Slaughter.Endeavour.Existence – A Black Metal Mass Review
You won’t believe how much black metal we’ve got for you this time.
Murg – Strävan
Murg got off to a scorching start with their 2015’s debut Varg & Björn, on the rawer side of Swedish black metal but not entirely without the atmospheric appliances commonly associated with their label, Nordvis Produktion. Unfortunately the quickly conjured sophomore, Gudatall, struggled to maintain the high quality amidst slight stylistic reconfiguration. Though a fine album on it’s own right, the more serene approach had lost a fair bit of the instantly gripping memorability that ruled the debut, as the blazing riffs, melodies and maladies seemingly took a backseat.
In many ways, Strävan comfortably sits halfway between the two. Punchier than Gudatall, though not as raw as the debut, shorter than the sophomore but lengthier than Varg & Björn. Leaning somewhat constantly on the atmospheric implications of their sound, Strävan has nevertheless restored the melodic riffs pulsing with life and memorability into the fold, but not the center. The riffing reminiscent of the debut makes an appearance here and there over each song’s length, but never commanding their structure.
This could be a fantastic move, the best of both worlds as it were, as the combination of two separate (though similar) styles helped set Murg apart from the crowd, but they are not as accomplished weavers of webs of thick atmospheric goodness, as they are riffcrafters. When they stumble, it’s almost exclusively on this side of their sound. The less a song is focused on their forceful riffing, the worse it meanders and the less it commands attention, the memorability reserved almost completely for aggression.
Though Strävan fixes many of the issues Gudatall suffered from, there’s still a way to if Murg wants to leave as lasting an impression with their “new” style as they did with their debut.
Disciples of the Void – Disciples of the Void
Found as a side-project to the two unnamed, long-time metal musician, members, and on their debut fortified by drummer Trish Kolsvart (Urarv, Asagraum), Disciples of the Void’s idea was to make black metal in the vein the two men had both originally fell in love with, and felt was being made enough anymore. Reinforcing their melodic, fast-paced and raw black metal with atmospheric rather than symphonic keyboards arrangements.
The tense shrieks, appropriately thin guitar sound and scattered spoken word sections are all very much reminiscent of the 90’s, to a point where even someone like myself who ravenously devours traditional strains of the genre, can’t help but feel it was never intended to be more than trip down the memory lane for the two scene veterans. Luckily the riffs mostly hit home, making for an endearing and fun listen, that lacks in neither atmosphere nor headbangability. The eponymous record is also mercifully short at 35-minutes, roughly 7 of which are spent with a closing cover of Bathory’s “Home of the Once Brave”, though this in turn makes it look like the band rushed out their album before they really had the material for it.
On the other hand, the album seems to have built a decent buzz for the duo, and they snatched an opening slot at a big black metal focused festival, which should speak for the strength of the original material they do have.
Pig’s Blood – A Flock Slaughtered
On their self-titled debut, Pig’s Blood presented a concoction of Revenge/Conqueror -like death metal mixed with Bolt Thrower -esque riffs, which instantly elevated them above the countless, riffless, idea-less masses that flock upon war metal. It wasn’t, by any means. an excellent record, but one that evoked careful, yet eager anticipation of a better future.
A Flock Slaughtered does not proceed to slaughter the flocks of impotent, like-minded bands, but instead joins them. Pig’s Blood attempts to keep their abnormal riff-to-chaos ratio intact while trading away their Bolt Thrower influence and are mostly successful at it. While occasionally still, a riff reminiscent of them will arise, the majority of them are more faceless than before. Whether having your “face” be that of another band, when it is not your express intent to be a tribute band, is another question, but surely any face is better than an almost complete lack of personality? A Flock Slaughtered is thoroughly dull with no highlights or low-points whatsoever, all the songs blurring together into two interchangeable messes only barely separated by an interlude.
If there’s something positive to be said about Pig’s Blood’s sophomore, it’s that it sounds good. It’s dark, musky and heavy as hell, though in comparison the vocals fall fairly weak. You could still do much worse if it’s noise-swarming death metal dumbness that you’re hankering for, but whether it’s riffs of musical anarchy you’re looking for A Flock Slaughtered will leave you hungry. A halfway record that does a few things but none of them particularly convincingly.
Nordjevel – Necrogenesis
Nordjevel’s 2016 debut was met appraisal from both Spear and Toilet-friend Loic of Autokrator/NKVD fame. And what was there not to love? All the wintry and evil atmosphere of older Swedish black metal with more brutal and headbangable riffing and a crispy, clear and powerful mix. I became to enjoy it’s melodic stylings myself, and continued to enjoy the band’s work on next year’s Krigsmakt EP.
Much water has flown into the river since, though the year’s between haven’t been particularly long. For one, Necrogenesis sees an almost entirely new line-up for the band with drummer Fredrik Widigs having mostly terminated his musical career for the time being, and founding guitarist Nord stepping aside more recently. Vocalist Doedsadmiral and long-time bassist DezeptiCunt (*sigh*) are now joined by the Myrkskog/Odium duo of Destructhor and Dominator on guitars and drums respectively.
Luckily, the stylistic changes have been relatively small. Doedsadmiral’s rasp and shrieks don’t distinguish themselves but serve their purpose well enough, the razor-sharp tremolo riffs sit comfortably between Dark Funeral and Setherial, the frantic double-bass drumming doesn’t lose to Widigs’ and the bass might as well not exist. The band does, however, spend plenty more time chugging away than I recall them doing before, but somehow this serves to make their music less headbangable than before. Not by much, but it is to be lamented all the same. Throughout it’s 47 minute run, Necrogenesis offers little respite, and the only song differentiating itself as a composition, “Black Light From The Void” is offered early into the record, leaving to struggle with it’s one-noteness.
Cleverly combating this, Nordjevel places their best songs on the second half, commanding attention with a renewed vigor just as it starts to slip. “The Fevered Lands” slams some of Destructhor’s finest and most memorable riffage to the table, “Nazarene Necrophilia” stands out with it’s shout-along chorus and the closer “Panzerengel” piling one coiling killer-riff upon another.
Much like the band’s previous work, Necrogenesis will hardly be one for the ages, but it’s some of the most riff-heavy fun you can have with black metal and mostly a very enjoyable record.
Valaraukar – Demonian Abyssal Visions
After the dissolution of Nolti Nan Gana Nan Nolta, drummer Sovereign, and guitarist/vocalist Vagath, it’s at-the-time-full-line-up, instantly formed Valaraukar and proceeded to release a demo I’ve not heard. Demonian Abyssal Visions follows quick on it’s heels. At the heart of Valaraukar’s sound is old school second wave black metal, which they do very well thanks to never letting their songs fall into the one-riff-two-riff trap, but seasoned with the more expansive sounds of more modern acts – there’s a few riffs that take the band into Inquisition’s feeding grounds. On few occasions, the Scottish duo reminisces their time in NNGNN with a mor eprimal, thrashing riff but there’s moments are relatively rare and often obscured by simultaneous melodic lead guitar.
Despite their apparent rawness, Valaraukar plays together tight and there’s plenty of variety in their approach, but there also doesn’t always seem to be any kind fo a red string through the songs. Eschewing traditional songwriting a lot of the time, in favour of suite like approach where separate movements follow each other, coil together and transform into something new. Or so it should be, in Valaraukar’s hands the movements only follo wone another without leading anywhere. As a result Demonian Abyssal Visions often times becomes a collection of riffs rather than a fully composed album.
I suspect, however, that for most the largets obstacle between themselves and enjoying this album will be the vocals. Vagath rather shouts or barks than growls and while I do not find the approach ill-fitting in the least, and enjoy it thoroughly, experience has thought screwing with the pre-set vocal stylings in an extreme metal setting is guaranteed to cause beef. Valaraukar is into a decent thing here, as long as they manage to create a stronger narrative for their songs next time around.
Rotting Christ / Varathron – Duality of The Unholy Existence
Perhaps the two best known names to have risen from the Greek black metal scene, Varathron and Rotting Christ have shared members and stages, but never collaborated on a release. The Duality of the Unholy Existence split 7″ seeks to rectify this with an exclusive appearance from both bands. Varathron’s last year’s Patriarchs of Evil was a surprisingly potent, if inconsistent, album whereas Rotting Christ has been stuck on running victory lap’s on diminishing results for the last several years. The latter’s offering here “Spiritus Sancti” doesn’t mark a change but doesn’t fall as short most of The Heretics did. Essentially it’s the same chords, riff and melody that they’ve used for all of their songs for a good while now, and their not getting anything new out of it, but manage to squeeze (very little) blood from a stone.
Varathron’s “Shaytan” could have been lifted from the last records sessions, with some striking, but unmemorable, melodic riffing and a key-inflicted shout-along chorus – a decent but formulaic entry. Overall Duality of the Unholy Existence is little else than another date on both bands’ discographies, and sounds like it was recorded just to have a collaborative record, using whatever ideas the bands had had left on he cutting floor.
Fairly slim pickings this time around, but if you heard something you enjoyed, and even if you didn’t, make sure to check up on each band at their social media pages linked above.