None More Black: Welcome and Introduction!
Take out a pen and paper! This is an introdction!
Are you stuffed to your gills with all of that noodly nonsense known as tech death? Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night fearing that you are a poser that actually hates metal and loves life, and you want to remedy these feelings? Want some demos recorded on a 4-track? Are you looking for something a little colder to accompany you on your descent into winter/hell? Are you ready to throw aside that thrash with a side of pepperoni pizza for a little blasphemous respite? Need some shrieks? Are you taking a break from your favorite beatdown/brocore because you need to wash those X’s off your hands for that job interview at Staples? Are you awesome? Do you like your metal the way I like my coffee?
Then you are in the right place, my corpsepainted friend! Lay down your battle-axe, take a seat on a stump, strip off your gauntlets, and ready yourself for the grimness. Welcome to the first edition of None More Black, a Toilet ov Hell column dedicated to all things black metal.
None More Black will feature a variety of topics related to black metal–everyone’s favorite subgenre and cultural phenomenon. These topics will be presented in as comprehensive and clear a manner as I am capable of conjuring (and I think I’m pretty capable–I was almost elected president! Byah!), and will include but not be limited to: new releases, revisited/overlooked music, a look back at the classics, opinions (both popular and unpopular), silly memes, extrapolations and conjecture, contests, and an extra delicious Black Metal Track of the Week.
So what kind of content can you expect? Incredible, awesome, and glorious content. One week, I might discuss or review a new album. Another week, I might compare and contrast the Swedish and Finnish scenes, or parse out the differences between the many forms of “atmospheric” black metal. One week I might focus on Canadian bestial/war metal, or on bands that gave us stone-cold classics but have since faded into Ginnugagap. Some weeks, I may poll the commenters, asking something like this: Which wave do you prefer, First Wave or Second Wave? Aside: If you were not aware that early black metal manifested in two distinct waves (i.e. that fans and journalists have retrospectively classified certain black metal scenes/sounds as having occurred in separate “waves,” and have therefore attached added meaning to these terms), then you really need this column. Read, take notes, and study. There will be exams. After a few months, you should start looking like this:
Ok, enough with all this lifeloving introduction. Onward to Golgotha! This week, I’d like to focus on an album I consider the best black metal album of 2013. As we head toward year end, everyone begins thinking about their “best of” or “top 10.” In turn, this got me thinking about last year. 2013 was a great year for black metal, and many solid albums were released. However, there was one black metal record that was ahead of the pack according to Uncle Howard: Aosoth‘s IV: An Arrow in Heart.
Emblazoned with what was perhaps the year’s best artwork, and alive with an imperviously deep, heavy, and fiery tone, IV: An Arrow in Heart is a masterful black metal record, and the best album released thus far by this French trio. Seven tracks of pure blackness, filled to the brim with stifling atmosphere straight from hell.
People often talk about the “coldness” or “iciness” of black metal, and indeed, the roots of the second wave are securely buried in rime ice. However, coinciding with the rise of the orthodox scene (I will cover the orthodox movement in more depth in a future NMB), and the embracing of cleaner, clearer productions, black metal is now rife with “heat.” Like their brethren Funeral Mist, Ondskapt, and Deathspell Omega, Aosoth bring the heat. This is an album that feels legitimately “hot.” Thick, monstrous guitar leads saddled with an impenetrable rhythm section make IV: An Arrow in Heart feel as though it were vomited straight from Beelzebub’s scorched gullet. Listen to the album’s opening track for a tasty warmup:
Formed in 2002, France’s Aosoth has released five full length albums (including an all-instrumental reimagining of their third album), numerous splits and demos, and is currently signed to Agonia Records. Setting themselves apart from their close cousin, the ultra-caustic Antaeus (all three members of Aosoth participate in Antaeus to some degree, including frontman and owner of Spikekult Rekords, the illustrious MkM), Aosoth has taken a “softer” and more dynamic approach to their sound. They will blast, they will rip, they will shred their throats for Satan, but they will also do spoken word, they will tastefully insert movie samples, they will add 2+ minute breaks into the middle of their songs, and build them to climax. Aosoth brings their sonic devilworship with variety. This is music with depth.
Aosoth makes music, and Aosoth deals in Satanism. Black metal is of course known for its close relationship with that old cloven-hoofed curmudgeon and his fiery lake. However, the degree to which bands and musicians develop and believe in their ideology, as well as their effectiveness in marrying this ideology to their music, varies. On one end of the spectrum: Slayer and Venom. Anti-Christian and Satanic for effect. On the other end: Deathspell Omega and Ofermod. Deep, thoughtful gnosis infused with zealotry and religious fervor. Unsurprisingly, Aosoth falls on the religious or “orthodox” side of the Satanism spectrum. When MkM tells you to “Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan,” (the title of the first Antaeus album), he means it.
But fear not, loyal flushers. You need not sacrifice livestock or pledge your firstborn to Teitan in order to enjoy this music. The wonderful thing about music like Aosoth–that is, great black metal performed with emotion and fervor–is that you don’t need to endorse the ideology to enjoy the music. The religiosity, faith, and conviction of a release like IV: An Arrow in Heart can add tremendously to one’s enjoyment, even if one believes the content/ideology to be a crock of shit. The reason? Because it adds power, emotion, and depth. It inspires. It adds a harsh texture to riffs and a vitriol to vocals. That extra feeling–that power– is what separates albums like IV: An Arrow in Heart from albums like Mayhem’s Esoteric Warfare or the last couple of turds wrought from the tired assholes of Dark Funeral or Gorgoroth. That, and vastly superior songwriting, of course. 🙂 When Aosoth places samples from the excellent film The Devils (1971) into their music (the tracks “Broken Dialogue 1” and “Broken Dialogue 2” are centered around two such clips from the movie), it doesn’t sound (or, more importantly, feel) cheesy. It complements their sound, adds to the eerie, ugly ambiance, and makes for a better album.
IV: An Arrow in Heart is a great record, the best black metal album of 2013, and is something I find myself returning to quite often. What was your favorite black metal album of 2013?
Well, that does it for this inaugural edition of None More Black. I’ll leave you with Howard Dean’s Black Metal Track of the Week, and bid you adieu.
Until next time. If the women don’t find you friendly, at least they’ll find you frostbitten!
***Black Metal Track of the Week***
This week’s track is off of the latest album from Sweden’s most accomplished anti-cosmic forest troll, Arckanum. Fenris Kindir was another excellent album from 2013, and this rocking, rollicking punk of a track was my favorite. Enjoy.