Label: Pagan Records
If anything defines modern Polish black metal, it would be a feeling of melancholy being transmitted by the music, with its distinctive melodies and aura of spiritual darkness. Such bleak sounds can make for a captivating listen, and that’s certainly the case for Path to Ruin, the new EP from Above Aurora. Though only seventeen minutes long, this EP carries a lifetime of sorrow and ill-feeling with it; and yet at no point does it ever sound defeated or self-pitying. This is music that accepts that hardship is part of life, and that there is little point protesting about that basic fact.
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
Before we go far in to this review of Arkheth‘s third album, take a moment to look at that cover. Needless to say, it’s not what you expect from a black metal record – bright, garish colours; psychedelic landscapes; and a sense of conventions being not so much cast down, as utterly ignored in favor of doing whatever the fuck you want. It’s also a good summary of the sounds contained within 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew. Though the album is undeniably black metal, it takes almost everything you know about the genre and flips it on its head. This is black metal as defined by Sigh and psychedelics, rather than Mayhem and misery. It’s a bit of a headfuck, and a definite artistic triumph.
Label: Prophecy Productions
There’s a lot of genre tags that could be applied to Shouldhavebeens, the new album from Swedish band Tengil. Blackgaze, melodic post-hardcore, post-punk, and shimmering post-rock are all part of their sound, and yet no single descriptor feels like an accurate fit. This might suggest a record lacking focus and direction, yet that’s not the case. Instead, Shouldhavebeens is a record full of ambition, using whatever sound it needs to in order to achieve it aims. Throughout, there is a sense of youthful longing and restlessness, making Shouldhavebeens feel like an album fueled by the promise and joy of first (and lasting) love, of a search for belonging, and the knowledge that nothing worthwhile ever came easily.
Label: Dullest Records
Matt Finney has, through sheer hard work and determination, become something of a genre unto himself. His spoken word style is distinctive, both in its delivery – straight-forward, matter-of-fact, recounted almost without emotion at times – and also its subject matter which is, invariably, dealing with the bleaker parts of life. Such is the case with Clawing, which also features Austin Gaines and Jeff McLeod, and their debut release Spectral Estate. Over the course of forty minutes, the trio craft a record that is never anything less than unsettling, with its industrial/dark ambient soundscapes shifting and morphing in disturbing fashion, as if they were an expression of broken lives trying to piece themselves back together without success, all topped off with Matt’s spoken words. It’s horrific in its bleakness, but also deeply impressive and hard to look away from.
Label: Aural Music
Long ago, back in the mists of time, a little band called Candlemass released an album called Epicus Doomicus Metallicus. It went on to be pretty influential, and there’s a lot of doom bands out there who sound a bit like Candlemass. Now, King Goat don’t sound like Candlemass; their brand of doom is more expansive and progressive, with open vistas and sights that will sear themselves upon your soul. But what Debt of Aeons has in common with Epicus Doomicus Metallicus is that first word – epic. Debt of Aeons is an album that sounds and feels absolutely massive, as if it were the chronicle of some profound, deeply personal journey. It is heart-wrenching in a way few doom albums are, and is within touching distance of greatness.
Don’ t let the cover fool you; Kur, the second album from Seattle-based five-piece Voidthrone, is dark. Though its fairly short, being only 24 minutes long, the unconventional black/death metal onslaught contained within the EP is more than enough to conjure visions of worlds falling to oblivion, swept away under a cataclysmic tide of blackness. Though the band may recall a host of influences – including, but not limited to, Deathspell Omega, Batushka, Gorguts, and Morbid Angel – at no point do they ever sound like anyone other than themselves, making Kur an incredibly potent and impressive EP, that doesn’t so much cross over genres as it does defy them completely.
Label: Heidens Hart Records
Mysteries of Earth is not a complicated record – and I say that as a compliment. The third album from UK black metal veterans Blutvial is filled with the kind of music that cuts to the core of the ‘traditional’ black metal sound, as if the genre reached its final evolutionary state somewhere around 1994. This is no bad thing; there is a genuine delight to be found in records such as this, where the artists involved combine what they love about a core set of influences and create something that doesn’t sound exactly like any of them. It may be second wave worship through-and-through; but it’s second wave worship done right, and that raises it above most of the competition out there.