

It’s hard to really put to words what Laster submits you to, but it’s a highly immersive experience. Catchy, surprising and still very much true to the essence of what this black metal record should sound like.