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
So much darkness in the underground of our welfare state called the Netherlands, that I just have to keep going and share it. This time, the furious harpies of Asagraum, the gloom and doom of Dodenbezweerder, the aerial soundscapes of Nortfalke and the icy hailstorm that is Asgrauw.
Please, enjoy, listen and perhaps purchase some of these tunes.
Asagraum – Dawn of Infinite Fire
Edged Circle Productions
It doesn’t take long to stumble upon the combination of the name Asagraum and ‘all-female black metal’. It is an oddity in black metal for sure, but I can’t say it makes a difference in the sound. Perhaps in the pitch of the vitriolic screams of Obscura, also active in Draugur, Wolvenbloed, Gestalte, and Hekel (both live). She also played in Nargaroth live, which is cool. She runs the ship with A. who used to beat the drums in Sisters of Suffocation. Originally, it was a cross-continental band with T. Kolsvart on drums, and a number of international musicians involved, but now the core is Dutch. Jeez, what an intro, did I mention that they play some sick black metal in the traditional way we love and relish?
Asagraum can sound harsh and unrelenting, as they do on most of their songs. There is, however, a melodic streak in their sound. The excellent production (no necro stuff here) helps to let that musical side open up when you listen to it. Particularly the track ‘Guahaihoque’ does a great job at dragging you in with its sweeping flourishes. It’s really good stuff to take your mind off things, but we return to fire and brimstone with songs like ‘Dochters van de Zwarte Vlam’. An energetic rhythm, ominous, and just that right speed-up moment when we surge into a new vocal bit. Personal favorite though is the final track that also features clean vocals. ‘Waar Ik Ben Komt De Dood’ (where I am, comes death) is a mid-paced burner, moving along a mist of distortion. The chanted words emerge from that same fog, difficult to hear at first in the haze, but on the other hand clear within the production. This is a great black metal record, full of fire and fury. You might want to check it out.
Dodenbezweerder – Vrees De Toorn Van De Wezens Verscholen Achter Majestueuze Vleugels
Iron Bonehead Productions
I am in no way surprised to find the name Mories connected to this project. The brain behind Gnaw Their Tongues, Aderlating, CloakofAltering, CapuutMortem, and a hundred other bands never sits still. Santino van der Aa plays drums, which he also does in dsbm legends Hypothermia. Dodenbezweerder was launched in 2019 and the full length is listed as released in 2020. You just know it’s going to be good, but somehow this has remained under the radar up to this point for me. Might be because the releases followed each other at a rapid pace. The artwork already shows an artistic inclination to the classic black and white, so I expect a sound like that.
Which is an expectation soon to be fulfilled with atmospheric, lo-fi, distorted darkness. The title track is all hissing, crackling, and has that good old necro sound to it, but Dodenbezweerder never goes into screeching overdrive, but calls up a fog of distortion, that clouds a massive sound of slow, lumbering movement. The tracks are full of anticipation, foreboding of a lurking presence. From the fog, the vocals arise in gurgling, gibbering tones, as a ghoulish reminder that there is something coming at you. Shimmering comes to mind when you listen to ‘Glimmende Zwaarden Door De Mist Van Het Evangelie’, minimal yet, maximal impact. Spartan is a word the band uses in their bio and that makes sense as a duo, yet the wall of sound Dodenbezweerder unleashes is not to be trifled with. You want to hear this.
Nortfalke – Atmosfeer
Heidens Hart Records
Is it dungeon synth? Not entirely, but there is something of that vibe in the Krautrock leaning sound of Nortfalke, which reminds you a bit of Jean-Michel Jarre and TangerineDream with its spun-out, soaring electronics. Nortfalke is an alias of Swerc, who is known from bands like Tarnkappe, Gheestenland, Asregen and a dozen other fascinating projects. This one, however, explores the cryptic mysteries of dungeon synth with a classic approach that never fails. It’s the sort of sound that immerses you in mystery and dreams, particularly this thematic album, titled ‘Atmosfeer’ (Atmosphere).
Repetition is one of the key tools for dungeon synth acts. It has a meditative and hypnotic effect on the listener as it all sort of starts to melt together into one flow. We don’t descend into crypts though, but ascend to the clouds and explore the beauty of the heights on ‘Hoogten’. I particularly enjoy the krautrock vibe on ‘IJskristallen’, which translates as ‘ice crystals’. The looped keys resonate like he pristine, crackling of ice that would surround you in the upper atmosphere (that’s pure speculation, but the shimmering sound matches my imagination). And this is the true strength of Nortfalke, it catches the atmospheric elements it describes. The sensations, the perspectives, they’re all there within the sound. And then we fall into the depth on ‘Diepte’. It’s notable that the sound is more organic, natural, thanks to the use of actual synthesizers. The result is quite remarkable.
Asgrauw – IJsval
Death Kult Records/Pest Productions
I’ve commented before on the peculiar artwork of Asgrauw, but I have to admit that it does kind of grow on you. ‘IJsval’ is the fourth full length by the band from Groesbeek (the bad end of Nijmegen I’ve been told). Keeping a steady pace of dropping a record every 2 years, the band is on a roll. Members of Asgrauw are also active in Meslamtea. And that’s great stuff and only offers more promises for their latest release, that seems fitting in these times.
Asgrauw relies heavily on the tremolo guitar sounds, the trickling, cold melodic elements and double vocals. Not entirely uncommon, but in their synth-heavy sound more than welcome to offer depth and complexity to the sound. ‘Leegte’ instantly delivers, creating a lot of space to breathe and just wallow in the sound with melodic breaks. But there’s also violence and cascading, icy riffs that flow with a thundering roar. ‘Stortvloed’ is one of those tracks, that just keeps going. What I like so much about this record, is that the title just permeates every single track. ‘Ijsval’ translates as ‘ice fall’, and that cold hits you every tune again. Sure, a little warmth seeps in with that Iron Maiden-esque bass line in ‘Broeihaard’, but it’s back into the cold again a moment later. Asgrauw is like a bike ride through icy rain in late autumn. Dutch people know what I’m talking about.
I keep being amazed by the unique sounds that emerge from the Dutch black metal scene. Moerasbasterdwerik, Ibex Angel Order, Nachtdwaelen and Himelvaruwe are proof of a diverse, urgent and intense sound.
This was mostly written a longer while ago, but I think these records are great and warrant a bit of notoriety if I can help it. I enjoyed them very much.
Moerasbasterdwerik – Gebaag uit de Banmade
The Moerasbasterdwederik is actually a cute little flower, but in this case, it’s some grisly, gruesome black metal from the heart of the Netherlands. Gebaag uit de Banmade was produced by a duo that has a love for nature and vodka, judging from their limited range of band photos. In that sense, Moerasbasterdwederik (which is a fucking nightmare to remember or write correctly) reflects some classic black metal tendencies and attitude. That’s a good thing in an overly mystified and over-intellectualized genre. Wait, was that a bird chirping in the middle of the abyssal sounds of ‘Doodsroeper, Weeklager’, a track that sounds remarkably underproduced. just right for my tastes.
Moerasbasterdzwerik likes their high-paced, whiny guitars and rattling drums. There’s something quite odd about the guitar sounds, which almost sound like a continuous flow at times, dissonant, yet pleasing. The vocals are just a wild how hard to decipher at the best of times. Most interesting is the amount of little sound-effects like snapping twigs you hear on this record, suddenly breaking your mesmerized state. Truly, you can listen to ‘Grijsbehaard, de Oude Wilg’ in a complete state of trance. I guess this is the music produced by the filthy patches of green in our inner cities. There is undeniable beauty to be found in it, but also the grim reality of defiled patches of gras by human filth. That’s how I feel about this record at least, as ‘Vliegend Onraad’ closes with some doomy black metal punk and harrowing acoustics.
Ibex Angel Order -I.Ô. CREATÔR / I.Ô. DESTRÔYER EP
If anyone is putting the occult back in occult black metal, it is the Ibex Angel Order. A duo, connected through bands like Sauron, Abysmal Darkening and Funeral Goat, while singer and guitar player Herr Aids is also individually active in acts like Sekte and Verbum Verus. The vocals surge into the wavery tides of abyssal riffing with the strength of a doom speech from a prophet. ‘I.ô. Creatôr’ is declaiming the words of the end times. The music is hypnotic and feels almost hypnotic in its dense, wall of sound-like quality. There is a simple yet effective cadence to the way the music spikes out and grows. Battle horns, clean shouts and a bombastic, grand opening in the middle with fierce tremolo riffs complete the image.
The movements become grimmer on ‘I.ô. Destrôyer’. Its intro feels like a run-up, the way a wave pulls in and creates a strange calm just before it falls down with all its crushing weight. Yet the song raises itself upwards even further, as the pace quickens and the voice growls about the rotting fruits of our world. The song ever rises and keeps you on your toes till the end, which is a remarkable effort of speed and force.
Nachtdwaelen – Dodenmasker
I have found relatively little information about the project Nachtdwaelen, but in 2018 the act emerged and this release came out earlier this year, following 2018 release ‘Geestenstroom’. The sound is high-paced, frantic at times with an immense amount of layered tremolo riffing and dense production. At times it all presses together into the swirling, grand movements that make it so captivating. Surprisingly, Nachtdwaeler is the sole member of this band, which only emphasizes its strength as a piece of music that for me touches upon the very essence of what I like in black metal. Speed, aggression, darkness and oppressive atmosphere as delivered on the title track and the foggy haze of guitars that is ‘Mist’
On ‘Duister’ we get a bit more dense and violent, as chanting opens up the track. Blasting through it on ferocious drums, the song rains down on the listener with vitriolic urgency. On ‘Zwerver’ we really get into the depths of darkness, that I so love about this type of metal. It feels like everything is crashing down to untold depths in this eerily atmospheric song. The gentle melody wraps itself around the cold streams of sound that keep on flowing. It is here that Nachtdwaelen, to me, truly captures something harrowingly beautiful with the sound.
Himelvaruwe – Het Ondenkbare
This project by T., also active in Kaffaljidhma and Mirre, has been around for a while. This demo was released in 2019 and the style is described as mystical black metal. Notable is the white/blue cover art and the transcendental keys that waver as a backdrop to the repetitive, gritty rhythm. There’s a sense of clarity to the music, therefore, which bespells the listener easily. This Himelvaruwe release was recorded during a fever dream, and that it definitely feels like.
Yet at the heart of the sound is something primal and nihilistic, there’s only that forward motion. The eerie atmospheric music and rhythm don’t interact, they don’t converse and weave into each other, they just let you follow. As they compete, the distorted, violent side takes over and seems to pick up in urgency, but that might just be listeners’ perception here. As what seems as an angelic voice soars above, we burn away the darkness towards a crescendo with haste and then… there’s merely silence.
Band: Wrang Label: Tour de Garde Origin: Netherlands
With this album, Wrang is dedicating the music to their home city of Utrecht. It’s also known as the Domstad and as you can see, that’s what the title refers to. This is their first full-length, titled ‘ Domstad Swart Metael’. Truth be told, it’s quite the remarkable display of Dutch black metal!
Members from the group have also been active in Weltschmerz, Grafjammer, Nevel and IronHarvest, but of course many, many more. Their debut full length is only five tracks, but what a pummeling force of violence it contains.
Well, let’s destroy everything today with a wry smile on our faces, right? Wrang launches into the anthemic title track with gusto. ‘Domstad Swart Metael’ is an 8-minute show of force with an overwhelming opening and visceral patterns, all interwoven in violence. The music is particularly tight, with here and there some surprising chanting passages by the Utrecht black metallers. Singer Galgenvot is particularly present throughout the record, but on ‘Propaganda der Afvalligen’ we also hear some kick-ass guitar riffs with a bit of a classic heavy metal vibe coming on.
Regardless, the band sticks to doom and gloom, with heavy sizzling passages, like that fire and brimstone intro of ‘Stormend naar de Nietigheid’. It’s a song full of capturing melodies and darkness, delivered very meticulously once more. The driven pace is whipping the song up in a frantic bit of violence, but how good is that? The song builds to its rabid crescendo and then it simply falls apart. It’s only a prelude to the violent upheaval that is the final tune of the album. This record firmly establishes Wrang as one of the slickest and bad-ass black metal bands from the Netherlands, and that’s saying something!
Label: Hidden Marly Production Band: Asgrauw Origin: Netherlands
For such a small country, the Netherlands has a wild range of dialects. Not even that far removed from my home, the band Asgrauw at times sounds very alien to me as the titles and idiom offer exciting, unknown ideas on this album ‘Gronspech’. Featuring a foreboding vista of the Dutch countryside in oil painting as cover, an album that shows its roots proudly.
Asgrauw translates as ‘the color of ash’, but also refers to the scythe-shaped shining of the moon. The bass and guitar are handled by Kaos and Vaal, who added Batr to the line-up in 2012, who played in Sagenland and Meslamtaea amongst others in the past. Bands that explored the same mysteries of the past from regional sources in their Scandinavian-inspired black metal.
It’s not the music that sounds refreshing thus, as it is the standard fare of tremolo riffs, ripping guitar salvos and blast beats that rock your desk chair. Still, by implementing some of that Immortal epicness, the sound catches on quickly and easily gets you involved on tunes like ‘Wolvenbloed’, which has a bit of a rock’n’roll groove when the murky atmosphere fades for a moment here and there.
At times a punk feeling shines through in the sound, as the buzzsaw guitars just keep growling and the screamed vocals take on a pitch of frustration and shouts defiance at the listener on ‘Duitenpact’. At times the waters seem to grow calm, but the next outburst of hateful fury is always lurking around the corner. If ever needed, the synths provide an additional layer of atmosphere to their sound.
Asgrauw might be the thing you should check if you dig the more pungent, visceral black metal with maybe a hint of Haïve and Vreid.