Artist: Insanity Cult
Kicking off, we have what could end up being my favourite Hellenic black metal release of the year. Insanity Cult formed in 2011 and I’ve just discovered their second full-length ‘Of Despair and Self-Destruction’ that was released into the ether about six months ago. To be honest, I wish I’d discovered it earlier.
This album is a brooding, violent, elegant and somber beast with a deep, dark emotional intensity that grips your soul. Everything has been stripped back, each note drips with passion distilled down to its purest and most potent form. Just try not to feel something while listening to this; it’s a truly moving piece of black art.
The five piece includes Sacreligious from Sores (who were featured in Volumes 2 and 10) on vocals and he absolutely nails it here, sounding both distraught and envenomed in one. The lyrics are despairing and introspective, nihilistic and beautiful. The acoustic introductions and interludes are exquisite and some of the best I’ve heard of late. The production is perfectly done, the songwriting almost flawless.
I could continue to spew superlatives, but I’ll just say: check this album out. Every track here is a winner, they have created something bordering on breathtaking. Name-your-price download with limited tapes still available from Unholy Forces Productions and CDs from Ogmios Underground.
Artist: Bubonic Cult
Another cult, but this time we sink down in a different direction: Sri Lanka’s one man orthodox occultist Bubonic Cult channels total raw death and Satan worship inspired by the horror and destruction of the bubonic plague.
Not by any stretch is this your typical raw black metal foray. ‘The Grotesque of Desolation’ is two tracks imbued with a twisted sense of wretched melody that truly embodies the despair and inevitable decaying consumption of life caused by the disease, and revels in it. The desolate yet almost jaunty riffs weave a captivating death incantation, ensnaring mind and flesh alike as depraved vocals swathed in reverb devolve on occasion into otherworldly guttural croaks. The overall effect is both haunting and immediate, an esoteric and irresistible evil.
Total death, total support. Up for name-your-price download, as are his other two great releases. Hails.
You may have seen this one getting a bit of coverage already, unsurprisingly for good reason. USBM four-piece Crafteon self released their debut album a couple of weeks ago and it’s eight tracks of excellent Lovecraft worship with Swedish-style finesse.
The man HP and his tales of dread have provided inspiration to countless bands since the dawn of heavy music but seldom has it been done this convincingly. Melodic atmosphere reigns supreme here, the exquisitely crafted assault deftly conveying the eldritch horror and dark wonder of the subject matter. You know how it feels when you read Lovecraft? Crafteon is the audio equivalent of that feeling. The moment ‘The Outsider’ bursts from the gates like a storm you’re drawn into this world; from the intensity of the aforementioned opener to the glorious, brooding ‘The Colour out of Space’ and the creeping riff-fest that is ‘From Beyond’, each track has a life of its own and captivates from go to whoa.
While the savagely mellifluous guitar work is a major strength, it isn’t the only thing that shines. Vocals that vary wildly between commanding rasps and a malignant Abbath-like croak tell the tales with suitable intrigue. The audible bass pulses with nefarious life, pumping blood through the tracks while the driving mostly mid-paced rhythmic drumming provides a powerful backbone for the great old one as it rises from the murky unknown depths to rend your mind asunder, gibbering in incoherent cosmic terror.
Another release where it’s frankly hard to believe it’s their debut due to the level of quality on display, I’d wager these wraiths get picked up by a label fairly shortly. If you’re a fan of Lovecraftian mythos and/or good Swedish black/black metal in general, pick this up without hesitation. If not, you’re a weirdo but pick it up anyway. Name-your-price download with a few physical copies also remaining if you’re quick.
Artist: Void Terror
Who doesn’t like a bit of death metal, blackened, old school as fuck and reeking of the crypt? Nobody, that’s who. US cult Void Terror’s first demo ‘Soul Harvest’ is a two track tour-de-force of sick riffs that will flay off your skin and crush your bones to dust.
With a sound verging between pure headbanging pulverisation and tomb-rotting miasma rattling from decaying ribcages, the four piece have summoned an absolutely killer as fuck demo. I’m a huge fan of everything about this, from the drums to the vocals to the actual songs themselves. And it isn’t just a nostalgia trip, oh no; while it pays homage to the greats it more than holds up in the modern death/black arena. Play this for anyone and you’re almost guaranteed a result.
At name-your-price, get on this shit stat. And to these gents: Kindly hurry up and release a full length, I’ve played the shit out of this already. Cheers.
And finally in the tradition of keeping the most challenging release ’til last, we have the experimental split between Australians Intrinsic Light and Expurgatory. Both of these artists have a few releases behind them, but I’ve only recently discovered them with this split… And what a split it is.
Intrinsic Light have the first side and the duo label themselves ‘Blackened Zen’, saying they “alchemically meld exploratory entheogenic improvisation with sporadic shakra-surges of blackened mantra metal vibrationally filling the air with necromindfulness so dense it blasts directly into the Third Ear, forcing one’s spirit to simultaneously ascend North of Nirvana and descend South of Hell”. What that means is over the course of their two tracks it sounds like you’re riding a wave of consciousness in raw black metal form that devolves and reconstructs through transcendental stages, varying in intensity.
When I say transcendental, I don’t mean the polished or cosmic transcendentalism prevalent in many acts; it’s more raw, the “earthy meditating Buddhist monks in a forest temple” type. It isn’t rushed or immediate, it’s made to alter your consciousness and reach new inner planes of existence; and it balances the knife edge of it’s proto-black Jekyll and Hyde side perfectly.
Expurgatory however, are a whole different proposition that somehow still works and flows seamlessly on from Intrinsic Light’s already mind-blowing side. The seven piece’s first track ‘Grand Union’ is blackened noise rock, dreamlike female vocals over a harsh concoction of laconic whimsy. Great stuff, swathes of distortion helping the etherial quality of the music wash over you and tangibly loosen all your muscles, both mental and physical as you relax into the noise.
If Intrinsic Light’s side is more meditative in its black intentions, Expurgatory’s is like a daydream that becomes progressively more disturbing. It eventually culminates in their second track: a spectacularly dark, disassociative ambient spoken word cover of a track by a deceased pop artist (!) that I won’t say too much about as it simply has to be experienced for yourself.
A raw, authentic and exploratory release, it’s like nothing I’ve heard before and for those who aren’t afraid to listen to a wider scope of darkness than just blast beats, quite mind expanding. At first glance it may not be for the faint at heart simply by way of the stratospheric tangents it fires itself off into, but spend some time with it and you’ll find it incredibly rewarding. The sheer range of emotion and styles this release goes through in four tracks is spectacular, unfolding like a flower hidden away for centuries that you discover at the perfect moment as it blooms and then dies; a captivating and humbling event only your eyes have ever seen, and ever will. And you’ll never be able to adequately explain it to anyone.
Released through label YNTPM (You Need To Practice More) there’s only one single physical copy left for purchase; if you miss out console yourself with a name-your-price download available from Expurgatory’s Bandcamp below, or Intrinsic Light’s here.
EDIT: All physical copies now sold.
Submissions for possible inclusion in future Volumes are welcome.
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