None More Black: What You Missed In 2014
Greetings, flushers and lifelovers! Howard has been hitting that campaign trail hard lately, and regrets the time he’s had to spend away from his favorite demographic: toileters, IMNs, and people on FBI watch lists (side note: these three groups are mutually inclusive). But he’s back, byahtches! No more fistbumping bros at Bdubs, shaking babies, or drunkenly open mouth kissing local reporters on public access television for this candidate! Bring on the black! Byaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!
For this installment of None More Black, I’d like to focus on 2014 black metal releases you may have missed. Now, I know some of you smartasses out there are sitting on a beanbag in your grandmother’s basement, listening to wanky tech death whilst awkwardly fondling yourself to reruns of Golden Girls and saying, “Huh, I wouldn’t say I’ve been *missing* any black metal this year, Howard. Hur hur hur.” If that sounds like you, shut the fuck up. Also, the incestuous pining for your grandmother you are harboring inside your Masters of the Universe underwear is disgusting and you should be ashamed of yourself. You might want to consider therapy.
2014 has been a great year for extreme metal. Though I believe it has been a stronger year for death metal (Dead Congregation, Vader, Teitanblood, Artificial Brain, and Incantation say hello), 2014 has had its share of stellar black metal releases (I’m not looking at you, Mayhem). You’re all probably aware that Abigor, Darkspace, and Blut Aus Nord have released or are set to release excellent new albums this year, as they’ve been frequent topics of discussion around the Toilet ov Hell. Sacrocurse unleashed a primal bestial/war metal album with Unholier Master, Panopticon returned with the monumental Roads to the North, and Agalloch released the The Serpent & The Sphere, their solid follow-up to 2010’s colossal Marrow of the Spirit. There have of course been many other black metal releases this year, including new releases by Twilight, Woods of Desolation, Sargeist, and Kriegsmachine.
And there are dozens more. This will not be comprehensive. It is not my intention to force feed you all a mammoth list of black metal releases from 2014. Rather, I’d like to highlight a few releases you might have missed this year. To start, I’ll throw the time machine on and head back to the beginning of 2014.
Have you listened to Avichi yet? No, I’m not talking about trendy Swedish dance pop, you lifelover. Clear the crusted up Molly residue out of your eyes and ears, and pay attention! THIS Avichi, the one named after the lowest level of Naraka/hell in the mythos of Buddhism:
A one man band fronted by Andrew Markuszewski (this one man band stuff is pretty cool, eh?), Avichi is a rising new act signed to Profound Lore (seriously, how good is this label?!) that has released three full lengths thus far: The Divine Tragedy (2007), The Devil’s Fractal (2011), and this year’s Catharsis Absolute. Concerning himself with a deeper, more personally introspective dimension of devilworship, Andrew crafts black metal with a beautiful blackened soul: like Milton put to music.
Catharsis Absolute was released way back in January, and was one of the first albums this year with which I fell in blasphemous love. It is a riveting listen front-to-back. It certainly sated my need for new Avichi. This was one of my more highly anticipated albums in 2014, and I was not disappointed—even if I consider its predecessor, The Devil’s Fractal, a superior album. It’s not really a fair comparison to make, as The Devil’s Fractal is black metal royalty and a modern classic of the genre. Listen to that gem HERE, and BUY a copy of it, too.
Though he is more known for his time with those ugly sludge-sters Lord Mantis and as a former guitarist in Nachtmystium, Andrew hit his stride, found his voice, and [insert trite and redundant analogy] with Avichi. You can tell this is the music he wants to make. When he sits down with a guitar, ready to write some new riffs, this is the stuff that comes out. This is his baby, and he coddles it and grooms it with every wicked bone in his body (he also handled the production duties on Catharsis Absolute).
Catharsis Absolute is a wicked good time. This is black metal with a tinge of theatrics, with a vibe of grandiose energy and excitement spliced into a more standard frosty, tremolo-heavy sound. Some songs are rife with piano lines, chimes, and brooding chants. This is fun stuff cut from the decidedly “un-fun” cloth of black metal.
Standout tracks include “Flames In My Eyes” and “Voice of Intuition,” but the track that stood out the most to me was “Lightweaver.” This song melds the more “typical” Avichi sound with some almost “upbeat” and rocking lines. Try it out for yourself and see what you’ve been missing:
Another personal favorite of mine this year is: Impaled Nazarene’s Vigorous and Liberating Death.
Firstly, look at that album cover! My fuck! No flushes given and byahs abound!
Vigorous and Liberating Death sees our favorite punky Finns brewing a spicy cauldron of their special recipe black metal: raw, thrashy, punk-tinged blackness fit to wear the Impaled Nazarene name. Vigorous… is a definite return to form after 2010’s mediocre “Road to the Octagon.” This is an album chock full of riffs and heavy on the headbang.
Those familiar with Impaled Nazarene will know what to expect. Now 12 albums into their careers (all 12 full lengths released on Osmose Productions!), these pioneers of Finnish black metal haven’t strayed too far from their typical sound(s). On their early albums, they were decidedly chaotic and grindy, playing a death-infused black metal akin to their fellow countrymen Beherit and Archgoat. Beginning with 1994’s Suomi Finland Perkele and solidified by 1996’s Latex Cult, Impaled Nazarene’s sound began incorporating elements from traditional heavy metal, punk, and even traces of power metal. This is a black metal band that loves abrasive but catchy riffs, skull-smashing punk, and not taking themselves too seriously.
Vigorous and Liberating Death was released by Osmose Productions on April 14th on both CD and Vinyl. Check out one of my favorite tracks and see what you’ve been missing!
Another overlooked and underrated black metal album in 2014 is Funereal Presence’s The Archer Takes Aim. Released on March 13th by one of America’s best underground labels, The Ajna Offensive, The Archer Takes Aim is the debut full length from this one man band, and will likely find itself on some year-end lists (including mine). Spearheaded by Bestial Devotion (who is also known for his time behind the drum kit with Negative Plane), the band released a solid self-titled EP in 2011. But with The Archer Takes Aim, the band/man has taken the music to a new level.
Make no mistake: this is not Negative Plane. This is an entirely different animal, removed from the chaos and dissonant fury of its harsher cousin. Funereal Presence is lighter, more “relaxed,” and constructs its sound with bricks of tremolo held together with mortar of atmosphere. Funereal Presence plays black metal in long form: this album boasts only four tracks stretched over 48 minutes. Those of you rolling your eyes and getting ready to click the back button in your browser, hold on a second: this is not boring, meandering forest nonsense. This is not another tired and tasteless voyage into the world of “atmospheric black metal.” This is black metal with substance, riffs, and intensity. This is an album with focus, songs with direction, and music with heart. This is black metal in the style of Burzum, Drudkh, Forgotten Woods, and Vikinglr Veldi-era Enslaved, and fans of those bands will enjoy it.
Though the music can be defined or categorized around a specific sub-subgenre or “sound,” Bestial Devotion keeps things fresh. Whether he’s harmonizing and playing his lead guitar off of his tremolo-crazy rhythm guitar or adding to this mix with embellishments like exotic chanting and eerie organ melodies to give it a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flair, Bestial Devotion makes sure the Funereal Presence formula never gets stale. I could fully see The Archer Takes Aim and future Funereal Presence output becoming a guilt-free Burzum fix for those entangled in moral dilemmas and embittered by the conduct of one Monsieur Louis Cachet a.k.a the artist formerly known as Varg Vikernes a.k.a. Count Grishnackh a.k.a. Kristian Vikernes. Buy the album in either CD or vinyl from The Ajna Offensive and help support an awesome new band and excellent underground label! Get two birds stoned at once! Byah!
Sample tracks from The Archer Takes Aim are not available on Youtube (another reason to buy this beast in physical format and love the shit out of it!), but try a track from the 2011 EP:
That’s it for this 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***
Drudkh? Did someone say Drudkh? This week’s track comes from that Ukrainian horde’s 2006 opus, Blood In Our Wells. Featuring one of the most sorrowful and cold atmospheres ever interpreted and expressed in sound waves, Furrows of Gods sounds like gulag, Five-Year Plans, and famine. This is one of the saddest and most harrowing songs in black metal.