For This Time Only – A Review of 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker)’s 一期一会

They say lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. Well, I am here to tell you: they couldn’t be more fucking wrong. The debut album ‘5772’ from multinational headmelter psychedelic crew 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker) was a shining, utterly bizzare bolt from the blue; and now the trio of PBV (Guitars, Bow, Vocals, Effects), NN (Fretless Bass) and KJM – (Drums, Percussion) have flown from various places around the globe to meet up and send another streak of once-in-a-lifetime freak voltage directly into the collective craniums of discerning experimental extreme music consumers.

‘一期一会’ is the title of this new lysergic beast, which translates to “For This Time Only, Never Again” and could equally refer to either the mode of its construction being recorded live in one hit with any additional overdubs dropped in later, or that this band is something quite unlike anything you’ll ever experience or will ever exist again and the fact that you are alive to see it is incredible in itself. In keeping with this theme I’m going to try something a little different and overly self indulgent: a stream of consciousness review as I sit and listen properly to this for the first time. At 1am. I apologise in advance.

Pressing play… Now.

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– Nice intro. Ominous, yet calming.

– Here we go… Bongos. Of course there are bongos.

– Vocals are mental. Washed out and barely straining through the music, the perfect accompaniment…

– Holy FUCK

– Grinding death diabolical black metal riff slashes through / gone as quickly as it came. Yikes.

– That bassline swimming upwards is great. What the fuck is going on, and they haven’t even let fully rip yet

– Oh, next track… Man, this is mental and soulful all at the same time

– Devilish lounge music?

– This is a freak out. Jazzy, mutant rhythms. The vocals are at odds with everything, yet so perfect

– Drifting away into fucking space. Beautiful, mantra, trancelike. Oranssi Pazuzu vibes

– Next track… Carnage, yet not carnage. They hit some tweaky melodies, getting into weird progressive tech like I want to say Electro Quarterstaff or something, but way more baked and black. Therefore obviously much, much better

– The intricacy in their sound is incredible. Next track, hit me.

– Oh fuck YES. CRUSH

– Christ on a bike, that fucking riff. Slithering and sinister

– Track of the record so far. ‘No Premature Celebrations’ indeed.

– That’s it, everyone pack up and go home. They’ve done it, nothing else needs to be said

– The dissonance. Yes.

– Next track… I don’t even know what to say about this. It’s going to fly off the rails and decapitate several people on the way

– Where am I?

– Those creaks… Were they ambient sound? Or played on instruments? Outstanding.

– Now this is a crescendo. This shit is fucking wild. I think this song is going to make me explode or transcend reality or something. I mean… Fuck off.

– The structure of this album as a whole has been incredible. I wish more bands built these dynamics over the course of a full-length

– Final song… Savage beauty in an alien world. Swirling emotions and shimmering whispers. I swear you could listen to this album twenty times in a row and you’d still be picking out fresh intricacies every time

– ‘No Clinking of Glasses’, spot on. Shit sounds like a dinner party in hell through the second half

– How do you write something like this?

– …It’s over? Hasn’t it only been five minutes or so..? Fucking felt like it. Time to push play again. Goodbye…

Releasing today through Sentient Ruin Laboratories and Annapurna Production.

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Purchase 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker)‘s ‘一期一会’ on cassette, vinyl or digitally from Sentient Ruin Laboratories here, CD digipack from Annapurna Production here, plus all of the above from their own Bandcamp here.

Support 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker):

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Divine Fire – A Review of Precaria, Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering and Dominus Ira’s ‘Metamorphosphoros’

“Metamorphosphoros is a split album dealing with the concept of Theion, the divine fire that burns but never consumes, like the one seen by Moses in the desert when he heard the voice of YHWH. It’s also about the descent to the abyss, and the consequent ascent, in order to attain a state of purification. Something which will ultimately be achieved through death.”

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So says the I, Voidhanger Records promotional blurb for ‘Metamorphosphoros’, the astounding conceptual split from Mexico’s Precaria, US duo Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering and subterranean Russians Dominus Ira. Now, regular readers may know that well-executed splits are a particular interest of mine; it’s ace of course when singular projects can create a dynamic and flowing album but when two or more artists come together forging a conceptually meshed, stylistically complementary and coherent whole, I find it especially enjoyable. As a result to say my interest level in this split was through the roof would probably be an understatement, but: released on the final hissing breath of March’s death rattle this admittedly landed in my inbox quite some time ago. I’m a bit late to the party here due to a shitty work overload, but I simply couldn’t resist giving it the well-deserved proper review treatment once I’d heard it.

Before belatedly diving in to this glorious occult triptych I also want to quickly acknowledge one glaringly obvious thing too: that is some seriously fucking stunning artwork. Ikonostasis: Artwork of Elijah Tamu has outdone himself creating some great things for Svartidauđi, Lo-Ruhamah and Panegyrist of late and he absolutely knocks it out of the park with an intricate and affecting piece drenched in mysticism and dark symbolism. I know some have given this a chance simply based on the cover alone, so the big question is: does the music itself stack up? Well as the old adage goes… Let’s find out!

Opening this ambitious rite in explosive fashion are Mexican duo Precaria. Something absolutely incredible straight off the bat is the fact that beside the drums, these three opening tracks were supposedly recorded and produced entirely on a phone. Yes, a Samsung Galaxy. Listening to the flames, layers of guitar and building vocals of introductory piece ‘Ritus Primordiales’ as they begin to weave the necessary atmosphere, that fact seems totally unbelievable. Full kudos to main man Hermit Of Tehom for pulling it off in such convincing fashion because when first proper track ‘Ex Abyssia’ kicks in, the whole thing sounds absolutely monstrous with just the right mix of obscurity and power hitting you square in the face as the scorching drums provided by session/live man Opposus Discordia give the impression your skin will be flayed off any second. The fury and fire is unrelenting as the track traverses its intricate, mystical forms; the riffs and compositional twists seemingly designed to carve magic into the very air. All this gets even better with ‘Traficando los Órganos de la Iglesia’ as the intensity and spiritual melodicism reaches an almost biblical magnitude before eventually collapsing into a haunting ambient passage, replete with sorrowful and dramatic female vocals. It’s a lovely moment of respite, but alas, one that does not last; these men do not want you to catch your breath as the frenzied first bars of ‘La Obra Negra Deicidia’ remind you that the ritual is far from complete. Another ripper track, its hypnotic waves of surging fury and roared sermons form the perfect parting shot of Precaria‘s intense opening salvo.

If Precaria were spreading the thematic message by way of an almost delirious religious fervour, then the Cult of DIS take it upon themselves to carry the torch with orthodox bile and black death infused venomous devastation. Rather fittingly seeing as the moniker Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering is apparently intended as “an honest, although admittedly cynical, description of what life fundamentally is“, you can taste the disdain and wretchedness dripping from every pore of their sound. Low death growls, riffs that somehow encapsulate nihilistic brutality and esotericism all in one; this is some great stuff.

Despite their obvious talent for bludgeoning at disorienting speed they also aren’t scared of slowing down either, as the languid and soulful second half of ‘Bliss Inferno / Le Grand Néant’ attests with its dulcet tones. The break almost serves as the album’s centrepiece, calming and providing necessary contrast before what I opine is their greatest contribution, ‘Breath of Immortality’, arrives in menacing fashion. You can definitely hear their influences coursing through the veins of this track but they rise to something much greater; the sinister alchemy and satanic majesty is wonderfully done and there’s a perfectly balanced occult grandiosity to it all. Easily my pick of their three compositions and to top it off, it culminates in the lyrical expression of the very title of the split:

“To wield the knife of non
To carve my name into the heart of God
I breathe, not to inhale life
But to exhale death unto eternal night
Create to negate profanation
Liberation, in the name of…

METAMORPHOSPHOROS.”

And finally, reciting the last words to seal the incantation is Dominus Ira. A one man Russian act who has been at it since 2004, this project’s stock and trade is cold, misanthropic second-wave-worshipping euphoria. Beginning well with ‘Ashes of Your Faith’ and progressing into the all-destroying profane fury of ‘Eerie Subterranean Call’, he may even wield the most potent weapon of all three artists. There’s a lot of variety in the mode of attack on this three-pronged trident of a split but this man in particular goes straight for the darkness, summoning it effortlessly through unhallowed halls, howling from the desolate winter winds. Final rite ‘…Of Coldness’ is nothing less than a knife to the heart, a celebration of decay, dreams, misery and transformation. This IS the conceptual death. I could listen to it for hours and couldn’t think of a better track to close out proceedings.

All in all, ‘Metamorphosphoros’ is a marvelous journey and a mesmerising performance of the dark arts from three very different artists executing parts of a conceptual whole from their own unique viewpoints almost flawlessly. Does it break new ground? Not really. Does it do what it does aim to achieve well? Yes. Sadly, it probably won’t end up getting the attention it deserves because of the first of those questions, but you can certainly give it all of yours regardless. They’ll all be getting much more of mine when I check out the rest of their respective discographies.

Excellent work. Hails.

~

Purchase ‘Metamorphosphoros’ on CD from I, Voidhanger Records here.

Support Precaria:

Support Deathspiral of Inherited Suffering:

Support Dominus Ira:

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Final Breath – A Review of Twilight’s ‘Trident Death Rattle’

For those who somehow don’t know, Twilight was a collaborative project between some of the biggest names in USBM/great music in general. Counting at various times in their ridiculously talented ranks members of Leviathan, Krieg, Nachtmystium, Xasthur, Draugar, Isis, The Atlas Moth and Sonic Youth, together they created some of the most unique and unsettling black metal you’ll ever hear. I personally jammed the hell out of this project, so I’m extremely pleased that a new EP comprised of songs leftover from the recording sessions of 2012’s ‘III – Beneath Trident’s Tomb’ has arisen from the depths this very day.

Now, if you’ve even paid the slightest bit of attention to USBM in the last five or six years you’ll surely have heard of the absolute shitstorm around one of the members of this project. If you paid a little more attention you’ve probably read various delightful accusations, insults and recountings of woeful happenings between even more of the people involved. But enough keystrokes have been devoted to all that shit and if you really want to drool/jerk off over all the sordid details it’s all over the internet; given that one of said members is now operating the label releasing this and everyone else seems to be at least some vague semblance of cool/polite about it anyway, what really matters for the moment is this: New. Fucking. Twilight.

Well, new/old, but you catch my drift. Being from the same sessions (these are the tracks Blake Judd wrote before they were all pulled from the final album), new EP ‘Trident Death Rattle’ is unmistakably cut from the same deep textured cloth as ‘III’ yet ends up somehow even more experimental in nature.

‘This Road South’ kicks off in a bleak storm but is the most “standard” track of the bunch, a black blaster with great riffs that apparently would have been the opener to the album. Everything sounds ace, Wrest is as great behind the kit as ever and Neill ‘Imperial’ Jameson kills it on vocals, his harrowing howl is still one of the best in the game when he’s on point. Second piece ‘Weathered Flames’ is a raw stomper, probably the weakest of what’s on offer here but solid nevertheless, while the final track ‘No Consequence’ is where it really gets into it and is worth the price of admission alone. Heavy, dismayed, despondent and broken, the sound of a world collapsing in slow motion. You can really feel Thurston Moore‘s additional fingerprints on this track and some banjo even makes an appearance, courtesy of Scott Judd from Tangleweed. Easily the best of the three.

Overall, is it good? Yes. The tracks would have sounded great amongst the others that made the final cut, although for reasons well documented it’s probably understandable they were left off. As it is, the fact that they’re seeing the cold light of day now is good enough and an appropriate footnote for an extraordinary collaboration and event in USBM, the likes of which we may never see again.

Out today through Ascension Monuments Media, who incidentally have also been putting out some killer rarities and reissues from Leviathan, Othendara and Judas Iscariot alongside some well deserved fresh signings like Suicide Forest. Check them out.

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Purchase Twilight‘s ‘Trident Death Rattle’ on CD, vinyl, cassette and digital from Ascension Monuments Media here.

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Your Doom Awaits – A Review of Funerary Descent’s ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’

“Funerary Descent is the always present dread.

Funerary Descent is the void of existence.

Funerary Descent is the madness of eternity.”

~

Have you ever heard of the “Windlass of Erasmus”? Well, as the tale goes, Saint Erasmus of Formia was a Christian saint and martyr who died back in the heady days of 303 AD. He is venerated as the patron saint of both sailors and abdominal pain. Why abdominal pain? Because his death was allegedly the product of one of history’s cruelest and most harrowing forms of torture.

Ol’ Elmo apparently shuffled off the mortal coil in a particularly horrifying way. Bound on a rack by Romans a neat little incision was made in his abdomen and his intestines separated from his stomach, attached to the windlass and then spooled slowly out of him; winding around the makeshift crank as he writhed in what was sure to be excruciating pain. He died an agonized and protracted death, completely helpless and only able to watch as his guts were removed incrementally and inexorably from his body. Why do I mention this? Because the sheer pain, suffering and sense of doom you would be consumed by in that situation is the closest approximation to the experience created by US duo Funerary Descent‘s despair-filled debut album ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’.

The trauma begins with the portentous sound of a solitary piano in a storm… Before everything then explodes in a grand thunderclap of rain-drenched misery. Opening track ‘It Crawls In The Venomous Hollow’ is ten minutes of the most soul-draining funereal wretchedness you’ll have heard in your life; the guitar tone bitingly morose while each ponderous, echoing drum hit is the sound of seconds ticking by while your life is running out. The riffs scrape past like nails on a blackboard and you can almost feel them sucking the life out of you. The rasping vocals have stepped up; they possess a new savagery and are far more powerful compared to the throatwork on their 2016 demo ‘Winds of Dissonance’. In fact, in my opinion everything about this is a huge step up; more vital, deadlier, blacker.

Something the duo of Dread (also of Vampyric Bvrial) and Blind (ex Serapheum) already did astoundingly well on their last demo was envelop you with their compositions and paint a vivid mental image of the terror; here they’ve not only kept up the standard but somehow managed to hit all new levels of devastating clarity. Visions of cloaked figures move slowly toward you in procession, a horrifying visage as the midnight rain pours on your wracked and broken body. You’re right there, soaked, delirious, frozen in pain and terror; the spool of your intestines growing larger with every passing minute.

Second death rite ‘Sunderance Ov The King’s Manor’ is where the ravens appear, circling and waiting in the shadows to ravage your flesh and pick your corpse until only bones remain. The opening dirge was merely a warm up, now the torturous element of their sound really comes into play. At over thirteen minutes long the track is given ample space and time to be sure its morbid task is done to greatest effect, miasma seeping in and filling every inch of your lungs as the death-knell riffs turn the windlass evermore.

Third passage ‘Eternal War of the Eclipsing Sun’ is where things reach critical mass. Opening with the sounds of a panicked battle, this battle is also your own as you fight for what remains of your slowly fading life. Several tempo changes from a relative canter to a depraved crawl make this the most dynamic track on the album, while the storms remain ever-present, bearing morbid witness to your final, struggling breaths.

And then, mercifully and yet all too soon, it’s over. Titular final piece ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ is an instrumental accompaniment as your spirit, finally freed of its shattered flesh prison, passes almost gratefully into the next plane of existence.

I sometimes find it hard to connect with your typical blackened doom act, but there’s absolutely no danger of that happening here. The misery is simply exquisite. A remarkable debut in which the hellish duo have not only challenged your pain tolerance and capacity for torture, but delivered on the promise of the demo in spades. The same spades wielded by hooded and moonlit figures, digging your shallow grave in a location nobody will ever find, right now.

Available 27th April through the one and only Fólkvangr Records. Limited to 50 copies, pre-orders up now. Your doom awaits.

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Purchase Funerary Descent‘s ‘Ov Chasms Beyond’ on cassette from Fólkvangr Records here, and keep an eye out for a digital copy soon from their own Bandcamp here.

Support Funerary Descent:

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Elven Tales – A Review of Dwarrowdelf’s ‘The Sons of Fëanor’

Dwarrowdelf is a one-man studio project from Southampton, UK, walking the utterly untrodden path of Tolkien-based epic black metal.“

Clearly written with a wry sideways smile, the self awareness in that promotional blurb is refreshing. This has all been done before, yes; but Dwarrowdelf‘s debut album ‘The Sons of Fëanor’ proves itself more than a mere emulation or adherence to a proven formula. No, this is this individual’s own personal take on the saturated sub-genre, and you can tell he loves what he does.

Don’t let that little self-deprecating jibe mislead you about the album either. There are no jokes or jolly jaunts found here, this is some serious Tolkien worship and a massive slab of truly superb epic black metal that constantly surprised me throughout every twist and turn of its hour-long journey. Main man Tom O’Dell stated in a previous interview that Michał at Wolfspell Records offered a deal within hours of receiving the record; the only reason I can imagine as to why it took even that long for him to respond is that after hearing the album once, he had to play it through again to believe what his ears were telling him. And then again after that.

Whereas his previous EP ‘Of Darkened Halls’ was moreso centred around the Dwarves of Tolkien’s work, here the focus is squarely on the Elves of ‘The Silmarillion’. Seven songs; seven tales to tell the story of the seven Sons of King Fëanor and their oath to recover his jewels (the ‘Silmarils’). It admittedly has been a long time since I’ve read the source material but it’s clear Mr. O’Dell knows the lore and tells it well with not only a great lyrical interpretation but musically too, being quite adept at composing the perfect emotional sonic accompaniment to each chapter of the Elves’ tragic saga. The darkness in opening chapter ‘Amrod’ is delicate and exquisite, while stirring teaser track ‘Caranthir’ is utterly enthralling and the sorrowful solemnity throughout the subterranean ‘Curufin’ draws you in and contains just the right amount of mystery and wonder. Special mention for the keys in this too, they’re particularly well done and are utilised to enchanting effect.

The vocal performance is solid but in my opinion his cleans are the surprise, restrained and the perfect tone for the material. Guitars are great; this man can riff, and he certainly knows his way around a tune as the songwriting skill on display here is fantastic (check out the killer ‘Amras’ for proof of both of those points).

The only minor qualm I have with this release is unfortunately and often unavoidably a common one for one-man projects: the programmed drum sound. It isn’t bad by any means; I just kinda hope he somehow gets to work with a live drummer one day as his epic compositions deserve much more of a human, earthy feel than the sterility of programmed drums can provide. As it is, it serves only a mild distraction at times and doesn’t overly detract from the listening experience.

Grand in scope and executed to near perfection, Dwarrowdelf has added its unique voice to the throng of epic black metal artists and it’s a voice that rings strong and clear, rising above the multitudes. If you’re at all a fan of folky, epic black metal you’d be doing yourself an injury to not pick this up when it releases on digital/CD through Wolfspell Records on 30th April, and at the very least expect to hear much more from this man in future. Excellent work.

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Pick up teaser track ‘Maedhros’ at name-your-price download from the Dwarrowdelf Bandcamp above, or keep an eye on Wolfspell Records here for CD and Vinyl pre-orders.

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The Sacred and the Profane, Part 2 – A Review of Graveir’s ‘Cenotaph’

And thus, the world was plunged into darkness once more. Picking up where we left off in our interview with frontman Gloom for the first part of our coverage of the Australian wraith’s upcoming new release ‘Cenotaph’, the time has come recite the necessary incantations and take a deeper look at this great release.

A little history for those who missed part one and can’t be bothered clicking back: the embryonic stirrings of Graveir began in 2009 and eventually blossomed over time into the full rotting flower we see today, resplendent in filth. Currently consisting of Pandora on bass (also doing time in the excellent Moon), skinsman XI (ex-Moon, ex-Dead River Runs Dry, ex-Vyrion and more), the twin obscenities of Emaciation (Arms of the Abyss, Defamer, Tower of Fire) and Alone on guitars plus Gloom (ex-The Silenced) tearing his throat to pieces in the name of art, ‘Cenotaph’ is the project’s fourth release overall and follows their superb end-of-year-list -making split with Mar Mortuum from 2017.

If their contribution to that split was superb, they’ve taken things another step further on this EP. As ‘Sanguine Inferno’ bursts to life in sorrowful dissonance and begins to traverse it’s darkened path, you’re struck by the deep melodious bleakness in their sound; throughout the course of the journey it’s as if the songs try to take flight but are weighted down by utter hopelessness. Which is a very good thing, a definite honing of their abilities and focus has taken place here and the EP reaches down into depths no sentient being should ever have to experience.

‘Dyatlov’ draws inspiration from the Dyatlov Pass Incident that occurred in an almost impassable region of Russia’s frozen Ural mountains in 1959. The bodies of nine ski hikers were found scattered and damaged by an “unknown compelling force” whilst apparently attempting to flee their tent (which had been destroyed from the inside), skulls and ribs smashed. One woman had her tongue cut out, some were dressed only in socks and undergarments in the freezing snow. The mystery of what took place that night remains unsolved to this day; and it’s a fitting theme for this track as it surges through the mire, its haunting misery punctuated by violent throes of horror. One of my favourites on the EP and one in which you realise how unusually prominent and integral to their sound the basswork is, as Pandora‘s sinister rumble and dreadful tones add menace and instill a real fear of the unknown. Very welcome and effective here, providing the sinewed muscle to XI‘s winding percussive backbone.

EP centrepiece ‘Whips’ continues in dysphoric form, piling the melancholia on even harder before it then flies into a tempestuous rage. Despite their relatively short run times I find the tracks deceptively epic and expansive in their progression, there’s a depth to each one that reveals itself further and further with each listen. On the latter half of ‘Droit De Seigneur’ Gloom and Emaciation‘s dual vocal assault is utterly terrifying, while Alone‘s guitars sound like that door tucked away in the darkest reaches of your mind that hides and locks away all the unspeakable things has been ripped from its hinges. Both great songs, but they save the best until last: ‘New Gods (Drowning the Sun)’.

It might just be because I’ve spent the most time with this particular track overall, but it fucking kills. The moods it taps into, the true despair and intensity; frontman Gloom said in our interview that it decribes “the building of the new order over the bones of the old, through bloodshed”, which is not only a fitting theme for this piece but also the EP as a whole. Graveir are building a new order for themselves here, perfecting their formula and crushing everything in their path in the process.

It may sound like I’m just blowing hyperbole but I honestly am quite partial to this release. There’s a raw charm to their morose melodic power and a sense of integrity to the sound and songs, you can tell they’ve been crafted with care. The overall production hits me just right and sounds like the audio equivalent of dead things reaching out to consume your flesh. Which will most likely be while you still breathe and remain totally cognizant of what is taking place, but… Not quite yet. No, this is the sound of that fleeting moment in between life and death, when you’re frozen and everything stretches into eternity, forcibly aware of your own fragile mortality and its impending end. Each time you visit this world it pulls you further and further down… And I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic Norot Art cover artwork yet. Just look at it.

A killer EP, one that spells big things for the impious lot. Vinyl and shirt pre-orders available now from the ultimate purveyors of misanthropic art down under, Impure Sounds. Releases on 20th April. Get keen.

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Pre-order ‘Cenotaph’ on vinyl or digital from Impure Sounds here.

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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.

~

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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Abyssic Terror Ritual – A Review of Vessel Of Iniquity

If you’ve been reading this site for a while you’ve probably gathered that I’m a big fan of Sentient Ruin Laboratories. They pump out quality release after quality release, not only black metal but all sorts of harsh or experimental weirdness carefully selected to cater to all manner of wretched tastes. Easily my favourite label of last year and in news that will surprise no-one who’s been following their releases, they’ve started off 2018 in exactly the same fashion: already unleashed are two incredible finds, the previously mentioned on these pages Rotting Sky and the co-released with Xenoglossy Productions debut EP of vicious UK black/death/noise act Vessel Of Iniquity.

This slice of negative energy is the latest project from black noise architect A. White, who has been active since before the turn of the century with Thoraxembalmer and various other subterranean niceties.

This time, he’s harnessed the sheer horrifying power and pull of the void. When you think of the void, do you imagine immense calm, or mind-bending incomprehensible violence lashing you from all sides? Well, Vessel Of Iniquity is definitely the latter. Opener ‘Void of Existential Terror’ is exactly that; an all-out sonic assailment of inevitable destruction whipping your flesh to dust. It is fucking terrifying. Percussion teeters on the brink of becoming flat-out physical punishment as disembodied howls ride escalating waves of panic-inducing power electronics noise carnage; until it all collapses in on itself and you’re allowed to breathe for a brief, precious moment.

EP centrepiece ‘Where Even Nothing Is Something’ seems like it just wants to try out new and more disorienting ways to beat the shit out of you, switching it up for the latter half of the track to descend into chaos and become somehow even more intense than anything that’s come before. It’s the shortest track on offer at 3:40, which is a good thing, as aside from the piece itself never becoming tiresome I seriously doubt the tenuous grip we hold on reality would be able to withstand a longer assault.

The ultimate panel in the hellish triptych finally allows some respite from the torment. Everything slows to a relative crawl; twisted atmospherics, ritualistic drones and hypnotic patterns forming the necessary Thelemic sigils to evoke the Dweller In The Abyss… ‘Choronzon’. Once manifested, however… Well, you’ll see.

I bought this immediately after hearing it for the first time, but I’ll probably never end up receiving it. The way Sentient Ruin keeps digging up black gold I’ll be forever adding to my parcel and it will sit in pre-order limbo forever. Which is meant as the highest praise, and I guess nothing could be more fitting than for this wretched abomination of an EP to languish in stasis, not of this world yet infecting it by its very existence, spitting and howling in the fathomless void forever.

Don’t sleep on this. Out on tape as of three days ago through the Sentient Ruin / Xenoglossy Bandcamp pages, with vinyl pre-orders also available.

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Purchase/pre-order ‘Vessel Of Iniquity’ digitally from Bandcamp HERE and on cassette or vinyl from Sentient Ruin Laboratories HERE or Xenoglossy Productions HERE.

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Satanath Records & Grimm Distribution Label Spotlight

In our second spotlight it’s time to amplify the emanations of another label doing some great shit under many people’s radars, and why not make it two this time: Lethal subterranean killers Satanath Records and their partner in malevolent machinations, Grimm Distribution.

Satanath is based in Russia while Grimm Distribution is in Belarus; and although they both drag some truly unique and varied sounds up from the deep underground Grimm has the far more eclectic of the two rosters, working way outside the spectrum of black metal. In keeping with the general theme of this site we’ll stick to the BM releases, however; for the more open minded among you I highly recommend checking out the rest of their artists. You’ll unearth some great, unique and, at the very least, interesting stuff.

First up, Satanath Records. They’ve been doing their thing since 2012 and have put out close to 200 albums. It’s owned and ran by Aleksey K who has his own dark space ambient/electronic project entitled Satanath (that you can check out here) and says of the label “All metal genres welcome in our satanic horror house“. So, without further ado, let us enter and bear witness to the blackened nightmares that await within the blood-drenched halls of the house of Satanath.

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Artist: Inhibitions

Year: 2018

Kicking off with a quick glimpse of some forthcoming Hellenic black metal, Inhibitions have been drawing down the night since 2008 and ‘La Danse Macabre’ marks their third full-length ritual manifestation. One track is available for free download/streaming on Bandcamp now: ‘The Calling’ starts off with some severely skin-crawling shit before launching into a lurching, gothic-piano-twinkling black metal blast. There’s something arcane and hidden about this particular track, an unspeakable evil lurking just out of view that makes you doubt your sanity and fills you with fear. So heed the call and join the dance; full album out January 13th next year and if the rest of it matches up to this, it could be a good one.

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Artist: Enoquian

Year: 2017

Next up with just the right level of black destruction (and a sweet name and logo to boot), are the mysterious Argentinian demons Enoquian. They formed in 2015 and have no prior releases to their name bar this debut album ‘Llamas de Gloria Primera’. Which explains why they’ve never crossed my path before now.

A brief moment of chilling ambience sets the tone before the fury kicks in. This is raw unbridled black metal, stripped back and caustic. Some thrashy or death influences creep in through a side window to fuck up your shit when you least expect it, but overall throughout the album they stick to the same formula: a short ambient intro, then unleash the hounds of hell. Which, surprisingly and to their credit, doesn’t get old. There’s enough variety in the tunes to keep each song fresh, and some of the introductions create a genuine horror vibe that only enhances the grimness that follows.

Good throat-shredding vocals cap it all off and the production is kept just on the right side of kvlt; although I’d love to hear what these tracks sound like with an absolutely crushing production. There’s some huge riffs in there with perfect skittering drums behind them that would just annihilate your cranium with a more weighty sound; they’re good as it is, I just can’t help but wonder.

Very pleased I heard this, it’s a great debut and I get the inkling their next one will be fucking incredible. Well worth a listen. 


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Artist: Garhelenth

Year: 2017

Dropping on 14th December is the second full-length from Armenian true black metal duo Garhelenth, ‘About Pessimistic Elements & Rebirth of Tragedy’. One track is available for free download on Bandcamp now, the irrepressible ‘To Impersonal Mankind’; while another militaristic stomper ‘Self Humiliation’ is available for your consumption on YouTube here. This is exactly what it says on the tin – black metal with no bells or whistles; guitarist/vocalist and main man Hilnorgoth is vehemently against letting anything pollute the essence of his creation. Centred around mid-paced repeating hypnotic riffs and a rotten infectious darkness, this wishes for nothing more than your slow death. Be warned. 

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Artist: Hak-Ed Damm

Year: 2017

Hak-Ed Damm Ist Fucking Krieg. Formed in Canada in 2007 these commandos base their attack on the horrors of WW2’s historical fact, and the result is mightily fucking impressive. 

Throughout second full-length ‘Holocaust Over Dresden’ the assault only lets up on the suitably sombre and forlorn ‘Auschwitz-Birkenau’; every single other track is pure war punishment that would give Marduk a run for their money (although they do have a greater grasp of melody than that comparison may suggest). Vocalist Winterthrone‘s shrieks rip through the mix and special mention must be given to Zaïtsev‘s frenzied performance on the fretless bass, easily matching the ferocity dished out by skinsman Silencer and the twin guitar weapons of Exu and Amok.

What’s my favourite track? Couldn’t possibly tell you. They’re all fantastic. Give this a spin next time you feel like some sheer, relentless carnage; you will not regret it.

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Artist: Solfernus

Year: 2017

Czech blackthrash war incoming. Solfernus have been unleashing a hate torrent for fifteen years strong, so their assault is honed razor sharp on only the second full-length in their artillery, ‘Neoantichrist’. The four man army counts two members of Root amongst their ranks but take few musical cues from the Czech black metal institution; this has far more thrash pumping through its veins. 

That’s not the only influence however as various other strains of blackness and metal mayhem are stirred through their sonic brew, but regardless, it rules. From the muscular shred-fest of ‘Between Two Deaths’ to the stirring anthemic title track their collective experience shines through, grabbing you by the throat and forcing you to march to the beat of their blasphemic drums as Khaablus spits his vocal venom. They still achieve an admirably shadowed atmosphere (like on the crawling, winding ‘Mistresserpent’) but overall it’s a more direct in-your-face sound that works well. In the mood for something to stir the blood? Check these guys out.

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Artist: Tyakrah

Year: 2017

I’ve already mentioned German epic BM duo Tyakrah on these pages; this is only to serve as a reminder to seek out their debut album ‘Wintergedanken’ if you haven’t as yet. Last time I said it was “…a wonderful and chilling ode to the cold season. Solid compositions with some seriously great raw melodic leads, interspersed with moving atmospheric and ambient passages” and my opinion hasn’t changed; this is probably ever-so-slightly more rough than the average Epic BM fan will be used to, but the use of melody and guitar work is far above the average. 

Refreshingly, tracks like ‘Geforne Tränen’ and ‘Fährten im Schnee’ forge a great wintry atmosphere without the use of overdone synths or minutes of drawn-out wind noises throughout, almost solely creating the mood through the guitars, drums and vocals (although there are still the great aforementioned ambient/melodic interludes included). Highly recommended, and keep an eye out for the fantastic ‘Erstarrende Nacht’, it’s an absolute stormer. Can’t wait to see what these guys do next.

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And now to Grimm Distribution. Operating out of Belarus since 2011, they also have a multitude of excellent releases with which to pleasure your ear holes; and they get a lot stranger than Satanath. Here’s a few of their black metal offerings.

Artist: Enoid

Year: 2017

Kvlt Swiss misanthropist Enoid released his last album in 2016 on Satanath Records, twenty years after the project’s unholy formation in 1996 when it was originally known as Organ Trails. This year sole member Bornyhake honours the past by re-releasing the first two demos summoned under the name Enoid, ‘Livssyklus & Dodssyklus’, from 2005 and 2006 respectively. 

Now, you may be thinking this is just an exercise in nostalgia. Guess what: you would be wrong, bucko. From what we can hear of the fully remastered material thus far it still sounds absolutely vital and could have easily been released yesterday. The passion inherent within teaser track ‘Edicius’ is palpable as it burns with sinister intent. Excellent grim vocals and an extremely satisfying guitar tone are the icing on the cake as the song slowly unfurls black wings dripping in contempt; the original demos are available on the official Enoid bandcamp here so you can hear both the sound update and venom of the entire source material for yourself. 

Great stuff, the false need not enter here. Pre-orders up now for a December 16th release. Oh and Bornyhake has finally assembled a live band; so the whole, unfettered pestilential darkness of Enoid shall finally descend over the Earth. 

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Artist: Evil Nerfal

Year: 2018

EVIL NERFAL IS JUST UNDERGROUND BLACK METAL, NO FASHION, NO TRENDS, CRUSH ALL POSERS AND YOUR METAL OF SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

So says the descriptor on Columbian melodic orthodox duo Evil Nerfal‘s Facebook page. Which is a fair warning of what you’re in for on ‘En Las Fauces Del Demonio (Taedium Daemoni)’, the teaser track from only their second album in their ten year existence, ‘Bellum Est Pater Omnium’. From the raw militaristic intro to the melodic twists and turns, these demons have never cared what you think and don’t seem keen to start now. A solid track, full of promise and misanthropy. Full album drops January 9th next year.

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Artist: Lucifer’s Dungeon

Year: 2017

Menacing tones echoing in cryptal darkness. Faint remnants of screams, the stone floor is wet and slick beneath your feet. The deeper you go, the hotter it gets, your dread increasing with every step. Then before you know it… You’re in Lucifer’s Dungeon.

That’s an apt, if not slightly cheesy decription of the introductory track to ‘The Dark Army Raises’, the debut full-length from impious Russian horde Lucifer’s Dungeon. What lies within the dungeon? Fourteen tracks of raw, mostly mid-paced melodic black metal that’s heavy on the atmosphere, interspersed with some great dark ambient/dungeon synth style interludes. Released back in May and with a gestation period of around nine years (!), it’s an intriguing album with an old-school feel that’s sure to hit the spot with many cult aficionados.

The key here really is the vibe; the chilling air of horror and/or misery in the dark ambient sections is top notch and the black metal elements pleasingly choose to match that instead of breaking out into breakneck blasting; which shows an excellent coherent vision for an album that’s oddly made up of so many small, seperate yet cohesive parts, and works very well in its favour. 

Should you give this a try? Yes. There’s nothing overly technical here, with no blistering speed or lush melodicism; what you do get however is a commendably solid album with a raw charm all it’s own. They also have a new full-length dubbed ‘Antihuman’ coming March 2018 in celebration of their ten year anniversary, so if you dig this, get keen to return for more subterranean delights.

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Artist: Freiheit

Year: 2017

Some Russian black/death. Diabolical trio Freiheit (“Freedom”) unleashed their debut full-length ‘Безумие. Ненависть. Смерть’ about six months ago now, and it’s an extraordinarily fun concoction. 

A riff-propelled beast that borrows from many sources; one minute it reminds you of the early days of Finland’s Ajattara and the next it’s bludgeoning your bleeding and broken frame with some pure death metal, then before you know it you’re back banging your head to some black ‘n roll influenced rocking vibe that has you by the balls (or respective sensitive areas). The variety in the virulently violent assault is compelling and engaging, they know how to hold your attention and distill their sound down to its most potent form. 

Despite the myriad of influences apparent in their sound there’s no bullshit here; every note is carefully calculated for maximum power and that’s exactly what is delivered. They also recently played some of their songs at a local children’s orphanage, apparently to great success. Which rules. Lovely fellas that deserve your attention. Total support.

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Artist: Cryostasium

Year: 2017

And as we come to the end of this Grimm expedition, one final salvo. US one-man dark ambient BM artist Cody Mallard conjoured his latest EP ‘Starbound’ a month ago; his thirty-third (!) release under the Cryostasium moniker since the project’s birth in 2002. Off the top of my head I don’t believe I’ve heard a single one, and you might not have either. But hey, what better place to start than here?

I can tell you right now I’ll be going back and checking out more of his work, as this surprised me immensely. Oppressive, cold riffs are thrown in a blender and slither askew over psychedelic and dark ambient elements. The vocals vary between the faint demonic howls and haunted synthetic la-la-la’s of a man gone insane, trapped far away in a hell of his own creation. There’s recurrent use of bells which only serves to fuel the odd atmosphere. Occasionally (and fittingly as they did release a split together) the songs hit almost Xasthur-like levels of dysphoria; tracks like ‘Magnetic’ or EP closer ‘Adventurine’ sometimes call to mind what Malefic might have produced if he was rocking knees-up in a corner singing to himself instead of just mentally tortured.

Featuring great Luciana Nedelea artwork that perfectly illustrates the warped, otherworldly sounds within, this may just be my pick of the entire bunch. Quality stuff, I can’t wait to head back over the rest of his discography; and it’s a fitting end to this spotlight. Hails.

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Woods of Recollection – A Review of Darkenhöld’s ‘Memoria Sylvarum’

As you may have gathered if you perused the spotlight a few articles back, over the past year I’ve been rather partial to Fólkvangr Records and their selection of releases. And now I have another reason to add: their last few consecutive tapes of quality folk/pagan black metal have reignited my interest in a style of BM that has been sorely underrepresented in my listening habits of late. Next up on their release schedule is another that I’m absolutely keen on; French medieval warriors Darkenhöld‘s latest slab of swordplay and sorcery, ‘Memoria Sylvarum’.

Assembled in 2008 and plying their medieval inspired melodic black metal trade since, Darkenhöld is a band of five merry gents with a core songwriting group of three. They’ve put out three splits and three full-lengths so far, and latest effort ‘Memoria Sylvarum’ (literally translated from Latin as “Memory Forests”) continues their great run of sublime folk melodies entwining perfectly with second-wave black fury and touches of classic metal power. Bathory-esque passages are peppered throughout, great solos and choral vocals abound; there’s even some solid dungeon synth to help with the experience. And an experience it is; these demonic minstrels are apparently more ‘inspired’ by medieval themes when they compose rather than trying to recreate authentic middle-ages tunes, but the overall atmosphere they achieve is one hundred percent in the spirit of the times. Dark ruins, travellers on quests, epic legends, phantasmagoria… What more could you want?

The brief sound of footsteps from a traveller setting off on his forest journey is a fitting introduction as we set off on ours. First track ‘Sombre Val’ has everything that makes this album great and is a fine display of their songwriting talent, before the more mid paced thrashy/traditional gallop of ‘La Chevauchée Des Esprits De Jadis’ (‘The Ride of the Spirits of Long Ago’) kicks in. This track is a blast and really showcases their compositional nous, the juxtaposition and seamless transitions between the more sombre sections with the ripping thrash moments effortlessly paint a vibrant and enrapturing picture, culminating in a sublime epic folk passage. 

On ‘Ruines Scellées En La Vieille Forêt’ (‘Sealed Ruins in the Old Forest’) the nefarious tremolo picked black returns, drawing down the spirits of the dead. ‘A L’orée De L’escalier Sylvestre’ (‘At the Edge of the Sylvester Staircase’ is deep, emotive and engaging with hints of menace and wonder in equal amounts. It’s a truly fantastic song replete with gentle choral vocals and may just affect you on a spiritual level. I could listen to the epic last two minutes of this all day; I’ve scarcely heard the sword-and-sorcery spirit of the age melded as perfectly with black metal as this.

‘La Grotte De La Chèvre D’or’ (‘The Cave of the Golden Goat’) is a welcome and artful dungeon-synth interlude; my original notes from my first listen-through only say “Hlidskjalf but better”, so take from that what you will. ‘Sous La Voûte De Chênes’ (‘Under The Vault Of Oaks’) continues with deep folk integrity… and those fucking riffs. Outstanding. A gorgeous acoustic passage transports you away to times long gone before the harsh guitars build upon the foundation laid; something these bards do very well is build upon feelings, following stirring passage with stirring passage until you become lost in their world, wandering through darkened woods. ‘Clameur Des Falaises’ (‘Clamor Cliffs’) brings more rolling thrashy riffs under ethereal synth that gives way to black blasting, the second-wave influence blazing bright. It can be one of the most dark and intense tracks on the album yet still feels uplifting or inspiring; you’re not putting that sword down just yet, traveller. ‘Errances (Lueur Des Sources Oubliées)’ (‘Wanderings – Glimmer Of Forgotten Sources)’ continues the descent with atonal darkness giving way to a more introspective vibe; while the choral vocals return to wonderful effect. Final track ‘Présence Des Orbes’ (‘Presence Of Orbs’) opens with whispering, haunted vibes then brings it home in fantastic and flute-filled fashion; one of the most dynamic tracks of the lot and a fine way to have you skipping back to the start of the album once the final notes fade.

The Claudine Vrac artwork is lush and evocative (and looks fucking great on their merch). The mix on the album is spot on, such an eclectic variety of tones that somehow work perfectly as a beautiful cohesive whole. The press release says Darkenhöld is “…one of those bands that, on paper at least, simply doesn’t make sense” and I’m inclined to agree; in practice however the trio of Aboth, Aldébaran and Cervantes have skillfully woven a rich, enrapturing journey through the dark ages that will definitely have you returning again and again. I will be. Keep ’em coming, Fólkvangr; and Darkenhöld: well done you glorious bastards. Onwards!

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Pre-order a limited Metallic gold cassette of ‘Memoria Sylvarum’ with black ink and hand-numbered, double sided 3-panel sleeve in a crystal clear case from Fólkvangr Records here, and a digital or CD copy from Darkenhöld’s official Bandcamp here.

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