Indie Review Roundup: Einar, YYLVA, Abandoned by Light, Mauerbrecher
Three black metal albums and a syth-folk album walk into a bar. Unfortunately for them, I am their bartender, and I serve no drinks, only judgment.
Einar – The Call of the Mountains
Quite some while ago a promo came into my inbox for a solo instrumental black metal project by Kent, UK-based Einar for their debut demo, released in August of 2018. I like solo projects in general, I think it’s interesting to see the artistic vision of one person realized in some fashion, so I got pretty stoked to hear what Einar had come up with. And what I got was instrumental black metal— well-made instrumental black metal, but with very few artistic risks or new ideas and combinations to make it stand out from any other standard black metal demo. That being said, I think Einar has a very solid foundation and The Call of the Mountains is worth picking up just for that opening track alone with its pounding ferocity. While there’s nothing groundbreaking here, Einar’s work has paid off and every song on the album is very well-crafted, I just want to see where they go from here as they develop their sound and style.
YYLVA – The Wood Beyond the World
Yylva is a folky atmospheric black metal project fronted by Clare Webster, and again they are a UK-based project. The Wood Beyond the World is their debut release and it’s a commendable, high-quality effort. The folky sections and clean vocals especially stand out, though the metal bits are full of plenty of aggression and power with floating synth lines over the top of driving percussion and guitars. There’s a slight vintage feel to the whole album, both in terms of production and songwriting with a strong feeling of influence from 90s goth and black metal bands. Independent black metal projects often tend to delve too much into the lo-fi aspects of the genre’s sound, and I’m glad to say YYLVA’s production is pretty high quality and you can actually hear all the instrumental parts, which is good since the composition is genuinely quality. Standout tracks: “A Sidhe in Throes,” “Nepenthe,” “Waterwings,” “Aurorae.”
Abandoned by Light – Our Fortress is the Rain: The Angel Experiment Part II
Continuing our UK-based theme, Abandoned by Light is another UK-based solo project, fronted by . . . Karhmul. I hope they get a second band member and they call themselves Makkiatoh. All jokes aside, the work ethic of Karhmul should most definitely be commended, with a staggering 29 releases since the project’s start in 2013. If you’ve been wanting more old-school style black metal this is definitely a release for you, but with the benefit of some decent production quality. The opening track is pretty killer, with a rad dissonant section about halfway in. This album in particular seems to be a fairly personal and introspective one for Karhmul, focusing on turmoil related to their future and their musical career, which has resulted in a pretty bleak release with almost exclusively driving, heavy tracks. There is a slight break in the middle with a set of two title tracks, the first of which features ambient synths with a somewhat rhythmically unsteady solo line. I don’t know if it was fully deliberate, but I like the unsteadiness of the rhythm, as to me it adds to the feeling of despair and leads fairly well into the second part, which again ferociously drives forward with bleak black metal. The album also ends with a Nachtmystium cover, if that’s your thing, though it’s not what I would call the best track on the album. Standout tracks: “A Glimpse into a Dark Eternity,” “The Angel Experiment.”
Mauerbrecher – The Sacred Oak
You’d better love you some motherfucking crumhorns, boy. At first I wanted to call this a dungeon synth album, though that’s not quite correct. If you dig dungeon synth, this will definitely be right up your alley, but Mauerbrecher uses plenty of acoustic instruments and largely features traditional tunes that will be familiar to aficionados and performers of traditional and Celtic music (for example, The King of Fairies is the main feature in the track “Dancing Fairies.”). There’s a large focus on ambience and texture, as well as some rather unconventional instrumentation choices, such as “The Faithful Shepherd,” a fugue with organ, harpsichord, and . . . bagpipe. It works; it’s just nothing I’ve really heard before now. Standout tracks: “The Labyrinth,” “Auberonde,” “Rude Mechanicals,” “Dancing Fairies,” “Midsummer Morning,” “The Sacred Oak.”
Now, get out of my bar.