One of the best debut demo tapes released last year comes from Sweden, of course. Umea to be exact, the birth place of Malakhim, the new band in town when it comes to black metal.
Released first in October 2017 on the band’s Bandcamp page, Demo I gained immediately a “cult” status in the black metal underground, so when the tape version was officially announced one month later, it got sold out in several hours. For me that was a huge surprise, but considering how the three tracks sounded, the reaction was completely justified. When 100 copies go away in less than a day, there must be something “wrong” with your music, right? It must be that good! Continue reading Malakhim – Demo I review March 2018 AB→
When you have been active for 20 years, you have released a bunch of classic black metal albums and you have experimented with different musical approaches, what would you do, in 2018, when you’re about to release your 6th full length? That’s right, you go back to your roots, with an even stronger will and “Fuck You World” attitude.
Of course I am talking about Watain here, who on the 5th of January have released an album which took me quite some time to digest. Not because I did not like it, but because every time I wanted to write something about it, it unveiled new hidden features, which made me listen to it again and again and again.
Hailing from Norway, Goatkraft delivers a completely different style of metal of death, not choosing to be a part of the so called traditional True Norwegian Black Metal cliché. Rather than walking the already wandered paths, they chose to honor Satan by taking even farther the primitive torch of barbaric and hateful black metal, just like other bands did 20+ years ago.
First of all, let it be made clear that the “Angel Slaughter” EP I’m writing about here is not for anyone: not for those who walk through the forests of melancholy in search of the perfect spot to practice another cheesy occult ritual under the blood red full moon and definitely not for those who want melody and catchy tunes. No, the debut EP from this brand new Norwegian band (they were formed in 2017) is a fucking fist in the face of those “true occultists and black magicians” which have infected the whole scene in the recent years.
6 years ago, the Hungarian entity called Svoid appeared from the mists of Null for the first time. Its sharp toothed mouth gnawed slowly on the pillars of knowledge and death, releasing from the hungry void 5 darkened hymns.
Ars Kha was unleashed as an independent release hence its limited availability on the market. Those of you who are reading this and wonder where you can buy the physical copy from, I’m afraid I have to disappoint you by telling you this material has been sold out for quite a long time now. The only possible place to buy this black masterpiece is the band’s official Bandcamp page, where you can purchase the digital copy for less than 3 Euros. Hopefully that someday in the near future this debut record will see again the light of night in another form, because it really deserves a true re-release.
Common knowledge implies that by definition, black metal must be anti christian, blasphemic, anti life, anti humanity etc. That’s why, starting from the very beginning with Venom and Bathory, even if not serious at all, the lyrical approach, the visuals and the music were Satanic enough to scare the shit out of the humble church goers. Since then this music has evolved a lot and in today’s black metal we have reached a new level of visual and ideological blasphemy which could have never been imagined 30 years ago. If this is 100% true or just some well orchestrated circus, that is another discussion.
If we are to judge it by the book, you cannot play black metal if you do not believe in Satan. But what about christian “black metal”, can that be true? I have not heard of many such bands, but one which instantly comes to mind is Horde. And I must add that their one and only album released so far, “Hellig Usvart“, can equal in musicianship and visuals many so called true black metal albums released until now.
But what is so special about this Australian band anyway? And why did I choose it for Scrolls of Darmoth‘s Blast From the Past? First and foremost, out of nostalgia. “Hellig Usvart“, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “The Oath of Black Blood” were the first 3 black metal albums I bought on tape in 1994. I have never heard anything similar before and for me these 3 albums changed my life.
Under no circumstances was I to know that what I just bought was called black metal, nor was I aware of the events surrounding Mayhem. Romania of the early 90’s was a place completely unaware of what was going on in the West. Since we did not have proper concerts or a music shop, the tape/zine trading was the only way to discover new things. But we also had bootleggers. Lots of them. I kinda miss that period, it was romantic in a way but I would never buy bootlegs again. (The covers were xeroxed and the sound quality was horrible most of the time).
When I first played Mayhem‘s album, I was in my room, with candles burning on the table. The setting was perfect, but I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. I was absolutely stunned. I did not listen to such a mystic music before, nothing I was listening to at the time compared to the evil which spewed out from the tape player. Still in shock after Mayhem, I put on Horde. When “A Church Bell Tolls Amidst the Frozen Nordic Winds” started, my imagination was already running wild. If “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” was cold and morbid, this album was haunting. I really enjoyed every single track, mesmerized by the blast beats, the furious riffs and the black and white xeroxed cover, which I stared at for hours. Needles to say that after I put Beherit in the tape player, my universe was completely torn apart, in a good way. I was doomed for ever!
But what was so special about Horde‘s album that made me remember it and get it out of its coffin? Well, even if over the years I realized what was actually going on with the band (the whole project was basically a christian mockery of the the so called “true black metal” current), I still found the idea “interesting” and the music very much appealing.
You probably know that Horde is a one man project of the ex drummer in Mortification, a christian death metal band who was quite busy in the beginning of the 90’s releasing some interesting albums like Mortification, Scrolls of the Megilloth or Post Momentary Affliction. At some point, after discovering the wave of black metal which erupted from Scandinavia, Jayson Sherlock aka Anonymous (sounds like Euronymous, right?) decided he had to counteract the northern blasphemy with an unblack metal album, suggestively called Hellig Usvart (Holy Unblack).
Released by Nuclear Blast in 1994, the album contains 12 songs and has a duration of almost 40 minutes. Everything on it, from the band name, the cover, to the song titles and the music does not betray the true nature of “holy beast” which is contained within the disc. Songs like “Blasphemous Abomination of the Satanic Pentagram“, “Drink from the Chalice of Blood” and “An Abandoned Grave Bathes Softly in the Falling Moonlight” might successfully have been written by any Norwegian band of the time. Apart these “horrific” song titles, Anonymous has bestowed upon us the magic of the white light in which tracks like “Invert the Inverted Cross” (one of my favorites), “Silence the Blasphemous Chanting” and the funny “Crush the Bloodied Horns of the Goat” shine like (un)black metal gems.
Do not get fooled by the strong christian message on this album, Hellig Usvart is a solid piece of brutal music, played by a very skilled musician and which has all the characteristics of a real black metal album: bad production, furious blast beats, chilling riffs, raucous voice alternating with possessed shrieks. All these, combined with the fact that Horde did not release another album after this one, make Hellig Usvart a milestone in a genre that no one knew (or cared) if it ever existed and place it, at least musically and visually, on the same level with many notorious black metal albums released at the time.
Do I still enjoy Horde after 23 years? Not only that I definitely do it, but I also want other people to )re)discover this lost, atypical jewel of black metal. Because in the end, despite his efforts to fight his eternal arch enemy, Anonymous has created (maybe involuntarily) one of the most interesting albums in this troubled history of black metal which has definitely stood the test of time.
Horde – Hellig Usvart tracklist:
1. A Church Bell Tolls Amidst the Frozen Nordic Winds
2. Blasphemous Abomination of the Satanic Pentagram
3. Behold, the Rising of the Scarlet Moon
4. Thine Hour Hast Come
5. Release and Clothe the Virgin Sacrifice
6. Drink from the Chalice of Blood
7. Silence the Blasphemous Chanting
8. Invert the Inverted Cross
9. An Abandoned Grave Bathes Softly in the Falling Moonlight
10. Crush the Bloodied Horns of the Goat
11. Weak, Feeble, Dying, Antichrist
12. The Day of Total Armageddon Holocaust
“Hunter of silence
Wary thine eye
In the dark”.
Who would have thought that in 2017 Ulf Theodor Schwadorf will bring Sun of the Sleepless back from the dark slumber in which it fell in 2004 and will return with their first full length in 18 years of bizarre existence? I was more than hyped when I saw that on the 21 st of July the band has released via Lupus Lounge “To The Elements“, a collection of 7 songs which bear the trade mark of their talented creator.
What we have here is a black metal album dedicated to nature and the creatures that inhabit it. With 2 exceptions, The Burden and the interlude Forest Crown, the rest of the songs are long, atmospheric and harsh. The overall atmosphere reminds me a lot of the lost, forgotten sad spirit of the nineties, when bands like Ulver (early period), Forgotten Woods, Burzum, Emperor and Darkthrone created their masterpieces which are so influential even to this day.
This album starts with a cover of a Lorenna McKennitt song, The Burden, which, after 3 minutes quickly gives in to Motions, revealing the true nature of the beast. To the Elements is a superbly crafted album, highly atmospheric and very gloomy. If you are expecting influences from the other bands Schwadorf plays in, well, they are there, but do not interfere with the general concept of the album at all.
The third track, The Owl, (the only one which has a video so far) starts with its acoustic slow intro and soft spoken voices, erupting minutes later into a frenzy of riffs and blast beats. As the name implies, the song is dedicated to this mystical and often cursed bird, one of the best predators which ever lived in the animal kingdom. Schwadorf‘s voice fits perfectly the atmosphere, his grave, harsh tone providing the songs a much deserved weight. He’s backed up by some majestic choirs, while all the blast beats and the icy riffs tear through the acoustic veil like a sharp blade.
The 4th track, Where in my Childhood Lived a Witch is amazing and if I didn’t like the whole album as much as I do, I would have considered it my favorite song. Perhaps the longest track of the album, with over 8 minutes, this song is the scariest for sure. It starts off in a mid paced rhythm, with great double bass drumming and shredding riffs. In the background some keyboards add a frightening echo to the story. After you think you got used to the song, it suddenly changes rhythm and goes into a cavalcade of riffs and blast beats which last till the end. A powerful song, which is a gem even when it’s played live. This continuous balance between the atmospheric and the violent parts of the songs is what makes To the Elements such an outstanding album.
To calm down the pace a bit after such an intense tempo, Forest Crown is used as a small comforting interlude, with its acoustic guitars and warm vocals. You can actually imagine the vast forest, softly speaking to you when the wind blows through its trees. A beautiful song, smartly inserted at the right time between the longer songs.
The next two tracks, In the Realm of the Bark and Phoenix Rise are the perfect choice to end this beautiful album. The melancholic choirs on Phoenix Rising are beautiful and whenever I play that song I have the impression I am flying over the vast forest.
Overall, what Schwadorf did with To the Elements was basically to create a collection of hymns in which the nature, the old legends and the mystical animals play the main role. A piece of modern art which celebrates both the past and the present and teaches us to cherish and preserve what we still have, until it’s too late.
To the Elements is definitely one of the best and most beautiful albums of this year, a jewel of black metal crafted in the depth of the woods.
This album also proves that you don’t have to be overtly satanic to release a good black metal album in 2017. All you need is the “soul” and the inspiration, the rest will come by default. To match with the music, the band came up with a brilliant album cover which links this new album with the glorious past of the 1990’s.
The version I reviewed here is the limited black LP (350 copies), which comes on a heavy 180g vinyl, with a special vinyl mastering. The gatefold is simple but efficient, leaving the music to speak for itself.Grab your own copy before it’s too late, this album is a must have for all those who appreciated the spirit of the 1990’s and the “romantic” side of black metal.
Also, if you want to witness how Sun of the Sleepless sounds live, you can watch the full concert the band played at the Prophecy Fest earlier this year. This second ever performance is really impressive and there were many songs from To the Elements which were played that night,together with some old tracks from the past.
Total score: 10 owls out of 10
Sun of the Sleepless line up:
Schwadorf – all instruments
To the Elements track list:
1. The Burden
3. The Owl
4. Where in My Childhood Lived a Witch
5. Forest Crown
6. The Realm of the Bark
7. Phoenix Rise
France has always been a serious provider of good quality extreme metal bands and during the years more and more bands formed to spread the gospel of the lord. Osculum Infame makes no exception, since this band is one of the veterans of the French black metal scene, its roots going back to 1993, the golden age of black metal, just before things started to fall apart.
In 24 years of activity under the banner of darkness, Osculum Infame have managed to release only 2 full length albums (along several EP’s and compilations), the famous Dor-nu-Fauglith released in 1997 (which became one of the milestones of the French black metal albums, both hated and revered at the same time), and Axis of Blood, the first album celebrating their return after the sleep of death between 2002-2008.
With an almost completely different line-up, (Deviant von Blakk remaining the only original member since the band’s beginnings), Osculum Infame has released the Axis of Blood on the French label Battlesk’rs in 2015. Since this album is going to be re-released at the end of this month, on the 30th of June (the original first press CD limited to 500 copies is almost sold out), I decided to honor this great release by writing some words about it.