Posts Tagged ‘black metal’

Cruel Nature – CN133

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not often demo tapes get a ‘proper’ release. Then again, it’s not often you actually get demo tapes these days: cassettes may be making something of a comeback on the underground, but you’re more likely to get a demo recorded on mobiles with the tracks assembled using some smart software than on a four track. I remember my old Fostex X-18 seeming incredibly compact back in ’92. Less true of the X55, but with its double-speed spooling and advanced mixing capability, it was more like having a proper studio on your desk. How times have changed.

But when it comes to black metal, low-grade production is integral to the aesthetic. It’s supposed to be impenetrably murky, the songs emerging from a booming condenser mic recording overloaded with volume, crackle, and hiss.

I was fortunate to catch Petrine Cross virtually live at a Heinous Whining streaming event the other week, and it was devastating: I was blown away by the dark intensity of the performance, and this release confirm this was no one-off or a case of me being carried away with too many cans in my atempt to recreate the gig experience at home.

A solo project for Esmé Louise Newman of emotionally-charged black metal duo Penance Stare (and her resumé is pretty impressive too), Petrine Cross is pitched as ‘Thought-provoking raw ambient black metal, inspired through solitude and literature, that hits hard in all its oppressive glory.’

‘Charred Skirts and Deathmask’ could be read one of a number of was, but it begins with a soft-edged undulating drone, which continues throughout its eight-plus-minute duration beneath a crushing deluge of punishing guitar noise. There are no discernible chords, no clear structure, just a full-on deluge of sludge. There are some vocals in there somewhere, too, I think. I don’t need the details, and that’s perhaps as well, as they’re obfuscated by a dense wall of undifferentiated sound that’s all in the mid and lower ranges.

I’m listening by candlelight and screen glare, and it seems appropriate as the snarling blast of ‘I Beneath a Rougher Sea’ tears from the speakers, a muffled, murky blast of a cyclical chord sequence, overloading with distortion. It takes some time for any form to emerge from the searing sonic wall, and when it does, it’s vague, melting in its blisteringly intense grind.

The recordings may be primitive, but I’m not sure they would necessarily benefit from a more luxurious, layered studio treatment. The context is key: this is black metal – albeit in a stripped-back, ambient form – and doesn’t require polish. These recordings are cavernously dark and dredge the depths of the soul. Search deep.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I think the live stream shows that have become a thing during lockdown are a great way for bands to stay connected with their fans when tours have been cancelled, and artists and fans alike are frustrated and apart, I’ve struggled to get into them as an experience.

Discussing this with a gig-mate, I explained that I’d tried a few guitar bands doing streams from bedrooms , and found the experience of just one or two band members doing acoustic stuff and chatting a fair bit in between may create a certain sense of an intimate setting, but lacks the multisensory aspects, as well as the impact of music at gig volume.

‘I did do a couple early on’, my friend replied, adding ‘It’s not really what I want. I want to go to a gig.’

It struck me that that was it, in a nutshell. A stream is not a gig. TV, radio, YouTube, a live album… is not a gig. It’s like arguing that a Kindle is like a book. It may well be, but it isn’t, and the things it lacks are the reason it will never be a convincing or authentic sensory substitute. When it comes to live music, the cliché ‘you had to be there’ is ineffable. Yes. You do actually have to be there.

Nevertheless, with friends whose music I’m into on tonight’s lineup, I decided to invest a little more in recreating the live experience, starting with a pre-gig pint, which I texted pictures of to various people. Being a warm night, I didn’t put the heating up, but I did draw the blind and shut the door to my office, and put the display full screen (The streaming chat is irritating and detracts from both the music and the visuals, however sparse) and cranked the speakers up, and sat back to witness low rumblings and slow-decaying chimes that marked the start of Möbius’ set. The visuals consist of a dark background and shining points of yellow-white light. Wordless dual vocals ring out and resonate against one another, generating a subtle power, somewhere between Gregorian chanting and Jarboe at her most ethereal. The drones grow denser, louder, the effect of a single note sustained for an eternity increases as time passes: my body hums at the same frequency for a time, before the resonant echoes are gradually swallowed in a swell of distortion. Chances are, if played at the same volume, a recording would have the same effect, but it’s an immersive set nevertheless.

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Möbius

Between-acts, there’s some obscure noise mix streaming, and Plan Pony is up next, blasting out speaker-mangling low-end distortion. If the noise is impressive, it’s matched by polarised visuals. Manipulating blasts of harsh guitar sampled in real-time and thrashed through an immense table fill of effects, the output is a sonic blitzkrieg. The quiet passages don’t translate quite as well, partly because my neighbour’s got a mate round and they’ve got the radio on in her back yard, but some snarled-up samples and snippets of music emerge from the grumbling electronics as he twiddles knobs, before long building again to a shattering wall of harsh noise.

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Plan Pony

Zad Kokar takes things to next-level wtf, with bewilderingly nightmarish visuals that ae probably best described as max Headroom on acid, accompanying a blizzard of audio mashup that’s like early Prodigy in collision with early cabaret Voltaire. Both on acid. Diverting from the in-yer-face mental shit, we’ve got Clean Wipe, a guy in shorts stroking a doorframe while tweaking knobs on effects pedals at a circular kitchen table while the background changes colour constantly. It takes me an age to realise there must be contact mics on the door frame, and I can’t decide if I need more beer or I’ve had too much already.

It’s been a strong start, and TCH, on at number 4, take the mood and volume down a bit, but in a good way. The noise is dark and dingy, and reflects the setting in which we see a hooded figured tweaking minimal kit in a small, mildew-stained room. It’s more like watching a documentary on heroin withdrawal than a musical performance.

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TCH

I clock 61 viewers, which is probably about the capacity of CHUNK, and the nights thy host are usually BYOB, so cracking a can of ALDI’s The Hop Stepper that I fetched from downstairs between acts seems consistent with being there.

Petrine Cross is Esmé of Penance Stare doing one-woman black metal at a million decibels. The set’s an ear-shattering mess of noise and distortion and visually, it’s stark, dark and black and white. The sound is overloaded, borderline unlistenable, but that’s likely intentional, and it’s clear some effort’s gone into this. Each song has its title on-screen at the start, there’s a plug for a charity compilation (again, on-screen text means no need for awkward chat) and songs are intercut with footage of the cat. It’s belting. And her room as some nice cornice work.

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Petrine Cross

It’s a distorted dictaphone tape recording – a fractured ranted monologue about life in isolation under lockdown – that provides the material for Duncan Harrison’s set. It captures the mental tension of the moment so well, it’s uncomfortable listening. It’s followed by Energy Destroyer’s barrage of noise accompanied by video footage of him swinging either nunchucks or lengths of rubber in his back garden, and it’s the bodywarmer that makes it.

It’s disorientating watching the back of a performer’s head as they play and seeing them again on the PC monitor before them, with the whole scene framed by leaves and soundtracked by birdsong and incidental rumblings. But this is what we get from Garden Magik, whose set evolves gradually into a digital storm. At some point in the gale-force distortion, I realise my mind isn’t entirely on the set, but then, in a live setting, I would have likely enjoyed the sonic experience but found my mind wandering to maters of work and other stuff – and that’s no criticism. Under lockdown, in my office, it’s even easier to become distracted by text messages and FaceBook.

Content’s ‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ leaps out as a feature of the between-act PA tunage before Sadistic Statistic, who give us more garden footage and a full-on Merzbow blast of obliterative sonic carnage. The images of cats are unrepresentative: the melting digitisations less so: at times, it sounds like it looks: brain-shredding, difficult, and impossible to pin down. Harsh is the new norm here: this is one of those sets that leaves you feeling utterly wrung out by the time the last sparking crackle fades.

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Sadistic Statistic

Stuart Chalmers takes us on a mesmerising tour of a cave, before Otherworld bring gloopy, cracking electronics accompanied by swirling pixelated patterns that aren’t exactly easy on the retinas. It’s low-level noise that’s centred around slow-, hypnotic pulsations. It’s pitch-black in the room now bar the screen and I’m staring fixedly at the shifting shapes as the sound ripple around me, and the experience is quite gig-like until Mrs N returns an extension lead, which isn’t quite the same as being handed a final pint before the train.

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Otherworld

In terms of lineup and performances, this was a hell of a night. It would, unquestionably, have been infinitely better to have witnessed it in person, surrounded by other people also witnessing it in person: atmosphere is interaction, but also an unspoken feeling that passes between people in a room. Virtual claps posted on a chat stream simply cannot replace real time reactions. But, while it’s the best we’ve got, it’ll have to do. What I took from tonight is that some genres seems better equipped to operate differently, and experimental electronic odd shit, with its propensity for visuals and playing in darkness, seems to have less work to do to adapt than conventional rock formats, making this the closest to the live experience I’ve yet witnessed. And yes, I had a blast. And made it home with no problems, too.

Riff juggernaut Pist who released new album ‘Hailz’ on 8th November through APF Records (Mastiff, Battalions, BongCauldron, Desert Storm) have shared the lyric video for new single ‘Fools Gave Chase’.

Vocalist Dave Rowlands comments, “’Fools Gave Chase’ is a snapshot of what this record is all about: it’s punky, got black metal influences, good old heavy groove and a mellow bit with a face-melter of a guitar solo. For me this song flows perfectly and is a real indication of where we’re heading as a band. Lyrically it deals with my contempt for current times and the state of the world falling apart around us. It’s about fighting back and carving your own path. Enjoy!”

Watch now:

Cult Black Metal band The Deathtrip have shared the video for new single ‘Enter Spectral Realms’ taken from their sophomore album Demon Solar Totem, the follow-up to 2014’s debut, Deep Drone Master.

A hypnotic yet brutal concoction for this offering. Ferocious and unrelenting, evoking the magical untamed essence of old. Featuring the long-due return of Kvohst (Ex-Dødheimsgard/Code) on lyrics/vocals joining the cold, hypnotic riffs of Host, the primal drumming of Storm (Ex-My Dying Bride, Blasphemer) and introducing the bass playing of Thomas Eriksen (Mork), The Deathtrip offer tickets to primeval possession and open portals to other dimensions. Demon Solar Totem captures the spirit of ancient Darkthrone, Thorns and Beherit imbued with old-English occultism and the chanting of sacred sound formulas.

"From the depths of the blackened tomb, bear witness, as we commune with the spirit world and summon the abyss that will swallow the universe, & our flesh becomes at once scattered and, again, renewed.
Enter Spectral Realms. Come.
Enter Spectral Realms.”

Watch the video for ‘Enter Spectral Realms’ here:

Forking Paths – FP0015 – 5th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title has very personal origins for Evan Davies, the man who records under the Blank Nurse / No Light moniker. A sufferer of Pure OCD – a form of OCD which manifests with no external behaviours or rituals, with the compulsions being mental rather than physical – and depression, Davies spent his teenage years tormented by the fear of HIV infection.

HIV 1994 sees Davies confront and channel the experience creatively, using what the press release describes as ‘often-overwhelming mental health issues’ to create song which are ‘like exorcisms for emotions and memories’. The context suggests that this was never going to be an ‘easy’ album, and however deftly Davies combines his wide-ranging and, in the face of it, incongruous and incompatible influences, which span ambient and neoclassical, hardcore, black metal, noise, and house, the clashing contrasts would be awkward enough without the anguish behind the compositions themselves. And so it is that on HIV 1994, Blank Nurse / No Light hauls the listener through an intense personal hell.

‘Blood Fiction’ begins with a collage of voices and extraneous noise before lilting string glissandos and a soft bass steer toward a calmer, more structured path. It provides a recurring motif, but one frequently interrupted by passing traffic and low rumbling noises. And so gentle tranquillity and ruptures of disquiet are crunched into one another before ‘Mocking of the Ghost of Crybaby Cobain’ really ratchets up the intensity with unsettling collision of styles, with pounding industrial percussion and expansive electronica that’s almost dancey providing the backdrop to the most brutal screaming vocals. It actually sounds like an exorcism. Or Prurient with more beats.

And it only gets darker, more disturbed and more disturbing from here: the lyrics are unintelligible, guttural screams of pure pain, and the tunes mangled to fuck, glitchy, twitchy anti-rhythms hammer around behind quite mellow synth washes. ‘Flu Breather’ sounds more like a demon dying of plague in a nightclub conjured in a nightmare, or, perhaps more credibly, the outpouring of indescribable, soul-shredding anguish that cannot be articulated in any coherent fashion.

There are some straight-ahead, accessible moments amidst the cacophonous chaos: ‘Outside the Clinic is a Hungry Black Void of Nothingness’ is a brooding electro-pop piece with a real groove and a narrative of sorts, and calls to minds Xiu Xiu, while ‘No Ecstasy’ goes all Wax Trax!, coming on like late 80s Revolting Cocks . But these tracks are very much the exception, as the majority of the others twist, turn, break and collapse in on themselves. Redemption and light are crushed and swept way in a succession of disconnections and claustrophobic dead-ends. It’s deeply uncomfortable from beginning to end, and much of it sounds like opposing sonic forces at war – which probably makes this a successful work, providing a deep insight into the tortured mind of the artist.

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Blank Nurse

If you’re on the market for a snarling slab of black metal driven by a relentless technoindustrial beat and laced with a twist of humour and a tang of schlock-horror, you probably can’t go too far wrong with the latest offering from The Netherlands courtesy of Walthar the Unbearable of Evil.

It’s got a narrative and everything: ‘Depressed by the corruptive powers and silly fearbased methods of the big religions, Walthar The Unbearable now turned his hopes to the Haitian Voodoo religion. Learned to master their sacred tantrums from his bokor. With these new powers he is desperate to give them a try……. Who will be the first!’

Who, indeed?

Consouling Sounds – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Listening to Gnaw Their Tongues always feels like a dubious pleasure, something that’s almost masochistic. You listen to GNT to channel dark energy, to release bad vibes, for the letting of anguish and pain and anger, for an experience akin to a sonic exorcism. You don’t listen to a GNT album to feel better about life and the world, to lift the spirits. In keeping with Mories’ myriad previous releases under the Gnaw their Tongues and various other monikers, Hymns For The Broken, Swollen and Silent is an album for venting, or when feeling the need for some pugilistic self-flagellation.

Structurally, there is a certain narrative thread which is possible to interpret fromt e tracks and their sequencing. Sonically, this is the sound of hell: Hymns For The Broken, Swollen and Silent is the soundtrack of existence in purgatory.

Woozy, near subsonic bass dominates, while above, impenetrable demonic screams and below, almost submerged, drums like machine gun fire rattle at 250bpm. It’s an unholy racket. ‘Your Kingdom Shrouded in Blood’ brings a vast, cinematic expansiveness to the sound. The drums roll like thunder and crash like tsunami, reverberating through immense canyons, and monastic voices send wordless invocations to the heavens. It’s pompous and bombastic and it works magnificently, as if soundtracking the preface to a climactic battle of mythological proportions, a combat between good and evil where the two sides each summon their ultimate deities.

‘Silent Burned Atrocities’ ratchets up the pain, marrying extreme sounds at extreme volume to extreme tempos, barrages of rapid-fire beats from deep within the morass of noise, snippets of dialogue emerge, to be engulfed in a wall of noise and screams of anguish. ‘Hymns For The Broken, Swollen and Silent’ ventures into the territory occupied by Sunn O))) on Monoliths and Dimensions. The dronesome doom and the creeping fear chords are bathed in a quasi-religious light. Here, with sampled vocals floating in and out between the monumental, crushing beats the sound takes on a different perspective on eternal darkness. But dark it is, and there is no hope of finding hope here. ‘I Have Clad the Pillar in the Flayed Skins’ sounds like a black metal remix of early Swans, a punishing cacophony of noise that’s every bit as torturous as the scene the title conveys. These are the spoils of battle, and there is rejoicing in the bloody scene of victory.

The final track, ‘Our Mouths Ridden with Worms’ is the subterranean song of the dead, the defeated. It’s a dank, dark, lugubrious trudge of a track. Perhaps death is not defeat, but victory: to live in a world where this is the sound of living is a bleak prospect.

Hymns For The Broken, Swollen and Silent is not fun. It is not pleasant. It is not enjoyable. It’s dark, and darker still. It’s oppressive, and terrifying. It’s classic Gnaw Their Tongues.

Gnaw Their Tongues - Hymns

Peaceville – 21st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Christ, this is fucking dark. The video which accompanies ‘Abysmal Channelling’ (the album’s bonus track, perversely enough), depicts scenes of an occult ritual, complete with burning incense, singing bowls, self-mutilation, frenzied bell-ringing, pools of blood, all against a backdrop of murky, mangled industrial noise.

Describing themselves as ‘blackened noise occultists’ US act T.O.M.B. (that’s Total Mechanical Occultic Blasphemy) have been going for 18 years now, and have, not surprisingly, remained deep, deep underground. Positively chthonic, in fact.

Fury Nocturnus is their thirteenth release, and while containing thirteen tracks (plus the aforementioned bonus cut), it contains no tunes, and the truth is, it’s very difficult to really establish what the hell’s going on amidst the dense sonic fog. Yes, they’ve fully embraced the

production values of early black metal classics – and it’s perhaps worth noting that Hellhammer, drummer of infamous Norwegian black metal trailblazers Mayhem is a key contributor to this album. This does mean, of course, that the guitars, drums, vocals and dark ambience which pervades every corner of the album is obfuscated by a thick, grainy coating of dinginess. A number of the tracks end abruptly, and there’s a distinctly low-budget, ‘cassette’ feel to this release. But then of course there is. And while occasionally grinding riffs seep through, there are no tunes, no overt structures and for the most part, it’s a seething morass of dark, dark noise cut through with tribal percussion.

Sometimes, there’s a very fine line between portentous and pretentious, grand art and derangement that borders on the dangerously deviant. It’s not entirely clear where T.O.M.B. sit, other than on a throne of bones in a temple hewn into some inaccessible rock face. They’re very much keeping it real in their approach to the music-making process: when creating the field recording soundscapes which feature on Fury Nocturnus, they report that certain necromantic instrumentation was used: human and animal bone, cemetery crypt doors, tombstones and coffins, and audio EVP equipment. I’m inclined to take them seriously if only because I don’t fancy the idea of being the next sacrificial offering, and crucifixion is, I understand, quite a painful way to go. I’m certainly not about to snort with derision about the cliché of the snarling vocals ranting about Christianity on ‘Hoards Rise Now, or any of the album’s many demonic invocations.

It’s not a fun or pleasurable experience, and protracted exposure to this dank, demonic, deviant, and deeply sinister noise feels like an act of self-flagellation. Needless to say, I’d take it over Justin Bieber, Kanye or Katy Perry any day.

 

T.O.M.B.-artwork-websize

Southern Lord – 1st July 2016

James Wells

Christ. Everything louder and faster and more gnarly than everything else. The drums are so fast the individual beats blur to form a sound that resembles the whupping of a helicopter’s rotors. The guitars, a frenetic blizzard of movement, form a blanket of sound, but there are actual notes in there – lots of notes, tumbling over one another at such speed as to be almost inaudible individually to the human ear. Screaming solos rear up from the thunderous tempest, brief but shrill and completely wild.

It’s everything you’d expect from an album released on Southern Lord, and from a band who’ve tagged the album on Bandcamp with the terms ‘anarchist metal black metal blackened crust death metal metal punk victoria bc grindcore Victoria’. The lyrics are as unintelligible as the band’s logo, but the sentiment is clear.

It’s seriously black and it’s seriously crusty, and a gloriously angry and relentlessly bleak, venom-spewing example of dingy, dark metal. The title might refer nihilistically to the ruins of civilisation or of humanity, but could equally be a pointer to the ruins of your eardrums and psyche after hearing this savage album.

 

ISKRA - Ruins