May Black Metal-ish Roundup
We’ve got some real mini reviews of Hulder, Cultes des Ghoules, Ifrinn and Ninkharsag.
Hulder – Godslatering: Hymns of a Forlorn Peasantry
Though essentially a black metal band through and through, Hulder does not partake in the satanic vices and virtues of the Nordic waves, but instead in the fantastical myths and harsh lives of medieval Belgium, a duality presented in their music as well.
The first half features fairly raw black metal, aided by synths and dropping now and again into acoustic or keyboard interludes, but always keeping eyes on the riffs, which are livelier than the bog standard of black metal. Hulder’s not afraid to play more than a couple per song, and takes a few sudden turns that cheer up the songwriting too, yet again avoiding the casual route—to a degree at least. The songs are still fairly simple and easy to follow, but there’s a pleasing willingness to embark on an adventure.
Unfortunately “De Dijle” overstays its welcome a bit too much at 6.5 minutes of acoustic guitar picking and synths swooning, while the songwriting takes a turn for the worse, and changes focus from shifts to growth. It’s not a bloated interlude, though some will undoubtedly feel so, but marks the beginning of a halfway slog completed by “Purgations of Bodily Corruptions”; despite its enchanting key melody, the songwriting seems to have lost its edge and sense of wonder.
Though Godslastering regains some of its strength towards the end, the unfortunate trend continues. Though it starts off with some of the better material of its kind from the year, it’s ultimately bogged down by inconsistency and lack of thematic power to tie the halves together.
Cultes des Ghoules – Eyes of Satan
Seemingly out of nowhere, as far as I can tell at least, Cultes des Ghoules has returned from a 3-year absence and dropped two EPs. Today’s selection fell on Eyes of Satan, which departs from the group’s usual, black metal-centered sound and focuses on ritualistic, ambient-like soundscapes instead, led by booming percussion and filled with screams and recitals. They’re joined by a choir of organs, synths, scant chants and distorted FX, which I presume are the work of guitar chords ringing out somewhere behind the walls of sleep.
It’s nice to notice how well the band has managed to preserve their own atmosphere despite the difference of approach, a show of strength for their vision. But lacking in the fulfilling songwriting of dark ambient, dungeon synth et al. artists, leaves Eyes of Satan not a minor work, but rather an appetizer. Although I must admit the title track especially works on its own.
Ifrinn – Caledonian Black Magic
Ifrinn‘s debut EP comes with all the vicious rage entailed by their genre of choice, the chaos tempered only by the hypnotic arrangements and inwards-looking gaze. The violence and volatility associated with black metal exists within Caledonian Black Magic, but in a contained form, channeled measuredly and summoned in amounts which allow for the band to cooperate with the forces, rather than surrender unto them entirely.
Ninkharsag – The Dread March of Solemn Gods
Though Ninkharsag does hail from the controversially named United Kingdom, their black metal recalls the Scandinavian variety. One or two Norwegian names may rise to the tip of the tongue from the lively, powerful & melodic riffing, but it is the Swedish masters, whose star leads the group. A more contemporary name, Grafvitnir, bears the strongest resemblance, though the differences in tonality and direction are big enough for the two to never mix, nor does Ninkharsag plumb the Luciferian depths, but those interested first and foremost in the riffs of the former, will find much alike and more to like in the latter.