2019 Roundup: Black Metal
I haven’t kept up with my journalistic duties as of late, and to be frank, I don’t intend to entirely rectify this matter shortly. Yet, I’ve no desire to completely neglect them either, so I’ve compiled a smattering of black metal releases for you to enjoy in a bump ‘n grind styled, quick mass of short reviews for you to enjoy at your leisure. Today, we’re looking at the latest from Slaughtbbath, Sanctvs, Ossuaire, Blue Hummingbird On The Left, Hrafnskald, Wallfahrer, Profanatica, Departure Chandelier and Black Beast.
I don’t know what your first guess as to Slaughtbbath’s sound would be based on the name alone, but if we were to remove the possible humour factor entirely, I reckon mine might be something akin to bestial blackened war metal of death, and boy, I wouldn’t be far off. Working from a similar base as the grindcore and metal-blending war metal bands from Goat Semen to Revenge do, but with two rather large differences. The most noticeable aspect is the large degree of influence carved from old school thrash aggression from the early years of Kreator and Sepultura. This gives them a far bigger riff arsenal than most of their counterparts, and luckily they also know how to use it. Songs like opener “Ritual Bloodbath” are quick, no-frills, uh, bloodbaths working with a bare minimum of ingredients, but the likes of “Rejoined Into Chaos” bring tempo changes, guitar solos, melodies and calmer sections into the fray, with little reminiscence to their black metal ilk, making for a much more engaging and fun album. Some of the most “fun” I’ve had with black metal this year for sure.
An up’n coming one-man band from Canada, Sanctvs‘ debut is filled to the brim with exactly what you’ve come to expect from bands hailing from Quebec. As familiar as the liveliness of the melodic work may be, the sole member of Sanctvs, Mortheos, has abandoned the triumphant ways of his brothers. Mors Aeterna is some of the darkest and angriest black metal to come from Quebec in quite some time. The aim of Mors Aeterna is a much more suffocating sound than that of its ilk. Organs and keys have been heavily laid over the guitars, while the evocative melodies still somehow manage to cut through the drums and vocals, both mixed extremely loud and on top. On Mors Aeterna, Sanctvs has brought the best of Quebec’s own scene to meet with modern European black metal, without adhering to its increasingly homogenous sounds.
It hasn’t been more than a few months since Ossuaire put out their debut full-length Premiers Chants, but you may as well consider the two a double album released separately, as the arcs of the two records mirror each other and together they recount the tale of Christianity’s downfall, the major events contributing to it, and the rise of heresy to follow. In May, I noted their debut fit comfortably into the Quebecois scene with its vengeful melodic riffs, but also came off more like a beefed-up Sargeist than Forteresse. Derniers Chants is more of the same, lacking the triumphant and folk-flavoured edge preferred by the majority of the scene. They’re no worse for it though, and Derniers Chants does embrace the grandiose side of Ossuaire’s sound better, resulting in lengthier songs, countered with shorter interludes. They’re not all winners though; “L’Oeil-Sang’s” mid-tempo chugging through the majority of is 10 minutes doesn’t work. The closing near-title track carries its long length much better, and its songwriting differs enough from the rest, going through far more nooks and crannies than the straightforward material elsewhere does, to have been lifted from another record—though I wouldn’t mind if it’s a taste of what’s to come. Derniers Chants is a plain, but enjoyable black metal record with slightly more up its sleeves than the first glance can tell.
Blue Hummingbird On The Left – Alt Tlachinolli
The debut of the “War Chapter” of Black Twilight Circle, named after the Aztec war god, builds on a straightforward and extremely pummeling rhythmic foundation, and just about nothing could be less unexpected, but therein ends the predictability. Alt Tlachinolli is full of winding progressions that bring to mind Blasphemy if they had been more interested in technical proficiency, had had a mind for melody and had taken advantage of influences not entirely unlike Inquisition when crafting said riffs and melodies. Armed with a good sounding, balanced mix, rare flute appearances, and the reverb-drenched vocals of Tlacaelel varied with an occasional war cry and a concise length, Alt Tlachinolli is some of the more interesting black metal put out this year.
Rough-cut black metal from a one-man band lyrically focusing on Norse paganism. Nothing new under the sun that is, but very well done. Mostly a second wave affair with breezy riffs, but not one that puts all the weight on the melodic work; there’s a good amount of first wave reminiscent, primal riffing going on on The Means of Barbarity, and a rock ‘n rolling norsecore influence to be heard too. The heavy bass presence elevates the record to another level. I’ve been spinning it pretty regularly since March, and Hrafnskald is definitely a band I need to make up for not featuring earlier, and for not giving them a better feature overall.
Misanthropic, nature-loving, German black metal from a band that makes it their point to release all their music independently (but still produces physical copies). Rattenritual is the anonymous duo’s sophomore release, reveling in the concoction of grandeur and melancholy not entirely uncommon among the trees ‘n shit black metal bands, but Wallfahrer trusts less in the lengthy compositions of varying parts (though short their songs are not) and droning passages of hypnotizing riffs; instead, they alternate between wistful leads and powerful riffs, or stack them on top of each other for an emotionally rich, passionate three quarters of an hour.
Black Beast – Nocturnal Bloodlust
Not many take as long to put out their debut as Black Beast did, with seventeen years as a band and only two smaller releases behind them. Nocturnal Bloodlust is a fairly raw take on black metal, somewhere between the first and the second waves, though leaning a bit more towards the latter. The record’s rawness isn’t so much thanks to its rough production, as it is to its crude songwriting. The aggressive and direct songs don’t tend to overstay their welcome, usually not even trying their limits. Vocals are clear and coarse shouts, amplifying the crudeness, and synths appear here and there as a faintly heard apparatus of atmospheric creation, as if for the duo to be certain they’re driving their point through with no need for further refinement, or additional riffwork. Though mostly a fine record, Nocturnal Bloodlust could nevertheless use some adhesiveness, more memorability to latch onto. As it stands, it gets you pumped while playing, but tends to disappear quickly from memory, after it’s stopped.
Profanatica – Rotting Incarnation of God
Ah, Profanatica. Who doesn’t love some good, primeval, vulgar black metal that’s just 1 ½ riffs thrown together, haphazardly, more often than not, with vocals that sound like drawn-out burps coming from throats whose lungs have not tasted air for decades slapped on top of them with more rhyme than reason. I know I unconditionally do. And Profanatica are the best at what they do, and sort of the only one that does what they do. There are untold numbers of bands that do the whole primitive and filthy thing, but for whatever reason, no one’s ever nailed the circling, accelerating tremolo riffs meeting doom-like speeds songwriting, and it’s a small miracle that Profanatica themselves make it work after so many years. The inclusion of guitarist Adam Besserer and bassist Richard Olsen has done virtually nothing for the band’s formula, unless the grainier tones and guitar being mixed above bass can be counted as such, and yet I cannot stop gobbling on it. Even at 37 minutes, Rotting Incarnation of God could be a risky length, but the lengthier drones on the title track and “Sacramental Cum” divide the album into chapters, enhancing the auditory experience. Extra points for the inclusion of their cute-ass matching onesies on the album cover.
Departure Chandelier – Antichrist Rise To Power
Everyone and their mother seems to already have caught on to this album, but let’s not let it hinder us. Departure Chandelier‘s debut, supposedly recorded over a decade ago by the members of Akitsa and Ash Pool (who probably aren’t Dominic Fernow of Prurient), but only released earlier this year, is clear-sounding but raw black metal playing predominantly simplistic riffs on shaky hands. The technical limitations, whether real or an act, serve as a device to convey a purpose, and is clearest whenever the guitars shift away from tremolo-picked riffs, or just by listening to the drummer, but they’re more charming than distracting. The most charming quality of Antichrist Rise to Power, however, is the choral synths heavily adorning the record and an unusual melodic flavour to the compositions. You probably already have, but if you haven’t, give Departure Chandelier the time of your day.