More One Man Metal
Testing a theorem by shining a light on some fresh new black metal.
In a recent post on a musical legend, I referenced the documentary One Man Metal, and I am happy to report that after 2018 seemed like a bit of a drought for black metal, one-man or otherwise, 2019 has already seen enough releases to warrant an unofficial sequel to that mini-series. Our avian friend Rolderathis has already examined Light Dweller, and in so doing, pointed out the pitfalls of projects like it, and the reason that when most people speak of “bedroom black metal,” they put a bit of stank on the phrase. Examples of artists whose number of yearly releases is diametrically opposed to their relevance seem to far outweigh the noteworthy acts. Roldy and I have the theory that if the person behind a project is also involved in a band with other musicians, it seems to help to instill some sort of quality control in them. This criterion is fulfilled in the case of the excellent Light Dweller as well as all three acts featured here today, so I think we might be on to something.
A Crown of Curses
Arguably, talking shit on 2018 and then starting this out with an album from that year is a bit… stupid. However, in researching this project, I learned that there will be a new Abduction album in March. There’s only one track available so far though, and I’m impatient, so I’ll mostly talk about last year’s A Crown of Curses. In hindsight, I’ve realized that I was somewhat off in the TTT blurb I gave it back when it came out. I’m not so sure “psychedelic” is the right term; it certainly is far from acts like Oranssi Pazuzu and Entropia. The Darkspace and Sun Worship comparisons were pretty close to the mark though; it has the former’s otherworldly eerieness and the latter’s hypnotic repetition. Tremolo riffs and – more often than not – blast beats form a steady backdrop for vocal shenanigans so heavily steeped in reverb that the lyrics become just as unintelilgible as those of the aforementioned Swiss aliens (who, I think, don’t have lyrics as such). While Abduction generally stays away from space, there’s a section a couple of minutes into “Hastam Omne Verbum” where the music seems to take off skywards; vocals alternate between a clean-ish scream and a menacing growl, while guitars soar into uncharacteristically high registers. It’s more than a figurative high point of the album. Later on, the music dips into dark and unsettling synth soundscapes which again recall Darkspace, albeit not in tone, but in atmosphere. Abduction’s creator A|V is also a member of Taken By The Tide, who play… “technical metalcore”, according to MA. I’ve no idea what that combination may entail. Anyway, here’s the Abduction discography, all of which I’ve found very worthwhile:
Canticles of the Sepulchral Deity
Aah, three releases in nine months – we seem to be getting closer to the “bedroom black metal” cliché here. Given that only so much artistic development can happen in that time, I don’t feel too bad that I have nothing from the forthcoming full-length to present here. At first sight, both Akasha and Solitary Key – the band that its creator Leech is in – struck me as the most traditional of the bunch featured today, and by “traditional”, I mean riding those mf black metal tropes hard. But a closer look at the material from last September’s split with Unrest and the promo of the full-length Canticles of the Sepulchral Deity showed that I was off. This isn’t about wintry cold and grimness but much more about unbridled, youthful aggression. D-beats outnumber blast beats, making for a punk backbone that actually brings the music much closer to stuff like Craft or Wømb or what is, at the time of this writing, still called Wartrock (although “cloak’n’roll” doesn’t sound half bad). The abrasive sound fits into the picture, as well, and boy is it ever abrasive. A serious (if somewhat expected) lack of low-end and the piercing vocals make listening to this on headphones a damn near torturous experience. All that’s missing is the goth element, really. Except somehting really has happened since the split; now there’s those clean, clangy guitars like in “Psychic Fog, Draconian Paroxysm” and “Moon as Blood”, and all of a sudden, I’m not so sure anymore – is it really black metal or have I found another represantative of my favourite new-ish genre? Put a pin in it and help me decide once Canticles… drops in March.
I was happy to find Howard Dean’s kind words about this project’s debut, which assured me that I wasn’t completely off my rocker for liking this new album so much. His Enslaved comparison is still accurate; the easiest way to describe this is Vikinglr Veldi‘s penchant for expansive songs and synth use filtered through the sound of A Blaze in the Norhern Sky (complete with cowbell!). That doesn’t do much to explain why I’m so fond of this though. It’s not uncommon for a black metal act to pretend that the genre stopped developing after 1994, so what makes this one different? The work of monsieur Bestial Devotion‘s main band Negative Plane already shows a keen sense for taking old school black metal and building upon it, and likewise, this album isn’t content to simply ape the sound of the era as others do, but actually makes it seem like he’s spent the past 25 years refining it. I could almost copy HD’s words about the album’s format here; again we get four songs in 48 minutes, but again, not a minute is spent navelgazing in some forest. The tracks are brimming with ideas and constantly moving in new directions, yet always coming full circle sooner or later. The clean vocals are also still present, but luckily, the often rather goofy chanting has been done away with. I’ve yet to grow tired of exploring the record over and over again, and I can absolutely see it making the list this year.