Another bit of heavy underground sounds with Sojourner, Messa, Vainaja and Korgonthurus. All in praise of the horned one and such.
Sojourner – Empires of Ash
To say that a band, which is partly from New Zealand, sounds Tolkienesque might be pushing it, but there’s definitely magic in Sojourner’s work. Even if only the beautiful cover, which evokes images of far away lands, but there’s much more on this debut. The band lists two locations, namely Dunedin in New Zealand and Malmö in Sweden. Interesting enough, the band has two members from the first location, but none from Sweden except singer Emillio Crespo. Singer and classicist PhD Chloe Bray is listed as English on some places. Ok, lets just get to the music, the origin of this international group is highly confusing to me. Music then, recorded in New Zealand, Scotland, England and Sweden, mixed in Italy, but completely otherworldly. This is the
Chose your realm, name it Middle-Earth, Faerun (where my D&D boys at?) or Azeroth, this record full of epic black metal is layered thick with graciously measured out instruments. Using a tin whistle immediatly plays on my heart strings, but the exactly right scoop of synths and illuminating guitar riffs makes the recipe so good. Between strong, firm bass lines and a clean, pounding drum, it fills up the song with exactly the sounds it needs for that grand, wind swept feeling of fantastic realms. The arrangements are fabulous and the songs captivating. I’ve read comparisons to Saor and Summoning, which I think is missing the point of this bands sound. Sure, there’s a bit of both to be found, but add to that the complexities of other Avantgarde label bands or a Downfall of Nur and we’re more in the direction of thisbands sound. It’s not an immitation, it’s a step further on the journey of amtospheric black metal. Listening to a track like ‘The Pale Host’ with Chloe Bray’s vocals, you can hear how this band adds much more to the music than those predecessors, knowing the strenght of the seperate elements as well as the whole.
Messa – Belfry
A belfry is a tower made to hold bells. That seems to be what the cover depicts. Though this tower is sinking. It’s a beautiful depiction, but also strange and different, like the music of Messa. The Italian doomsters have decided to take their own approach to the doom genre, which results in an incredible album that carries various other influences. The band has only been around since 2014 and seems to be a rather new kid on the block, also regarding its members. Belfry has received praise for its new approach to the stale genre (lets face it, even a band like Pallbearer can hardly be called a renewer) and I was immediately into it. So let’s get to it.
Intro ‘Alba’ immediately demonstrates the special ingredients, a mixture of drone and ambient is used to tone down the heavy elements of the music. There’s an old fashioned feel to the sound of Messa, specially thanks to the soaring vocals of singer Sara. That combined with Pentagram like riffing creates that old fashioned doom feel. The creeping intro of ‘Blood’ is a good example of that Sabbath-y sense of atmosphere. Here and there we get a track that merely offers the droning sounds of instruments or only samples an synths. It helps to lenghten the sound, create more space and texture to the experience. It works very well for this band, who give a more sophisticated and complex feeling to their music. There’s an element of occult in the sound, but also a clear wink to the Chelsea Wolfe’s of this world (you can go a lot of ways, but you get where I’m going with this). Messa never really needs to flex any muscles. Even when they go for a bit more power it’s a clean pounding (battle drums!) and bassing, without any unnecessary distortion. Between atmosphere and old school grand riff material the band hits that sweet spot, the band is convincing and heavy in their very own way. The dreamy mystique of Messa has definitely captured me.
Vainaja – Verenvalaja
I was not sure about covering the 3-headed beast named Vainaja on here, because at first I was thinking that this was definitely not my cup of tea. The Finnish death/doomers do produce a sound that is quite intense and overwhelming, continuing from their previous band project Demolisher. The group decided on a specific heavy doom direction with lyrics in their mother language. The group aims to do some serious story telling and tries to make the albums revolve around certain themes, which probably accounts partly for the vast unity and force the complete work offers. Originally the plan was to add a book but time and money reduced the artwork to what you can hear.
Pummeling riffs and guttural, deeply disturbing vocals greet the listner on this second album of these northern cultists. This is definitely music made to make the cattle run away in fear. The aura of the sound is dark and cavernous, unearthly and archaic. When the clear chanting starts on ‘Risti’, I even get a little feel of Therion in their transitory period from death to whatever it is they do now. It’s rather interesting how the band is putting this concept of a cult that strikes terror into the hears of Finnish farmers in the 19th century to work on this album. There is that sense of being hunted, being followed by the music with only rare occurences of letting it all down for a moment. Clearly the jagged sound takes its drive from the death metal influences, but those vocals…. man, I can’t get used to them. They keep being unnerving, since they are a lot like what you get in funeral doom but rarely with this raucous speed and ferocity. There’s also quite some melody to the music actually. This album is a bit frightning at the start, even overwhelming, but once you get into it I do dig it.
Korgonthurus – Vuohen Siunaus
Korgonthurus is a band from Finland as well, but one representing the dirty and unholy sound of true Finnish black metal. Including the satanism indeed and originally a logo that could hardly be distinguished from a pile of branches. The band has been going strong for 16 years with a small break in between and plays ferocious music. Members of the band have bene active in other projects like Horna, Sear, Fjell and Totalselfhatred. It seems that after a long time of having Korgonthurus as a side project, the focus is shifting to this unit of satanic, raw black metal with the record Vuohen Siunaus. The record definitely marks a switch from the old and onto the new, apparently worrying some of their original fanbase.
For example the logo and the whole cover seems to have moved to a more general look for the black metal genre. It also indicates a shift in sound, but I like to listen to albums the way I get to hear them so no badgering about the old times. The intensity of this record and urgency is evident from the first minutes of ‘Kaaos’ onwards. The vitriolic vocals cleave through everything, while the static layer of riffing is attaining some momentum akin to postrock structures. Then later on it turns into a complete barrage of spiralling madness, intense raw black metal and bestial fury. There is no subtlety to the sound of Korgonthurus at all, but there are many elements to their sound that have been taken very much care of to create a unique sound of descent into the darkness. It´s inviting enough to join them. Don’t underestimate this band though, on ‘L.U.X.’ a slow progression is audible with eerie walls of guitar. Haunting stuff.