Far Away – A Review of ‘Endless’, by Mordavia

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Endless ghosting shores

Far away…

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Australian one man entity Mordavia is not flashy, attention-seeking black metal. It’s not the type of project constantly churning out releases every other week, or cobbling together a rag-tag live band and heading out on the road looking for recognition and ego satisfaction. In fact, since its inception back in 1998 there has only been one recorded release (2013’s great full-length Mortal) and a grand total of zero live shows. This is likely due to two factors – one, I presume sole practitioner Morgue likely has his hands full with his stellar work in Mar Mortuum, his luthier trade and business Brock Guitars or running his label/touring company/recording studio Impure Sounds – and two, as with all of the other aforementioned endeavours he does it at his own pace, for the sake of the art, and with the utmost integrity.

Which is why the fact that we have a new Mordavia track here today is something truly special. More personal than ever (he has even dropped his stage name in favour of simply “Brock“), this is the first public recording from this project in six years… and it has been worth the wait. I’ll let the man himself explain it in this pic:

Four tracks written during the ebb and flow of life, released one by one until all four are at peace in full form and can be compiled into an EP. This isn’t an exclusive premiere of ‘Endless’, by any means (the track has already been shown a little love by the legends over at No Clean Singing) and it is a touch odd that we’re doing a full review piece for one track, but we here at BMD simply could not pass up the chance to also share it with you once we heard it – and once you have too, you’ll understand why.

Opening with clean tones and a melody that instantly transports you to a realm of pensive nostalgia, it doesn’t take long before Brock’s surprisingly affecting clean vocals slowly steal the show. There’s something intensely relatable about his voice; it sounds like your own in your soul, plaintively calling to something long gone as your spirit soars off into the blackness of time… and his harsh throatwork is just as good, cutting through the melodious waves of anguish that break and wash over before receding again to rest in mists of longing and the dull ache of years. His understated vocals really are a feature for me – when he sings “clinging to a memory that was never really there” it’s not only the perfect summation of the sound and message the track conveys, but you feel it resonate deep within.

The music is carefully crafted atmospheric black decaying in the fading autumn light; crashing chords and yearning tremolo weighing down your chest as doom-ish sensibilities and slow, waltzing tempos ensure even further immersion into the crushing hopelessness of it all. It is a longer track, but if you have any reservations about length and think it makes a song ‘boring’ (ie: you have a shithouse attention span), ‘Endless’ will simultaneously put your mind at ease and blow it to kingdom come. The thirteen-plus minutes pass like five as you’re submerged ever deeper into the beautifully desolate aura of it all.

But enough effusive rambling, click the link above and see for yourself. If it wasn’t already apparent from his older works (seek them out if you haven’t heard them), this man can write a tune… and I’ll be waiting with bated breath for the next three to be unfettered and released upon the world, after which they will all be compiled into a physical entity and made available for purchase through Impure Sounds. If this first taste is anything to go by, it’s going to be quietly remarkable – and you can pick it up at name-your-price download when it drops on June 28th, one week from now. A wonderful song that holds great meaning. Exquisite.

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Endless unleashes June 28th under the banner of Impure Sounds.

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Dying Stars in a Fathomless Abyss – A Review of ‘Nameless Void’, by Nameless Void

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Enter

The Nameless Void

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In space, no-one can hear you scream… or so the tagline for a certain popular xenomorphic horror film would have us believe. Good news for anyone who has always wondered about the legitimacy of that statement – with their chilling eponymous debut album, the Italian/UK entity of Nameless Void is here to put that theory to the test.

Right from the first stirrings of this 30 minute journey you’re drawn in to an incredibly visual sonic experience. Otherworldly synths against a void of nothingness set the scene, and the scene is deep space… you feel yourself drifting in the eternal blackness, looking around at distant flashes of cosmic light… then, in an explosion of deep red and meteoric fragments, you’re assailed on all sides by a coruscating maelstrom of sound.

As an opener, ‘Where Stars Forever Die’ is a ferocious statement of intent. The percussion is relentlessly furious and the guitars are a harsh drone that sounds almost distant, as if echoing lightyears across the vast abyss before finally alighting on your flesh and scalding it like the ultraviolet rays of a distant burning star. In a captivating contrast, whilst all that’s happening those otherworldly synths still hang in the space around you, flashing brightly amidst the all-encompassing whirling violence. It’s a strange, unsettling effect and works exceptionally well. The intensity of the onslaught dips a little around the halfway mark, but only to get even weirder for a while as the annihilating stream of sound still inexorably consumes and disintegrates your physical form, on and off with dynamic force… before the gnashing, droning storm slowly retreats and you’re again left floating amidst the firmament, bathing in the pale ambient glow of those ponderous, ethereal synths once more.

Is your ordeal over? Where are you now? Second track ‘Black Wormhole’ is exactly what it sounds like – utterly minimal, nothing but darkness and a lone serpentine drone, heavy with oppressive menace and dread. You can barely see…

…then a luminous yellowish hue slowly draws closer. ‘The Flash’ is the final panel of this astral triptych and at first lulls you into a false sense of… well, not “security”. Maybe it allows you a glimmer of hope that the final act won’t be such a rushing blitz of destructive force, that you may live to survive another day. Alas, this faint whisper of hope is all-too-quickly erased as the conclusion proves to be the most disorienting and punishing track yet; once again pitting dynamic force against ambience and industrial pulses to inflict crushing blows from which you’ll likely never, ever recover.

I’ve always been partial to the more celestial and abyssic side of black metal, and the duo of SN and RM (who each take care of “Dissonance, Noise, Distress” and “Discomfort, Shrieks, Moans” respectively) have definitely crafted an experience that calls to mind various pre-existing cosmic luminaries, but with their own horrifying, noise-infused twist. The perfect length to inflict maximum damage, it gets its devastating point across and doesn’t overstay its welcome in the slightest – all up, a stellar and intriguing first effort. Might we be witnessing the first stirrings of a Darkspace level event? Time will tell. In the meantime… scream your bleeding lungs out in abject terror, into the Nameless Void.

Nameless Void is now available digitally and on limited cassette (50 copies only) from Xenoglossy Productions and Grey Matter Productions.

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Purchase Nameless Void on cassette or digital from Grey Matter Productions here or Xenoglossy Productions here.

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Monstrous Alchemy – A Review of ‘The Great Solar Hunter’ by Consummation

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Contributor Ivan Gossage (Chief Administrator – Order Ov The Black Arts) is back with a review of ‘The Great Solar Hunter’, the utterly immense debut album of Australian/US black death outfit Consummation. Featuring John Gossard (ex-Weakling, Dispirit) alongside Dave Haley (Psycroptic, Ruins, ex-The Amenta, King), Craig Young (ex-Impetuous Ritual) and Joel Rademaker, this maelstrom of swarming, slithering intensity is certain to enrapture as it forces itself upon you in savage ecstasy – read on below as Ivan gives us his considerations on this dread beast of carnal annihilation.

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A terse sigh just momentarily precedes the almost mechanical hum of a menacing presence; seething with ominous power, poised to release potentiality. Half a second of silence bridges the way to the onslaught as the force of The Great Solar Hunter unleashes itself with a horrendous focus, a charging barrage of percussion, grinding guitar riffs, thundering bass substructure and ferocious, snarling voices.

Like some massive Cthulhu presiding over hapless galaxies, Consummation dips its ravening tentacles simultaneously into multiple black and death subgenres, absorbing their essence and entwining sometimes oppositional elements to produce a truly monstrous alchemy. Grandiose and epic movements express cosmic-level apocalyptic inevitability just as dissonant leads and layers tap into the agony of innermost psychic distress. Claustrophobic, churning aesthetics interweave periodic episodes of irresistible, mid-paced fist-to-the-sky groove. Melodies pull at the emotive spirit just as the burly, savage production makes effort to eat the face from your skull.

As such, a play through The Great Solar Hunter offers up a plethora of excellent experiences: Pummeling drums drive forward anxious riffing before seamlessly progressing to up-tempo headbanging extravaganza sections. Short but vicious guitar solos disperse throughout, as downtempo passages featuring ominous chants emerge. Mid-paced groove proves to be one of the more stellar aspects of the album, among many other impressive qualities. Swirling, threatening, almost nauseating guitars atop simple ritualistic beats transition to more doomy, melancholic, and at times quite beautiful measures featuring soaring leads and spoken word.

All of this might sound like a mishmash of sorts, but rest assured, it is not. The elements referenced above are woven together in such a way that it all comes together in a way that is varied but lucid, eclectic… but within a narrow enough range and executed with enough consistency that it emerges as a coherent totality of devastating but artful anticosmic blackdeath excellence.

For fans of: Aosoth, (SMRC era) Deathspell Omega, Aoratos, and Outre.

The Great Solar Hunter releases June 7th under the banner of Profound Lore Records.

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Pre-order The Great Solar Hunter on CD or digital from Profound Lore Records here. Limited DLP forthcoming.

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Compilation of the Gods – A Review of Fólkvangr Records’ ‘Lords Of The North: A Tribute To Bathory’

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Lets be honest: almost every serious metal fan with a modicum of taste likes Bathory (and if you don’t, well, your taste sucks). Over two decades mastermind Quorthon summoned some of the finest and most memorable albums metal has ever seen, and whether you find yourself partial to the project’s early first wave black carnage or the Viking epics of the later period tend to float your langskip a little more, the influence and endurance of the material is unquestionable.

It’s so influential and enduring that decades on many bands are still inspired to release covers of these classics, while over the years several labels have put out compilation albums in tribute (Godreah Records Voices From Valhalla and Hammerheart‘s In Conspiracy With Satan spring to mind). It’s something that likely will not and should not ever stop, and the latest label to pay homage to the greats is one of the best underground black/pagan/neofolk/dark ambient/dungeon synth curators currently active in the US, and longtime BMD favourites to boot: Fólkvangr Records.

We’ve all heard great covers albums, and we’ve heard some absolute stinkers – so is this collection by artists on the Fólkvangr roster worthy to be sung about in the sagas? I’m sure you know the answer to that already, but let’s take a look at a quick track by track breakdown of Fólkvangr Records Lords of the North: A Tribute to Bathory anyway… just incase you need a little convincing.

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1) UnreqvitedSong to Hall Up High

Kicking off, Canadian post-black solo artist Unreqvited does what he does best by taking Hammerheart‘s ode ‘Song To Hall On High’ and transforming it into an epic, transcendent instrumental synth piece that portrays the grandeur of the original’s subject matter to a tee. The faint echo of Quorthon‘s vocals to begin the track is a lovely touch, too.

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2) EskapismEnter the Eternal Fire

Now we’re really getting stuck into it as Ukranian duo Eskapism tackle Under The Sign Of The Black Mark‘s glorious head-banger ‘Enter The Eternal Fire‘. The duo remain largely faithful to the original but add a few extra layers of tastefully done choral synth that helps the track to soar higher than ever before. The improved modern production leaves it all feeling slightly less visceral but far more powerful, which is in no way a bad thing – you just try to not bang your head to this. Pro tip: it’s impossible.

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3) Beorn’s HallForeverdark Woods

The NHBM duo were always going to be well suited to this compilation and they provide an earthy, emotional and honest take on the Nordland I classic. Vulcan pulls off a solid imitation of Quorthon, and overall I expected no less from these gents. My only qualm… no mouth harp in the intro? I’m kidding, even that little detail is there. This is killer.

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4) DwarrowdelfNordland

When I saw the track listing I knew Tom O’Dell would absolutely nail this, and his cover of the mighty Nordland does not disappoint in the slightest. Capturing the spirit of the original with a little of that trademark Dwarrowdelf magic, this is honestly one of my favourite things I’ve ever heard him do – and consequently one of my favourite tracks on this compilation. Could we look forward to even more of a Bathory influence on the next Dwarrowdelf album, perhaps?

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5) ForefatherMan of Iron

Pagan UK do Forefather were simply built to cover this. Possessed of a deep and resonating integrity, their treatment of the already stunning piece Man of Iron is nothing short of beautiful and will likely bring a tear to your eye. Quorthon would be looking down from Valhalla and smiling.

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6) 1476Blood Fire Death

I was intrigued to see what the US duo would bring to the table here, and I have but two eloquent words to describe their rendition of the timeless Blood Fire Death: Holy. Shit. Does the vocal attack match the passion of the source? Does it ever – at around 8:10 I sat up and swore in amazement. With a brighter and cleaner production to elevate it, this is yet another triumph.

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7) WindfaererBlooded Shore

US crew Windfaerer take the epic Blooded Shore and give it some teeth, by way of their possibly-triple vocal attack’s vicious throatwork. Your opinion on this will likely depend on how attached you are to the original’s soaring clean tones – I think it’s a fucking great take on an already marvelous tune.

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8) LóstregosUn Bo Día Pra Morrer (A Fine Day to Die)

Now, A Fine Day to Die is one of my favourite Bathory tracks, and Lóstregos are one of my favourite pagan black metal bands – so is this a match made by the Gods? You’re damn right is, as the Spanish horde make a great track even more intense by ramping up the BPM a little (at least it feels like it, anyway) and singing all the lyrics entirely in their native tongue. Two words: this rips.

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9) UlvesangThe Lake

The Canadian duo of Alex and Ana give this already bewitching track an unexpected (for those unfamiliar with their previous art, anyway) neofolk reworking – imagine the introduction of the original carried onwards and became the entire composition and you’re in the ballpark. Gone are the distorted guitars and drums, the entire thing is interpreted on two acoustic guitars with deep, somber vocal intonations that give the song an entirely new vibe. Very well done, and completely captivating.

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10) Funerary DescentCall From the Grave

And to take us out, probably the cover I was most intrigued to hear on this entire compilation – the immense Call From the Grave, by way of the blackened funeral doom of US demons Funerary Descent. Slow, low and utterly fucking crushing; this fearlessly drags Bathory to miasmic depths of turgid blackness never before seen… and is the perfect way to end this remarkable journey.

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…so, there you have it. To answer the earlier question posed: this is one of the finest tribute compilations I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Over the course of a year this impressive array of likeminded artists and co-conspirators toiled to compile a touching memorial to the legendary Quorthon; they all poured their souls into it and you can feel the love and reverence in every detail, from their interpretations of the music itself to the superb Marc Whisnant cover art. Thanks to the great mastering job by a certain Alex Poole it’s also a remarkably coherent listen that still allows the nucanced idiosyncrasies and strengths of every artist to shine through, too… all up, it’s a wonderful tribute that’s more than worthy, and every single person involved with this should be proud.

Between the CD and tape version there are 500 copies in circulation; grab yourself one today. I’ve got mine. Hail Fólkvangr, hail Quorthon… hail Bathory.

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Purchase Lords Of The North: A Tribute To Bathory digitally on Bandcamp here, or on CD and cassette from the Fólkvangr Records webstore here.

Support Fólkvangr Records:

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Divine Rites – A Review of Temple of Perdition’s ‘Homage To The Dead’

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Contributor Ivan Gossage (Chief Administrator – Order Ov The Black Arts) brings us something interesting today: Messianic black outfit Temple of Perdition are back with a new lineup (now featuring Ronny Hasen of Antestor on vocals) and a neat EP entitled Homage To The Dead. Consisting of three fresh tracks and a bunch of rarities like a collaboration with Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ as a bonus, it’s an interesting listen – read on below as Ivan gives us his considerations on the three new compositions.

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From the arid expanses of modern secularism and canonical corruption arrives Homage To The Dead, the latest EP from US/international melodic black/death acolyte Temple of Perdition. Riding the wake of the commanding Tetragrammaton LP (2018) and harnessing a distinct religiocritical motif, these three new hymns come forth saturated in warm but hard ecclesiastical aesthetics.

The opening intro track, ‘Betrayal of Eve’, features chilling clean and infernal voices, narrating the tragic fall from grace over choirs and celestial instrumentation. My personal highlight track, ‘Mstrhchvshm’ (‘Master of Sheep’) sees epic guitars, bass, and orchestration cascade from upon high over solid percussion as the scathing vocals take aim at the decadent and materialistic agendas of the modern church, accentuated by operatic female cleans, voice samples, and deep chanting choirs. The final track, ‘Homage to the Dead’, heads to doomier territory, rich with grandiose, cathedralic movements before concluding in a breathtaking outro of repetitious melody, dual vocals, and charging tempo with glorious blistering double kick.

Short but divine, Homage To The Dead emotes both a venomous condemnation of decadent messianic exploitation, as well as a transcendent nod towards ego-dissolution and ascension. Absolutely recommended. Check out the new music video for ‘Homage to the Dead’, and the EP is available on Bandcamp and Soundcloud (check out Tetragrammaton too for that matter, a unique and impressive gatefold LP is still available on Bandcamp!).

For fans of the most recent offerings from: Rotting Christ, Behemoth, Mephorash, and Schammasch.

Official Lyric Video:

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Pre-order Homage To The Dead on CD or digital from Vision Of God Records here, or from Bandcamp here.

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The Return of Diabolical Mysticism – A Review of Vargrav’s ‘Reign In Supreme Darkness’

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Supreme Majestic Black Metal Art

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As anyone who semi-regularly reads these stained pages would know, there’s a reason I generally attempt to steer clear of making too many pointed/lazy comparisons to other artists in write-ups: art should stand on its own by the intentions of its creator, and by now everyone is essentially borrowing from someone else anyway. However, in the case of Finland’s Vargrav and the project’s 2017 debut album Netherstorm making comparisons was unavoidable, as upon pushing play your mind was immediately cast back to the glorious times of ’90s black metal when the genre tag “symphonic black” was not yet a thing and names like the mighty Emperor and Limbonic Art were lording above all.

That type of glorious, and yes, symphonic darkness done well is not overly common in the current epoch. Netherstorm effortlessly tapped into a particular strain of virulent and majestic darkness from those old times, capturing the same impassioned, ineffable power as the old masters and calling them to mind immediately. Precious few were doing what Vargrav‘s sole practitioner V-KhaoZ (Druadan Forest, Oath) achieved so skillfully; the comparisons were many and inevitable, and largely intended as purely complimentary.

Now, with his second Vargrav album Reign In Supreme Darkness, he transcends even all of that – and you can listen to the entire thing below ahead of the full release on 26th April.

More than a rehash, Reign In Supreme Darkness is a perfecting of his craft. A honing of his weapons. Almost every aspect of Netherstorm has been ratcheted up several notches to produce a work that shows not only the natural evolution of the project, but a refining of ideas. The balance between guitars and keys has been tweaked to perfection and is near untouchable; both elements entwining to create a swirling helix of coruscating, pulsing power that may seem impenetrably dazzling at first but upon complete immersion into the tempest reveals an improved atmospheric depth and classical slant to the songwriting that both delights and entrances in equal measure. The mist-laden breaks and tempo changes provide a diabolical dynamism as the furious, varied riffs layer and seethe; the compositions are so intricate that repeated listens are mandatory and yield further reward with every spin (I’ve listened through dozens of times now and am still nowhere near unearthing all of its arcane mysteries). The ever-present swathes of ethereal synths are even more cinematic than ever before, impressively so – lush instrumental opener Et In Profundis Mysteriis could easily be co-opted into part of a Hollywood film score and if you think that’s hyperbole, just fucking listen to it. I’m not kidding.

The album flows wonderfully, effortlessly conducting the grandiose forces of the night whilst painting bewitching pictures of endless dark forests with an eternal full moon – it’s pure dark perfection, you could drown in its crepuscular yearning if you weren’t already taken by the bombast and violent fury of it all. The incredible-as-expected artwork by Misanthropic Art also aids in the ambience, the very physical depiction of the energies summoned by the music.

Some newer heads may complain about this ancient sound, or not “get” it. Each to their own – no accounting for taste. In my opinion: what works? Everything. What doesn’t work? Nothing. With his second Vargrav offering V-KhaoZ has surpassed all comparisons to take the throne and reign in the modern era alongside all the old masters. Reign In Supreme Darkness is no mere copy or homage, no tribute album trading on nostalgia… it is Supreme Majestic Black Metal Art. Bow down.

Reign In Supreme Darkness releases tomorrow, 26th April, through Werewolf Records.

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Pre-order Reign In Supreme Darkness on CD, vinyl or digital from Werewolf Records‘ Bandcamp here, from Record Shop X (FIN/EU) here, or US customers grab the LP from Hells Headbangers here and the CD here.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Revelations – A Review of Förgjord’s ‘Ilmestykset’

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Fratres Militiae Inferi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pre-order Ilmestykset on CD from Werewolf Records here.

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

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Smagmatic burst, volcanic breach

Sisyphosphorouslabour of death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support Ultra Silvam:

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

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We look to the stars for guidance

We look to the stars to look within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support Evergreen Refuge:

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