Necromancy and Witchcraft – A Review of ‘The Occult’, by REIGN and RULUM

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Readers with their fingers on the pulse/jammed in whatever orifice they see fit will likely know that we’ve been following Repose Records fairly closely for the last little while here at BMD. Since its inception back in the early days of 2019, the UK label has been cranking out the gems – and to say they’ve been on a particularly hot streak this year is a gross understatement. They’ve had their devilish hand in releases from Elffor, Guignol Noir, DVT, Thecodontion, TSJTTN and many more current-year classics, so when they present us with something new, you best believe we’re sitting up and take notice… in this particular instance that “something new” is The Occult, the mystical and mesmerizing new split from REIGN and RULUM (well, neither of them are strictly NEW as both have previously released a couple of tracks but shut up – for the purposes of this article they are). 

Titling your split something as pointed as The Occult already promises an esoteric journey through abstruse realms of shadow and mystery. Luckily, this is largely what we are delivered. Reign is up first and offers four tracks of haunting, mid-paced miasma – instrumental opener ‘Fractured Blade’ is an ominous piece that features a cyclic piano melody hinting at the wretchedness to come, as lush ambience and slow guitars fill the space beneath. So far, so nice. ‘A Breath Over The Mountain Pass’ then wastes no time capitalizing on that dread-inducing intro as it bursts into a beautifully layered composition of cascading depression. It’s a classic track, building upon itself until it concludes in a soaring crescendo of blasting anguish – hard to fault any aspect of it, as every element clicks together in incredibly satisfying fashion. ‘Subjugating darkness’ dives even further into the morose, seeing tremolo and arpeggios tossed helplessly atop a turbulent ocean of crashing chords and miserable rhythmic pulses. There’s a break in the middle that’s simply stunning in its delicate touch; it then all ends in a torrential downpour of woe once more. ‘Fragments Fade’ is the final death rattle from Reign and is a pensive, diaphanous outro that not only neatly signs off on his side, but acts as a fitting segue to the bewitching magics of Rulum as it hangs on the cold, dead air like a fading memory.

If Reign‘s side is the Yin, Rulum‘s appears to be the Yang as it immediately kicks off with a more lively, vital sensibility – this band ain’t out to depress you but to light a wicked fire under your ass. ‘Hevel’ is a ripper of a track, bright and vivid. The wretched vocal rasp acting as a great counterpoint to the sprightly tune, plus there’s a Hammond organ in the mix to spice things up as it storms along. Hammond organ? Sounds a bit ’70s prog? Well, strap yourself the fuck in as from then on Rulum dives well deep into progressive territory. ‘Destination Unknown’ finds itself dissolved into a full-on mellotron-infused ’70s prog joint by the halfway mark, and you know what? It’s fucking fantastic. Yeah, the black metal component is near non-existent at this time but hell, it’s a riot and done so damned well that you can’t help but love it. When it then eventually settles back into a more blackened vibe, you’re completely sold – it’s one of the best tracks on this entire split.

That’s not the last of the prog, however – RWS, the enigmatic figure behind this project, is clearly a man who COMMITS. With ‘Loss’ he continues to stir his blackened progressive concoction and let the most intoxicating elements rise to the top. Delightful moments reminiscent of mid-new period Enslaved pepper the song, before final track ‘Rul’ takes a walk through looping fields of insistent melodies and tension/release. Where the track goes in the third movement is intriguing and is a neat finale to the experience, if not slightly abrupt – at a pinch I might have enjoyed a little more of an epic feel to the conclusion, but that’s just me.

Overall – I wasn’t expecting such crushing material from Reign (I haven’t checked out his previous work Through Ceaseless Downpour yet, but rest assured I will have by the time you read this piece). He has a careful hand, great compositional skill and seems to effortlessly pen obliterating hooks to drag you down into depths of despair hitherto unheard of. As for Rulum, it sounds like he’s having an absolute ball with his material, which might sound weird in a conversation about black metal but just give it a shot, you’ll see what I mean. I likened each side before to Yin and Yang, but I’ll rephrase – if Reign‘s side might be considered darkened left hand path Necromancy then Rulum‘s can only be mischievous earth witchcraft, calling forth natural energies and spirits to mess with your shit.

A wonderfully complementary split of worthy material from both participants, each weaving their own idiosyncratically textured tendrils together to present an incantation far greater than the sum of its parts. This thing just released yesterday, so check out the full-stream embedded above, recite the necessary sorceries and be bewitched… by The Occult.

RATING: 3.9/5

The Occult is available now via Repose Records.

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Purchase The Occult on digital, LP and cassette from the Repose Records Bandcamp HERE or the webstore HERE.

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Hordes Ready – A Review of ‘And Then Twilight Fell’ by BURDEN OF YMIR

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By Tom O’Dell (Dwarrowdelf)

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Billed as the blackened folk metal soundtrack to the end of the world, BURDEN OF YMIR’s And Then Twilight Fell certainly markets itself as a fitting album for the nightmarish hellscape that 2020 has been. A Canadian solo project, they seek to combine black metal of the atmospheric variety with a variety of folk approaches, be it subtle celtic leanings driven by harps and chanting or accordion-bolstered oompahs straight from the Korpiklaani playbook. Time has proven beyond doubt that these styles work in tandem to produce epic results – so can Burden of Ymir deliver?

The black metal seems to be the base upon which the rest of the music was developed, and as a result comes across really strongly. There are excellent moments throughout the album where the riffing takes darker turns away from emotive atmospheres and towards the evil sounds conjured by the genre. ‘The Other Hand of Tyr’ feels genuinely unsettling at times, perfectly portraying the apocalyptic lyrical themes. The feeling of evil isn’t just limited to stock black metal though, with a variety of subtle influences woven throughout the music that develop the sinisterness, whether that be the creepy chugs in the middle section of ‘Celestial Orbs Consumed’ or the doomy climax to ‘Nine Steps After Jormungandr’.

However, And Then Twilight Fell is not content to simply rest on its black metal laurels, and there are plenty of moments of brilliantly executed folk metal triumph too – see the recurring slow swinging lead that rears its head throughout ‘March of the Fire Giants’ for maximum emotive goodness. The driving, almost groovy feel to ‘Hordes Ready on Naglfar’ creates a folky feel without relying too heavily on stock tropes, and when the accordion is brought in it feels natural, adding to the general majesty of one of the album’s strongest tracks. ‘Naglfar’ also features one of my favourite intros on the record, with a slow and stompy acoustic guitar and chanting vocals creating an authentic and earthy atmosphere for the song. In a nice touch this is reprised in the outro, creating a sense of completion and closure.

For every transition between folk and black metal that lands though, there’s one that feels rushed or misplaced. ‘Loki Unbound’ features repeated switches between gloomy atmoblack and jaunty accordion riffs, creating juxtaposition that just doesn’t quite work. As mentioned above, ‘The Other Hand of Tyr’ for the most part creates an excellently twisted image of apocalypse… and so the choice to begin the track with accordion oompahs seems perplexing. Through my first listen, I found myself constantly scared of the accordion – would it bring an excellent moment as in ‘Hordes of Naglfar’, or would I be left dazed and confused?

My other main criticism for the album is a seeming lack of variety generated by a bit of drag over the relatively lengthy runtime. By the time I got to the final tracks on my first listen, I was feeling a little weary and felt that I’d heard all the tricks Burden of Ymir had to offer; however, isolated listening to those songs showed them to be among the more varied and interesting on the record! I’d lay the blame for this on a lack of rigorous editing, as even some of the most brilliant tracks could easily lose a minute or runtime, which would make a world of difference; album fatigue is real, folks.*

I also find myself having related issues with the vocals; they do the job, but are relatively one dimensional and just don’t have the range of emotion or dynamics that I’d want in an album with such potent lyrical content. The mix is also perhaps not hugely beneficial to the style of vocals used – they seem to have a slight whiff of hardcore in the technical delivery and as such would suit an in-your-face placement in the mix, but instead are buried under too much wetness, distorting the sound.

There’s some weapons-grade potential on And Then Twilight Fell, and the triumphant moments throughout it are some of my favourite this year. I’m especially appreciative of the attempts to innovate and bring in more influences than simple “epicness”, and the payout when it hits the spot is colossal. A sharper hand on the editing and some critical attention to every transition would take this album to immense heights, and I’ll sure as anything be looking out for the next steps that Burden of Ymir take. As it stands currently, I’m sure I’ll enjoy the songs on And Then Twilight Fell that I come back to, but I honestly don’t know how regularly that will be.

*I’m aware it’s a solo project, and this kind of editing critique is a common trait among solo projects, so consider this a caveat – it’s just inherently harder to be brutal to your own work!

And Then Twilight Fell is available now via Black Spark Records.

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Purchase And Then Twilight Fell on CD and digital from the Black Spark Records Bandcamp HERE or the Burden Of Ymir Bandcamp HERE.

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The Burning Times – A Review of ‘Prepare For The Sabbath’ by WITCHBURN

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The above statement from Polish duo WITCHBURN sums up the project quite well, both in theme and attitude. Vehemently anti-religion and pro-witch in metaphor and otherwise, the dyad of Tuna and Svart (aka Ravn) recorded their instrumental debut demo Prepare For The Sabbath back in 1998 then left it shelved for almost two decades, finally releasing… hang on. Wait a minute. Are you getting deja-vu?

Yes, astute readers may have just noticed some synchronicity. We reviewed one of that same duo’s other projects Eternich only the other day, with a similar story behind it; their long-lost debut album, Towards The Darkfields. Well, this particular emanantion is the final piece of that November Elderblood Productions tryptich that we’ve been covering, and both of those ancient recordings are finally seeing well-deserved tape releases on THIS VERY DAY. In the case of Witchburn however, the circumstances and final presentation are a little different.

After shelving this original demo and later unleashing two full-length albums (that I myself am admittedly yet to experience), at some point during the creation of those full-lengths Tuna and Svart re-recorded that first demo with full modern studio power and fresh vocals, then released it into the world via Bandcamp. What we’re getting on this special tape release is both of those recordings back to back, newest one first, and without fucking around: Prepare For The Sabbath is one glorious hellstorm of savage black metal and killer black ‘n roll. And not black ‘n roll like that Satyricon-esque stuff, if that’s what you’re thinking. This is headbanging, howling at the moon, diabolical dirty shit.

A mere five tracks, run and done in under fifteen minutes total… but WHAT a fifteen minutes. Check out the riotous beginning of second track ‘Witchaven’ (linked just above) and tell me you don’t feel that punch; it’s the type of visceral shit that makes you dive into the pit at a show and thrash like a fucking maniac. The whole demo is a wild coven dance of hex and hell, the biting guitar tone underscored by pummeling percussion and lacerated by gravelled, rabid throatwork proselytizing the ways of impassioned darkness. Sorcery whips the air as the morbid firepower of the rumbling, speed-metalesque ‘Twilight’ roars across the sky. Riff after riff descends and explodes like a grenade, and you’ll have been lost to the carnage long before the final track ‘Warmageddon’ hits… but that won’t stop it from completely obliterating all in its path.

There’s not much else I need to say in this short sharp shock of a review for a short, sharp and superb release that lands just right. In its brief runtime Prepare For The Sabbath proves itself to be a rare re-recording with great worth; this material being hidden away forever would have been a significant misfortune and I’m glad to have 1) heard it at all, and 2) been introduced to this impressive project. I’ll leave the subsequent original demo recordings to you to discover… I’m off to devour their other two releases.

Tape available in 66 copies right NOW from Elderblood Productions, so go brave the pyre to grab it (and the rest of the batch) before they sell out and burn to ash forever. Hails.

RATING: 4.1 / 5

Prepare For The Sabbath releases November 6th via Elderblood Productions.

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Purchase Prepare For The Sabbath digitally from the Elderblood Productions Bandcamp HERE and on cassette from the Elderblood Productions Bigcartel HERE at 00:00 November 6th PDT.

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The Light From The Past – A Review of ‘Towards The Darkfields’ by ETERNICH

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If you’re beginning to listen to Towards The Darkfields by ETERNICH and you’re struck by the unshakeable feeling that what emanates from your speakers sounds lifted from ancient times… well, that’s because it is. This scripture of profane darkness was recorded by the duo of Ravn and Tuna (who also combine powers in Pink Absynth, Redivivus and Witchburn, while Tuna does time in death metal juggernauts Hyperdontia and Phrenelith as well) way back in the heady days of 1997-1998, then left buried deep underground… until unearthing it and releasing the digital files almost two decades later in 2016. A long time, right? And now, twenty-two entire years after it was given putrid birth in the foulest pit in the depths of Poland, it’s finally seeing its first ever physical release.

Yes, Towards The Darkfields is being bestowed with a fitting 66 cassette run for the true underground cult maniacs out there, by the truest underground cult label around: Elderblood Productions. This unearthed rarity is at once a superb time capsule and eternally timeless; the crude, filth-ridden cacophony brings back strong memories for me and undoubtedly will for many others as well. For everyone else? Get ready for a trip back to around the prime years of the Polish scene.

However, it should be noted that Towards The Darkfields is far less moody or medieval than most of those well-known classic Polish albums, and instead goes straight for the jugular with cold, calculated hate. The instrumental ‘From The Darkfields I Am’ opens proceedings and begins to draw down the darkness in iniquitous fashion; crepuscular energies are whipped into shape by misanthropic second-wave tremolo and blast, repeating a quintessential melodic mantra over and over – something utilised frequently throughout the record. The following ‘I Vindicate Myself’ then slows the tempo slightly and we get the first taste of the deliciously rasped vocals. These are a great point of difference as, unlike later recordings from the duo, here Ravn provides all diabolical utterances and his lower, gnarled croaking from endless caverns and otherrealms suits the primigenial nature of the material to a tee. At a pinch, I think I might even prefer them to Tuna‘s vocals.

‘Theefe’ is curiously titled and continues their theme of cold, repeating motifs – authentic, undiluted black metal. ‘Freshness’ is even more curiously titled but in an excellent development throughout the track one can literally hear the sound degrading as the tape crackles. Which, of course, only adds to the fantastic atmosphere. The riffier stomp of the second half of this track is exquisite as well, and for me, marks a turning point in the album – every track from here on out utterly SLAYS. ‘Elvira’ (beginning with a gloriously raw drum roll) is evil. ‘Across The Sorrowfields’ is crumbling rage, decomposing even as you listen to it. The unflinching abrasion of ‘Unholiness Of Me’ is part of the most interesting transition on the album, its indomitable stature giving way to the anxious, heightened kinetic energy of ‘Lyset fra Fortid’, which winds and whips like a live electrical cable charged with pure black energy. It would be a killer album closer, but the duo have one last gift to leave us with… a sped-up instrumental interpretation of Darkthrone‘s ‘In The Shadow Of The Horns’, titled here as ‘In The Shadow Of The Throne’. Necessary? Probably not, but it is another previously hidden jewel to add to an already special release.

Of course, by it’s very nature ‘Towards The Darkfields’ is a flawed record. The performances are borne of passion, not precision; driving home a message of nocturnal hostility is more important than finesse. Why was it hidden all these years? Were the duo displeased with it as a debut? We may never know, but whilst it certainly won’t be for everyone (especially in the current era of black metal fan), those who are in eternal search for the rawest magic of old and are deeply appreciative of long lost gems will be sure to find this purchase nothing short of mandatory.

Check out ‘I Vindicate Myself’ (streaming above on the label Soundcloud) for a sample and prepare yourself for the 6th November. After decades in shadow… the Darkfields are fully upon us. Hails.

RATING: 3.4 / 5

Towards The Darkfields releases November 6th via Elderblood Productions.

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Purchase Towards The Darkfields digitally at name-your-price from the Eternich Bandcamp HERE now, or on limited cassette from the Elderblood Productions Bigcartel HERE or the Elderblood Productions Bandcamp HERE on November 6th 00:00 PDT.

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Eternal Flames of Hate – A Review of ‘GoatFather’ by HELLGOAT

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Fuck

Jesus

Christ

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Howling blasphemies at the cross and pissing in the face of all holiness comes the true cult Swedish hatelord HELLGOAT. Creating black metal warfare since 2015, sole practitioner Skoll (also active in Jarnvidr, SlaughterCoffin, Wan, Woldzverke and Condemnatory) vomits forth a rigid, feral and uncompromising expulsion of primal orthodoxy that often walks a similar tightrope to that of early Scandinavian flames like Marduk etc; if done poorly, the onslaught risks berating the listener into boredom… but if mastered, it can summon hell like no other. With teeth and knives bared, eyes blazing and blood seething with murderous intent, HellGoat‘s Goatfather is definitely the latter.

First, I have to apologize – mentioning Marduk might have thrown you off a little. Those expecting the same level of production should turn away right now, because GoatFather is gloriously raw. Technically speaking, the production is akin to primitive black beacons of old: pestilent vocals and relentless drums sit higher in the mix whilst the guitar exists as a malignant buzz, producing a constant stream of venomous traditional Scandinavian riffwork that’s uncomplicated, yet irresistibly diabolical in nature. It’s all immediately atmospheric whilst remaining the complete antithesis of the idea. There’s no bass to be found, either – guitar, drums and vocals are all Skoll needs to unleash his torrent of scorn upon us all, and if the cover art of an anthropomorphic goat about to cave in the skull of Christ with a fuck-off huge spiked club to splatter the brains of the feeble, lying son of God in chunks on the floor doesn’t tell you what you’re in for throughout this demo, then I don’t know what else to say.

Yes, press play on the opening title track ‘GoatFather’ and the record promptly gets to the good stuff: an old-school hammering black metal conflagration, raping every angel in heaven and reveling in the death and destruction of all human life. Delicious tape-hiss coats everything as clattering percussion drives the track onwards through a solid three minutes and fourteen seconds of slaughter, with only the briefest of pauses to catch your breath… but who needs breath anyway? After that initial salvo, ‘Invoking Dark Spells’ hints that while the aim of the game is indeed blistering, relentless slaughter, HellGoat is far more than that. The onslaught is still as merciless and unrelenting as it should be but nuances in the drumming begin to rear their heads; and while the song structures are simple, they’re fucking fire and do exactly what is needed for maximum impact.

‘Praise The Dark Lord’ (linked above for your delectation) is total worship. We’re even treated to the sounds of some wretched soul being devoured by the flames of hell before its final throes, and the screams of agony perfectly sum up the attitude of HellGoat: burn and fucking die. ‘Fuck Jesus Christ’ is up next, and after the blitzkrieg of the first few tracks its punkish infernal stomp hits with the same energy as ‘War’ did when you listened through the Burzum self-titled album for the first time, or perhaps even ‘Possessed By Satan’ from Gorgoroth‘s Antichrist (if you’re old enough to remember those glorious days). Note that for that comparison I’m talking solely about its position and impact on the album – you’ll see what I mean when you hear it, and the track fucking rips. ‘The World Devoured’ is at first pure hatred and incinerating aggression, lazer-focused and snarling before switching gears into a slow, malicious and deliberate form of sleaze-ridden power (resplendent with a couple of well-placed UGH!‘s for emphasis). And then, the ultimate conclusion. The finale. ‘Eternal Flames of Hate’ is all cruel, ringing-chord atmosphere; a crawl through depravity, a wretched celebration of murder and death. The voice clip of infamous serial killer Richard Ramirez that closes the track is utterly chilling and as the knife slips between your ribs, the last thing you see are the blazing eyes of the GoatFather burning into your soul through the darkness.

Unleashing in 66 copies on cassette via the ineffable Elderblood Productions November 6th, the mighty ‘Praise The Dark Lord’ at the Soundcloud link above is the only track streaming so far. As for the rest, take my word for it – if your spirit resonates with the previous obsidian gems that Elderblood has recently dug up from the underground, you won’t want to miss this. Fuck you, fuck God, fuck everything and all. This is a war on life… and HellGoat have already won. Hails.

RATING: 4 / 5

GoatFather releases November 6th via Elderblood Productions.

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Purchase Goatfather digitally from the Elderblood Productions Bandcamp HERE and on cassette from the Elderblood Productions Bigcartel HERE on November 6th 00:00 PDT.

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Horror and Tragedy in Monochrome – An Interview with BELTEZ and Review of ‘A Grey Chill and a Whisper’

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By Gos (Order ov the Black Arts)

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Once in a while a band produces a work of art which exhibits such aspiration, such enormous conceptual complexity, that it cannot be adequately contained by the term “album”. A Grey Chill And A Whisper, the fourth full-length release from German black metal adept BELTEZ, is one such masterwork. 

The foremost characteristic which expands A Grey Chill And A Whisper beyond easy description is its inseparable conjunction with a short horror novella entitled Black Banners. Black metal has been closely fused with literature before… RORCAL’s 2019 album Muladona, based on a story by Eric Stener Carlson, and SCHAMMASCH’s 2017 EP The Maldoror Chants: Hermaphrodite, based on a poetic novel by Comte de Lautréamont, spring immediately to mind. However, unlike these endeavors, the marriage of A Grey Chill And A Whisper and Black Banners (authored by Ulrike Serowy and narrated by Dan Capp of WINTERFYLLETH / WOLCENSMEN) is not that of an album being inspired by or based on a piece of literature… in this case, the story was created exclusively in the context of the album, and the album was written adjacently and with direct inspiration from the story, the tale and music conceived and developed as one entity, in such a way that one simply cannot refer to one without including the other in its entirety. And both are – or, more accurately, *it is* – absolutely monstrous. 

Conceptually, the black spires of a colossal, horrendous evil tower over a helpless, abject populous as a lone individual struggles in desperation against incomprehensible malice and inevitable doom. The sonic representation is, accordingly, an opus of contemporary black metal: persistently massive, forcefully heavy, and almost grandiose in its complex, blackened malevolence and melancholy. Atrocious power, misery, desperation, hopelessness and despair find auditory expression through layers of elaborate and horrifically epic guitars, a veritable onslaught of vicious percussion, immeasurably dense bass progressions, haunting and mesmeric synth, and varied ferocious vocal manifestations, the lyrics and music of each track pacing events that unfold in tandem with the events of Black Banners. Yet, amidst this near impenetrable darkness, – indeed, because of it – both conceptually and musically we can find a faintly glimmering ore of heroism, strength, loyalty, hope, love, sacrifice, and tragic beauty.

The result, as one might expect, is such a display of monumental ambition that we felt it was essential to reach out to the band itself. Thus, one late night (for me, early morning for him) A Grey Chill… songwriter, guitarist, vocalist, and lyricist Jens Klenke met up with me for a digital discourse on this tremendous effort.

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Hello Jens, thank you for taking the time to explore A Grey Chill And A Whisper and Black Banners. This album, and everything that went into it, is so massive and that I hardly know where to begin. I guess it might make sense to start at the beginning of this endeavour. Tell me a bit about the band’s mind frame coming off the inertia of Exiled, Punished… Rejected (2017) and what ambitions gave rise to the ideas for A Grey Chill And A Whisper.

– Hello Ivan, it is my pleasure! Thank you for the interview and the kind words. After we released Exiled…, we wanted to continue to make music in a similar fashion. That is, to tell a coherent story and write some dark music that is brutal, crushing, and beautiful at the same time. Around that time, we thought about getting someone outside of the band for the story, as none of us really had an idea for it and we did not want to adapt another book. We had met Ulrike Serowy some time ago and became friends with her. We knew her writing and liked it very much. So, we asked her if she wanted to write something for us. To our amazement, she agreed and wrote us this gem called Black Banners. We then split the story in several segments and fitted them to the music we had already written at this point. So our ambitions had been to write something monolithic, brutal and coherent. First reactions seem to indicate that we accomplished that.

Absolutely! I think that a lot of people have been and will continue to be a bit taken aback by all that you are offering with this album! Did Ulrike Serowy create the characters and plot for Black Banners on her own, or was there coordination between her and BELTEZ in terms of what the story would be about, the mood or theme of the story, etc.?

– Ulrike asked us a couple of questions, like “hot or cold?”, “grey or colours?”, but other than that, she did it all on her own. Regarding the mood, everybody agreed that it had to be a dark and somewhat sinister story. After she submitted it, we had a read-through of the story and we thought it was perfect as it is. After this, we had a couple of conversations to get the lyrics right, but basically, the story is all her work. The only thing that we added is the kind of coda with “We Remember to Remember”. 

Ah, I was wondering about that track, because it seems to be the only one that doesn’t have a direct correlation to the events of Black Banners.

– That is correct. For our singer Marc, the ending of Black Banners was a little bit too bright or not dark enough. So I wrote this little piece on the acoustic guitar with the three paragraphs, that the people will first forget the names of their heroes, then what they did, and in the end will only “remember to remember” something. That is why we have the very long fade out at the end. It all fades into obscurity.

Fascinating, and poignant, especially considering where cultures are relative to their traditions and myths. How do you contextualize the story of Black Banners? Do you see it as a product of, or is it intended to be a metaphor of, actual experiences or realities, be them spiritual, psychological, philosophical, or social? Or do you consider the story more in terms of what it is at face value: an excellent example of contemporary literary horror?   

– The latter. I know that Ulrike was inspired by a visit to a medieval city and by a nightmare of hers. On the other hand, I think that you could interpret a lot into the story. But I never asked Ulrike “did you mean this and that by that” on purpose, as with a story like this I would rather have someone get to their own conclusions, myself included.

Understood. With all that is happening in the world, one could easily project their own assumptions and biases, but I always fear it is contrived on the part of the listener (or reader), and curious about the intention of the artist. Projected or not, a meaningful interpretation (for me) is that of personal relationships against or despite overwhelming darkness. This could be seen as a central motif for the entire story, but also really seems to come to blossom fully with the events of the track ‘I May Be Damned…’, and can be distilled down to the very phrase: “I may be damned, but at least I found you.” This simple message is essential and indeed beautiful in the context of ever-increasing dread and chaos which tries to pull people apart: what matters the most is our relationships, and love for those closest to us.

– Yeah, I think this is what this seems to be all about. We had an event set up for the “Kölner Literatur Nacht” (Cologne Literal Night), which had to be canceled because of corona. Ulrike would have done a reading and we would have been there as well, playing a very special acoustic set. She had to hand in a short summary of the story. There, she said that it is about friendship and the power of love. Not very black metal, I admit. Again, I do not want to give away too much of my own interpretation, but I think you do see the same basic theme in the story.  

Such a shame to have to skip that event. So, while all of this was happening with Black Banners, what was taking place with BELTEZ and A Grey Chill And A Whisper? It looks like Dominic handles much but not all of the songwriting for the more extensive black metal tracks, while you also wrote a few of those as well as the more atmospheric or ambient tracks. Similarly, you and Marc translated Black Banners into lyrics. Which is all to say, there seems to be a fair amount of creative cooperation and coordination that took place; a job well-done, considering that as a whole the album sounds totally coherent and seamless. What does the creative process look like for the band? How does it all come together?

– Dominic used to write everything on his own, and for Beltane and Der Tod, Part 1 he even recorded everything on his own in DIY manner. He just added somebody to do the vocals and, for Der Tod…, and someone to play bass. For Exiled… he pretty much wrote all the music again, but our then drummer Stephan and myself did a lot for the arrangements. Marc wrote some of the lyrics. But this was still Dominic’s band then, fair and square. I saw myself more or less as the “live guitar player” at the time. I did lay down a rhythm guitar track and played some leads on the album, but these had been written by Dominic as well. Fast forward to mid-2018 when we did start what would become A Grey Chill…. At that time, Dominic was still at the helm, but I got much more involved with the songwriting. That was not always easy, as Dominic has a very clear vision for this band, but he was open for suggestions. For example, I proposed that there should be real guitar solos on the record. Plus, I did play a lot more on the record this time, handling e-bow, keyboards, and synthesizer next to laying down rhythm guitars and a lot of lead lines. At some point, it became obvious that everybody should just do what he could do best. Dominic wrote most of the harsh black metal stuff, and I wrote most of the atmospheric stuff and played most of the additional instrumentation. As long as this works, we are all fine with that. In the end we got the sparks flying and we got a very coherent album out of it. As for the lyrics, I guess Dominic was kind of relieved, that this was not his department this time as well. I started to adapt parts of the story, Marc did the same, and in the end, we exchanged what everybody had and made it work. When we create new music now, we rarely just jam something, mostly someone records something at his home and then we start to work on it at the rehearsal space. You simply do not jam out a 15-minute black metal song just on a Saturday afternoon, or at least we don’t.  

Did the story influence some of the songwriting or was that being done separately? I ask because the music seems to fit with the story so well! For instance the pacing of the track ‘Black Banners’ fitting the march of the procession, or the total hopelessness of ‘The Unwedded Widow’, or the victorious but annihilating solo at the end of ‘I May Be Damned…’

– Funny that you pick the track ‘Black Banners’, as it was almost omitted during the songwriting process. Our drummer Sebastian insisted on keeping the track with exactly the reason that you mentioned, and he was right of course. We had already written some of the music when we got the story. If I remember correctly, ‘The City…’, ‘Black Banners’ and the title track were more or less finished at that point. We then wrote the rest with the story in mind. The last track we wrote was ‘I May Be Damned…’, which picks up the melody line of the intro track ‘In Apathy And In Slumber’. So, in essence, we fit the existing material into the storyline and wrote the rest with the story in mind. We made sure that the music was fitting the mood of the given part of the story. But somehow that was easy, it happened more natural than forced. Well, at least in hindsight.      

It is difficult for me to imagine getting a better alignment between plot and musical progression. The correlation seems damn near perfect. Do you have a favorite track on the album? Do you have a favorite scene in the story? For me personally I found the description around ‘A Taste of Utter Extinction’ to be very absorbing. 

– Come on, this is not Dark Side of the Moon! But of course, it is good to hear that our efforts come across. It is corny, but I really love the album as a whole. If I really had to pick just one, it might be “I May Be Damned…”, as it culminates all our trademarks into one song. As for a favorite scene, I agree with you. The point at which the protagonist decided to go against the odds and to find his path is my personal goosebumps moment of the story. “Fuck you, I do what I think is right and I don’t care if everybody else says it can’t be done!” I can relate to this very much.

Ha! Ok perhaps not Dark Side of the Moon, but you have to admit that the depth of what is going on with A Grey Chill…, while not completely lacking in black metal, is well above and beyond the norm! I anticipate that it will be generating some significant waves when it drops, and I think we are already seeing premonitions of that through early listener responses.

– Thank you again! Of course, everybody that releases something hopes that it would resonate with other people, and especially musicians tend to think that their offering is the hottest shit since at least ‘Rock Around The Clock’. On the other hand, it is hard to wager how people will react to it, as you have been there from start to finish and you know how everything came together. David Gilmore said once that he liked to have that experience to listen to Dark Side of the Moon as a casual listener for the first time. But of course, he could not. Not that I want to compare our thing to this godsend of a record, but I really would love to have that experience for myself. Plus, I think that Pink Floyd had been a little bit more “mainstream” at the time then we are now.

No doubt! On a related topic, one thing that will certainly contribute to A Grey Chill…’s success is that this album will be released through Italy’s highly esteemed Avantgarde Music! That label is certainly one that I pay close attention to. How did this arrangement come about, and do you anticipate a good working relationship?  

– That is simple: they approached us pretty much right after we released the vinyl version of Exiled… through Crawling Chaos Records. So far, the working relationship is tremendous. The people at Avantgarde really like the record and do see the potential. So far, we have no doubt that this will continue.    

Avantgarde obviously know a good thing when they see it! The physical releases of A Grey Chill… look amazing, and I could be wrong, but it almost looks like the entire story of Black Banners is inscribed on the inner aspect of the LP gatefold?! Fans (including myself) are in for a treat! 

– That is true. It will be printed completely on the inner sleeves of the gatefold and in the CD booklet. Plus, there will be a download code, with which you can download an audio-book version of the story and the original, acoustic, version of ‘We Remember To Remember’. We are very happy with the artwork and the illustrations as well. Both artists, Ben and Jana, really delivered something that fit our vision for the record perfectly.

So, you’ve got literary artists, visual artists… it also looks like you also have some additional musicians who have contributed to this project, correct? I think I’ve seen DZO-NGA and WINTERFYLLETH mentioned. The black metal genre is quite saturated with bands, and many of them are doing some innovative things. Are there any other bands or projects out there who have captured your attention lately or have been an inspiration for BELTEZ? Any bands you dream of touring with, if indeed touring is ever possible again?

– Ben of KODEX BARBARICUS also drew the cover for Exiled…. Jana Kourgierakis is a friend of the band, and while not being a “professional artist”, we like her work a lot. Alex of DZO-NGA played the piano on ‘In Apathy and in Slumber’, as my skills on the piano are somewhat lacking. He also contributed some sound bites for the track. Dan of WINTERFYLLETH did the reading on the aforementioned audiobook. While being the guy in the band that is the least into “contemporary black metal”, I really dig some of the newer black metal bands. Particularly the ones that are a little more atmospheric and willing to push boundaries. For example, I love WIEGEDOOD, LASTER, AFSKY, TONGUE and WOLVENNEST. My background is more the post metal/post rock stuff, plus weird music like NEUROSIS, GGU:LL, RED HARVEST, and the like. In essence, I like everything that is dark and intense. In my very personal opinion, a lot of black metal is neither one nor the other. Before the whole corona nightmare, we had made plans for a tour with LASTER and FARSOT, as both bands had become friends of ours. That would have been a dream line-up, at least for me. And of course, you dream to tour with a “bigger” name, so you can expose your music to more people.

Well, since you brought it up, what is next and what are your ultimate goals or aspirations for BELTEZ? How big do you want to get? Do you feel that there is a certain level of success which is ideal but that to exceed it would incur more trouble than it is worth, or the bigger the better? 

– Well… what is success as an underground metal band? Aside from Sebastian, we are all not in our 20’s anymore. Therefore, our goal is to play as much as possible, but to keep a necessary balance between the band and our personal lives. Some of us have families, so driving every weekend to some destination is simply – and sadly – not possible anymore. But within those boundaries, I would like to do as much as possible. We just hooked up with Redback Promotions, as we came to our limits with the kind of shows we could get without professional support. I would not mind playing a little bit later in the evening and a little bit longer. I really hope that the new record does make some impression in the scene, and people realize that this is simply not the same band that released Beltane almost 20 years ago. And we have already begun to write new music for a follow-up. I mean, what else is to do right now?

That’s fantastic! Can you indulge us with any information on the future album(s), or is it too early to tell what will develop? What do you see in the near future for BELTEZ?

– There is some new material, but it is very raw. Not raw in a musical sense, but in a sense that we haven’t really come around to rehearse and arrange it. Guess we will start with that in the near future. Covid-19 is a real hindrance for us, as Sebastian lives two hours away from the rest. Our rehearsal room is in a local corona hot spot, and some of us are not allowed to enter hotspots for the time being. Therefore, regular rehearsals are not happening right now. This really sucks, but that’s the way it is. We do hope that we will have some new material soon, but right now it is way too early to say which form and shape this will take. We do have some baggage from our past, e.g. there are some songs from Der Tod, Part 1 and even one of Beltane that I would like to properly record with the band. Plus, we kind of owe a Der Tod, Part 2 for the title alone, right…? Might be our Schwarzmetall. But most importantly, we want to go back on the stage. Right now, we are trying to get something going there, but it is really hard. But we hopefully will find a way.    

I want to sincerely thank you for taking so much time to indulge us with information and conversation. A Grey Chill… is absolutely one of the most anticipated albums of the year in our circles, we are excited to watch it see the light of day, and we hope nothing but success with this release and any future plans. Is there anything final that you would like to state?

– It was my sincere pleasure! Thank you so much for your time and effort and for these great questions! I want to ask everybody to support your local scene. Try to support bands and clubs wherever you can. Music culture is in real danger of becoming extinct for the time being. On the other hand, be trve black metal and stay the fuck away from each other!

A Grey Chill And A Whisper and Black Banners will be released as one on November 6, 2020. Preorders are available on digital format, with CD and LP formats available in late November or early December from BELTEZ Bandcamp (physicals there are not actually “sold out”, but rather, not yet available). Digital, CD, and LP preorders are also up on Avantgarde Music Bandcamp and Avantgarde Soundcave store (Soundcave has an exclusive silver/grey LP variant). Don’t dare to sleep on this, lest the darkness take you!

A Grey Chill and a Whisper releases October 30th via Avantgarde Music.

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Pre-order A Grey Chill and a Whisper on exclusive silver LP from the Sound Cave webstore HERE, on CD from the webstore HERE, on digital/LP/CD from the Avantgarde Music Bandcamp HERE, or digitally from the Beltez Bandcamp HERE.

Support BELTEZ:

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Devastation and Deterioration – A Review of ‘Death Shall Purify the Wounds of Your Fragile Morality’ by DØDSFERD

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“Death Shall Purify the Wounds of Your Fragile Mortality compilation album contains songs from different periods of my life, since the birth of my band; a world pure and ideal for the noble ones, the worthy servants of my Father. Grieve and mourn for the end of this world, you wasted sub humans! For me and my kind though offers only joy and a vital chance to create something new from the ashes of the old! My songs are everlasting, as also my hate and disgust for your parasitical behavior upon mother earth!

Wrath of DØDSFERD

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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but my output for BMD has waned somewhat in the last month or so. This is due to one simple reason: I’ve been having an absolute cunt of a time and have barely had the energy or space to spend writing. My loved ones have been sick to the point of being hospitalized, my day job has blown up and I’ve been moved to a new location… the kind of stuff that piles on, drags you down and makes you feel like spitting in the face of the world. So, it’s rather fitting then that the first release I’ve sat down to write about in quite some time is a compilation of only the most depressive tracks from the most dedicated longtime purveyors of pure Greek darkness; Death Shall Purify the Wounds of Your Fragile Morality, from BMD favourites DØDSFERD. I still don’t have much time to write (things will look up soon, hopefully) but I simply had to draw your attention to this monolithic black hole of negativity – because it perfectly encapsulates all the loathing I feel for everything right now.

At first glance, drawing from almost two decades of work and twenty-nine releases for a compilation only seven tracks long might suggest a disjointed result – however Death Shall Purify the Wounds of Your Fragile Morality is far from that. Every track, although from a different era of the band, sits perfectly amongst its ilk and creates a remarkably cohesive experience of MISERY and HATRED (yes, capital letters are necessary). Assisting with that consistency from a sonic/production perspective is the fact that the oldest tracks have been taken from their 2015 re-recordings instead of the originals, but it is the particular wellspring of wretchedness that Wrath draws from that makes it timeless.

Why? Because it sounds REAL. His tortured howls on opener ‘Staring At The Forthcoming Chaos’ immediately set the tone and aren’t irritating or exaggerated like many DSBM vocalists; his delivery is just genuine emotion and feeling, devastatingly personal and relatable… which sums up the rest of the release, too. Not one element is neither polished too much and overdone, nor lacking. It all sits at optimum level for complete melancholic immersion. Nothing pulls you out of the experience. It’s so artfully composed, aware of itself, and when the time is exactly right to draw a feeling out it isn’t afraid to do so and allow the listener to languish in it; the lengthier tracks like the scathing (and my personal favourite) ‘Suicide And The Rest Of Your Kind Will Follow’ or the utterly immense ‘Million Deaths Inside’ only serve to flatten out the listener and drag them down into a near catatonic state. It KNOWS what you’re feeling, and wraps you up in it evermore.

And then, once all the compiled odes are sung, we come to the final throes – a fresh and original composition featuring the line-up of Wrath, ND of Sørgelig and m.Sarvok that proves these talented gentlemen don’t need to rely on the more typical strains of black metal to obliterate the listener. ‘Deterioration’ is an impassioned and lysergic crawl through mental torments that achieves pure darkness with largely clean(ish) singing and guitars – an unexpected and truly spectacular conclusion to an already ruinous odyssey, and the ultimate way to conclude the record.

Honestly, if you played this compilation for someone unfamiliar with the project they’d probably assume it to be a well-crafted full-length album. Given what I stated earlier, it’s perhaps no surprise that the rating I’m giving this compilation reflects not only the fact that it is put together in a near flawless manner, but is also a very personal rating too – because it resonates perfectly with me at this particular time in my life. You might find yourself in a similar space, or you might just be curious to check out another side of this incredible band. Either way, listen deeply. Let it purify your wounds… for it is a great pleasure to be miserable with Dødsferd.

RATING: 4.5 / 5

Death Shall Purify The Wounds Of Your Fragile Morality is available now via Fucking Your Creation Records & Distro.

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Purchase Death Shall Purify The Wounds Of Your Fragile Morality on CD, cassette and with special limited merch by emailing wrath_dodsferd@yahoo.gr

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Take Away The Light – A Multi-Site Review of ‘Endarkenment’ by ANAAL NATHRAKH

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With the release of UK annihilation corps ANAAL NATHRAKH‘s highly anticipated eleventh opus on the way, a group of the best and brightest from three of the internet’s darkest and dankest metal publications have combined powers to attempt something that’s possibly never been done to date: all sit around and talk shit about an album. So, strap in and listen up as Hayduke X (Moshpitnation-mi), VUK (The Metal Wanderlust), ProgCaveOgier (The Metal Wanderlust), Gos (Black Metal Daily, Moshpitnation-mi, Order ov the Black Arts) and Dex (Black Metal Daily) perform a surgically precise track-by-track dissection and give this apocalyptic beast the attention it deserves… for we have entered the age of ENDARKENMENT. Our end is near.

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Hayduke X: I am an editor and writer for MoshPitNation under the name Hayduke X. Though I’ve become a fan of the project, A New Kind of Horror was really my introduction to Anaal Nathrakh. I’d seen the band name before, but hadn’t found the time to check them out to that point. When I saw the ANKOH promo in my inbox, I was pretty keen to check it out based on things I’d heard, and I wasn’t disappointed. Then, Ivan and his discography reviews led me on a bit of a dive into the discography. I spent a weekend working on reports for my job and listening to all the full lengths. I pretty much loved it all, but I haven’t really found the time to go back and listen more. ANKOH is the only one I’ve heard multiple times. That said, I’m pretty excited for this latest release.

VUK: Hey there! VUK at The Metal Wanderlust. Hayduke and PCO I know fairly well, I’d say. Unless you guys are imposters! Arrrhhggh!

I, admittedly, do not know a shit ton about Anaal Nathrakh. I am slightly more than a greatest hits fan, I’d say, having heard their single “Forward!” a couple years ago on Liquid Metal. I am familiar with a few of their albums, and have enjoyed them all (including the new one) a great deal. I was excited to hear about this joint reviewing effort, mainly seeing it as an opportunity to learn more about the band and where they’re coming from conceptually. 

I read somewhere a while back that Anaal Nathrakh wanted to be the soundtrack to the end of the world. Seems fitting these days.

ProgCaveOgier: Hi there, it’s PCO speaking. Or writing. Currently writing reviews for The Metal Wanderlust. My first encounter with Anaal Nathrakh was their debut, The Codex Necro. Around those times, I was really into the whole electronics-meet-grind thing in general and was a fan of The Berzerker as well, for example. Loved the debut, but lost the band for years as none of the follow ups really seemed to be in league with it. Then came Vanitas in 2012, which hit the bullseye again and became my album of the year as well. Been following them tightly ever since and I’m real curious about the new one to be unleashed.

Gos: Greetings everyone! I write for Black Metal Daily with Dex and MoshPitNation with Hayduke X, as well as tons of unpublished “reviews” and commentary for Order ov the Black Arts black metal community on Facebook (also on YouTube and other platforms to a lesser extent). My background in terms of extreme metal is probably about 85% black metal and the rest a mixture of other things, the bulk of which is probably some form of death metal. 

I became aware of Anaal Nathrakh probably around 2004 or 2005 right after the release of Domine…, but it was actually The Codex Necro that I heard first and which hooked me. I have loved them ever since. I could count on one hand the number of bands that I know as well as Anaal Nathrakh, and there’s none other that I know as well that have as many albums as they do. My favorite albums are The Codex Necro (2001) and Eschaton (2006). I might not always be completely into them at any given moment, and if I had to listen to one album for the rest of my life I’m not sure that it would be one of theirs, but if we’re going on criteria like consistency, longevity, and overall exposure, in some ways you could consider them my “favorite” band.

I’ve got an ever-developing full discography review that I first wrote in 2017 or 2018 (before ANKOH) and which I tinker with and update every time an album comes out, so I pretty much know their discography up and down. To bring it back full circle, it was this discography review which first caught Dex’s attention, which then eventually evolved into me writing lots of reviews on the regular for Black Metal Daily and MoshPitNation.

DEX: Hails, salutations and g’day cunts. I’m Dex, the editor and a scribe for Black Metal Daily, plus a few other sordid establishments over the years. I first discovered the horrid delights of the ‘thrakh when my ears were assaulted by the sheer disgust of ‘Between Shit And Piss We Are Born’ on a Terrorizer Mag promo CD around when Eschaton was dropping; I fucking loved it, bought their previous albums straight away and the Brummie bastards have been one of my all-time favourite bands since then. I’m even wearing a Nathrakh shirt while typing this. Nice to meet you VUK and ProgCaveOgier, have seen some great stuff from you lately!

VUK: Thanks, man! Excellent to meet you as well. It seems I’m the AN newbie, which is fine by me! Haha! I’m sure to learn a lot about these guys from this write up. Very exciting.

Hayduke X: I’m pretty much a newbie myself. We’ll kneel at the feet of the masters. Lol.

ENDARKENMENT

Hayduke X: So, now that we have introductions done, let’s jump into the album. This time around, they start off with the title track ‘Endarkenment’. Musically (and I think this goes through much of the album, with an asterisk, for me), I don’t think they’re really breaking any new ground here. Some slight evolutions on what is their own unique sound, but it’s clear we’re headed into an Anaal Nathrakh album, I’d say. Lyrically, from what I can tell, they are talking about the current tendency to find our own “facts” in often dubious sources, and to double-down on these, come hell or high water. Am I making any kind of sense here?

Gos: You’re absolutely making sense. The term “endarkenment” is a play on the term “enlightenment”. Whereas enlightenment can be seen both as the process of gaining knowledge, as well as the age in which Western culture made a leap forward in terms of reason, empiricism, intellectual advancement, progression, and tolerance… what is being referenced here is the process or a current age of obscuration, deception, regression, ignorance and intolerance. Focusing on social philosophy and cultural critiques is pretty standard for Dave Hunt, but he doesn’t usually seem to be this specific about current events and I find it interesting that they chose to name the entire album with this term. It makes me assume that this album takes a more focused, ‘realism’ approach to actual current events instead of being more abstract, like many of their other albums tend to be conceptually.

Hayduke X: Yeah, I’m curious now, given that it’s the album title also, how often variations of this theme will pop up. I hadn’t thought of that aspect. I also haven’t made much headway in deciphering lyrics.

Gos: I could be mistaken, but there might actually be a lyric video for this song? Which is the first time they’ve ever done that.

DEX: There is an unofficial lyric video (which does have the correct lyrics, confirmed by Mick) – the official lyric video was for ‘The Age Of Starlight Ends’, I believe. And yes, right out of the gate this track confirms my long-held opinion that Hunt is one of the best lyricists around. It may seem an innocuous line, but even the implications of “fuck you if you think I am wrong, the answers I have are all the answers I need” really sum it up for me – and are a sad indictment of where we are at as a species.

Gos: Absolutely Dex. Reading those lyrics, one thing to note about Hunt, he doesn’t really tend to place blame at the feet of those in power, or at least he’s not really talking about them. Moreso he seems to talk about the masses doing this or that. The song ‘On Being A Slave’ comes to mind, which has pretty disgusting lyrics but it really all revolves around disgust of people allowing themselves to be enslaved and not really a condemnation of the ‘master’ for enslaving. Not that he is a proponent of the master, but just that his scope tends to be wider and to ponder on people’s behavior in general. His lyrics are more observational as opposed to targeting.   

DEX: Nailed it. We’re fucked, and we are allowing it to happen to ourselves. Musically speaking, to return to Hayduke‘s point – this immediately feels more “Nathrakh” than they’ve felt in a while, to me. Is that a good thing? Two words: FUCK. YES. It already seems Mick has stripped back the excess bells and whistles (lost the more pronounced electronic influences that have popped up now and again since they first worked with UK drum ‘n bass producer Gore Tech on Desideratum, toned back the audio effects and samples ever-so-slightly etc) and just gone back to hitting fucking hard – yet with an increased emphasis on melody. Dave said “in terms of feel, it’s more brighter, open and direct than we’ve been in the past”, and I agree with him… which ties into Gos‘ point about the lyrics taking a more focused, current approach. The entire album feels more like that to me.

Gos: Agreed.

VUK: From my perspective, having listened to the majority of the discography in just a small amount of time, it seems to me that this opening track is much more melodic in the vocal department. Then going into the second track more on the Industrial side of things, which together, I think, is a formula the band has been trying to perfect since ‘Vanitas‘.

DEX: Man, speaking of melody in the vocal department – this chorus is one of Dave‘s all-time greats for me, and with Mick‘s complementary lead afterward… ugh. Fucking love it.

Gos: This is great! Yeah VUK, those melodic cleans for the chorus are something that has developed over time but has become a staple feature for the band. The Codex Necro doesn’t have any of that. The second album, Domine Non Es Dignus has two songs that do it (‘Do Not Speak’… I HIGHLY recommend checking that song out, one of the best of their entire repertoire, and ‘This Cannot Be The End’). From there he seems to incorporate it more and more in each album and now there aren’t many tracks that don’t feature it.  

PCO: The thing that struck me with the tune ‘Endarkenment’ is that whereas in the past Anaal Nathrakh have been throwing in a lot of different influences like have already been mentioned here and making their music very nihilistic, dark and chaotic with it, now it seems they have stripped down a bit instead. The opening tune sounds very focused, like they had intended to write a “hit” almost. All in the positive sense of the word. This focused and clarified musical direction sure seems to add punch.

VUK: I agree that there is a bit more of a mainstream appeal to this song, musically, which is a bit ironic considering the subject matter. And, as you said, the “hit” quality of it is certainly not negative. 

And going back to something Gos touched on earlier, lyrically this does seem like a commentary on people in general… a bit of a dumbing down of reason, or perhaps a mass collective escape from “reality” by just tossing out anything reasonable simply because it’s so exhausting to keep up with the quickness of changes in the world.

THUS, ALWAYS, TO TYRANTS

DEX: A good, old-fashioned hyperblaster from the lads; if anyone was worried they were going soft this is an almighty “fuck off then” with two fingers raised high. Although, counter to what we just said – “You all deserve to die… sic semper tyrannis”. Is Mr. V.I.T.R.I.O.L actually aiming at the tyrants this time?

Gos: This fucking rips! Ha, yeah way for them to prove me wrong, not only about the targeting but also about the cleans… none in this track really, just that shouting, and I’m fine with it. Kind of welcome actually, in a way. There’s something like, “old-school Nathrakh” about this riffing and progression which reminds me of a lot of what we hear circa Hell Is Empty… (2007), except the production is brought up to speed. Definitely a resurgence of focus on their classic black/grind sound. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t getting a little worried there with ANKOH

PCO: Absolutely agree with the “old-school Nathrakh” vibe. This tune has it. It’s a mean piece of contempt put on a record and kind of pats the fan on the metaphorical shoulder and says, “we still know how to do it, even if the first song was a bit chorus heavy”. 

VUK: Yeah, definitely a ripper of a tune. Short and to the point, sort of a bitch slap to whatever “tyrant” that’s to your liking. In some of the promo material, if I read it right, they’re pointing out some of the different ways tyranny can represent itself. In reminding us that “Thus, always, to tyrants” was what John Wilkes Booth said before assassinating Abraham Lincoln, and was a slogan worn by Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. The band seems to be mocking the misguided rage people like this possess. In listening, there is almost a jovial nature to the song. Laughing in the faces of fools, so to speak. 

THE AGE OF STARLIGHT ENDS

DEX: So this is the track with the official lyric video, the first viewing of which which provided me with two chuckles: Dave spitting the line “A thousand COCKS” and the reference to Monty Python‘s The Meaning Of Life (“If they’re Mister Creosote, we’re not even a wafer thin mint”). Glorious. All I can do is applaud both efforts, really – but what do we all think about it musically?

Gos: Wow, I really love this sort of creepy sustained choir synth effects at the beginning of this track. And this chorus is gonna be like heroin-level addictive, I can tell right now. Oop, there’s that synth again bridging the chorus to the next verse… cool. That choir effect I think first appeared in just the last album, on ‘Obscene as Cancer’ and ‘Are We Fit For Glory Yet’, a welcome addition in my opinion.

DEX: is it just me, or does anyone else get a slight Iron Maiden influence creeping in? 

PCO: I think I know what you mean, Dex. There’s a sense of turbo-boosted Maiden to be sensed. Another chorus heavy track, with a definite fist pump vibe to it. 

VUK: I agree completely about the addictive nature of that chorus! I thought of late 1980’s/early 1990’s Metal as well. Sort of a Power Metal vibe, like Accept or Metal Church, maybe? Certainly heavier than that overall, but I hear the influence. The melodies in the lead guitar, mixed with that creepy synth, really creates a nice atmosphere. 

LIBIDINOUS (A PIG WITH COCKS IN ITS EYES)

DEX: Well then, this seems like an apt point to ask – what were everyone’s thoughts the first time they laid eyes on that rather delightful cover art?

Gos: The cover art was somewhat unexpected, but I was even more surprised at the amount of criticism they got on social media from it. Seems like a very ‘grind’ aesthetic and nowhere near as fucked up as the gore cover art which is so popular across several genres, at which nobody seems to really bat an eye. Also, it’s in perfect alignment with themes that Anaal Nathrakh has expressed numerous times over the decades, albeit perhaps not visually. Do dudes really have that much of a problem catching a glance of some dicks? I find myself fairly neutral on the art itself but amused at the backlash, which only makes it seem like it is effective at doing… whatever the fuck it is supposed to do. *shrug* That said, I wouldn’t wear it on a shirt. My favorite of their cover art is that from Vanitas

VUK: The cover art seems to amplify what the band has been trying to say at various points… that the world is run by a bunch of pigs who think with their dicks. And it does point out a double standard, because if it was, say, a swan with breasts, no one would have a problem with it. 

Gos: Musically, I’m somewhat less enthusiastic about this track. Not that it’s bad, just like the three previous ones more. The melody is cool but I’m not a huge fan of that more deathcore slant on the guitar. 

DEX: Dudes definitely do have a problem with seeing dicks, it seems – but that’s a whole separate discussion. As for the song, I quite like it. Solid stuff; low, punishing and pulverizing until one of those trademark soaring choruses… and I’m quietly chuffed that Dave‘s King Diamond impersonation finally pops up again. “A pig with cocks in its eeeeyes… masturbatiiiing to the end of the woooorld”. Lovely, and razor-sharp social commentary once more.

BEYOND WORDS

DEX: I gotta say, the beginning of this track with the “Eat shit fuck face” sample simply has to be a knowing throwback to the “Go and kill yourself” introduction of ‘The One Thing Needful’ from Desideratum. Mick must have an absolute ball creating this stuff!

Gos: Yes! Dex I thought the exact same thing, that moment immediately came to mind! This is better overall, back to form now. Sweet. …hahaha: “FUCK!” (1:35). No cleans on this one either? This kicks ass. This REALLY kicks ass.

DEX: Blackened grind all the way. I fucking LOVE this shit. Obliterating. The trademark Irrumator drum programming is incredibly satisfying here, and Dave‘s vocals heading back into “indecipherable inhuman rage” territory always makes my pants fit nice. I reckon this might be my favourite track on the album besides ‘Endarkenment’.

VUK: Yeah, this kicks things up a notch! An incredibly destructive song, and I like how it is described by the band; as an expression of a “Dionysian ecstasy of loathing”, or this idea that the fulfilment of desire exists on the opposite side of order and control. So, that “FUCK!” at 1:35 is pretty much all that needs said. 

DEX: Pure menace, revelling in disgust – a “Dionysian ecstasy of loathing” is bang-on what this sounds like. Side note, anyone heard from Hayduke? Been a little quiet over there mate… Hayduke? You still with us?

FEEDING THE DEATH MACHINE

Gos: This seems like a very middle-of-the-road track. It does seem to have a bit of melodic death metal influence thrown in there, coincidence that the word ‘death’ appears in the track title as well? Despite the later albums’ flirtation with deathcore, there really isn’t much in their discography overall that is specifically death metal in a classic sense, despite careless categorizations galore. 

VUK: Vocally, it’s not quite as catchy as ‘The Age of Starlight Ends‘, but I do enjoy the chorus. I agree with your mention of melo-death, particularly with the guitar leads. 

Lyrically, it seems a variation on the theme of human self-destruction and complete misunderstanding or mishandling of power as it relates to “other” people. In this case, a song inspired by the story of a man who survived the Auschwitz death camp simply because the guards enjoyed how he played the cello. This man, though a survivor, contributed to “feeding the death machine” by entertaining the soldiers who were killing his people. He describes himself as an “unperson”, having no control over the world around him but being forced to aid in the creation of holocaust. That’s an absolutely devastating concept!  

DEX: those rising melodic leads that surge through the chorus are great and hit me in a strange way; they have a slight martial feel to them, as well as being sorrowful / melancholic… quite apt given the subject matter, really.  

PCO: This was one of the very first songs that hit home after the first listen of the album. It sure has the vibe At The Gates, for example, threw at us with great success in 1995, but here it is surged through with such a force that the thing feels to be updated to current standard and does not have a copy vibe to it. The chorus is, once again, mind blowing. I think we can already see the pattern on this album forming: sheer power and focus of the material that is somewhat more stirpped down than usual, seems to be unstoppable and easy to like. 

CREATE ART, THOUGH THE WORLD MAY PERISH

Gos: The beginning of this reminds me of Mastodon’s track ‘March of the Fire Ants’ on steroids and coke. Intensity level kicked up a notch from the last track, which I always support! Intrigued by the title of the track and wondering what the lyrics are, which reminds me, most of Hunt’s lyrics are unpublished and near indecipherable, so this group needs a nod for anyone seriously wanting to engage: Nathrakh Lyric Research. Goddamn, the last third of this track is ferocious!

DEX: Nathrakh Lyric Research is a great group, backed hard. Join, people!

VUK: I love this title! Depending on the context, it could mean so many things. You could go the route of Nero and fiddle a tune while the city you rule burns around you, or the route of Banksy and risk your freedom to draw attention to injustice and inequality. One form of art does something for the artist, the other does something for the audience. 

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the lyrics for this album, which has come in quite handy while discussing previous tracks. What I find interesting is the lyrics on this track seem secondary to the title and the melody (at least to me). 

Gos: Ha! VUK, your comments up above reminded me that I too have the promo material for this and lo!, there are the lyrics, as you say! I sheepishly admit I didn’t even check that PDF, partly because I never assumed that they would provide this much insight to their tracks (this is a first as far as I know), and partly because I just straight up forgot about it! Looking at that now… an expression of populism and its potential connection to fascism? God, I love these guys. I tend to be averse to politics in music generally, but true to form, this is more like pondering political philosophy than actually digging in on one “side” of things.  

PCO: Well, this one is AN to the fullest! There’s the atonal edge of grindcore versus another almost Iron Maiden-esque chorus. It’s pretty damn hard to ignore the song writing, musicianship and production here. This tune in particular is the Bruce Dickinson moment of Dave Hunt’s career.

DEX: …and Brucey should be honoured by that comparison. Get Dave on the next Maiden album, they can do a duet.

SINGULARITY

Gos: Another fairly straightforward track, sounds like a lot of what we hear on Vanitas, Desideratum, and The Whole of the Law. Not bad, but nothing really to write home about. It really reminds me a lot of a specific song, I think it might be ‘Idol’ or ‘The One Thing Needful’ from Desideratum, but as I browse through those albums now I feel like I could also point to half a dozen others at least, probably more. The implication here? Nobody should shy away from the idea that Anaal Nathrakh is often formulaic and often produces tracks that are fairly homogeneous. But, I’m not trying to use those terms disparagingly because that formula kicks ass, and when they deviate from it in some ways, those are the tracks that I often don’t like as much. …Ok fine, lets talk about ‘Forward’, et al…. yeah yeah I know it’s as catchy as all fuck, and who am I to criticize Mick and all of his creative genius? It’s not even that I dislike it necessarily. But dammit, if I wanted to listen to Blessthefall then I would. I think it might actually be a bit of a burden to have been with the band since the Necro days because that early stuff is just so fucking devastating, and it is hard to completely separate anything current from what I love of the past. My own problem I know, but in my humble opinion: Nathrakh’s formula is great; if and when they push towards the fringes of it, it is best when it is a push that is MORE aggressive. This is why I’m leaning towards the harder songs on this album like ‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants’ and ‘Beyond Words’. End rant.

VUK: You’ve got an excellent point about the potential “burden” a long time AN fan might have, or come to cultivate with time. And, really, any band that’s been around a while probably shares that challenge. I like this song, though. It’s got a bit of an epic feel to it, with that main guitar melody. Coming up on it being the ass-end of the album, it’s got a fitting atmosphere. 

DEX: Man, I fucking love ‘Forward’ (or the “dubstep” track, as a few musically handicapped fuckwits called it when it dropped as the first single back then). It’s one of the tracks I still regularly jam from that album… but I catch your drift. On the flipside, being a long-term Anaal Nathrakh fan can also have its benefits – when it comes to tracks that some may say “yeah, just sounds like Nathrakh“, a connoisseur will often instead be able to discern the subtle differences and advances in their formula. I mention that because similarly to what Hayduke said earlier I feel a lot of listeners might dismiss this album in that way, when if you dig a little the differences from previous works are delightful. But yeah, killer song that wants to rip your testicles off and shove them up your nostrils.

Gos: The lyrical concept here is fucking fascinating, and so goddamn true: A species that doesn’t know shit about itself and which can’t evolve out of rudimentary, power-based social structures, is creating technology that will essentially soon be godlike. Sweet.

PCO: The opening of the tune has one of the very few industrial type-of moments on the album in it. It somehow feels that this department especially has been stripped down this time and the skeleton that remains is very much traditional metal: Guitar hooks, bass guitar low in the mix and vocals dominating on top of the riff. 

DEX: Yes! That’s what I was saying earlier, totally agreed. Stripping back, and it’s fucking ace. The way those industrial/electronic elements are utilized in that intro is tasteful, too; less in-your-face and more atmospheric. 

Also, breaking news: Hayduke just messaged… the opening bars of ‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants’ hit him that hard that it put him in the hospital. A moment of silence for our fallen comrade, please. 

PUNISH THEM

Gos: Another fairly aggressive track. Nice. I don’t have a lot to say about this one, I guess I kinda said enough about the last. 

PCO: This one should be a pretty murderous tune in a live situation! Another Gothenburg riff on this one and what has really surprised me is the fact they do not annoy me, like this kind of semi-melodic riff structure usually does. If somebody had told me, before the album was out, it would have almost In Flames-esque riffs in it, it would have filled me with pure dread. But fear not – this is surgical aggression and a bold melodic throw here works for the benefit of the composition. The tune sticks to your mind with ease, for being such a violent number. 

DEX: All the best bits of mid-late period Nathrakh in one lethal hit. It’s going to fucking SLAY live. I hope they have good insurance, because people are gonna die.

VUK: A massively violent song, indeed! Fantastic riffs on this thing, and aggressive vocals much like ‘Beyond Words’, though it’s difficult to say which one is heavier. This actually reminds me a bit of Ministry. Other parts of the album have a Skinny Puppy vibe, at least to my ears. I enjoy that about Anaal Nathrakh quite a bit… their Industrial side. Mainly because it rides a line somewhere between Fear Factory and Godflesh, mixing in more samples and frantically programmed drums. Very much their own sound. 

The concept of this song, while strong, doesn’t hit me as hard as ‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants‘ or ‘Feeding the Death Machine‘. By outlining the story of a woman who was caught smuggling drugs into Malaysia and was put on death row despite the fact that she broke the law against her will, clearly demonstrates the punishment doesn’t always fit the crime. But SOMEBODY needs to be punished, right? 

DEX: Somebody, yes – the proven guilty if at all possible, or arguably those who are totally comfortable killing someone apparently forced to commit a crime against their will could also be punished for being shitty humans. Not you, VUK! I’m not sure I’m supposed to let this delicious morsel of information slip but I’m referring to when Mick and Dave were apparently reading about that incarcerated woman, the comment sections they discovered (oh, how I love the comment sections) were full of people spewing the typically brutal rhetoric of the spectacularly dense and uninformed… so the lads decided to make audio recordings of themselves reading them aloud, which is what you’re hearing when that intense layer of babble and brimstone surfaces through the mix in the middle of the composition. In a way, this song has literal venom running through its veins and is the embodiment of what Anaal Nathrakh do best – exposing humanity at its worst. A fascinating track, for me.

REQUIEM

Gos: Wow! Fittingly epic, blasting, savage, and melodic all at once. Immediately stands out as one of the better tracks on the album for me. Great guitar lead there. A great closing track, really. And I always love me some Neitzsche! This one refers to Neitzsche’s proclamation of the death of God at the hands of the enlightenment, but in this case, to come full circle, Hunt is identifying the death of enlightenment values at the hands of endarkenment. Me, I’m sort of inclined to think that enlightenment values themselves have led us to state of the the world we are seeing today, and that this endarkenment isn’t really a *rejection* of enlightenment values, but an unfortunately negative progression of them. 

PCO: I think you have addressed a solid point there Gos! As everything should somehow manage to balance on the middle-ground for the best results, overdoing it and going too far with even such a noble cause as the idea of enlightenment is, can lead to problems. Somehow, this tune fills me with ideas of how everything is a cycle and it all will have to fall and burn in the end, to be able to pick up anew and rebuild. The structures we, as cultures, are building have their flaws, but they cannot be necessarily undone or fixed as they are so set to stone. Even we see the ship is heading to rocks. “The road to hell is filled with good intentions” is the oldest phrase in the book, but it is often the truth too. Humanity is a thing of both – of great triumphs and errors, and even if our intentions are the most noble kind, we can still go wrong with them. All these kinds of big ideas come to mind while listening to this tune and that is a great indicator of the quality at hand here. Metal sure is a wonderful thing, as it can make us think while beating our faces in at the same time. 

VUK: Without a doubt my favorite song on the album, which is saying a lot because there really isn’t a weak moment to be had. I agree with both of you guys on the content. Not much else to add from my point of view, but it’s worth pointing out a tragic element within the music that isn’t present in the rest of the material. The guitar solo that starts about four-minutes in sounds entirely improvised, adding a passion that can’t be faked or processed. Iron Maiden was mentioned earlier. That influence is quite obvious at the end here. 

DEX: I’m going to be the odd one out here, slightly – it’s strange, but even after dozens of repeated spins the first section of this track just hasn’t fully clicked for me. Something about how that kinda dissonant melodic lead sits, I dunno. However, the rest of the track (Maiden!) and that epic-as-all-fuck conclusion more than redeem it; it ends up being the perfect final note to a ripper of an album and a glorious crescendo to the melodic slant that has been increasingly building across the duration. The last two minutes of this track are ultimate, and this is undoubtedly one of the best album closers they’ve ever had.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Gos: I thought this album was pretty damn good, and it’s better than I thought it would be. I’m particularly appreciating the lack of forays into djenty or metalcore territory and it seems like there’s several angles from which they dialed up the ferocity factor. I’m surprised at the increased transparency that the band is providing, as well as the number of songs that decline to swing into that pattern of melodic chorus with clean vocals. While I frequently like those parts in other albums, I’m finding myself particularly drawn to tracks that don’t do that as much here (‘Thus, Always, To Tyrants’, ‘Beyond Words’, ‘Requiem’). Even so, a few of those clean melodic choruses have undeniable hooks which don’t easily leave your head (‘Endarkenment’, ‘The Age of Starlight Ends’). After A New Kind of Horror I was pretty concerned that Nathrakh was going to stray afar from black metal altogether, but I think those concerns have been laid to rest for now. Comparatively in their discography I’m liking this better than A New Kind of Horror and probably better than Passion as well, but not sure it quite reaches the level of The Whole of the Law, Constellation or much prior, and probably will end up sitting near Vanitas and Desideratum at around a 7-8/10. Overall I’m pretty amped for it!

PCO: After Vanitas they have come close but have not quite touched the glory of their masterpiece of an album in my books. Desideratum was maybe even a bit of a disappointment around the time of release and The Whole of the Law and A New Kind of Horror sure did come close, but eventually did not quite reach the level of quality I like to think AN stands for. The previous two especially seemed to have quite a lot to digest in them, many musical directions and a whole set of different types of vocals for example, but Endarkenment comes off as much more straightforward, but also significantly more enjoyable experience. It has “CLASSIC METAL RECORD” written all over it, something you are able to lash to your speakers years and years from now and be as much excited about it. As far as the tracks themselves go, I’m surprisingly drawn towards the singles (which is a rare thing usually) and I’d like to lift Endarkenment and The Age of Starlight Ends as my top tracks. But my number one tune from the album is still Create Art, Though the World May Perish. It simply is an embodiment of what this band is all about. The two that do not hold me in their grip as well as the rest of the record are Libidinous and Singularity. They drop the numeral down a notch from full points. Nevertheless, this kind of an album is a nice start for a new decade and a definite 9/10 release. Definitely recommended and the sharpest one they have done in a while.  

VUK: As a newer fan of the band, as I said earlier, this album seems like another step in the progression of Anaal Nathrakh as an artistic expression. Gos, your surprise at their transparency this time around is kind of lost on me, not having been through the ordeal of trying to identify the lyrical themes on my own, but I do see what you mean. If in the past they took a more mysterious approach, their decision to make their ideas so public on this album cycle, I think, is just perfect timing. Given the current state of the world, especially in politics, “cancel culture”, and the reality show mentality that blinds the masses into thinking they can trust everything their favorite “characters” say… really hits home with Endarkenment. Stand out tracks for me are ‘Thus, Always, to Tyrants‘, ‘Create Art, Though the World May Perish’, ‘Feeding the Death Machine’ and ‘Requiem’. It is a ridiculously enjoyable listening experience on multiple levels, and shares a quality all great albums have: insurability of repeated spins. This isn’t an album you listen to once and forget about. It makes a statement, drawing you in with both melody and aggression in their purest forms, and only lets you rest for long enough to catch a breath before the next wave knocks you on your ass. A solid 8/10 for me. 

DEX: THE ‘THRAKH ARE BACK. After the somewhat divisive A New Kind Of Horror, are they playing it safe? Nah. They’re just tweaking the formula a bit; a re-focusing toward the core of what makes Nathrakh the most nihilistic and loathful band on the planet whilst taking subtle steps in a direction that’s different to the way they went on A New Kind Of Horror. At once reminding us why we love ’em and forging ever-onwards into the sunset. 8/10, would let it sear my face off again, devastating… fans new and old need to listen up, and enjoy our inexorable slide into Endarkenment.

Hayduke X: *muffled groans*

…time passes…

Hayduke X: Guys, I was finally cleared for release. I’m back and ready to go. I brought pizza. Who likes pepperoni? Guys? …Guys? Anybody here?

Endarkenment releases October 2nd via Metal Blade Records.

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Pre-order Endarkenment on CD, LP and digital HERE.

Support ANAAL NATHRAKH:

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Reflections of Sky, Dirt, and Blood – A Review of ‘A Romance With Violence’ by WAYFARER

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By Ivan Gossage & Shaun Spaeth

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From the western frontier-themed lyrics and cover art, to the employment of vaguely Americana folk riff progressions, to the fairly consistent use of “country” instrumentation and the drifting big-sky pace which almost inevitably breaks out into the more straightforward blackened gallop, WAYFARER creates a brand of black metal that is particularly, overtly American. Stripped down but decidedly and uniquely epic, the band has developed their sound through three full-length releases entitled Children of the Iron Age (2014), Old Souls (2016) and World’s Blood (2018), which really seemed to tune the wider black metal community in to what WAYFARER was up to. Now the Colorado cowboys ride forth once again to offer us their next ambition; full of distant vistas, dusty trails, bloody conflicts, and gritty nostalgia. Read on as WAYFARER aficionados Ivan Gossage (Order ov the Black Arts) and Shaun Spaeth present their considerations of the upcoming fourth opus A Romance With Violence with a newfangled effort, the ‘conversational’ review.

IG: Okay man, thanks for taking the time to try this experiment out with me, let’s see how this goes. Are you ready to get romanced? Romanced… with violence?!

SS: I prefer Romancing The Stone.

IG: Look at you with your fucking culture!

SS: I’m digging the cover art. It definitely reminds me of some Red Dead Redemption 2. Honestly though, it has some very antique vibes and gives you a definite sense of nostalgia and history.

IG: I really like the scrolling in the corners, that adds a pretty cool antique touch to the visual. I’m wondering if this is an illustration, but it looks more like some sort of old school photo which makes me wonder why they chose it and how it connects to the album title and content.

SS: Makes me think that it will be some sort of a story about a gunslinger and his trials and tribulations in the newly founded West.

IG: Yeah I’m wondering if it’s that, some particular story about a person which involves violence, or if it’s got a more broad criticism to make of colonialism American expansion across the frontier or something like that. Maybe both.

SS: I dunno, but the first sense of violence I get from the cover is this dude looks like he’s about to get plowed by that train.

IG: Ha! Yeah there is smoke coming out of that smokestack, he needs to turn the fuck around and look what’s going on! Okay without further ado, let’s check this out.

*begin*

‘The Curtain Pulls Back’

IG: So I’m going to admit that I’ve heard this a couple of times before listening to it with you, and I really like this intro. Very theatrical, kind of whimsical, and I’ll tell you right now, it gets stuck in your head really easily.

SS: Right off the bat I feel like I’m in a fucking saloon!

IG: Exactly. Kind of fun but melancholy at the same time.

‘The Crimson Rider (Gallows Frontier, Act I)’

IG: All right, an 11-minute song right off the bat!

SS: I’m definitely digging this riff that starts after the initial intro at about one-minute in. It’s kind of complex but subtle at the same time, and I always love how WAYFARER uses double kick that reminds me of galloping.

IG: Yeah definitely! What I’m noticing right away as this gets going is that it seems to be a little bit cleaner than the last album, a little less “garage” sounding, a little less dusty and although the Western flavor is increased much like World’s Blood, the production seems a bit clearer like Old Souls. Again with the vocals that are somewhat buried in the mix though. I really like that about WAYFARER.

SS: It definitely feels like a natural progression from Old Souls to World’s Blood to this album. I like their evolution quite a bit. This band is solid every time.

IG: Absolutely! Checking out these lyrics, “In the fervor of gold, an outlaw becomes a God” …that’s a cool line.

SS: It looks like this song is a story about a gunslinger so far. I wonder if the whole album will be based on this theme or maybe even based on the same character.

IG: Well… he just got hanged so I’m not sure.

SS: Hahaha, guess I should have kept following the lyrics a bit longer! Now it almost seems like an ode to what was lost when the West became civilized. … I like this bassline that’s going on around the 7-minute mark.

IG: Yeah I was going to say that myself, it’s very pronounced. With this entire slower part towards the middle, I feel like it’s just building up to something, and I’m waiting for it to break into a run again… aaaaaaand there it is! Nice buildup and climax here. Predictable, but in a way that is very satisfying.

SS: These acoustic sections truly give you a feel of the West. I love that about WAYFARER.

IG: Definitely. A lot of the time my favorite parts are those which tend to move away from black metal entirely and have a very, very obvious Western sound to them.

SS: Same. The drums at the end of this song are a great example of the sheer talent that the drummer has. 

‘The Iron Horse (Gallows Frontier, Act II)

IG: Ohhh this is that first single, right?! This track is badass!

SS: Yep. Definitely digging that intro riff, and the vocals are on an interesting time signature here at the beginning of the song.

IG: Now this song seems to be talking about colonial expansion, the railroad moving West… is that a bell tolling? Nice touch. … Oh goddamn this fucking riff at about 3:40? Holy shit! And a solo, short but sweet!

SS: Yeah, that solo was awesome.

IG: This song is really good. Definitely more straight-to-the-point and classically aggressive compared to the one before it, and compared the others on the album I think.

SS: Still plenty of Western sound oozing through the riffs though.

‘Fire and Gold’

SS: This is starting out with some awesome acoustic shit. As you said, these are some of my favorite parts about this band. It’s what really separates them from a lot of other metal out there… oh I’m surprised to be hearing clean vocals. What the hell? These are awesome.

IG: They remind me a lot of MY DYING BRIDE.

SS: Definitely, and I like the organ or whatever the hell is. This is reminiscent to the final track on World’s Blood which is one of my favorites and it’s not even a metal song!

IG: Yeah, for sure. Part of me is expecting this to erupt into double kick or something at some point but I’m also not going to be surprised if it just keeps up with this easy pace throughout, considering that it’s less than 5 minutes long…. is that a violin recorded backwards or something?

SS: It’s definitely something backwards. Not sure exactly what instrument. I definitely like it though.

IG: And now it’s gotten all cosmic and shit with that outro. Very cool.

‘Masquerade Of The Gunslingers’

SS: Can you replay that I intro real quick? It made me think this song was going to have far different timing once it got started.

IG: Yeah, or it’s like the timing stayed the same and the drum pattern isn’t nearly as straightforward as it seemed like it was going to be. This is a lot more nuanced, complex and cool.

SS: Exactly. I really like the fact that they mixed this so you could hear every instrument individually.

IG: It seems like it’s pretty much perfect for what they are trying to achieve.

SS: I also like the higher-end guitar riff that’s going on in the background around 2 minutes.

IG: It sounds like the same sort of thing that was going on at the very beginning, some sort of like semi-clean, jangling strumming, but now it’s embedded in the song. 

SS: I’m definitely enjoying the fact that they’re adding in more clean vocals this time, now around 5:35. Thank God he can sing in tune, nothing worse than clean vocals that are out of key. The clean vocals are adding a lot to the atmosphere of the song and the album in general.

IG: Definitely. And these longer songs have these pronounced spaces that are way more drawn out where there’s a lot of a wide open, “big sky” feel. 

SS: As it gets going again, I like how they just translated the acoustic riff that was moving at a fairly rapid pace into this heavier section but now the riff is much slower. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. They did something similar to this on Old Souls that I really enjoyed.

‘Intermission’

IG: That was good. Now an intermission though? It kind of felt like that’s what ‘Fire and Gold’ was a little bit, I guess we will see what happens here. … This is nice, but not much really going on with this track.

SS: I don’t mind. I enjoy the acoustic interludes. It adds a lot of depth.

‘Vaudeville’

SS: Very interesting drum intro on the final track . I love the clicking of the sticks.

IG: Yeah exactly! This riff sounds a little bit country too. Haha, VERY country as it goes on. Enjoying this a lot.

SS: This is probably the most blatantly Western sounding song they’ve made. I’m loving it though.

IG: Is that clapping? Yeah this is cool, albeit pretty far from black metal. I saw somewhere in some promotional information that they took inspiration from a lot of different really diverse areas. Most references I wasn’t really familiar with, but they did mention Jay Munly, who we became familiar with from some performances at Fire In The Mountains festival. I wonder if this song is what they were referring to.

SS: I could definitely see a correlation there.

IG: Right now this song kind of sounds like Jay Munly looks. Kind of somber, drawn down, despondent… man there are a LOT of clean vocals on this album. Not complaining.

SS: I’m not minding it at all. There’s still plenty of aggression to go around.

IG: There’s a lot of meandering going on right now, almost a psychedelic doom track or something, but I have a feeling the finale is really going to wrap it up.

SS: Yep, incoming epic outro!

IG: Yup, I can feel it coming! …Oooohhh! That lead guitar!

SS: Yeah we’ve got some GREAT sound and lead guitar happening towards the end here.

IG: Man, honestly this conclusion is just moving as fuck. Beautiful and huge and tragic. Wow!

SS: The lyrics are longing for the wild west that was lost to colonialization and spreading of civilization.

IG: “Where is the romance? When did it give way to rape?… Where is the dream?”. Amazing ending with that almost operatic choir. Fantastic.

*end*

SS: That was a fucking excellent album. To be honest, I’ve never really been big on following along with lyrics so I may be off base when I say this, but it seems like this album was a lot more thematic than the previous. I definitely enjoy the concept of losing the West and the freedom and the promises that it held to the unstoppable steam train of civilization and order. Having just played through Red Dead Redemption 2, I had a lot of nostalgia on the similar story line found within that game, where your character is like a lifelong outlaw and he is struggling to fit into an environment that is becoming more structured and ordered. 

IG: I’ve never played the game, but it seems like both the game and A Romance With Violence touch on something, some sort of experience or truth that resonates not only in a context of American history and culture, but also metaphorically refers to things that happen on a psychological level… the violence of development, struggling to conform to what others expect and having to kill off parts of yourself that don’t fit enough, the loss of dreams and the disillusionment that occurs when what one imagines and hopes for is destroyed by reality. Again, tragic. Fantastic album all around and fitting perfectly into this niche that WAYFARER have carved out for themselves.

A Romance With Violence releases October 16th via Profound Lore Records. Pre-orders available now.

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Pre-order A Romance With Violence on CD, LP and digital HERE.

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Supplication – A Review of ‘The Signs Of Spiritual Delusion’ by CROSS BRINGER

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By George Van Doorn (Vahrzaw)

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In the age of the internet, the tyranny of distance no longer presents a problem for musicians wanting to collaborate with one another. Anyone can collaborate with anyone else, regardless of where they live in the world. And this brings me to CROSS BRINGER; Two dudes from Belgium and Russia who wanted to work together, so they did. The end result is Cross Bringer‘s debut album The Sign of Spiritual Delusion.

I’ll be honest, the thing that grabbed me about this album was the cover art. It’s eye-catching to say the least. But, to cut to the chase after an entire paragraph of waffle, Cross Bringer play experimental Black Metal. Now, it’s not the kind of experimental Black Metal where Country and Western is spliced with Jazz and Thrash. It’s more the dissonant chords and harsh transitions kind of experimental Black Metal. That said, there does seem to be some hardcore influences here. 

Because of the dissonant chords and experimentation, Cross Bringer will be compared (by me and, maybe, a few others) to Deathspell Omega, which isn’t a bad thing. Much like Deathspell Omega, Cross Bringer aren’t fucking around. The Sign of Spiritual Delusion is chock full of short songs that are all over the place – in a really good way – with a few longer songs thrown in for good measure. ‘The Sun Ritual’ is a whole lot of keyboard-y nothingness, but the rest of the album is six tracks of cracking experimental Black Metal.

This album will likely fly under many people’s radar this year, but it bloody well shouldn’t. It’s a cracker. Don’t sleep on this one.

RATING: 4 / 5

The Signs of Spiritual Delusion is available now via Consouling Sounds.

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Purchase The Signs of Spiritual Delusion on LP and digital from Bandcamp HERE, or on CD from the Consouling Sounds webstore HERE.

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