LABEL SPOTLIGHT: Nebulae Artifacta

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If you’ve been following BMD for a while, you’re no doubt familiar with at least one or two of the names Stellar Descent, Starless Domain, Boreal or Twilight Falls, as they’ve appeared on our pages several times (we even interviewed Stellar Descent here a few months back). They all loosely form group of naturalist/space-influenced ambient/atmoblack projects forged from a prolific and talented collective of US musicians, some of whom have been friends for some time and take part in multiple projects together. Their often-longform expressions of black immersion are always awe inspiring, mind-expanding experiences – the kind that you can tumble into and lose track of time within as an hour passes like ten minutes, before coming out the other side irrevocably changed from the experience. Now, in a glorious display of syzygy, the projects are even more closely aligned – AE, AW and JR have created an umbrella label through which to release some of the assemblages’ selected works. That label is Nebulae Artifacta.

With plenty more lined up for the near future this glorious unification has already produced three physical releases to date, all available on very limited CD digipacks and all selling exceptionally well so far – so let’s take a quick look at each release so you can go throw some well-deserved money at them and support this wonderful collection of humans. Hails.

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Artist: Boreal / Twilight Falls / Stellar Descent

Title: Orogeny Redux

The first gem to be unearthed is an apt one –  the 2013 split between three of the projects, Boreal, Twilight Falls and Stellar Descent. Originally released through Cloister Recordings back in 2013 it’s had a complete refresh, with a remix/remaster performed by Garry Brents and new bass added to all tracks by JR. As a result, what once was great is now incredible – the original now sounds like the demo tracks for this fleshed-out release.

“Orogeny” is defined in geological terms as “the process in which a section of the earth’s crust is folded and deformed by lateral compression to form a mountain range”. This also describes the offerings from all three projects: earth-moving black metal. As AE‘s Boreal take the first step into the wild unknown with opener ‘Cascadian’, the ambient sounds of someone walking alongside a river quickly whip into the type of elemental black metal that could shift tectonic plates. An eleven and a half minute onslaught of weighty emotion, relentless percussive storm and wind-tunnel vocals that rise from the maelstrom, it all unfolds in compelling fashion before culminating in furious blasting crescendo – then returning to the mysterious individual walking along the river once more. The addition of JR‘s Ved Buens Ende-esque bass is particularly fantastic on this track too, especially around the seven minute mark or so when it becomes positively menacing and looms over the composition with dread presence.

Following that Twilight Falls are pure cold fury, raw and unfettered. Their two tracks ‘Orogeny I’ and ‘Orogeny II’ take what Boreal began and warp it into… something more evil. Howling, clattering terror; the evil mankind is wreaking upon the earth in sonic form. AE, AF and JR get far more Scandinavian second-wave here and I’m in love with the raw drum sound. Even the ambient interludes are misery inducing – this is grim shit. And then, to the sound of gentle rain, Stellar Descent arrive.

There’s something inherently magical about the Stellar Descent sound (which will also become apparent over the following two releases in this Spotlight). Their bleak melodicism and and hypnotic rhythmic pulse conjures images of the landscape of the cover art; a natural world, but one of darkness. Over the course of their three-part ‘Nevadan’ composition, vocals drift in and out like a chill breeze as beautiful acoustic parts add fragility. Silence and field recording ambience is utilized to have an equal impact to the flowing streams of black metal, and the drumming is fantastic (especially in moments like the crescendo of ‘File #3’. I could listen to their intricate ruminations all day. Which is lucky because…

Rating: 4 / 5

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Artist: Stellar Descent

Title: Moss

…because next up is the first of two new full-lengths to surface this year (!!!) from Stellar Descent. Moss is the project’s fifth album overall, is a single piece split into three ‘Files’ once again, and contains barely any black metal. But don’t be a coward or let that deter you –  this is magnificent.

Upping the introspective vibe, the move towards almost zero distortion is even more inviting of pensive reflection than their work on the split. Resonant clean vocals echo throughout as earthy tones reverberate; JR‘s bass takes point for a while in some of the quieter moments and then when the ‘black metal’ blasting sections do rear their heads it’s him that once again leads instead of the guitars, which (bar a single distorted fuzz buried in the mix) instead continue to emit sublime, unsullied melodies. In ‘File #2’ they even commit to a delicate storm of tremolo picked notes – acoustic black metal for the win, it’s simply stunning. The way all the elements of this layer and come together is nothing short of masterful.

To fully feel this album, go outside into nature, as far away from anything civilised as you can go, and just sit. Close your eyes, feel the air on your skin and… listen. You’ll sink into an appreciation of the fabric of life, seeing all the threads that make up our existence intertwine together into the intrinsic tapestry that we walk through every day, yet ignore due to the very nature of the world we have created for ourselves. One that we should pay more attention to before it’s too late.

This album is a reminder. Don’t miss it.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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Artist: Stellar Descent

Album: Lost

And then, the black metal returns with full force on Lost, the second album of Stellar Descent to release this year and their sixth full-length album.

I should’ve mentioned this earlier but Stellar Descent is comprised of only two members of the collective – AW and JR, but the emotion that they summon is immense. Lost it may be but it could just as easily have been called “Loss” because that’s what this howling melancholic storm actively exudes; a sense of great loss and the type of outwardly quiet but inwardly agonized grief that you hold deep inside as it rages in neverending internal scream. It’s the loss of loved ones, the loss of our planet as it dies; the loss of your sense of self. It’s not only the aftermath of it all, but the sense of it happening as well – which is underlined when at around the 40-minute mark the tremolo assault collapses into the crushing, dismal despair of ringing doom-ish chords for a couple of minutes… it’s enough to make you almost totally disengage with reality.

Haunting and affecting in equal measure, it’s another triumph from this underappreciated project. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Stellar Descent is a truly remarkable entity and I dearly hope they stop flying under so many radars soon. Do your part and spread the word. Hails.

Rating: 4 / 5

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LABEL SPOTLIGHT – Winter Sky Records

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Like smoke rising from its home hearth in Southern Quebec, the excellent Winter Sky Records has been slowly spreading its influence and name across the black metal landscape. They’ll have only been active for exactly a year this coming Tuesday but they’ve definitely made a mark already, releasing some top-notch artists and curated box setsso for our next Label Spotlight we speak to label boss and all-around great guy Taciturne, then check out some of the incredible releases they’ve put their name to that still have stock remaining in the store. Which, if you’re Canadian, you can grab with free shipping on orders over $35 in celebration. Read on and support.

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Hello Taciturne! Thanks for speaking with us today about your great label Winter Sky Records. First up, the obvious question: what made you want to start a cassette label?

– I started collecting vinyls a few years back, mostly Black Metal, and quickly realized it was expensive as hell. So I eventually turned to the next best thing: tapes. And I kinda fell in love with this medium. It’s the best (and worst) of all worlds for the music collector. Analog sound, enjoyment, art, nostalgia, holding something in your hands, etc. And we have to face the fact that the CD is a dying medium; you won’t find CD players in cars, computers, even home theater systems anymore. So that’s why I chose to use that medium. As to why I started a label at all, I guess the main reason was I had time on my hands. Plus, I felt some bands I had discovered and truly enjoyed needed more exposure and recognition so I figured I could help with that a bit. I enjoy art in many forms, so the DIY aspect of running a small cassette label speaks to me as well and serve as a creativity outlet.

Tapes do rule – definitely the best and worst. Now, from its beginnings in June 2018, Winter Sky Records has been active for just over a year – and what a year it has been. What are some of your takeaways from the first twelve months? If you could go back in time to the label’s inception and give yourself a message, is there anything you would tell yourself to do differently or to prepare for?

– It’s been a great year indeed! I’m glad I made a bit of a contribution to the circle that is extreme music tape collecting. If I could give myself some piece of advice, it would be: don’t try to do everything yourself. Profit margin on cassettes, especially for short runs, is really small and you have to sell quite a lot to actually start making money, taking costs and the bands’ share into account. Sucks to talk about money, but I’m not running a charity so to keep going I need at the very least to break even. And I thought at first I could save a few bucks doing everything myself. Turns out some things are best left to pros.

Hermóðr, Entheos, Tomhet, Gris, Höstblod, Neige et Noirceur… you have an incredibly well curated roster of releases. What do you look for when deciding what next to put out on your label, and how do you usually discover it? Do you have a certain criteria or standard that artists must meet to be released by Winter Sky?

– WSR is all about darkness and melancholy. Bands I approach or accept submissions from need to respect that aesthetic in every way. I like many genres of Black Metal (and Metal, or music more generally), but there’s a certain type of melody that speaks to me more and that’s what I want to promote. There’s also the collectible value I take into account; can I turn that album into a new piece of art that’s going to add something for the band and the fans, and how will I do that. I feel that as a label I have to go beyond just duplicating tapes and printing J-cards from the same template every time, although some labels that do just that found a way to create a cohesive look and sound for their releases to creates something bigger and of value when you look at the whole picture. For my part, I didn’t want to restrict myself to a narrow pool of artists from a very specific and niche genre to begin with. And of course, I need to like the album myself and want to add it to my collection. That’s the whole point really. Cool thing about running a tape label is you can trade tapes with other labels and bands, keeping that tradition alive.

A great tradition. Your biggest undertaking to date has been the Tomhet Fifteen Years Of Emptiness box set, which ended up looking utterly stunning. Could you tell us a little of the story of how this came to be, and some of the challenges you may have faced during the process of bringing it to life?

– Very happy with how that one turned out. It all started when Tomhet approached me to see if I would like to repress any of their previous releases as some had been sold out for a while. I thought that was a good idea, but I suggested we go bigger than that and release an anthology of their full lengths, at the condition we could release a new album at the same time exclusive to the box, to which they agreed immediately. That would leave me enough time to work on a design and get everything in production while they wrote their seventh album. Everything went pretty smooth design and production-wise surprisingly. Not too many delays, no major fuck ups. But it was a lot, and I mean a lot, of work getting everything ready and assembling the boxes. Hope people who supported us feel it was all worth it too, because I genuinely believe it was.

A nice idea that you had was the First Snow box set, which kicked off the label giving customers the option to grab your first six releases in a gorgeous custom cardstock case. How did that work out for you, and do you have anything else like that planned for the future?

– I wanted to find the best way to promote the label and all the first bands I approached that had agreed to trust me with releasing one of their albums on tape. Some of those bands were already pretty well established, but others weren’t getting all the attention they deserve or were just starting out so I really wanted people to give them a chance. So I came up with that idea of bundling them in a boxed set to encourage music enthusiasts to go for all six albums instead of buying just one or two. Had to design and assemble the box itself from scratch for various reasons, so that was quite the challenge! But reception was beyond my expectations: box got sold out in under 12 hours. Looking back I wish I made more, but starting a label is a huge risk and that’s really all I could afford. On the other hand, the fact it was limited to 20 copies gave me the opportunity of coming up with a different custom design for three of those albums, Höstblod certainly being the most well received.

Out of everything you’ve released on the label thus far, do you feel there’s any particular releases that have been slightly overlooked and deserve far more attention than they’ve gotten?

– Probably Absence of Life, and Entheos. The first is a new Depressive Black Metal act from Belarus, and they caught my attention in the sea of DSBM acts because they managed to do it very well in their own way. There’s a ton of (shit) DSBM bands out there, so that could explain why people were shy to give them a chance, but I wouldn’t have chosen to support them if I didn’t believe in them. As for Entheos, they’ve been doing their thing for a while, but their style strays away a bit from the sound of my other releases and is unique in a way that makes them hard to fit in anywhere. It’s definitely Black Metal in essence, with its raw aggressiveness and piercing emotional vocals, but the mix of various influences they throw in there, with bits of Doom, Prog and Post-Metal, makes it hard to categorize. The closer comparison would be Gris, but that’s greatly in part because they share members for the live outfit of Miserere Luminis (not sure I’m supposed to tell you that) as in reality Le Zahir and À l’âme enflammée… are too completely different beasts. They’re working on a third album, so hopefully I’ll be able to help promote it too. That being said, any band on my label not getting all the recognition they deserve is probably due to my lack of promotion skills and/or being an #attentionwhore. I’m more of an artist myself than a businessman.

If Winter Sky were to have some sort of overarching mission statement that encompasses its ethos and the direction you aim for with it, what would that be?

– That’s an easy one: An underground tape label with a DIY attitude mainly focused on certain aesthetics of the Black Metal sound and its many subgenres and offspring – a celebration of humans’ darkest feelings of melancholy, despair and desolation, and a hymn to the beauty of nature’s Fall demise and Winter respite.

And now, a quick couple of questions about yourself! How long have you been involved in black metal, and what started your journey down its darkened pathways?

– I’ve been into Metal music for about a quarter of a century, and I’ve explored many of its subgenres over the years. My first contact with Black Metal was in the end of the ’90s, with bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir. You can guess that didn’t leave much of a mark on me. I enjoyed what they were doing, but thought that was all there was to Black Metal and it clearly wasn’t enough to hook me on it. Then years later, I saw the documentary Until the Light Takes Us, and it was a revelation. (Un)holy fuck! That’s Black Metal?! How the hell did I miss that? Been trying to make up for the lost time ever since. Might sound cheesy, but it’s the sound and aesthetic I was looking for all my life without knowing it. Other than the mainstream acts, that are doing their own thing that’s more or less Black Metal nowadays, it’s still a really niche genre that you have to get initiated to. It’s a small circle, and the whole “satanic/witchery” imagery feeds to it as well. Those who are in the know, know. I guess that’s part of the appeal as well, although I’ve never been one to look to fit in. Of course, Burzum led me to discover many other subgenres of Black Metal that go beyond just pure aggression, and bands like Agalloch and Hypothermia are what really seduced me.

I believe you’re also currently in at least one band – Janvier, the great debut album of which Winter Sky even co-released on vinyl (still available, check it out here) with Vendetta Recordsplus CD via Wolfspell, and tape through Les Fleurs du Mal and Corde Raide some time before. How’s that going? Have you found it challenging to balance your time between all of your endeavours?

– Time. The one thing everyone has plenty of and still finds a way to be missing constantly. It’s a challenge for sure. Other than my adult responsibilities and keeping my two huskies entertained (which luckily involves a lot of hiking), juggling a band and a label is hard. But I’m not accountable to anyone for either, so I can take breaks from one or the other to focus my energies on what matters most at any given time like I did this summer by putting the label on hold while the band and I focus on getting ready for our first live gig at Skogen Fest II, alongside Cantique Lépreux and Nargaroth, no less. Regarding Janvier, we are very lucky to have had such amazing support from labels and fans around the world. I kinda started that project on my own just for kicks, but I’m truly grateful people got into it as well. We’re a full band now, and like I said we’re focusing on the show at the moment, but I hope we can find time in our busy lives to create a follow-up to the self-titled album in a near future. In the meantime, I recommend you check out Keys of Orthanc and Wounded Funeral, two of the other projects the guys in the band are involved in.

When you’re not actively involved in music, what else do you do with your life? Do you have any other interests, talents or hobbies, and have you ever found them useful or influential in some way towards Winter Sky Records / Janvier?

– I’m an avid art enthusiast so anything that revolves around it will eventually catch my attention. And other than work, the dogs, getting lost in nature, and music, I used to be quite a gamer. Still am in a way, but now I’m doing it more casually. As for all of that being of any use for WSR or Janvier, art and nature of course play a huge role for both. They serve as inspiration and drive at the same time.

Someone contacts you – they’re thinking of starting up their own cassette label. What advice would you give them?

– Don’t.

Fair. One final question: are we ever going to see that Lords Of Chaos tape?

– God I hope not.

You know you want to. Anyway, sincerest thanks for your time, Taciturne; it’s been a pleasure. Total support to Winter Sky Records. Any final words for us all, before we take a look at some of your wares?

– Support the underground, and spread the darkness!

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Artist: Neige et Noirceur

Album: Hymnes oubliés

Kicking off, the latest black gem to surface from Winter Sky – the cassette version of Hymnes oubliés, the 2017 compilation from Canadian solo ambient black mainstay Neige et Noirceur (“Snow and Darkness”). Equal parts majestic, mystical and harsh, this release sees myriad raw, ambient, synth, acoustic and atmospheric pieces all come together into a collection of rarities and unreleased goodness spanning the already productive 15 year life of the project. Although admittedly disjointed by its very nature, this is still all superb stuff and is not only borderline mandatory listening for fans of Zifond‘s work, but a solid jumping off point to pique everyone else’s curiosity about it to boot. If you want to purchase / hear the digtal you’ll have to head to the Kunsthauch Bandcamp below, but fuck that – grab yourself a tape from WSR here before they all vanish.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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Artist: Tomhet

Album: 15 Years Of Emptiness

Here it is – the motherlode. The crowning jewel in the fortune that is the WSR catalogue thus far. All seven full-length Tomhet albums from Canadian solo practitioner Xaphan collected in one place, wonderfully presented in a hand-crafted box (see pic earlier in this article).

Every record here is truly great on its own merits: the alternately ambient and corrosive pulsations of the more primitive ’06 debut A Dark Serenity are not only compelling, but an ominous sign of the darkness to come. The expansive fury and grandeur of ’08 sophomore effort En Hiver‘s first half gives way to the icy synth wash of the entire second half; and it works well… before the project blossoms into the masterpiece that is 2010’s Astral Isolation. Captivating, ice-cold and solitary, it’s a fantastic album right down to the inspired cover of Misfits‘Die, Die, My Darling’ (yes, you read that correctly). The following album Caliginous from 2012 is noted as being “recorded in a mental hell”, a claim that is immediately given credibility right from the more noise-influenced introductory torture of opener ‘Contrachristian’ and which then goes on to manifest itself as the most tormented and turbulent Tomhet album yet; plumbing hitherto unseen depths of wretchedness and dysphoria (and Witch House, in the case of ‘…sounds like memories’).

Well, hitherto unseen but going even further on Caliginous II: nothingbutanxiety – his 2015 album continues these themes as it seems to document his own slowly crumbling personal breakdown. 2016’s Nightmares In Damask is then not only the first Tomhet album to feature live drums but slows down to utterly depressive levels; a miasma of DSBM self-destruction… which is where we find the brand new 2019 album Neoteric Emptiness, a black hole of despondency and self-loathing that physically alters your mood and general sense of wellbeing as you listen to it.

This set is a monolithic listen on its own, but very, very worthwhile as you experience the evolution of a great project (and possible mental disintegration of its creator). Somewhat ridiculously, there are still a handful of these stunning boxes left, so don’t fuck up – snap one up now.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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Artist: Vegard

Album: Call From The Forest

Here’s another favorite of mine. You may recall this gem was also released on UKEM Records in March; this edition is the North American version that sports a different (read: better, in my opinion) mix and the addition of bonus track ‘Frost And Stars’.

Beautiful, crushing melancholia is the order of the day here as simplistic drums underpin slow, emotive chord progressions and haunting synths lift you through darkened misty glades into gloomy transcendence. The distant, shrieked vocals are impassioned and overall quite good… just like like every other element. There’s really not much to fault here (apart from possibly the near-twenty-minute ambient outro ‘Fireside’, which will either be immersive or annoying depending on your mood and tolerance for such things).

To be honest, although hard to fault there’s also nothing to the anonymous duo’s sound that you won’t have heard before, either. But that doesn’t matter – because what they do, they’ve completely mastered. This crept up and took me by surprise on release; I’ve returned to it many times since and frankly can’t believe there are still tapes left for purchase. Help rectify that glaring error by picking one up while you can. A slow burner that will stay with you forever.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Artist: Entheos

Album: Le Zahir

This experimental Quebecois post-black / doom outfit are the very definition of intriguing. Originally released back in 2017, Le Zahir is one of those albums that command your attention for the entirety of your listening experience – partially because the five-piece are so dazzlingly good, and partially to see just what the hell they’re going to do next.

It’s a rich and incredibly textured album, jazzy rhythms marrying perfectly to psychedelia and a sense of bleak yearning that frequently detours into darker shades of post-isms. The compositions are technical, complex and easy to get lost in; heaving in continuous motion, exploding and fading away like sepia-coloured fireworks. There’s an interesting story behind the title too:

“The album title is based on a short story of the same title written by Jorge Luis Borges and published in 1949 in the book “The Aleph and Other Stories”. In the story, the “Zahir” is a person or an object that has the power to create an obsession in everyone who sees it, thus making the affected person perceive less and less of reality and more and more of the Zahir, at first only while asleep, then at all times.”

…which they use as a metaphor for the creation of the album. Oh, and it was also recorded in a Russian Orthdox Church. Intrigued yet? You should be – check it out below, tapes are still available.

Wonderful stuff. This is art.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Artist: Hermóðr

Album: Hädanfärd

Yes, arguably the best work of prolific atmosphericist Rafn copped the Winter Sky treatment earlier this year, a couple of years after its original 2017 CD manifestation through Wolfspell Records.

I say best work because Hädanfärd sees the Hermóðr sound taken even further down pathways of introspection, resulting in a perfect storm of gripping emotion and haunting, atmospheric beauty. At first glance you might overlook it, as the man does churn out so much material whilst making only incremental changes to his sound each time that it could be easy to dismiss his work at large as boring, or simply ignore it. However, if you really listen this is a captivating album that moves to the rhythm its own breathing; peaceful, somber, sorrowful, and as intrinsic to existence as the essence of life itself. Right from the Burzum-esque opener ‘I Stillhet’ a spell is woven and settles over the earth; fuelled by unhurried, repetitious songwriting designed to entrance and mesmerise, plus a total grasp of his own talents and abilities. The addition of female vocals later in the album is inspired and works well, while his synth game is also utterly on point.

In a word, Hädanfärd is simply gorgeous and highly worth picking up on cassette. And whilst you do, be sure to pick up The Darkness Of December, too – also released on Winter Sky and which still has a handful of copies left in the store.

Rating: 4 / 5

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Artist: Absence Of Life

Album: The Fall

Aaaand finally, to polish off this episode of “things you should buy from Winter Sky Records“, Belarusian depressive duo Absence Of Life are here to make you very, very miserable. With three tracks entitled ‘Pain’, ‘Despair’ and ‘Emptiness’ you may already have an inkling what you’re in for, but that probably won’t be of any consolation as your world crashes down around you.

As Taciturne said above, DSBM is often bogged down under the weight of its own cheese yet these wraiths manage to escape that fate through a sizeable helping of class and sheer volume of emotion. The dual vocals are impactful, the acoustic guitar and piano melodies tug at the heartstrings… I’d be interested to see what they could do with a full-length album if they really tear themselves apart, as this is pretty solid stuff. Tapes still available. Hails.

Rating: 3 / 5

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Support Winter Sky Records:

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LABEL SPOTLIGHT: Realm and Ritual

Awakened from elder shores in the midst of Anno Domini 2018, US tape label Realm and Ritual has only been active for about a year but has fast established itself as one of the labels out there doing it right. Focusing purely on the underground and lovingly hand-dubbing carefully curated releases that otherwise might not have seen a physical manifestation, main man SG is right on the money and if there’s any justice left on this wretched earth, his label would be huge based solely on how much of a solid dude he is. So, for our next Label Spotlight, we have a chat to the man himself and take a look at a few recent releases – plus he has a special deal in store for all Black Metal Daily readers. Check it out below.

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Hello SG! Thanks for speaking to us today. As everyone should know, you’re the man behind the relatively new yet excellent tape label Realm and Ritual. So, tell us a little about it! How did the label begin? What made you want to start a cassette label?

– Hey Aaron, thanks for the kind words. I’ve always wanted to run a label but the time never seemed to be right until recently. Last year I was in between musical projects, I had a little bit of disposable income, and felt like I had enough initial knowledge to get something started. I was interested in starting a cassette label specifically because I am sort of obsessed with tape. I collect VHS, Betamax, and obviously cassettes. It’s part nostalgia – I remember my friend taping me Life is Peachy when I wasn’t allowed to buy the CD – and the desire to have physical objects in a digital world. They are cheaper to produce than vinyl and the physical form resonates with me more than CDs.

The manifesto on the label Facebook page contains a rather beautiful quote: “When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow”. Where is this quote from, and what does it mean in relation to Realm and Ritual?

– The quote is from “A Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin. The quote, in my mind, speaks to a balance of the world; a duality. Regarding black metal, the music I like the most is both triumphant and defeated, beautiful and grotesque. I want to listen to music that speaks to the depth of human experience, the good and the bad and every nuance in between.

Realm and Ritual has so far dealt mainly in DIY cassette hand dubs, but I believe (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that you’ve looked into releasing pro-tapes. I love the hand dub approach, but why do you personally like them? Are hand dubs something you will continue to do throughout the life of the label?

– I’ve released two pro-dubbed tapes but you’re correct that the majority of my releases have been hand-dubbed. I personally like them because they allow me to have a role in the entire production of the tape and allow me to do smaller runs. I also dub everything in real time and while it’s certainly not time-efficient, the process feels honest to me. As long as I continue to do smaller runs (less than 50 tapes) I will most likely continue to hand-dub tapes.

Whilst the label has only been active for less than a year, I’m sure you’ve had quite an experience running it so far. What have you found the most challenging thing about running a label to be, and what are the most positive things you’ve discovered?

– I think the hardest thing for me is determining the appropriate amount of promotion for each release. There is so much new music coming out every day that it’s disorienting. I don’t want my releases to get lost in the shuffle but also don’t want to aggressively spam social media either. In terms of the positives, running the label has made me more active in consuming new music and has been a good vehicle for meeting other people interested in some pretty niche genres of music. I’ve done some tape trading with other labels I really like, Winter Sky out of Canada and Pacific Threnodies and Mospharic out of California, which has also been really cool.

Now, something I’m sure at least a few readers will want to know: what do you look for when hunting new artists for your roster, and how do you discover these artists? Do you accept submissions?

– I am always accepting submissions. I have found artists through social media (I ended up working with a few artists I met on Order Ov the Black Arts) and through tags on Bandcamp. I want to work with artists that have a fully fledged concept for their release and music that connects to me personally. I want to release the stuff I listen to with a special nod toward Atmo-Black, RABM, Depressive, and Dungeon Synth. I also want to prioritize working with POC, women, and LGBTQ folks because I think they are hugely unrepresented in the Black Metal/DS communities.

It’s been a more turbulent than usual time for black metal lately, with much focus and discussion on the political side of things – shows are being cancelled, while seemingly every two minutes a thread somewhere becomes a dumpster fire of hurled accusations of genre tourist scene policing or nazi enabling. Where does Realm and Ritual position itself in the landscape of this debate?

– Realm and Ritual is 100% committed to anti-fascism. I actively release red and anarchist black metal and will not release music from national socialist musicians or nazi sympathizers. I tend to avoid the aforementioned contentious threads because it often feels like a waste of time. For what it’s worth, I don’t think the problem is that there’s a huge nazi population in black metal but rather that there’s a issue with privilege. There is a willingness to support shitty belief systems and behavior because it tends not to affect the people providing that support. If you’re more upset about shows being cancelled than with the marginalization of minority communities, I would argue that you should reassess your priorities.

Tell us a little about the man behind the tapes – what’s your musical background and how did you arrive at black metal? What do you listen to on your own time, and do you have any favourite releases from this year so far?

– I’ve always been involved in music in some way though my arrival at black metal has only happened in the last few years. I found my musical tastes stagnating a little and not really finding anything new that I loved. I decided to get out of my comfort zone (punk, skramz, emo) and start listening to black metal and I was hooked almost immediately. It’s satisfying to me to have so much new material coming out all of the time and to have a huge backlog of classics to experience for the first time.

My favorite BM releases this year are: None – Damp Chill of Life, Numenorean – Adore, Falaise – A Place I Don’t Belong To, Uhtceare – El Genocidio Primordial Llevará El Nombre Infinito De La Empatía, and Stronghold Guardian – Westward. This is really just the tip of the iceberg though, I’ve really enjoyed all of the Gilead Media, Fólkvangr Records, and Death Kvlt Productions releases.

My favorite DS/Dark Ambient/Neo-folk releases this year are: Malfet – The Way to Avalon, Tir – Urd, Skuld & Verdandi, Fogweaver – Self-Titled, Secluded Alchemist – Wintry Beauty of Nature/A Glacial Grave, and Torchlight – Witchcraft. I’ve also loved everything from Out of Season and Akashic Envoy.

If you could entice one artist or score one particular album to release through Realm and Ritual, what would it be?

I love questions like this but find them almost impossible to answer. I suppose that any of my top albums of the year that don’t have a tape release. I understand that vinyl and CD is the standard for many musicians but I love tape as a physical form and would like to see more and more artists continue to release music on cassette.

And finally – you’ve been putting out some great stuff lately, everything from dungeon synth to atmospheric and raw black. Talk us through your thoughts on a few of your latest releases and what you have in store for us in future, if you would!

Over the summer I’ve released four tapes, Awenden (Cascadian BM), Grimtone (Second wave worship from Sweden), Ururdhagaz (Old School DS with some modern trappings from Sweden), and today I announced a release from Wooded Memory (Romantic DS from the US) [and it’s already sold out! – ED.]. I’m trying to maintain a balance of various styles of black metal and dungeon synth. I know there are some pitfalls to releasing music that sounds dramatically different in some cases but I was inspired by other labels that have maintained a diverse roster and have regular supporters.

As for upcoming releases, I have a few projects on the horizon which should be out in September/October:

– Orb of the Moons (debut album from ambient/DS artist)
Apothecary (Depressive BM with lots of dark ambience)
Lunar Ark (This is actually my band. Doomy post-metal)

In addition, I have two more tapes in the works with a project from Italy and one from Russia. I’m not quite ready to announce those yet.

Thanks again for your time, SG. Power to Realm and Ritual, may it live long and prosper. Any final words you would like to leave us with?

Thanks so much for doing this. For final words, I’d just like to offer a discount for all Black Metal Daily readers until the end of August. Use code “bmd” at checkout and get 25% your entire order for anything on our Bandcamp.

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…Cheers, SG. To take advantage of this incredibly generous offer, head on over to https://realmandritual.bandcamp.com and snap everything up while you can. Aside from some excellent older releases we’ve previously covered like Raat‘s Once and True or Staurophagia‘s Sacrifice of the Wind (amongst others), they also have a few copies of the following recent gems left on hand… don’t sleep.

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Artist: Grimtone

Title: Morte In Vitam

First up, the ineffable triumvirate of Grimtone play ripping Swedish black with a searing fire at its core, exclusively. This album was released under two different titles this year; I’ve no clue why it was changed for the later CD issue but Morte In Vitam is the original title this tape has been bestowed with, and it slaps. From the impassioned hyperblast of tracks like ‘Djävulens Tyrann‘ to the crust-ish carnage of ‘Ur Avgrunden Född’ there’s just enough variety injected into the age-old Scandinavian attack to grab your attention and hold it for the duration; and all delivered with admirable ferocity. These gents can write a riff, too – grab this on smoke-coloured hand dubbed cassette. Very nice.

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Artist: Awenden

Title: Awenden

This enigmatic US post-black crew (or solo project?) only formed last year and wasted no time crafting a compelling debut EP that aaaaalmost feels like it could be an album if there were another track added. This is the type of post-black that invites deep internal contemplation – swathes of ethereal synth flow within rugged, soaring compositions that feel both vital and yet despondent all at once, effortlessly brewing a darkness that will affect you for days. There aren’t too many vocals to be found here either which, instead of detracting from the experience, only adds to the immersion as the emotional dynamism of the (often surprisingly technical) music is given full room to breathe and work its considerable magic.

Refreshing to listen to and with wonderful, weighty atmospherics; pick it up at name your price download or on putty-coloured, hand-dubbed and hand stamped cassette.

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Artist: Ururdhagaz

Title: Någonstans i en Tid..

And the last of the three we’re considering today (these three are the only recent releases that aren’t sold out yet, so be quick) is Någonstans i en Tid.., the debut of Swedish dungeon synth artist Ururdhagaz. Straight up, this had me hooked from the opening seconds of the first track ‘Skogen Magiska Kraften’ – the track is catchy as fuck and I was immediately sold on the haunting, percussion-driven grandeur of what I was hearing. The percussion doesn’t hang around for the entire (and rather varied, You’ll even find some choral vocalisations in later cut ‘Den Magiska Hymnen’) release, but that doesn’t matter. The best DS is transportative and what Ururdhagaz does is sweep you away to the deepest candlelit hallways through sheer vibe and austere melody.

A great debut from the project, grab it on black, hand-dubbed and hand stamped cassette before the remaining few copies vanish into the ether. Hails.

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FÓLKVANGR RECORDS MINI LABEL SPOTLIGHT INFERNO: Interviews with ChapelFlames and Ancient Flame

It’s been a while since we checked in with US tape label Fólkvangr Records, one of the hardest working and most genuine underground labels going around in the current year. So what are they up to? Well, still tirelessly keeping up their impeccable release track record they’ve got yet another killer pair of high-quality black gems lined up to unleash upon the world – Ireland’s enigmatic ChapelFlames with his great debut album Uaigheanna Gan Mharcáil, and US solo practitioner JL‘s Ancient Flame, bringing to us the thrilling Tyrant Blood.

Both are one man projects, both summon vitriolic, ripping black metal belched forth from the bowels of various subterranean hellfires, both sport rousing, battle-hardened riffs and an assault honed to maximise your chances of triumphing over your enemies – and both are dropping together on 17th May (so you can pick ’em up together and save a few dollars on that shipping). To celebrate this glorious happening, we’re doing something a little different; instead of merely rambling on about the releases we’re diving headlong into the raging firestorm and speaking directly to both of the individuals behind these compelling records. Cool, right? Check out both of the interviews below, listen to the available tracks scattered throughout and go throw some hails at both of these deserving artists and the mighty Fólkvangr Records. Esto perpetua.

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Greetings ChapelFlames! I hope we find you well. Speaking of finding you: information about the project is scarce on online, I don’t know much about you at all bar that you’re a one man project from Ireland. So first off: who is the mysterious entity behind all this, and what led to the genesis of the musical idea which would become ChapelFlames?

– Greetings Aaron, thanks for taking the time to reach out to me, I really appreciate it.

There’s no real reason behind the anonymity of the project itself; I just wanted the music to do the talking, so to speak.

I’ve been enamored with Black Metal since I was a child, although I was never all that interested in the aesthetic appeal of the music, the atmosphere and playing styles had me hooked. I got sidetracked along the way by Hardcore Punk, and subsequently spent my younger years (and current years) playing in Hardcore bands. ChapelFlames was really born out of the necessity to prove to myself that I could in fact do it, and play the music I’ve always wanted to, by myself. It took a few years to build up the confidence, gear, and know how to do so, but I eventually got there.

I’ve recently had the privilege of experiencing your upcoming debut album Uaigheanna Gan Mharcáil, and it’s a powerful release indeed. I have not yet had a chance to read the lyrics, but the title rather intriguingly translates to “Unmarked Graves”… which is also the name of the third track on the album. Could you enlighten us a little as to the themes present on the record?

– The themes on the record revolve around Irish history, conflicting political ideologies between the North and South of Ireland and my at the time degrading mental state. “Unmarked Graves” in particular relates to the genocide committed against the Irish by the English during the Irish Famine.

Aside from the general themes, I’d also like to ask about the album’s ultimate conclusion: “The Northern Province – I, Embittered Blood – II, Thy Young Ensnared”. Not only is it a great song in itself but the title conjures images of a potentially fascinating tale. What is the story and meaning behind this track?

– I come from the North of Ireland, which to anyone outside of Ireland may just sound like a geographical specific, but it can be the difference between a lot of things in someone’s upbringing on this island.

My parents are mixed marriage, which means they come from different religious backgrounds, which in this case is Catholic and Protestant. This was during the period in Ireland referred to as the “Troubles”, an ongoing conflict between the Irish Republicans and Irish Unionists in Northern Ireland.

I was never raised specifically to follow one religious path, which in itself is a good thing, however it did lead to a lot of confusion on my behalf about where my geographical identity lay. A lot of people I grew up with up associated as British, a lot associated as Irish, I didn’t quite know where I fit into things.

Depending on where you are born in Ireland can have a lot of say on what is imposed on you in terms of ideological beliefs, however, I never felt this pressure, so I grew up not having any clue about my geographical identity. I eventually realised I was Irish, and grew out of the anger that I felt towards the whole situation, however I know that the same process I went through is still happening to this day, because not only are children born into areas that teach poisonous belief systems, but they’re also not taught about the history of the island itself. In the North, it can be a very imperial aligned view point that you are taught, depending on where you are born.

Musically, the album possesses a depth and variety that I found quite surprising. Second wave meets stabs of third wave dissonance, with folk melodies nestling in beside black/death elements to great effect. What sort of influences or musical touchpoints did you have whilst writing the album?

– That’s a really hard question for me to answer, because truthfully, I don’t fully know. The only constants I’ve ever known musically are that I love the balance between light and dark, the play of melody and dissonance has always yielded my favourite releases in any genre. During the writing process for the album I was going through an extreme bout of depression, I would lock myself in my makeshift home studio for countless hours a day, hit record, and see what came out, whittle it down, then build a song out of it. Probably not the most efficient way to write a song but it somehow worked in this scenario. I would also occasionally take myself, my acoustic guitar, and a portable recorder up the Cooley Mountains to record whatever the scenery inspired me to conjure up.

Your first release was the also-enjoyable Deathbloom demo but you’ve really stepped up your game on Uaigheanna Gan Mharcáil. This material sounds absolutely incredible in comparison, not only in sound but in songwriting too. Being a one man project I’d assume you have your preferred writing and recording methods fairly locked down – what was it like going on to work on the full-length after the demo? Did you do anything differently?

– I suppose the major difference between the demo and album was the addition of live drums, which were in the end performed by a session player who wishes to remain nameless. I don’t require the programming skills to outdo the real thing, for now anyway.

In regards to my approach to songwriting I wouldn’t really say anything drastic has changed; I still write in a very sporadic manner, with sharp transitions, and constant rhythm changes. I have issues with my focus point, so if I don’t change something sonically I get bored extremely quick, so I suppose this in turn results in endless riffs per song.

As previously mentioned ChapelFlames is yet another great Irish black metal band, of which there are many – do you find yourself particularly inspired by the arts of your countrymen? How involved are you in the Irish black metal scene?

– Absolutely. Clichéd as it may be to say because I’m from Ireland, but I personally feel like some of the Irish bands on the go at present are stronger than anything else in the world musically. You have the likes of present bands such as Slidhr, Unyielding Love, and Malthusian, all of which are flying the flag for extreme music. Alongside this you also have a roster of deceased bands from Ireland who put out records that will stand the test of time musically, far too many for me to even name. As for my involvement in the scene itself, other than my own output, I have absolutely no input, the scene is small, and finding competent musicians is a trial in itself. It’s easier for me to do it myself at present.

The album is dropping soon on cassette tape through the good people at Fólkvangr Records, a label becoming more known by the day for digging up fantastic works from the deep underground. How did this deal come about?

– I honestly had to take a deep breath before sending the first initial email and reaching out to them. This label has put out the likes of Windfaerer and Chaos Moon, to name but a few, so to have my name alongside some of the most influential acts in Black Metal in recent years is actually astounding. This label has not put out one shite release since its inception, and that says it all really, so for them to put this record out means a lot to me. Hopefully I’m not the shite one, eh?

And finally – what’s next for ChapelFlames? Any new material in the works, or perhaps an expanded lineup and some live shows?

– I have a serious love/hate relationship with this project, it takes a lot out of me mentally to conjure up the music, so I’ve no real clue when the next release will be, that being said, I’m a glutton for punishment, so it could be sooner rather than later. I did recently collaborate with an Irish based Noise artist called Vile Sermon, to put out a project under the moniker of Sermon of Flames, and an EP called Heralds of the Untruth. I’m currently writing an album for this project, which is shaping up to be a cacophonous ordeal altogether, but other than that, I have no interest in taking CF live for now.

Sincerest thanks for your time today. Any final words you’d like to leave us with?

– Thanks for your time, hail Ireland!

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Pre-order Uaigheanna Gan Mharcáil on cassette from Fólkvangr Records HERE.

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Greetings JL! It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you today. Now, Ancient Flame‘s debut album Tyrant Blood dropped digitally and on tape back on the 25th February – how have you found the response to it has been so far?

– I initially made 10 cassettes of “Tyrant Blood” that sold quickly with no real self-promotion. While not necessarily a triumph, Folkvangr was kind enough to help create more copies of the cassette.

The album is tagged as Pagan Black Metal, and the titles and lyrics seem like they may possibly indeed borrow at least in part from Nordic mythology or similar. Runes, battles, druids… were these tales inspired by any particular existing mythos, and if so, what does that source mean to you personally?

– The inspiration behind the album is intensely personal with a conceptual presentation. The imagery and themes are of Celtic origin. “Tyrant Blood” is about a fictional and cyclical war. The narrative of the songs is used as a platform for creating ancient imagery and atmosphere within the music. The idea behind the sound is to infuse an intense negativity with a feeling of victory and triumph.

Personally, I don’t like to promote any specific ideas or interpretations of the music. The listener should be the one to interpret the music, as intended. I use black metal as an outlet for many reasons.

You also have two other solo black metal projects – Labyrinthine and Skullreader. Are they still active? What made you want to begin Ancient Flame instead of continuing one of them?

– I am not currently creating any new music for Labyrinthine or Skullreader. I will most likely revisit both projects at some point, although I am not entirely sure. These projects come from different sources, and I don’t necessarily like to revisit these sources creatively.

For Ancient Flame, I wanted to create a sense of medieval atmosphere with black metal. The influences here are obvious to anyone familiar with the underground but were mainly inspired by early Abigor, Bathory, Obsequiae, and Polish black metal.

Aside from your three solo projects, you’re also doing time as guitarist in the great epic doom band Crypt Sermon. I can sometimes hear the vaguest of doom-ish influences and definitely some of the similar epic vibes in some of the sections on Tyrant Blood; given that Crypt Sermon has a solid black metal connection as well (you all did a fantastic job of covering Mayhem‘s seminal track De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas alongside TT of Abigor the other year and Fenriz of Darkthrone has also given the band his seal of approval), how often do you feel your inspiration for both of these projects has crossed over? Do you find it easy to separate your motivations for them entirely, or do you feel some of the feel from one creeps in to the other on occasion and has had an influence on the sound?

– There is a small amount of crossover regarding the inspiration for both Crypt Sermon and Ancient Flame, but they are both very different in terms of the musical effect that I am trying to achieve.

Motivationally, I have been driven for a long time to create music and I like to explore different sounds and approaches. Each project comes from a different place in terms of the effect I want to have on the listener. Ancient Flame is a combination of darker elements mixed with an epic feeling that I would like to explore more in the future. It can be difficult to translate different emotions within a black metal context, but I remain interested in the challenge.

The cover art is intriguing and appears to be an illustration of a druid lifted from an old book, or something similar. Where is it from, and what does it depict in relation to the album’s themes?

– The cover came from a textbook article on druids. This image encapsulates the tone of what I am attempting to translate through the music. Mainly a sense of ancient war. The imagery and subject matter is conceptual, but the emotion is real. Tyrant Blood is a story of revenge around themes of war and the implications within.

The first tape drop of the album sold out (I’d imagine fairly quickly, too) but luckily we will soon be seeing a second cassette release through the great Fólkvangr Records. How do you feel about this, and how have you found working with them to be so far?

– Mainly grateful to get some more copies of the album out.

I know you take the stage in at least one of your other endeavors – have you yet considered assembling a group of like-minded individuals and taking the Ancient Flame material to a live setting? If no, is this an idea you’d be open to in the future, or is this destined to remain a permanent studio project?

– I would be very open to the idea, no plans yet.

And finally; who is the tyrant you speak of in the album title? Is there a literal connection to be made with a historical figure, or is the concept of the tyrant intended in a more metaphorical sense?

– Conceptually, the “Tyrant” is the one who launched the initial attack (the one who shot the ‘Arrow of Truth and Fire’) in the first song. This then leads to the resulting war that culminates in ‘The Rising Flame of Hate’, which turns the revenge seeking subject of the story into a tyrant himself.

The symbolic interpretation here should be quite clear.

That’s it – sincerest thanks for your cooperation and eloquence. Any final words for us all?

– Stay underground.

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Pre-order Tyrant Blood on cassette from Fólkvangr Records HERE.

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Support Fólkvangr Records:

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Label Spotlight – An Interview with C and M of Vinyl Compvlsion

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CORVUS OCULUM CORVI NON ERUIT

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When it comes to personal music consumption it’s an undeniable truth that analogue formats fucking rule. Sure, the fact that you can have a million songs in your pocket wherever you go these days is cool as shit, but there’s a myriad of reasons an ever growing number of people will only accept nothing less than vinyl and/or tapes for their at-home listening pleasure (and if I need to tell you these reasons, I almost feel sorry for you… almost). Vinyl especially has been making a steady ‘comeback’ over the last decade, although for some amongst us it never really went anywhere – those whose record collections number in the thousands, spending far too much money on what could almost be deemed an addiction… those with the Vinyl Compvlsion.

Cheesy as fuck intro aside, the two men that run the label fall firmly into that aforementioned category. This endeavor was borne out of love for the format – Vinyl Compvlsion truly is just fanatics putting out releases for fanatics, and what’s even better is they both have killer taste in black metal. Deitus, Lascar and Tod Huetet Uebel are just a few of the names they’ve given the vinyl treatment to and they’ve even had a hand in getting one of the sleeper hit records of the year out into the world: Höstblod‘s Mörkrets Intâg.

Beginning as hushed whispers in the deepest shadows of the extreme metal record collecting world, the first VC editions were extraordinarily hard to come by. Rumour has it you had to be initiated into a clandestine order to even think about obtaining one of their unique colour schemes and/or limited releases. Well, in spectacularly good news for the common folk, that has slowly changed and these prizes are yours to be found if you look hard enough (and are quick enough – the Tod Huetet Uebel press sold out from their webstore in the blink of an eye earlier this week). I dig the ethos of the label and the two men behind it are fine gentlemen too, so for our next Label Spotlight I’m honoured to have them in for a chat about all things VC. Scroll down, read on, hit up the Bandcamp links to feast your ears on some of the glorious albums they’ve pressed, and go throw them some hails at the official VC store. Definitely a label to watch.

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Hello C & M! Sincerest thanks for your time, I love what VC has been up to lately and it’s a pleasure to speak with you. For readers who don’t know (and skimmed over the intro to this article): Vinyl Compvlsion is a relatively new record label that specialises in giving underrated black gems the chance to shine on the best format of all, and their own often-clandestine colour variants that until recently have only been made available to a select few souls. But first, a little about the men behind it all: what drove you both to start such a specialty label?

C: VC was started through a couple of us not following ‘rules’ in another online vinyl community, we set out to have a space where there were as few rules as possible and people could have freedom of expression. Since then, VC established itself organically as a black metal collective and releasing records felt like a natural progression. Nothing like this was really planned, it’s just sort of happened. The first release came about by a few of us wanting to own Deitus – Acta Non Verba” on vinyl and since there was no other label pressing it, we decided to approach Dawnbreed Records and proposed a joint collaboration and it all went from there. We were thrilled to have such a high calibre album as our first release and we will be forever thankful to the man at Dawnbreed that “showed us the ropes”.

M: It was a natural progression, really. We kept coming across bands on platforms like Bandcamp that had released great albums on digital, CD or sometimes on tape… as vinyl junkies, you would instinctively go and search out the vinyl version. More often than not, it just didn’t exist… certainly with bands from the BM underground. Deitus was a prime example. We both knew instantly this was a special band. We discussed the album in great length and I think it was that album that planted the seed to take things further at a much more serious level. I spent months hammering at the Deitus door, I think they thought I was deranged. It was only when C decided to also give them a firm nudge that they realised we were deadly serious. As a label staring up, sometimes the music won’t reach the desired ear because of other factors. We knew we had an audience but what sealed it for us and made it so inspiring was that it featured such an iconic image on the front cover. It resonated with the music so perfectly that as a first release, it was perfect.

Your most recent drop has been the stunning triple threat of Iku-TursoThe Great Tower, AlkymistSpellcraft Ceremony and Tod Huetet UebelMalícia, the biggest unleashing you’ve done to date. Tell us a bit about it; how did it all come about? What are your personal thoughts about each of the albums?

C: Iku-Turso came about through catching M’s ear and he approached and stayed in touch with the band over a period of months. When the time came for band to want it to be pressed on vinyl, they decided to go with VC. We felt it was a great take on the more traditional black metal style and are proud to have this in our catalogue. Alkymist was a long term member of VC and he sent the album through to us to listen to, we thought his take on black metal with a hint of doom provided a great atmosphere and we were impressed with the Ruins of Beverast cover. It felt right to release this on VC and support a long term member. Tod Huetet Uebel – Malicia is an album I personally have loved since I first heard it back in 2015 and I have maintained contact with the band on and off since then. This is a truly special album and the furious drum style mixed with memorable dissonant riffs is a sound that appeals to me. The vocal performance on this album is jaw dropping, as well as it having superb artwork – an all round amazing release.

M: Similar to the Deitus in the way a sound, or note, or a scream can ensnare you… the tracks on Iku-Turso’s The Great Tower just felt so heartfelt and genuine. A record that manages to pull all the great elements of Black Metal into one filthy pot. There are waves of rawness, veiled melody and swirling darkness that just captured my imagination. They uphold the old BM spirits but I think they are utterly relevant within current circles. With Alkymist it was pretty much the superb ROB cover that started the collective nod. Once the sounds of the “Holy Trinity” started to form in our heads, Alkymist felt very much a part of the three. I received a message off C late one night basically saying “We’ve got the Tod Huetet Uebel”. To this day I’m still slightly shocked we are releasing it. It’s a masterclass.

If I’m correct, VC has had four releases to date: DeitusActa Non Verba and these three coming shortly, but aside from that you’ve also been involved with producing stunning variants of Lascar‘s Saudade and the frankly excellent Höstblod debut Mörkrets Intâg. That’s a pretty impressive resume for the label so far. How do you go about choosing which releases to put out next?

C: Even though we have only been going a short amount of time when compared with many other labels, the amount of submissions we receive is very high, so much so that we struggle to listen to everything. I think we go about choosing releases from a “fan’s” point of view, we want to feel passionate about what we release and not just whether we think there is a market for it. Ultimately we look for releases that haven’t been released on vinyl, that we think deserve to be.

M: We are fortunate enough to be surrounded by a lot of very creative people. Label owners, bands, artists, vinyl collectors and music enthusiasts. More often than not, some of these projects, they just appear out the mist… crawl out the fog… and bang on the VC door with a bloody hand. Emails and messages fly around for a few days and behold… a new VC project is born. We are being very careful about what we will be releasing in the future but for some projects, they are just written in the stars. We can’t release everything we feel is worthy… so it is very difficult, but we just go with our instincts.

One of the things I love about your releases is the absolute care you put into the presentation. Everything looks simply glorious, with great attention to detail. You can tell you are both genuinely passionate about all this and I know you both have impressive personal collections; is that what drives you to produce finished products of such quality?

C: Since everyone involved in VC is essentially a dedicated vinyl collector, presentation and quality is very important to us. We want to be proud of what we put out and we want the quality of the product to match the quality of the music. The bottom line is we are music fans and want everyone, whether it be the band or consumer, to be impressed with the product. It’s simply pride.

M: We have a pretty tight vision of how things should be. We are not professionals when it comes to design and layout but we make up for it in vision, I think. It’s a work in progress, ideas evolve organically which then seed other ideas and so on. The music dictates the visuals and everything is moulded around that.

I’ve seen recent label art contain the proverb ‘Corvus Oculum Corvi Non Eruit’ – Latin for “a crow will not pull the eye out of another crow”, or perhaps: “honour among thieves”. Has this been adopted as the official motto, and what does it mean in relation to the philosophy or aim of the label?

C: Yes, a quote M introduced and it think it certainly does encompass what we are about. This will certainly feature more on future VC releases and merch, should we decide to do anymore.

M: As C stated… it represents how we think, how we feel and how we conduct ourselves with the bands on the label, the people we work with and the folk who buy our records. Just another example really of how we evolve, how elements are added to the labels brand, spirit and ethos. I think the proverb chose us, not the other way around.

Everything seems to be running beautifully for you, but I know there can be many issues behind the scenes that come with running a label. What do you find the most challenging aspects of the VC label have been so far?

C: We did have some quality control issues with this trio which is why Tod Huetet Uebel has been delayed a month over the other two. I would say the most challenging is timing everything correctly, there are always delays at plants and some plant owners do not take pride in their work or customer service.

M: As C has been the main warrior fighting the dark evils of plant owners, the hardest aspect for me is choosing the next release. What’s even harder is once you have decided on your next masterpiece, you then have the impossible task of convincing the band or artist who created it that VC is the perfect parent to raise it under the sign of the black mark. Thankfully this seems to be getting easier with the arrow of time flying trve and these days, grovelling at band’s Bandcamp doors is a thing of the past. We are now having to plow through band submissions and friendly messages with lots of links to demos… we will always go treasure hunting though. It’s the thrill of the hunt…

Have you put any thought/began machinations into what lies beyond those last three titles yet? Can you give us a hint of what future delights might be hidden up the mystical VC sleeve?

C: We have a release coming up from a French band which will be revealed shortly. Also the LP version of Deitus’ Via Dolorosa which we are very proud to be involved with, it’s a monster!

M: We’d been very clear and honest with Deitus, they knew we genuinely loved their debut and we just wanted to be a stepping for them… we felt that at some point in the future they would need a bigger label to fulfill their potential. I think it says a lot about the trust and respect Deitus have for us and how far VC has come that they have decided for their next release that VC is still the place to be. The new album is huge on many fronts. It is everything and more. It has another incredibly strong album cover again so i think we are going to have some fun with this one. It will be very special.

Dream time now: Is there any album (or even discography) in particular, from any point in history, that you would just love to get your hands on and give the VC treatment?

C: …

M: In total dream world, I would love to release a new Owls Blood LP… for many reasons, some more obvious than others, that will never happen. Dead Section Records was a special label for us and inspired us on many levels to pursue this path that we now find ourselves on, and the Owls Blood releases were pretty much the reason C and I got together, which led us to form the group and label. A very special band.

And finally, here’s something I have to ask because I know it’s the question on everybody’s lips: For the first couple of releases, without the requisite obscure arcane knowledge it was nigh on impossible for one get their hands on a copy of the mythical, limited VC editions. They are slightly easier to obtain now… How do the general public score one of these rarities?

C: Keep an eye on the Facebook label page.

M: Take a walk in a forest in the dead of night, turn left at the old well… then follow the stream to the clearing. The moon will reveal an ancient pagan altar. There will be a spade. We will meet you there. Tell no one.

Sincerest thanks once again for your time, C and M. Any final words?

M: Many thanks for the support! Carpe noctem!

(PSA – The final few copies of the limited VC variants of Alkymist and Iku-turso are still available in the web store at time of writing… be quick.)

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Unsettling Vibrations – An Interview with ‘N’ of Unpleasant Records

UNPLEASANT: /ʌnˈplɛz(ə)nt/

(adjective)

causing discomfort, unhappiness, or revulsion; disagreeable.

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Continuing the theme of great underground labels in this run of BMD Label Spotlights, today we have an excellent newcomer that deserves your unwavering attention: the Chilean Unpleasant Records. Only active for a year thus far, the label does exactly what a good label should – dig up the best artists from deep in the caverns of musical obscurity (some of these artists have no social media pages or much online presence at all) and drag them into the sunlight for the world to appreciate.

It’s also run by none other than the enigmatic N from Chilean/Venezuelan black masters Selbst, who took the time to sit down with us and chat about all things Unpleasant. But before we get to that, let’s have a quick look at the label’s first triptych of killer cassette releases:

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First, FOSA. Demo MMXVI was originally recorded in 2016 and this nihilistic carnage definitely deserved a revisit. Punishing, relentless crusty black fury with crushing tones meets a deep, deceptive melodicism and even a sliver of slithering dissonance and black noise; all capped off with hellish, proselytizing vocals and riffs that could crack open the earth, this celebration of all things negative is a winner from start to finish. Seriously, every track is incredible and the raw power in their sound is immense. I really fucking love this demo, and I’m shattered that by the time I discovered Unpleasant Records I’d already missed this tape. Jump on this at name-your-price download… while crossing your fingers for a repress. Oh, and it’s their only release of their four year existence, too. Perhaps it’s time for a full-length?

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I did, however, manage to grab a tape copy of both of these next two releases, the first of which is Nox Desperatio‘s austere debut album Anima Veritas Vita Morte. This duo summon raw, enflamed black metal done the old way, emanating esotericism and hatred from the shadows to drain you of all life. Some welcome depressive elements pop up here and there but overall this is nothing but old-school obscurity with no frills and no fucking about; just the way it should be. Name-your-price download and tapes are still available. Prepare thyself, for darkness and despair falleth over the Earth.

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And finally, Moriturio‘s Luminatione Exaltat Serpens – nothing but pure black metal. The songwriting shines through on this one, dark tension and ancient glory oozing from the tremolo-heavy compositions while the vocalist shrieks like a creature of the night. As N says below, these few tracks comprise all of their recorded material and might very well be their swansong; which, if true, is a crying shame as the atmosphere and energy they summon is something special. Raise your claws to the moon, grab a free download and/or buy a tape of this now before they all sell out – then read on below for our chat with main man N.

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Greetings N! It’s great to speak with you today. Some people may know you from Venezuelan/Chilean project Selbst, but you also run a label, Unpleasant Records! So, let’s start with the intent behind the label. If Unpleasant Records had a mission statement, what would it be?

N: The one of giving to know dark and terrible gems. Unpleasant, for the majority. Of black metal and related music in general, that only those who are prepared to receive in their hearts would listen and comprehend properly…

Hails. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the label has been active for about a year now; what made you finally decide to start it up?

N: For a long time I wanted to start in this, nothing ambitious but dedicated! I wanted to give an opportunity to bands that were looking to start and acquire a physical release to begin showing their work and to give them some support.

Especially thinking about good bands from my country, Venezuela (which are really, really few).

Well, I know one great band from Venezuela. As mentioned, you’re also a member of Selbst and I’m sure have many, many other things that also keep you busy. How do you find balance between your art, life and your label?

N: Sometimes I can hardly find a balance, I am a natural procrastinator… but beyond this, I am someone very null, a normal work-home-etc guy. I’m not into partying a lot, I’m a bit bitter in that aspect. This year I had another issue that I also had secretly between my eyes and for a long time, and that is playing live with SELBST. About that, it has been a bit year moved.

Unpleasant Records’ first three releases are: Fosa’s Demo MMXVI, Nox Desperatio’s Anima Veritas Vita Morte, and Luminatione Exaltat Serpens by Moriturio. Can you tell us a little of your personal feelings about each one?

N: Let’s see…

FOSA was a revelation for me. I loved their demo and their 100% nihilistic and anti-showbiz-egocentric attitude (a rare occurrence in the Chilean scene). They go against everything and everyone. It is a band with true attitude, created by true nihilists and fucked-up people. For me it was an honor to give them this little support. Besides, their songs were sung in SPANISH!!!

NOX DESPERATIO is very important for me because they are from Venezuela. Anima Veritas Vita Morte is a work with composition quality, totally sung in Spanish as well, and done in a masterly way! This is always a difficult language to work with for metal music, especially in black metal, but it seems that it flows naturally. Also, the people involved in this project are super talented and dedicated to black metal. They have sacrificed a lot, and still do, even with all the crap situation that my country is currently experiencing. That is not a little amount.

Finally, MORITURIO is one of my favourite and best-achieved black metal acts from my country. Unfortunately, they don’t have a wide or constant discography; this work feels like a goodbye (maybe?) for a great project that many people out there should know. Also sung in Spanish, although inspired in my opinion by the typical black metal like Sargeist, etc. it has an original and frightening touch. Catchy and deeply, extremely atmospheric riffs.

I hope to get more works like those in the future!

So far, you have released all three of those albums on cassette. What is the appeal of this format to you? Is this your preferred listening format, and do you have any plans to branch out into vinyl or CD for future releases?

N: I would LOVE to release vinyl formats in the future. But I’m working with cassette tapes now for several reasons. On one hand for a matter of costs, it’s much easier to start up. Also because it is a format I like; it is small, and it facilitates storage and shipping.

I like to buy cassette releases from bands and labels. Like vinyl, it has that classic touch that the CD does not have, and much less a digital download…

I agree, analog for life. Also of note: all three albums have been pressed in limitations of 50. Are you open to the idea of represses, or is it going to be a one-time-only sort of deal? What do you think about each option, which appeals to you more?

N: Of course, I’m totally open to reissues, but as you can notice, I am a normal person who wanted to start a independent small label with short editions. It was like a experiment. Therefore, if everything goes well, I could make more copies if necessary. One learns on the fly…

You should reissue FOSA so I can order a tape, haha. Anyway I hope it goes well – the releases are amazing. Some labels end up with quite an eclectic roster releasing a variety of genres, will Unpleasant Records take this path? How do you decide which bands or artists to release on the label?

N: I would like to, as long as it’s something unpleasant! Haha. The truth is I have little time and, mainly, I release projects of people more or less close to whom I want to support.

Especially, as mentioned before, bands from my country with a brutal sound, that touch my fibers, will have an advantage for me.

Is it only yourself that runs the label at the moment? If so, would you ever take on any help?

N: I took this decision on a personal basis, so I prefer to work and keep it like this. Even when some extra monetary help is always welcome, I prefer to take longer and do it on my own, to be able to work freely in any way I want, without waiting for second opinions from anyone!

The best way. Something that I guess many readers will want to know: Are you accepting demos?

N: Yes, although I have already planned the next releases for 2019. But you know, even so, my humble door is open for any not-shitty proposal!

Be prepared for an influx of shitty demos, haha. Now, I notice Unpleasant Records also acts as a distro. Are you open to trades with other labels?

N: Trades are, definitely, an important part in the underground! It helps the band, it helps the label, and even helps with promotion I think. You will not always get something good, but it will help you to promote unknown bands and keep the interest of potential buyers alive in the material that you bring constantly to your distro. Apart from strengthening ties and making contacts or some shit like that.

Given that the label is fairly new, you might be in a good position to answer this, as I’m sure you’ve come across at least a few problems: Do you have any advice for those aspiring to start their own label?

N: I can only say that if you want to make a living from this, you better get away. This is something that is done for the sake of Art. With passion and dedication. You can always recover, in some way, what you invest; but it is not likely to make you a millionaire haha.

Simply do it! And convince yourself to not worry about money. If you find music created with the soul, with approach, then support it and work hard in the promotion of it and it will find, for sure, a place in this world’s shitty metal scene with a lot of fucking bands coming out every day. That’s very important!

And finally – Everything you’ve released so far is superb. Can you drop us a hint of any future black gold you have lined up?

N: I can tell you now that I am working on a tape reissue of the second album of the Chileans ANIMUS MORTIS, and the second full-length of NOX DESPERATIO!

Two impeccable works!!!

Nice. Okay, I lied about that being the last question. While I’ve got you here, I’m going to sneak in a quick one regarding Selbst, as I fucking love Selbst: You’ve just released Secular Compendium – a remastered compilation of your demo and splits, which is excellent but serves to whet the appetite for more. So… any news on a new release?

N: For the moment I can only say I’m working on the next full album. But like the first one, I’ll take it easy, I want something worthy of showing!

But before that, next year will see to light the vinyl edition of my beloved “SELBST”! And more live performances as well…

Excellent, I can’t fucking wait. Sincerest thanks for your time, N. Any final words?

N: Many thanks to you for your interest in UNPLEASANT RECORDS and SELBST!

And don’t forget folks, “Without drugs, life would be a mistake”… Or was it music?

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Impure Sounds Mini Label Spotlight: Ploughshare and Dødknell

“Impure Sounds is an Australian label & promoter established to honour misanthropy and darkness through musical and artistic rituals.”

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It’s an undeniable fact that underground labels rule, and Impure Sounds definitely rules harder than most. Silently brewing horrifying creatures in the humid Australian gloom before setting them free on whichever format is most fitting to inflict maximum havok upon the world, it’s co-owned by the twin demons of Richard McMaster and Brock George. But releasing top notch black/death annihilation is not all these tireless men get up to – the label is also a recording studio, they make frequent forays into the red glow of night by putting on killer shows like the recent Malign Rites Festival (that featured obliterating sets from Aura Noir, Heresiarch, Grave Upheaval, Denouncement Pyre, Ruins, Graveir, Mar Mortuum and more)… and if that isn’t enough they both play in several bands and Brock somehow also finds time to ply his trade as a skilled luthier, building ultimate quality custom guitars (check out Brock Guitars here).

They put a lot into the Australian extreme music realm and I’m a huge fan of what they do, so given that they have a couple of great new releases out about now I’ve compiled them into a long overdue (albeit mini) label spotlight. Check these out and then dig back over their roster; if you’re a connosieur of the subterranean, you’ll seldom find better. Total support.

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Alright. Want to know a delicious recipe for sonic destruction? Take one part black metal, one part death, a handful of tasty dissonance and a few grams of pure loathing. Add a pinch of orthodoxy then chop it all up, mince it through a meat grinder. Bake with a blowtorch for as long as you see fit, garnish with some bodily fluids and voilà – you now have the depraved new album from lovely Australian lads Ploughshare.

Following on from the impressive/oppressive filth of debut record Literature Of Piss, fresh expulsion In Offal, Salvation vaguely continues their themes of the sacred and perversely profane. They portray carnal filth in a spiritual sense; evocative track names like Flesh Cleft Upon Writhing Altars, The Urinary Chalice Held Aloft or Nature’s Divinity Through Defilement not only aptly illustrate these themes but also provide wonderfully grotesque mental imagery to accompany the music.

And, the music. The fucking music. Opener Carnal Revelation Unfolding sets the unsettling tone with tortured, disembodied screams and noise swells… and then you’re off. Off on an oddly unique trip through religious fervour and filth; punishing compositions creating tense and unusual structures whilst the vox shriek and bellow, each member taking a turn proselytizing the word of the indomitable Ploughshare. Yes, all four members lend their throat to proceedings which imbues an even more harrowing feel to the tracks – coupled with some seriously fucked-out effects, they quite literally sound like inhuman beasts on occasion. Brutal death riffs offset unnerving tremolo leads and a triptych of noise sections scattered throughout adds another layer of disturbing bleakness. One of which works as a perfect segue betwixt two foul movements, another with dialogue samples adding to the albums disconcerting narrative and vibe… a vibe that’s unlike much you’ll have heard before.

Self recorded and mixed, the whole thing sounds incredible and will no doubt come up even better on the vinyl that was recently unleashed – and as the icing on the cake, Impure Sounds has also seen fit to release their wretched debut on LP too (check it here), so take the plunge and dive headlong into some some Piss and Offal while you can. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Next up: holy fuck. I’ve no idea who is behind one man Australian wrecking machine Dødknell but he’s probably smart to keep his identity secret when he vomits forth black encrusted carnage like his latest EP K.I.L.L. His debut album (aptly entitled Hatred Absolute) was a savage beast that not nearly enough people paid attention to – I’m quietly hoping that will change this time around, as this malignant little cancer in the heart of black metal is nothing short of utterly fucking lethal.

Absolutely no time is pissed away on the wind as Hammer Of Hate proves itself to be exactly that, the track (available for streaming below) bursting to life in an aggressive squeal as the drums/everything proceeds to bash your skull in repeatedly before then flipping on a dime and switching seamlessly into a galloping glory ride through the pungent miasma of hell. Incendiary vocals tear through the cacophony, spitting venom and bile on us pitiful human worms that writhe underneath, making us feel like we deserve it. Hostile, primitive riffage hacks and slashes making devastating use of a rancorous and violent tone (and killer solo to boot – always enjoyable).

As old school as your 28 year old pair of gig boots, it’s high energy, physical stuff that doesn’t slow down one iota as grimy centrepiece ANTIFVCK is not only insane, but is also hands down my pick of the three. Opening with a tasteful “C’mon!” and “Ugh!” before the shit really hits the fan, the vocals somehow reach all new levels of torment and roaring hatred as the dynamics of the track hook you in like black claws in your flesh; you can almost see the blood flying everywhere in thick crimson spurts as the music reaches diabolical crescendo. Raped Silent Chanting then closes proceedings with a venomous punkish attack on all things living, reveling in a complete disgust of life. “I can’t take this anymore” he howls, and you fucking believe him.

I remember reading a write up for Mayhem‘s Ordo Ad Chao that said if you played the album next to a plant, the plant would die. Well, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if that phenomenon occurred here – the sheer malevolence inherent in this virulent stab at humanity could make any living thing wither away into a charred husk. If you like your black metal visceral and aggressive with no pussy shit to be seen, you can get your twitching hands on a digital/super limited tape on 16th November; so climb over the growing pile of corpses and fucking K.I.L.L.

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Double Label Spotlight – Eisenwald/Haeresis Noviomagi: Solar Temple, Iskandr and Fluisteraars/Turia

Today is a special day for those of us that appreciate the more eclectic side that black metal has to offer. Yes, we are fortunate bastards indeed. Why? Because a triptych of exquisite Dutch magic has just dropped through killer labels Haeresis Noviomagi and Eisenwald Tonschmiede; Iskandr‘s Euprosopon, Solar Temple‘s Fertile Descent, and the stunning conceptual split from Fluisteraars / Turia entitled De Oord.

The astonishing thing about this is that all three releases are likely to end up somewhere on the BMD end of year lists. Quite the feat, and one that seems all the more remarkable when you realise that all three projects, although each with their own unique properties, are connected by two Dutch men: The enigmatic M (Solar Temple, Fluisteraars) and O (Iskandr, Solar Temple, Turia).

As previously mentioned all three of these are releasing through a stunning dyad of labels, too: purveyor of subterranean gems (and the Dutch collective under which these projects all create their art) Haeresis Noviomagi is handling the tapes, whilst the esteemed Eisenwald Tonschmiede is taking care of CD and vinyl. If you want to snap up a copy of these I’d jump on it post-haste as these are sure to go soon; so without further unnecessary words, let us take a quick look at this triumvirate of glory. Hails.

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First up is Solar Temple‘s transcendental debut album Fertile Descent. Building on the promise shown by their 2017 demo and transforming into something from a higher plane, over the course of two lengthy experimental tracks the duo of M and O go to places you probably wouldn’t be expecting. Or, given the location of it’s members, perhaps you would.

Clean, almost chanted vocals accentuate an esoteric, uniquely atmospheric and somewhat indescribable vibe that (typical of so many luminary acts in the Dutch scene) hurls the rule book right out the window and seems to borrow as much from old psyche-rock or Swans-esque madness as it does surging, smouldering black metal. With trancelike, mind-expanding tendencies and a psychotomimetic production that only enhances the overall effect, you can easily listen to this on repeat for hours on end (and I have).

A superb debut. Do not miss.

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Next up: the more traditional black flame of Iskandr‘s Euprosopon. Well, more traditional when compared to the other two releases covered here but this heathen slab of carved onyx glory still posesses enough progressive structure and noble blood to stand head and shoulders above most other black metal art released this year.

Seriously, pardon my verbosity and pretentious magniloquence but the sophomore album of main man O‘s solo project can only be described as some fucking stunning shit. Regnum alone is worth five times the price of admission, all the way from its ominous opening tones to the beautiful solemnity of the acoustic final movement, while the yearning surge and regal flow of Verban is borderline rapturous… and I won’t even mention the ultimate majesty of closer Heriwalt.

The album’s title apparently expresses “the impossibility of the ideal man”, but with Euprosopon, Iskandr have come dangerously close to the very real possibility of an ideal contemporary black metal album. Expect many end of year list appearances with this one.

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Finally, we close this circle with the excellent conceptual split from Fluisteraars and Turia, De Oord. The rough translation of that name is “where two rivers meet”, which makes sense because each of the two projects has based their track upon a major river that flows through their respective hometowns; the Rhine for Fluisteraars, the Waal for Turia.

Fluisteraars take the lead and when the first drum groove and downpicked riff of offering Oeverloos first bursts from your speakers if you’ve just come from listening to Iskandr you could be forgiven for doing a double take to check that you hadn’t accidentally clicked on some alternative indie rock band or something. Although that’s a rather trite first impression and not meant to be taken entirely seriously, it does inform the rest of the track, to a degree; in interpreting the properties of their great river they have created the “brightest” thing they’ve ever done. Comparatively sunny melodies that invite relaxation and calm, a different vocal style than the norm… it’s certainly not what we’re used to from them, but as it unfolds over the almost 15 minute runtime it’s still undeniably enjoyable in every way.

Turia on the other hand, do what they do best with Aan Den Golven der Aarde Geofferd; summon a furious torrent of compelling black rage and awe. The track swirls and flows, one minute tense and the next a stream of rushing visceral consciousness, always in constant motion until the reflective and overwhelming emotional collapse of the conclusion. After their earlier split with Vilkacis, have Turia pulled off an astounding coup and taken part in yet another of the top splits of the year? The answer can only be a resounding yes.

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All releases available for order now from Eisenwald here and Haeresis Noviomagi here, released on 28th September.

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Wolfspell Records – ‘Autumnal Equinox’ Label Spotlight

The excellent people behind Polish label Wolfspell Records‘ star has been on the rise of late, with seemingly everything they put their seal on being of the utmost quality for those among us whose souls are enraptured by the more atmospheric-leaning variations of this multifarious sub-genre we all know and love. With a firm belief in championing the underground, they consistently emit a steady stream of gems dug up from across the globe and seeing as they have a bunch of new esoteric conjurations materialising tomorrow (23rd September) in celebration of the Autumnal Equinox, I thought I’d collate all the ones that have landed in the BMD inbox into a quick but well-deserved Label Spotlight. So heed the lupine call of the moon, prepare thy wallet for a traumatic experience and dive headlong into the raging flame and shimmering, ethereal beauty below. Hails.

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Artist: Höstblod

Kicking things off we have one of the more astonishing debuts I’ve heard in recent memory, and one that should also be very familiar to regular readers. Swedish one man project Höstblod dropped Mörkrets Intåg a few months ago on vinyl and digital, and now Wolfspell has stepped up to the plate to continue the Höstblod world domination with a CD release.

For those not yet in the know: this is a truly remarkable album. Created during the process of composer Johan‘s mother sadly passing of dementia, the textures and moods on display here are nothing short of breathtaking as he weaves searing black metal, neofolk, ambient pieces and much more into something truly unique and utterly personal. He isn’t making this music for you. He’s making it solely for himself, and you as the listener are privileged to be able to bear witness.

For a deeper look at the album and to hear Johan himself speak about it you can read our interview with him here. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, spend some quiet time with Mörkrets Intåg. You won’t regret it.

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Artist: Graveborne

Next, some black destruction based on the Finnish Civil War of 1918. Basically veterans of the scene by now, Graveborne have been summoning their blasphemic blitzkrieg for over ten years and if you think they’re going to give up the ghost in any way, shape or form; you’re sadly mistaken.

However, this is a slightly different Graveborne. Bursting from foul catafalque anew, here with third album 1918 they have a fresh purpose: to tell a story. Depicting the conflict in Finland 1918 when the country became an independent state seems to help them focus. The blasts are employed more sparingly (but still there, to devastating effect), the writing increasingly adventurous yet tighter and nuanced, the songs and the album itself more dynamic. It works well for them, instead of coming off as a second wave worship act they’re forging their own sound and knocking it out of the park. Oh and it’s probably their best production, too.

On 1918 the Graveborne cult have proven emphatically that their flame shows no signs of dimming anytime soon and they’re only going from creative strength to strength. Give it a listen. Total support. Hails.

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Artist: Mourning By Morning

Okay, I have to be honest: I was almost turned away by the name on this one (especially when I read “Mourning By Morning, by Mourning By Morning“… my brain is far too old and advanced into early-onset elderly-persons disease for that sort of shit). This, as it turns out, would have been a grave error as the one man project’s eponymous debut album is a wonderful blitz of surging, highly melodic atmospheric post-black goodness.

Sole member Sörjande has been toiling away for a couple of years now, releasing the odd track here and there, perfecting his craft. And go a long way towards perfecting it he has; you can tell he’s absolutely dying to get this release out there when you listen to the work and care that has gone into it. Blistering, well programmed drums and his hyper-melodic riffs offset against affecting, almost uplifting atmospherics; there’s a lot of variety here but no elements are just thrown together. Every note is carefully placed, nothing is wasted. The album as a whole is also quite artfully composed, building through a compelling journey until we reach the ultimate destination in final track Wintertide, a spectacular nine-minute piece worth the price of admission alone and one that also makes me wonder why he didn’t just name the entire album Wintertide. It’s seriously that good.

I usually don’t often find myself seeking out fare this pleasant to listen to, but I’m glad I heard this and I like it more each time I spin it. A definite grower and a great debut from a project that will only continue to improve.

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Artist: Daagh

Cold atmospherics from the frozen shores of Norway. Daagh originally released this debut five track EP (imaginatively titled ‘EP‘) back in March; this is another that Wolfspell has snapped up for a CD release, but this also has the good fortune of scoring a limited tape issue too.

I don’t know much about this project other than it consists of just one person; mystery surrounds it like the impenetrable mists and blizzards of the Nordic winter (as aptly depicted on the neat cover art). What it does clearly boast is a great, tempered sound with just the right amount of icy distortion, and killer unhurried songs that slowly emanate the strength needed to elevate this mournful fare to the frozen mountain peaks above, it’s a great EP but it really clicks at the halfway mark with the irrepressible riffs of 03 (the five tracks are all named numerically, 0105). From then it’s on a whole new level; one that you’ll want to immerse yourself in again and again.

Aside from Höstblod this may be my favourite of this Autumnal Equinox drop, I love this type of icy, morose Norwegian art. Top marks for a debut EP.

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Artist: Runeshard

As you could probably guess from the cover art alone, bombastic Hungarian project Runeshard plays over-the-top epic/power/black metal that tells tall tales of swordmasters and sorcerers exclusively.

Dreaming Spire, the debut EP from main man Bálint and his guest vocalist Alethiuz (of Zel Agganor), is… something else. I don’t listen to nearly enough power metal to make an accurate and informed comparison but this really does sound as if an epic black metal band joined forces with one of the more shred-happy power metal acts to write tracks inspired by video game soundtracks. It’s not poorly done either; as a few young projects that attempt high levels of fantasy drama can attest to it’s far too easy for something like this to collapse under the weight of its own cheese when the musical and technical ability of the artist is weak, but this soars high on the wings of dragons. This man knows how to conjure some ripping melodies, and holds it all together with dextrous ease.

Four tracks and an introduction create an electric and majestic experience that undoubtedly won’t be for everyone, but it is some serious fun, so drop that “kvlt-er than thou” facade, nerd-boy and give it a shot. I for one am keen to see what he can do with a full-length.

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Artist: Hermóðr

And last but by no means least, a compilation of two recent EP’s from Swedish solo project Hermóðr. I’m quietly pleased that this compilation CD is being released, as for me the Rovdjur and Northern Might EP’s represented Rafn‘s best work since Hädanfärd.

If you’re not familiar with the prolific project (I believe this to be his 36th release since 2012, give or take) and it’s Burzum-esque trance-inducing atmospheres then this is as good a place to start as any. The Rovdjur EP is a heavy dose of repeating melancholic vibes, swirling in beautiful depression; whilst Northern Might is similar but takes off in a different, more blackthrash direction (wait for it, trust me).

Remarkably consistent as he slowly tweaks his sound with each release while staying true to his core every time, if you’re in the mood for some natural, introspective atmospheric beauty you really can’t go wrong with Hermóðr. I’ll likely also be picking up a copy of this and he has shirts available too, for those so inclined.

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All releases available for order on 23rd September.

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Label Spotlight: Solar Asceticists Productions

~ 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.

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Artist: Abyssal Vacuum

Year: 2018

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.

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Artist: Cendres

Year: 2017

‘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.

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Artist: Hyrgal

Year: 2017

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.

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Artist: Adherent

Year: 2017

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.

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