Some very black sounds from the underground with Terra Tenebrosa, Thrawsunblat, Sacrilegium and the strange Kayo Dot. Enjoy listening to some new tunes.
Terra Tenebrosa – The Reverses
Debemur Morti Productions
The band Terra Tenebrosa with its mysterious, unknown members, started out as an emotion evoking art project, never having the intent to play live. That is what singer ‘The Cuckoo’ said during an interview. The band plays music that is often described as black metal, which apparently pisses them off to no limit. Terra Tenebrosa combines various musical elements into an eclectic maelstrom of aural chaos, that probably lies close to the black metal genre on sound and aesthetic, but it’s really not the same thing. I know, admittedly, very little of their work. I found the records this far hard to get into but rewarding at the same time. I like to listen to music before I fall asleep, but this is definitely a nightmarish record for that.
The roots of the band can be traced to Swedish post-hardcore group Breach and with that knowledge I know better where the sound comes from. Atmospheric, overwhelming and battering you with all its got. The industrial banging on ‘Makoria’, the deformed vocals and the maddening rhythms filled with Skinny Puppy-esque dread and tension are putting the band in the field of the more avantgardistic elements of the black metal genre (Nihill anyone?). It’s more that pounding, mechanized bit rhythm section that gives Terra Tenebrosa its unnerving, intense sound, there’s hardly any traditional black metal elements to be heard amidst the cauldron of chaos, maniacal singing and samples/effects. It was announced ofcourse that the sound of Terra Tenebrosa would be more fast and heavy, but also ugly sounding. The dissonant, uncontrolled sound, together with the ghoulish gibbered vocals is definitely hideous in its majesty. Its a completely different and harrowing record, that you need to check out.
Thrawsunblat – Metachthonia
Once jokingly referred to as an anagram for Narwal Butts, the band from Canada has a name that immediately captures attention. It’s a bit of a bastardization of the words ‘thrash and blast’, like the band feels they bastardize European metal. Regardles, Thrawsunblat is a force on its own to be reckoned with, blending black metal with folk and melodic elements. There’s a bit of a Dungeons & Dragons like atmosphere to the album and its artwork, but without the cheesiness of ready-to-consume fantasy. The band is with ‘Metachthonia’ arriving at their third full length and definitely scoring points. Where the black metal scene seems to be moving towards a more avant-garde mode, this harks back to its earlier exponents of nature worshipping melancholy.
The melancholic notes of string instruments immediately sets the tone on opening track ‘Fires That Light The Earth’. The launch of the guitar riffs is like illuminating the cavernous soundscape the band is offering. I can detect a little bit of Ensiferium riffing here, but a very often mentioned band in comparison to these guys is also Woods of Ypres. Wavery, emotional guitar sounds, slow trickling intermissions and then blasts of the distorted form, it all helps to evoke a particular sentiment in the music. The harmony between vocal bursts and the guitars are also praiseworthy, because they offer a cohesive, clear listening experience. With its swooping riffs and thumping folk rhythms complementing eachother and setting up a remarkably dreamy record full of storytelling. This may contain a lot of black and melodic death influences, but this album is about beauty, not the ugly. A magical experience all in all with a hint of nostalgia.
Once upon a time there was the Polish wave of black metal, which spawned the likes of Mgla and Behemoth. During its heyday, the scene was rich with interesting and renewing bands, using the poverty of the country as just one more element in the fuel of their primal rage. Creativity is usually born from the lack of means and many bands took that direction, also Sacrilegium. It’s been a long time waiting for their return to form with a new album. In fact that took 20 years for the band to get back together and make some music. Being from the north of Poland, the band has always stayed a bit of to the side in relation to the rest of the scene. A strong individualism combined with a sound that really captures the wave of the genre at the time, this band is one of the true originals.
There’s a sense of the sacral in the sound that lists the bleak black metal of Sacrilegium, eerie synths and calming tones suggest the soothing environment of a church or cathedral. That all ends when the blast beats are unleashed. What you get then is dirty old school black metal with a nasty bite to them and gurgling vocals. The sound is that truly ghoulish one, you rarely hear anymore. Hoarse barks and wet growls to a backdrop of lamenting tones and overly present synths. The rhythm is hard to hear through the frontal sounds of guitar, singing and the synths and sound a bit too mechnaic for my liking. The amount of effects is used quite liberal, which might give the band a bit of a retro vibe to the days when synth driven black metal was a thing. On the other hand, the unpolished, gritty sound gives it an even more way back feel. I think its a pleasant record that pays homage to the old underground, though not pushing the genre forwards.
Kayo Dot – Plastic House on Base of Sky
In a time where black metal listeners seem to all get their hands on the Perturbator records, finding this new Kayo Dot album moving in a similar direction of synth wavey goodness is not that surprising. The avant-garde band from Boston in the United States is a bit of an anomaly within the metal realms and for sure they’ve only further expanded their scope of weirdness on this new work. No ripping tuitar solo’s, no blast beats, this is a band exploring musical realms without regard for trivial things like style and genre as hampering effects on their creativity. Finding its origins in the band maudlin of the Well, the avant-gardistic tendencies are strong in this one.
Cold synths and bleak music, those are terms that best captivate what this offering of Kayo Dot is. Five tracks with lengths that are not friendly to the radio (nor do they have a moment where you could cut them off really), tell the tale with minimal means. Bare synths and percussion offer a much more densely composed kind of songwriting, expressing a lot with little. Many eerie passages and etheral chords fill the tracks. Personally, I sometimes feel the sound of this record is a bit too bare and lost its organic feeling, but that is aptly replaced by something of the mind, emotional and pure. Sometimes the melancholic vocals seem to clash with the sounds, creating a peculiar sort of chaos. An example of this is the song ‘All the pain in All the Wide World’. You can sense a bit of Depeche Mode and Suicide in the music of Kayo Dot on this record, but taking that also one step further in a way. It makes for an intriguing listen on which musical areas hold no sway.