Reign of Ghosts – A Review of Sühnopfer’s ‘Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes’

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Blisteringly melodic maestro Ardraos is back with a third full-length slice of virtuosic violence from his solo project Sühnopferan album that not only incorporates melodies adapted from 14th century medieval pieces, but one that took its composer more than five years to craft… and is worth every minute of that wait.

Contributor Ivan Gossage returns to share his considerations on the stunning HIC REGNANT BORBONII MANES. Read on.

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It is a bit difficult to describe the full degree of what takes place across the vast and furious sonic landscape that is Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes. The magnitude of musicianship displayed by multi-instrumentalist and sole creator Ardraos defies easy description. Every instrument, every progression, seems to be brought to the forefront simultaneously with a delivery that is so rapid and multifarious, so entangled and tortuous, that the entire work harkens the experience that the cover art depicts: not just observing, but being caught amongst a pitching, shifting and turning murmuration of violent blackened carrion starlings, engaged in frenzied serpentine dance ‘round the morbid column of some ancient medieval spire. Sühnopfer has offered us something that is truly brilliant.

Ultimately, what is harnessed are a number of conflicting elements, gorgeously and dreadfully entwined: the music embodies austere medieval granite… yet shimmers with golden empyrean aristocracy, the sound is gritty and hard… yet so clearly of the air and the heavens, belligerent and ruthless… but brimming with a passionate hyper-melodicism, a catastrophic bombardment of harmonized antipodes which reaches the most epic heights. It is a shockingly flawless display of weightless chaos and choreographed intensity, breathtaking not only for its sheer aesthetic beauty but also because one can scarcely comprehend how such a beautiful maelstrom of orchestrated complexity is possible.


Guitar lead? Yes, there is guitar that is ALWAYS leading, razor-precision riffing that one moment climbs, then skirts to the side, dives, comes at you and shies away, probing and seeking out what is possible amongst the crags and precipices, guitar that thirsts – RAGES – for life, for expression, movement for the sake of insane fucking movement, and the bass guitar is right there alongside it. Drum fills? Yes there is drumming that is ALWAYS filling. Filling every moment with some variation of blasting, here the snare, there the kick, a sudden flurry of high-hat and crash. Not content to simply provide the pillar for this skyward citadel, the full kit is used to plow the progressions forward, unrelentingly driving the song this way and that, pulling the music aloft, releasing it momentarily at the apex, and then plunging it along with the manic fluctuating gallop of a herd that shatters clouds. Neither buried nor overbearing, the vocals overlay the madness as drawn out syllables of snarling black metal scorn and groaning malice portraying robust measures of wrath and contempt, but also an antediluvian dignity and perhaps even a touch of primordial sorrow.

All of that said, let it not be assumed that what occurs is completely disorienting, for over and over melancholic grooves emerge and solid structures are unraveled, almost towards a threshold, at which point the music breaks free once again to explore further limits. The album also graciously bows away from a constant assault. Tranquil moments are dispersed throughout the album to fantastic effect. Brief chanting samples and clean utterances, sudden moments of serene acoustic guitar, simple tribal rhythms… these brief but tasteful interludes provide the listener with an ephemeral respite from the tumultuous pace and, paradoxically, produce an even more pronounced feeling of being again swept away by the inevitable explosion that follows at just the right moment. And one is, quite distinctly, grateful for that exhilarating dynamic rush; so gracious to render one again powerless, so that the spirit may be flung both below upon the ancient stone, and above towards the most pristine summits.

Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes is a masterful force. Submit to Sühnopfer and be carried away.

For fans of, but distinctly unique to: Forteresse, Aorlhac, and Véhémence.

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Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes unleashes in full on the 10th of May, under the eternally glorious banner of Debemur Morti Productions. Hails.

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Purchase Hic Regnant Borbonii Manes on CD, vinyl or digital from Bandcamp here.

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Revelations – A Review of Förgjord’s ‘Ilmestykset’

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Fratres Militiae Inferi

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Okay, so that title is a touch misleading – this piece isn’t really intended as a full review, merely a quick few words to draw your attention to an album that’s probably flying far under your radar and should be placed squarely front and center on it. That album? Well, at least this part of the title is correct: Förgjord‘s Ilmestykset.

Formed back in the heady days of 1995 the trio of Valgrinder, Prokrustes Thanatos and more recently BLK have been forging their own path both intrinsically part and totally irrespective of whatever has been going on around them in their local Finnish (or even wider black metal) scene. A slow but steady stream of albums have impressed, and they clearly value quality over quantity – Ilmestykset is only their fourth full-length in 24 years.

Now, Ilmestykset translates to english as “Revelations”, which is indeed what this album is… in more ways than one. Thematically the album is loosely based on the revelations of Maria Åkerblom, a woman known as the leader of the Finnish Åkerblom Movement and a prophet who was dubbed the “sleeping preacher”, due to her method of delivering her prophecies in a sleeping/trance like state. Semi-frequent Finnish dialogue samples that I’m sure tie into this theme are scattered throughout the album; and despite the language barrier and not having a clue what they actually say, they thankfully serve only to assist in the incredible atmosphere prevalent throughout.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Maria Åkerblom bar what Wikipedia tells me but even outside of what the album expresses lyrically, musically is where I find Ilmestykset to be a true revelation. If you’ve never heard Förgjord‘s crumbling, rotten and undeniably beautiful melodies before then get hell keen because you’re in for a treat and a half – there’s a fascinating duality inherent in their sound. It’s at once rough and almost riotous, yet inflicted with a deep and forlorn melancholia, and the masterful juxtaposition of these elements is a true delight to listen to. Almost every song walks dusted, long forgotten and crumbling hallways like an ancient Count Orlok from Nosferatu whilst in the same breath tears through the forest like a pack of wolves on a wild hunt… the way the album rips from the somberness and solemnity of ‘Surmanluodit’ straight into the savagely yearning intensity of ‘Pohjolan Soturi’ is a perfect example of this and if you don’t feel your blood rush through every extremity of your body upon hearing it, then I’ve got bad news for you, pal – I’d probably start planning your funeral. These men play with a raw core ripped straight from the heart of pure black metal, which then clashes and intertwines with their own idiosyncratic charms.

And the “raw” in that previous sentence should be underlined. Due in part to an incredibly low-fi production drenched over the entire thing the aforementioned atmosphere also often hints at desperation and despair; even at their most devilishly diabolical moments (and there are many) the sweet scent of decay hangs in the air like the final exhalations of a dying man. I really do love the sound of this album, the deteriorating guitar tone rising from the mix is a pleasure to behold. Other noteworthy highlights are: the utterly exquisite use of heavy organ adding another dimension, while the drumming is simple perfection (sounding better than their previous effort Uhripuu, too) and the vocals are top notch. Song-wise it’s difficult to pick a standout from a great collection but the haunting and impassioned movements of ‘Kaksitoista Kuolemaa (translation: “Twelve Deaths”) are simply stunning and almost bring a tear to my eye. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my favourite tracks released this year and makes the album worth the price of admission alone – it’s that good.

So, yeah. I have rambled on a bit and am now not sure if this haphazard write-up technically counts as a full review or not, but I’m positive without a shadow of doubt that this album deserves your total and undivided attention. Submit to the full album stream below – the longer you immerse yourself in Ilmestykset‘s ragged, unearthly enchantments, the more it becomes a revelatory experience: pure, thrilling, ugly, and almost ironically… a breath of fresh air.

Ilmestykset releases on CD April 19th through Werewolf Records. Soon to be available through Hells Headbangers in the USA. Hails.

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Pre-order Ilmestykset on CD from Werewolf Records here.

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Obliteration Sermon – A Review of Ultra Silvam’s ‘The Spearwound Salvation’

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Smagmatic burst, volcanic breach

Sisyphosphorouslabour of death

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As I’ve intimated before on these stained pages: it’s an inevitable fact that somewhere, sooner rather than later, one of our piss poor excuses for a “world leader” will slam their sweaty palm down on the launch button and set off a chain reaction that will nuke us all into oblivion. Fire will rain down in violent obliteration, ending all life as we know it (bar a few cockroaches or some shit). Well, I’ve now come to learn that on that very first bomb that wipes out humanity, shall be written but two simple words: ULTRA SILVAM.

Formed in 2015 in Mälmo, Sweden, this mysterious trio released an eponymous demo of black carnage in ’17 to a flurry of whispered acclaim. Strap yourselves in tight and I assure you that whispering will be no more, as with their upcoming debut The Spearwound Salvation these men have delivered on all the promises made by that demo in spades – people will no longer be whispering this acclaim, they’ll be screaming until their lungs bleed and running for their lives.

So, how is it? A touch different from their debut effort, but in a very, very good way. The aggression and visceral power still seethes untempered throughout their electric black assault, sure; but howling down from the sky is an even stronger beast. Gone is the thin demo production and in its place is a new force that allows the crazed savagery and melodic aggression to shine with blinding intensity – while still retaining the dirty as fuck vibe they do so well. Whereas someone like say, Grafvitnir play Swedish black at it’s most honed, perfected and lethal, Ultra Silvam take almost the opposite approach and charge up the energy until you get the feeling parts are flying off everywhere and the whole thing is redlining to explode. It’s not just your standard orthodox assailment and almost defies categorisation in places; thrashy, punkish vibes spit venom, as the riffs… oh shit, the fucking RIFFS. Every track is stuffed to bursting with them, whether its the blistering tremolo leads that rip through ‘A Skull Full of Stars’ (which is the only track to reappear here from the first demo), the diabolical melodicism of the triumphantly destructive ‘Ödesalens Uppenbarelse’ or through charged-up monolithic head-bangers like ‘Wings of Burial’, axeman O.R. seemingly couldnt write a boring riff if he tried – his glorious blitzkrieg will consume your mind and soul.

Which unsurprisingly marries flawlessly with the barbaric intensity A.L. brings to the drumming. Hell, the drums themselves even deserve special mention just for sounding fucking exemplary. Seriously, blasting this thing is incredibly satisfying – it veritably rips itself from the speakers and clamps its teeth shut on your throat, and a large part of that is the combination of thrilling skinsmanship and the vital sound bestowed upon the kit. The icing on this rotten black cake of death is vocalist / bassist M.A. who roars with elemental fury; proselytizing satanic sermons with so much rabid passion it’s as if his very existence depended on it.

The run-time here is also pretty much spot on, at an economical 28 minutes it’s in and out for maximum impact and sonic decimation. Too long might have been too much but this has had all the excess trimmed off and feels almost the perfect length; we even get a nicely timed breather before final track ‘The First Wound’, in the form of an ambient piece that segues betwixt that and ‘A Skull Full of Stars’. An ever-so-brief moment of mercy? Perhaps; or maybe just a predator pausing for a moment to observe its prey before the final blow.

So, yeah. There’s good reason this album has been my constant go-to for weeks, a phenomenon that I can’t see changing anytime soon – through power, creativity and boiling ferocity, with The Spearwound Salvation Ultra Silvam are positioning themselves as one of the purest expressions of the spirit of black metal you’ll find out there today. This isn’t just an injection of fresh blood into a complacent scene… it may very well be the end of the fucking planet. Hails.

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Released today via Shadow Records (marketed and distributed by Regain Records). Available now through Helter Skelter Productions.

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Purchase The Spearwound Salvation digitally from the Helter Skelter Productions Bandcamp here.

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Awe and Wonder – A Review of Evergreen Refuge’s ‘Skyward’

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We look to the stars for guidance

We look to the stars to look within

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I’m not going to lie – this is the first time I’ve ever heard anything by US atmo/post black project Evergreen Refuge. “Poser!”, I hear you cry. “I’ve listened to literally THOUSANDS of bands and own raw black metal demos worth more than your life!” Well, good on you buddy. Sometimes great shit just slips you by so you can chance upon it later and have yourself a new obsession, and this time I’m pleased to discover not only his latest album but the fact that sole member Dylan Rupe has a veritable treasure-trove of rich releases for me to head back and unearth. But, that’ll come later – for now, let’s take a look at Skyward, the prolific act’s upcoming tenth full-length offering.

Active since 2011, ten albums in eight years could indicate either a solid creative streak and incredible talent, or ridiculously poor quality control resulting in hour upon hour of unlistenable tripe. Thankfully, in this case it seems to be resoundingly the former – Skyward could only be the fruit of great vision, years of perfecting his craft and pure belief in his own ability. One single track clocking in just shy of one hour and eight minutes long, which a quick glance tells me is the norm for his releases… now that’s confidence. And it’s totally warranted too, because not one minute of that considerable runtime is boring. Au contraire, mon frère.

Skyward is an apt moniker for this beast, as this largely-instrumental composition prefers to sit amidst the stars and takes inspiration from the infinite possibilities they represent. Unhurried, ritualistic ambience marries with an expansive celestial blackness; atmospheres both earthy and empyreal collide into an impressive vastness of thought, creating a transcendent effect that’s near on impossible to not lose yourself in totally.

And you will undoubtedly lose yourself. The journey begins in calming, yet pensive fashion as ambient field recordings swim hazily in droning synth and a simple ascending melody begins to caress your ears; it becomes almost immediately apparent this is isn’t to be the usual atmospheric fare. Thus begins your trip – every element and every moment, although seemingly innocuous, is already carefully considered. There will be not one wasted or superfluous note in this entire monolithic composition. It’s all designed to slowly captivate and entrance, gently easing you into a meditative state over time as the ebbs and flows of the music wash over you and soak into your synapses.

Throughout this amazing internal/external journey you will undertake, distorted guitars shall crash into raging existence, fuelled by the pulsing percussion that pumps through the composition’s veins… before then naturally expiring, settling into the next phase in the flow. A wind instrument flits in and out, adding a plaintive other-ness to the throb and rush whilst occasional throat-singing, choral chants or rasps also break through and resonate equally as powerfully; but even these serve more as an extra instrument than any sort of vocal focus point. That melodic motif from the very first minutes of the piece returns frequently and almost serves as a backbone at times, centred amidst shimmering shades and pale auras that hum at a frequency seemingly tuned in to the Golden Ratio – you feel as though this is connected to everything. It is life. Unexplainable, but it just is, and it reaches down to touch you at your very deepest core. Somewhat unbelievably the entire thing feels like it flies by in about twenty minutes too… it’s over before you know it, but don’t be surprised if you don’t even move for a while after the final notes fade. You’ll likely need some time to process what you just experienced.

I’ve been listening to this late at night in solitude, but it’s the kind of release that makes me want to head out into the wilderness, lay under the stars and listen as I stare off into the universe – which Dylan himself has intimated was part of the inspiration for album. And that’s also why Skyward is a resounding triumph and a testament to the abilities of its creator: he has perfectly encapsulated the feeling of awe, of introspection, exploration and wonder that he felt whilst he was stargazing, pouring all of that almost overwhelming feeling into audio form and instilling it into you, the listener. It simply is that feeling in an album.

The record is dropping March 20th through A Moment Of Clarity Recordings. A fifteen minute excerpt is available for your listening pleasure (embedded in the article above), tapes and CD will be available and you really should pick one up. This is nothing short of incredible, and it’s utterly beyond me how this project has managed to escape my attention for this long.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to head off on a night walk – I have quite the prior body of work to immerse myself in. Hails.

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Purchase Skyward digitally from the Evergreen Refuge Bandcamp here, or CD, cassette and digital from A Moment Of Clarity Records here.

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Sunset Glow – A Review of Nordjevel’s ‘Necrogenesis’

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Norwegian annihilators Nordjevel are back, but this time Doedsadmiral and DezeptiCunt have added Destructhor from Myrkskog and Swede Dominator of Dark Funeral to their ranks. Contributor Ivan Gossage returns to share his considerations on their second full-length NECROGENESIS.

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Some believe that cosmic ontology and the human experience are both comprised of essentially an eternal struggle between contrasting extremes. Beauty and ugliness, life and death, growth and decay… In the Nordic cosmogony, the silent abyss Ginnungagap erupted in conflict (i.e. into being) when the crystalline elemental frost force of Niflheim came into contact with the primordial fire impulse of the Muspelheim. The result was the eruption of the giant Ymir, original ancestor to the Nordic pantheon and embodiment of primeval chaos… whose name roughly translates to ‘that which screams’. Hardly a more appropriate scaffolding can be offered for the latest presentation of Norway’s mighty Nordjevel, entitled Necrogenesis. One has the distinct sensation of being petrified by a deathly glacial chill while simultaneously facing a scorching sunset glow of a nuclear inferno, a hellish firestorm upon a ghastly-blue subzero tundra, a roaring fever in a frozen land.

Neither the frigid atmosphere of the region nor the blazing sonic assault is given complete unrestricted license. Lightning riffs, ice-cold in technique but searing in speed and production, advance furiously across the snowscape in a blaze of molten fury, driven by relentless, ballistic percussion and a scathingly unrestrained vocal attack. Solos lick the air like raging bonfires in the night while simmering basslines melt craters in the ice-bound drifts. Such is the nature of onslaught tracks Sunset Glow, The Fevered Lands, and Apokalusis Eschation. The volcanic storm is tempered somewhat by more nuanced, thrashier tracks like Devilry, The Idea of Oneness, Amen Whores (which starts out blasting and settles in as the song progresses), and Nazarene Necrophilia. Frostbite is allowed to advance even further by the more plodding, measured, and melodically menacing tracks Black Lights From The Void and the epic closer Panzerengel, which features both a stunning guitar solo and a powerful orchestrated section.

Altogether, Necrogenesis is a fixated and forceful display of overt, refined, and distinctly Scandinavian BLACK METAL. Nordjevel has offered up a soul-scorching display of all of the best aspects that Norway has historically offered, a blistering combination of northern ice and hellfire. The listener is suspended between death by cold and death by heat by the opposing – and complimenting – elements… chaos honed into an annihilating auditory assault. While this is neither a novel nor a particularly exploratory formula, when executed with this amount of musical prowess, focus, and sheer ferocity, it is one that is just downright decimating.

Stand out tracks? I’m a sucker for that artillery!!! Sunset Glow, Amen Whores, The Fevered Lands, Apokalusis Eschation and Panzerengel.

For fans of: the more straightforward, aggressive, and fast-as-fuck offerings from (especially) 1349, Tsjuder, Dark Funeral, Setherial, and Svarttjern.

Necrogenesis unleashes in full on the 29th March through Osmose Productions.

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Pre-order Nordjevel‘s Necrogenesis digitally from Bandcamp here, or on cassette, CD and vinyl from Osmose Productions here.

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The Cross of Blood – A Review of Drastus’ ‘La Croix de Sang’

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I spread woe and infamy,

sceptre of the morning star

I wear the crown of death

and the dead are restless.

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Silent for aeons, the beast unfurls.

A decade has passed since the last work we were blessed with from French black chaos merchant Drastus; now on this day, with total disregard for the norms of promotion or indeed ego, a new opus has materialized in the shape of second full-length La Croix de Sang (“The Cross of Blood”).

Even with this considerable amount of time passing, nary a beat has been missed. Ostensibly the solo project of Drastus with aid from Sad on the drums, theirs is a sound of dread and terrible reverence that reverberates across the ages. Compositions act as complex conduits of arcane knowlege, transforming with horrific force and inexorable will. Vocals reek of sulphur and glory, intricate percussive patterns inviting transcendence into forms hitherto unseen in this reality. Each one of the seven tracks seethes with a barely-contained dark power that strains against the music itself; a power as ancient as millennia, yet more vital than anything else in existence.

It had been so long since I’d heard this band that this album struck me like a sledgehammer this morning. I haven’t even gone back to compare it to a fresh listen of their older offerings; I simply had to write about it immediately. The full stream is generously available already so you’re free to experience every last note of it for yourself – the devastation of The Constrictor Torrents. The wondrous ambience of Hermetic Silence, echoing and mystical. Ashura‘s layer upon layer of immensity until the obliteration of your corporeal form is achieved, whilst Occisor arrives with thunderous ire and cold scorn. But, should you only experience one track, let this sample be the magnificent Crawling Fire.

Aptly named, Crawling Fire epitomises the entirety of La Croix de Sang. A divine conflagration crawling from the primordial core of life, reaching to devour all, and bring only ash. It’s also the first time on the album that we hear Drastus‘ orations become enraptured moans and clean-sung venerations; something utilized with tasteful restraint across the breadth of the album but above the seething, simmering guitar layers holds a particularly devastating effect here. This single track alone is worth any price of admission, and it’s the one that I’ve already returned to again and again in my time with the album thus far.

I’ve said enough – if you’re at all a fan of powerful, metaphysical black metal that vibrates to the frequency of almighty oblivion, you need to listen. It’s a pleasure to see this project return in such world ending form; may the crown of death remain in its rightful place for a thousand years.

Drastus has returned.

Physical copies unleashed March 1st through Norma Evangelium Diaboli. Pre-orders available now.

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Pre-order DrastusLa Croix de Sang on vinyl, CD or digital from Bandcamp here, or CD and vinyl from Norma Evangelium Diaboli here.

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The Name of God – A Review of ‘Shem Ha Mephorash’ by Mephorash

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For they are the great voices in death’s song,

The grand roar of a thousand woes.

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MEPHORASH. A name that should be resonating deeper and deeper into the collective black metal consciousness by now; since their formation in 2010 these Swedish esotericists (that count past and present members of Malign and Ofermod amidst their ranks) have only gone from strength to strength with every release. Now, they have a new Qliphothic rite ready to be unleashed upon an unprepared world – fourth full-length Shem Ha Mephorash.

Artfully based upon the Kabbalistic 72-fold explicit name of God, it’s an immense album; here to offer his ruminations on it is BMD contributor Ivan Gossage of Order Ov The Black Arts. Opening track ‘King of Kings, Lord of Lords‘ is already available for your listening considerations (alongside the great ‘777: Third Woe‘ that was released as a standalone single last year), so check the official video out, read on below and make the necessary mental preparations for the full reveal of this glorious beast on April 18th through Shadow Records / Helter Skelter Productions.

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A Review by Ivan Gossage

Across the barren wasteland of vulgar and decadent terrestrial human struggle, distant and far above the horizon, carried up on the back of some divine imperial cavalry and accompanied by haunting angelic hymns… a massive thunderstorm approaches. From the roiling black clouds rides a fearsome, holy God-king, adorned with crimson robes, light, and fire; and uttering The Word as a sword. With this invocation, Shem Ha Mephorash descends upon the listener with a welcome inescapability, brushing aside the baseness of mundane existence.

The lines between the daemonic and theistic blur here as Mephorash seems to obscure such trivial distinctions, the trumpets of both Heaven and Hell harkening a sacred fire to the spirit, casting the listener simultaneously above as crystalized vapors of ethereal perfection and below to infernal ashes of annihilation. Woe to the profane secular flesh and petty ego, gasping and choking on the smoke from that numinous flame as ‘King of King, Lord of Lords’ unfurls.

Do not seek an all-out black metal assault in Shem Ha Mephorash. What is happening here is more grandiose, contemplative, and reverent. Mephorash, like a few contemporaries (see below), manages to tap into that overtly doomy style of black metal that is perfect for evoking a distinct sense of grand ritual and spiritual acclivity. Although the conversion from straightforward black metal to this more methodical style has been noted for quite some time, particularly as far back as 2015’s masterful 1557 – Rites of Nullification, here the ceremonial doom elements are even more apparent, particularly in the slower tracks like ‘Chant of Golgatha’ and ‘Sanguinem’. The more engaging tracks, however, are those that balance this out with a periodic black metal barrage, like ‘Epitome I: Bottomless Infinite’ and ‘Relics of Elohim’. There is but one truly chaotic moment, wherein all of this carefully orchestrated beauty and cathedralic structure ignites into sublime blackened flame… the apocalyptic climax of the massive closing title track ‘Shem Ha Mephorash’.

Despite the admirable 74-minute run time, Shem Ha Mephorash is clearly meant to be listened to in its entirety. Songs rarely end, but instead lapse into unhurried meditative or melancholic progressions which link to the next track and then erupt again in further sonic exultation. Far from rote, the vocal delivery is highly varied and fully contingent upon the context of the music at any particular moment, which is just as apt to lash at the listener with a driving, dominating aggression as it is to ebb into sinister and restrained bridges – nay, stairs – which build steadily toward the next pyre. The melodic soaring guitar lead uses repetition to produce a hypnotic effect, but also works to establish intoxicating, exquisite grooves, supported by a torrent of double kick. This effect is occasionally ratcheted up to even more exalted levels by maintaining the same riff progression but elevating to a different key. The effective percussion blazes gloriously when appropriate but frequently utilizes more measured, martial, and plodding techniques. War-like kettle drums, imperialistic tones, piano, pipe organ, bells, standing bell (singing bowl), synth, creaking echoes, chanting, choir, orchestration, pristine female voice… these adornments saturate the entire album, ultimately resulting in an overall immense, epic, religious timbre.

A modern esoteric black metal masterpiece, Shem Ha Mephorash radiates with transcendence, ecclesiastical power, and a terrible, beautiful inevitability.

Standout tracks:King of Kings, Lord of Lords’; ‘Epitome I: Bottomless Infinite’; ‘Relics of Elohim’; ‘777: Third Woe’ (previously released on 2018 EP of the same name); ‘Shem Ha Mephorash’… noted that this is more than half the songs.

For fans of: later Schammasch, more methodical Nightbringer tracks, latter-day Rotting Christ. Somewhat less so: Acherontas, Temple of Perdition, Aversio Humanitatis, Meszaroth.

Releasing April 18th through Shadow Records.

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Pre-order Mephorash‘s Shem Ha Mephorash on CD, vinyl, cassette or digital from Shadow Records / Helter Skelter Productions‘ Bandcamp here, or from the artist’s webstore here.

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Delirium of Negation – A Review of Penance Stare’s ‘Solanaceae’

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Please listen at night for best results

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Have you ever heard of Cotard’s syndrome? Named “Le délire des négations” (“The Delirium of Negation”) by neurologist Jules Cotard, it’s aso known as ‘Walking Corpse Syndrome’ and is an extremely rare medical condition wherein sufferers experience severe delusions and the constant unwavering belief that they are dead. A mild case is characterized by despair and self-loathing while a severe case involves intense delusions of negation and chronic psychiatric depression, with the probable belief that they have lost their blood or internal organs, or that their body is putrefying. Sufferers are drawn to death/the dead and may deny the existence of body parts (or of their entire body) and believe that they no longer need to eat as they have already passed, cursed to an eternal damnation of existence and therefore cannot be killed by any regular means. Why am I telling you this? Because the music created by UK project Penance Stare is pretty much the audial manifestation of that condition.

The solo work of one Esmé Louise Newman, the bleakness and torment apparent in her art really is like nothing else. There’s an air of transcendence, of existing outside of normal reality; and yet you’re also… trapped. When I was introduced to her art on previous album Scrying the most basic descriptive approximation I could make of her sound was Lycia meets Striborg – which turned out a happy coincidence as Sin Nanna himself picked Scrying as his number one album of 2018 and has been spotted wearing a Penance Stare shirt on occasion. Now, after garnering much well-deserved whispered praise in the catacombs of the underground (and some shouted above, even Kim Kelly gave her props in Noisey) she returns with her second full-length of crawling blackened darkwave, the incredible Solanaceae.

How does it stack up against her previous work? Put it this way: if Scrying was almost universally praised by all of the souls fortunate enough to hear it, then this should lift her name into the stratosphere. Thematically it seems to continue her personalised expulsion/expression of darkness – “Solanaceae” is the scientific name for the plant known as Belladonna or Deadly Nightshade which contains a poison so deadly that eating only two of its berries can kill you, whilst the album itself speaks of trauma, illness, aging, neglect and regret – but pressing play it’s immediately apparent that she has refined her production to further realise her vision.

Wheras the mix of Scrying often felt a touch more ‘wave’-leaning or even Witch House-esque than ‘black’ (which wasn’t a bad thing at all), here on Solanaceae the balance has been even further redressed and everything seems to now sit utterly perfectly, all elements blending together in seamless fashion. Her guitar is now more to the fore and its tone is churning, sounding at once both strangulated and delicately crumbling like centuries old lace – on tracks like the devastating Graveside or Amongst Creeping Cinquefoil it’s the most ‘raw black metal’ she’s sounded yet, adding yet more richly textured elements to her sonic tapestry.

I’ll attempt a brief and slightly clumsy track-by-track rundown: Our Mouths Ablur is the ideal introduction, its miasmic misery slowly drifting down and settling over you whilst her disembodied, ghostly vocals reach through the haze like a spectral arm searching to pull you through into eternal sleep. In Antique begins with a gorgeous, pensive piano melody that moves through the rest of the song until it gently dies. A Nest In The Heavens picks up the percussive pace as her vocals reach her most agonized pitch yet – the riffs in the latter half of the track almost turn to stabs, and the emotion in the composition is palpable. The aforementioned Graveside sounds as you would imagine kneeling by a grave would feel and is one of my personal album highlights. Amongst Creeping Cinquefoil possesses a wonderful juxtaposition between the music reaching a seething, tumultuous rage yet her voice remaining as distant as ever; which is then followed by the collapse into the deepest misery on the album thus far in the wonderfully titled Cradlewell (Lacrima). The crepuscular title track Solanaceae returns to the disaffected, disassociated yet deeply aching feeling of earlier in the album and by this point you can quite literally feel it in the pit of your stomach and your chest, which is the mark of great art – it has the ability to physically alter your mood. Nux Vomica is the ultimate conclusion of this wretchedness and torment, sounding both as unsettlingly queasy as it’s name suggests and leaving you crushed and catatonically broken on the floor, the waves of desolation and pain far too much to handle. She knows exactly where she is leaving you, too; the final two tracks act as the aftermath, The Remains of a Wooden Icebreaker and Bensedin Petrichor both powerful ambient pieces that carry your destroyed form further from the light, hopelessly enveloped by a darkness beyond depression, beyond pain. In a word: it’s beautiful.

It’s an astonishing thing she has achieved with Solanaceae, like she’s tapped into and invited all of the nightmares, fears, shames and distressing memories you keep safely locked away to dig themselves up from the grave and drag themselves slowly through your mind, forcing you to confront them. She takes you on a journey that feels both personal and grounded yet utterly otherworldly; and if you’re anything like me, by the end of the experience you’ll be irrevocably changed – perhaps even left with the sensation that your body has been destroyed, and you are dead, cursed to this earth but wandering the annals of your own tormented thoughts for eternity.

A remarkable, haunting album from an artist that deserves far more attention than she has been getting. Hopefully that will change. Buy this now.

Released 1st February 2019. Solanacea is available digitally from her Bandcamp and from CROW VERSUS CROW – the limited run of 50 tapes has already sold out.

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Purchase Penance Stare‘s Solanacea digitally from Crow Versus Crow here or from her own Bandcamp here.

Support Penance Stare:

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Despiser – A Review of Misotheist’s ‘Misotheist’

“…and they shall name their god before they die, so that they can die with them.

Their suffering shall stand as a testimony to the mistakes we shall not commit again”

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Hails. Heard of Norwegian newcomers Misotheist? They unleashed their eponymous debut album Misotheist upon an unsuspecting and ill-prepared world back on November 30th. I gave it an ultra-quick listen back then but was unfortunately far too busy to spend the time with it that it deserved, so I made a mental note to return to it at some point in the near future. Guess what? That time is now. Well, a week or two ago – and since then I’ve been spinning this thing almost daily.

For those idiots like me who may have missed it or let it fall by the wayside somehow, here’s a retrospective review to hopefully convince you of the graven error of your ways. Don’t make the same mistakes I did.

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Photograph by Void Revelations

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So. Why do I like this album so much? Well, to once again inappropriately quote Miss Barrett Browning: Let me count the ways.

1. Starting right from the first thing you see, the cover art is fucking fiiiiiine. Depicting a cherub laying on a skull with an upraised hourglass and wafts of smoke arising from behind, it’s already an emblematic and captivating piece – but look a little closer and you’ll see it’s also wonderfully textured, with the effect of being printed on a canvas backing. The work of an artist known only as Izzy, it’s an intriguing and fitting threshold to the sounds within.

2. The global location. This enigmatic crew hails from Trondheim, Norway – it pleases me every time I hear a new name producing stunning black metal from arguably ground zero for the second wave, because I’m frankly getting sick of seeing/hearing people dribble on that “the Norwegian scene is dead, maaan”. No it fucking isn’t – and here’s the perfect case in point. Well, Terratur Possessions has been the perfect case in point lately… but more on that shortly.

3. The band name. A Misotheist is a despiser of religion but before half of you groan and roll your eyes, not in the typical “satanic” way. This just means a general hatred for ALL things religious; atheists can be misotheists, for example. A far better and much more fitting theme for the discerning modern black metal band/consumer.

4. They remain anonymous. And I mean anonymous; they aren’t hiding behind corpsepaint/hoods/grainy graveyard photos/stage names like Blasphemic Goatcrusher or anything (with apologies to Mr. Blasphemic Goatcrusher, wherever you are). They literally have no band pics, no information about themselves available anywhere, no social media. No egos. It’s simply all about the music, as it should be.

5. The music itself. A stunning blend of complexity, trance-inducing orthodox repetition, stripped-back grandiosity and just plain old rotting flesh. Which may sound like a strange combination, but just listen. It’s powerful, beautiful stuff.

6. The introduction to Beast And Soil. A wonderful cyclic acoustic piece; simple, rustic and authentic… that then flows seamlessly into the first hypnotic main riff of the song.

7. The gravitas of the songs themselves, and the way they progress. The tracks are immense, possessing a weighty power that pins you down as it progresses through several muscular parts, unfolding itself like a gargantuan spider slowly rising from slumber until it towers over you, full glory revealed. Each one is a journey you’ll want to experience multiple times over.

8. How the entire package, all of the above points, come together so well to create a beautiful piece of art. As a holistic package, it’s up there with the best of last year.

9. The fact that it’s out on Terratur Possessions. Misotheist is the last in a stunning consecutive run of releases from Whoredom Rife, Devouring Star, One Tail One Head and Mare, this label has had a fucking banner last few months and if for some inconceivable reason they’ve escaped your gaze to this point, you really should be paying attention to them. Four out of five of those artists are Norwegian too, so any of those aforementioned doubters – go boil your fucking head.

10. My only real complaint? At just over 33 minutes, it’s too short. Which isn’t even a complaint at all, as it just leaves you wanting more and hitting that replay button over and over.

So there you go. An unusual review for me, to the point, no bullshit – exactly the type of attitude you should have when deciding whether or not to check out this album. Do yourself a favour. Available now.

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Purchase Misotheist‘s Misotheist digitally from Terratur Possessions here, or physically from Ván Records here.

Support Misotheist:

  • No official channels. See the Terratur Possessions Bandcamp link above.

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No Tears Please – A Review of Vessel Of Iniquity’s ‘Void Of Infinite Horror’

I’ve figured it out. Cracked the code. Come to a conclusion. Alexander White, the sole member of extreme black/death/noise entity Vessel Of Iniquity, is a Cenobite.

Yes. A Cenobite. One of extra-dimensional beings that first appeared in Clive Barker‘s novella The Hellbound Heart and continued to wreak havoc across the Hellraiser film series. It’s the only possible explanation for how his self-titled 2018 EP and upcoming full-length Void Of Infinite Horror even exist: they are the devices that create the schism in time and space necessary for Mr. White to reach out from his labyrinthine lair and into our reality, to show us the face of pain through his absurd, transcendently violent compositions.

Cenobites are artists of sensory overload, pushing human flesh to the threshold of agony through incomprehensible means… the exact same as Mr. White, and the nightmarish assault has been ramped up to all new levels of torment on his first full-length puzzle box album. His co-conspirators this time around are two more bastions of punishment and dehumanizing wretchedness – Sentient Ruin Laboratories and Xenoglossy Productions. How they can knowingly take part in such horrors I’ll never fathom with my sanity intact; perhaps they’re also run by gibbering demons, a part of the hell-clique run by the High Priest Of Pain himself.

Anyway, so you pressed play on the album – he came, and now you must taste his pleasures. Opener ‘Invocation of the Heart Girt with a Serpent’ immediately shreds all living things into their composite severed parts, suspending them into crazed patterns of supernaturally animated wailing agonies on an insane spiderweb of taut, quivering chains. And when I said immediately, I mean IMMEDIATELY – no time is wasted at all in hitting almost illogical levels of speed and grinding black brutality. There are other artists achieving close to this level of intensity that also couldn’t care less for your safety and personal wellbeing, but theirs is a reckless carnage that sounds like it could fly off the rails at any time. This is not that type of amateurish fumbling. Every single note, every blistering drum hit has been carefully placed through years of practice to cause maximum, instantaneous and lasting psychological and physical trauma. A. White is truly a master of his craft.

And a master in such savage arts knows when to let his victim breathe, to allow a glimmer of false hope. Babalon slows things up for a couple of minutes; although I guess it’s unclear whether this is really intended as a brief respite or he simply wants to savour your sobs and prayers that the suffering will somehow end. Does he seem like someone who cares about what God thinks? Not one iota, and soon enough the convulsion-inducing, coruscating onslaught begins anew.

I could go a track by track breakdown, but I’ll just pick a couple more key moments so I don’t spoil the fun too much. One thing I find particularly fascinating about this whole ordeal is that there’s an constant, almost sub-audial noise seething throughout every track that sounds like a million souls constantly being torn apart and reassembled wrong, only to be rent limb from limb again – it’s fucking terrifying to listen to once you pick it out and quite anxiety inducing overall. The heaving, twisting, mutant madness of Mother of Abomination (which could even be a warped cover of that one COF song, who the fuck knows at this point) sounds like nothing else on this Earth, while the subtle transition from the seeming aftermath of your ordeal into the inexorably creeping return of the miasmic maelstrom that occurs in Once More Into The Abyss lets you know that it isn’t the end… and it will never be the end.

So what do you think? Is the mysterious A.W. an extra-dimensional lord of agony, or just a reclusive genius capable of conjuring mind-blowing audial carnage on an almost biblical scale? Demon to some, angel to others – either way, Void Of Infinite Horror will tear your soul apart.

He has eternity to know your flesh… and he has such sights to show you.

25th January. The torture begins.

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Pre-order Vessel Of Iniquity‘s Void Of Infinite Horror on LP, cassette or digital from Sentient Ruin Laboratories here or from Xenoglossy Productions here.

Support Vessel Of Iniquity:

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