Granted, I’m not the first one to coin the phrase ‘New Wave of Dutch Black Metal’, but Dutch black metal music is definitely on the rise as was shown by the Roadburn line-up this year (2017) with many of the better bands from this country.
Though the scene is rather small, there’s a quite some high-quality output by bands like Laster, Nihill, Cirith Gorgor and many more. They represent different aspects of the black metal spectrum, so I wanted to look at some releases in that light in this article. I chose some releases that came out recently and that I would like to cover. This way I can put them in a slightly different light of the new wave of Dutch black metal, because I think there’s a lot of amazing homegrown music coming out.
Into the Out there with Dodecahedron, Laster, Terzij De Horde and Gnaw Their Tongues
Dodecahedron has recently released their second album, titled ‘Kwintessens’. A philosophical concept about the essence of things, the band moves in the footsteps of other acts for the thinking man like Laster, Nihill and Terzij De Horde. Inspired by literature and philosophy, amongst probably many other things, they deliver a type of black metal that moves beyond it’s common boundaries.
Doing this in a most effective and musical way, we find Terzij De Horde as one of the leading Dutch acts when it comes to stage performance, solid shows and captivating music. Sure, their music is not breaking the bonds of genre definitions, but definitely moves away from the traditional subject matter and has no need for frivolities. Their album ‘Self’ from 2015 showed the band shedding a former skin and for future music I expect nothing less from this band. Also, they are known for their distinctly awesome live performances, in which they surely deliver the quality that you would wish for (not a regular thing in the black metal world sadly). Bravely the band also went in the direction of literature, with a tribute release for the poet Henrik Marsman, who passed away 75 years earlier.
Laster is a band that you can find plenty of information about. Their music is a torrent of the absurd. Playful and somewhere touching upon the Carnavalesque in a Rabelaisian sense. Masked men deliver some of the most beautiful, peculiar sounding black metal in a long time. Surely the dissonance and harrowing screams are still there, but encapsulated in sounds that are pleasant, meandering and more accesible. It keeps surprising you, particularly the latest album ‘Ons Vrije Fatum’.
Grotesque at times, but also dauntingly experimental, the record of Dodecahedron incorporates various elements to create a mesmerizing display of force. Fronted by the legendary Michiel Eikenaar from Nihill, they have a confrontational and powerful live presence. Acts like these, with elements of experimental music, postrock and even jazz really show the far extents toward which black metal can still grow. Nihill did it with noise and industrial, Terzij de Horde used screamo. Long live the experiment.
Beautifull arches and passages are painted with sound, but tormented vocals with a demented urgency draw the listener away from the splendour into blast-beat-ridden turmoil only to wash up on beaches of ambient sound later. Call it avant-gard, call it progressive, it definitely pushes the boundaries. Fun fact is that part of Dodecahedron plays in Ulsect, a band playing a much more controlled and structured form of music. That contrast is one of the flattering things of the genre.
When we talk about acts that push the boundaries on the black metal genre, you have to talk about Gnaw Their Tongues and related projects by multi-instrumentalist Mories. If you take black metal and really distill it down to its essence, you pretty much get the music Mories produces. Eclectic, wild and horribly frightening, the use of samples, electronics and guitars becomes a very open field. The last album by Gnaw Their Tongues is a harrowing journey. ‘Hymns for the Broken, Swollen And Silent’ is the soundtrack to your nightmares. Musically this record shows the lack of boundaries for this musician. Interested? Check out his other projects Pyriphlegethon, Aderlating, Seirom and many, many more.
Sinking into the misery with Verwoed, Orewoet, Urfaust
Sometimes I like nothing better than to just sink into the layered swamp of sound that is atmospheric black metal. For me Verwoed is one of the best bands coming out of the woodwork in recent times. From the dissonant, bone-chilling opening riff onward, their album grabs you by the feels.
Amidst the whole waves of post black-metal and other deviations from the genre roots, it’s extremely comforting to have a band like Verwoed out there, playing music that is close to the wonderful original experience of black metal music (or atleast the one I had). It’s a feeling akin to much of the bands in the Cascadian corner (or whatever nice term they’ve conjured up these days for it), but lacks the focus on the natural realm. Verwoed focusses on the inwards emotions.
Another band I find is really similarly bewitching with beautifull riffs, swooping passages and an ethereal feal to the overal sound is Orewoet from the North of the Netherlands. Orewoet is a relative new player in the Dutch scene, who released ‘Afrodisiacum der Vroomheid’ last year, an EP that is worth your listening time for sure. Waves and waves of distorted black metal fold into eachother to create dreamy soundscapes to just surf away with.
To me the masters of the atmospheric sound and not just in the Netherlands are the drunkards of gloom, the clochards of Urfaust themselves. This band might be one of the most respected ones out there. The two member formula doesn’t allow for much intensity and complex layers, but does open a path to purposeful, fervent and incandescent sound. Their live performances are a stream of music, a wallowing experience for the listener, where immersion is like sinking into a swamp of debauched despair. On their last labum ‘Empty Space Meditation’, the duo pushes that envelope even further.
More soon in part 2.