~ Analogic Occult Editions for Transgressive and Nihilist Souls ~
If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, you really should check out what’s going on over at mystical French underground tape label Solar Aesceticists Productions. You know how it’s nice to see a little extra effort put into the packaging or presentation of a release, how a personal touch or extra something special can really show the passion behind it and/or help with immersion into the art? Well, Solar Asceticists Productions take this very seriously and label head Carl Neomalthusian is a modern day alchemist, injecting an almost unforseen level of care and ritualism into his work.
Originally launched in 2015 as Mithra! Infrasound, an offshoot of Mithra Templezine before rebranding autonomously shortly after, the label has now had fourteen cassette releases to its name and the large majority have had the option of a unique ‘limited edition’ version available for purchase. These rare editions have contained multiple intricate ingredients and artefacts such as crushed bone powder, hallucinogenic substances, ritual incenses, Icelandic green moss and various handmade art pieces, to name just a few. This hasn’t been a mere gimmick, either; each special package is meticulously constructed and compiled by Carl with the artist’s work front of mind, totally complementing it and enhancing the overall experience.
And that’s not mentioning the roster. Carefully curated to contain only the finest of experimental, abyssal and transcendental sound; you’re sure to find something to your taste no matter what your preferred flavour of aural depravity. Read on and listen deeply as for our next Label Spotlight we sample four of the most recent black manifestations from this very underrated bastion of exquisite darkness. Hails.
Artist: Abyssal Vacuum
We’ll open proceedings with some French wretchedness from Abyssal Vacuum, and that’s a suitable name if I’ve ever heard one. The solo project of guitarist and throatsman Sebastien from Ominous Shrine, debut three-track album ‘MMXVII’ is a powerhouse of occult cavernous black with deathlike physicality; an otherworldly carnage, primitive, yet like nothing seen on earth.
Each of the numerically titled tracks on offer grabs and undeniably moves you through the use of great morbid riffage (unsurprisingly, given his killer work in Ominous Shrine) and driving percussion, but it’s all thrown gloriously off-kilter with just the right amount of reverb and atonality perfectly creating a negative vortex of swirling atmospheric unease.
As you traverse the alien landscape of the album it only becomes even more mesmerising and unsettling; such as the entrancing tremolo underpinned by ponderous bass thrums in the excellent ‘II’, or the chilling final section of ‘III’ before it fades out and returns to the sound of water leaking down from hell knows where, full-circle with the opening ambience of the journey and complete with the terrifying realisation that no matter how far you traverse its endless expanses you’re trapped somewhere in a pitch black subterranean tomb, your death imminent, your fate sealed.
Plumbing depths of unnameable cosmic horrors and seething menace, it’s a truly great first conjuration from the project and I sincerely hope we hear more soon. Available now for name-your-price download or pre-orderable in a special “Troglodytic White Remains” edition cassette package; containing a white velvet sigil-printed pouch, white printed tape, white “Benjoin Blanc” natural incense in rock form and three special art cards created with photos taken in ancient occitanian caves. Superb.
‘Schattengestalt’ (“Shadow”), the second demo from enigmatic French act Cendres (“Ashes”), is horrifying from the very start. Based on themes of the underworld, the instant you press play it seemingly opens a portal to hell and the resulting next seventeen minutes is the hypnotic and disturbing sound of various demons or inhuman entities inexorably dragging their way into this reality. Or perhaps, dragging your consciousness back into theirs.
Originally self-released in miniscule quantity back in 2015 but now receiving the treatment and hopefully wider attention it deserves, this is a wonderful hidden gem that will affect you in all the wrong (read: very right) ways. Hellish screams and psychotic descending motifs initially throw you off balance, setting the tone admirably before the “Ambient Psychedelic Black Metal” kicks first track ‘Schattengestalt I’ into gear. Powerful repeating riffs surge through a deliciously lo-fi muffled drone, dread oozing from your speakers as vocal emissions strangulated from tormented subdimensions rake down your spine. Experimental it may be but this is cult shit, no fucking around. The track eventually builds and mutates into a completely destroying, all-consuming industrial churn; and for an almost ten minute song feels like it’s over all too quickly.
After that assault on the tenuous strands holding your mind together, they move it up another notch with ‘Schattengestalt II’. A brief few seconds of the best horror synths heard in a while heralds the coming of some of the most queasiness-inducing dissonant rawness I’ve experienced so far this year. The vibe is altogether more menacing on part II and the two tracks work together well, complementing each other and becoming a single warped composition.
Sadly, the “Sleep Paralysis” special edition is sold out but it came packaged with a raw textile pouch, a unique handmade charcoal drawing representing visions during sleep paralysis, and a small quantity of Salvia Divinorium so you could experience the hypnagogic hallucinations in the correct state of mind, all portals fully opened. Name-your-price digital and precious few standard edition tape copies still available; grab one before they disappear forever.
Every time I listen to the debut full-length from French heathens Hyrgal, it unfolds another layer of itself to me. Exposing new whispered intricacies and nuances hidden in the howling fury with every journey through its emotive passages, this release is the dark flower of this article; slowly opening and revealing the depth of its scent and affecting beauty over time.
And while I know I haven’t had nearly enough time yet to absorb everything this release has to offer, the trio of gentlemen responsible for it probably have. Originally active for a few years from ’07 – ’10 that only bore one split as a solitary fruit, they reactivated in 2016 with a renewed purpose and lineup now consisting of members and ex-members of Pillars, Svart Crown, Karne and Marble Crown to record the long overdue full-length ‘Serpentine’.
A well rounded album with a myriad of influences and textures swirling throughout, at first glance it appears a mere Cascadian style but there are many other forces at play here. The heavy rhythm guitars and layering create a rushing, powerful density; combine this with the great basswork and there’s often a low ominous wind that blows throughout this release like death over the fields. The use of bleak, irresistibly ensnaring melody is absolutely top notch in each of the five songs and two instrumental compositions. Tracks like my personal favourite ‘Représailles’ can lift you away akin to the throes of a symphony while ‘Aux Diktats de l’Instinct’ has hints of punkish aggression, and the dynamic final act ‘Etrusca Disciplina’ is simply sublime. You’ll be taken places from which you won’t want to return.
The album is also available on CD and vinyl from Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions and Naturmacht Productions, but the special handcrafted “Mount Blue Pine” cassette edition available here is where it’s at. Coming lovingly packaged with a raw Eco-Textile hand-printed textile pouch, a clockworked French Army insign and some handmade incense; there’s just five copies left so don’t hesitate to own this beautiful piece of art.
With every track on here a winner, this is an album with many secrets to tell. Let it speak.
And the final piece we’ll check out today is ‘Demo MXVIII’, the first release from US raw black project Adherent. Released back in October, it’s also listed on Metal Archives as ‘Tranquility’. Now, tranquility might seem an odd quality to attach to a raw black metal release at first, but listen through and it will all make sense.
If the title, or the introductory piece ‘Intro / Dreams in the Etherial Forest’ with its almost 7 minutes of gently austere synths doesn’t give it away, the fact that the next 5 tracks are also titled ‘Tranquility I-V’ may give you a hint that the rawness on offer here is of the somewhat transcendent variety. Not quite Black Cilice levels of carrying you away on swathes of ritually intoned distortion, don’t let that mislead you (the press release names Drowning The Light and Abyssic Hate as comparable sounds, which is also true); but it’s definitely playing in roughly the same ballpark and oozes a similar solemn black majesty from its compositions at times. Great stuff, and when you finish traversing the epic misanthropic depths of all the ‘Tranquility’ tracks the album has one last surprise in store: the final piece is a cover of a cut from a certain longstanding and controversial US “cult horde”. But I’ll leave you to unearth that mystery alone.
One of the few releases on the label that didn’t come with a special edition of arcane artifacts, it’s still very worth your time regardless. Unfortunately sold out of limited transparent blue tapes, support with a name-your-price download below and do yourself a favour: keep an eye out for all future Solar Asceticists Productions releases. You won’t regret it. Hails.