Soundtrack To Your Annihilation III: The None More Black Edition
Greetings and salutations. An enthusiastic hello to readers and fans of the Toilet Ov Hell, our community, and all reptiles still successfully passing as human beings. Welcome back to Soundtrack To Your Annihilation, a series that at least three people have claimed to be excited about. We covered Cryptopsy’s None So Vile, Indian’s Guiltless, and Portal’s Swarth in two previous installments. In a series that promises to get progressively weirder, darker, more brutal, and more difficult, we must venture forward; specifically downward. Allow your perception to darken. Allow the lens through which you view the world to cloud over with a dense, black fog. Perhaps you thought placing Portal’s Swarth in the second installment was some kind of error. How much further could this series go? Consider hitting rock bottom and asking for a shovel, or digging your own grave at the barrel of a gun.
Black metal has come a long way since Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Emperor’s In the Nightside Eclipse, and since some guy killed another guy and no one could stop talking about it for over twenty years. Black metal’s 2nd wave was born out of the slick commercialization of death metal in the early 1990s. The early focus on very low production quality was in reaction to this. It has recently found itself in vogue, covered consistently and favorably by popular media outlets. There have been countless debates over its purity; daily discussions are held worldwide over what is “trve” (or “tr00”), acceptable, and what doesn’t belong in the canon. Whilst many fans of extreme metal believe death metal rules over the other subgenres with violent authority, black metal has held court over fans with darkness, underhanded treachery, and fear. Black metal has spawned countless subgenres and variations. Soundtrack To Your Annihilation will cover three albums from various styles of black metal. We’ll take a look and compare them to the previous installment as we move through it.
The first album we will cover today is Silencer’s 2001 album, Death, Pierce Me. Silencer played an offshoot of black metal called “depressive black metal”; many other acts in a similar vein have been labeled “depressive suicidal black metal”. Silencer and depressive suicidal black metal were covered in an excellent article on the Toilet Ov Hell. I won’t introduce you to DSBM for a second time, rather, let’s delve immediately into Death, Pierce Me.
Death, Pierce Me begins with its self titled track, which opens with a slow, acoustic introduction and soft drums for almost two minutes. Then vocalist Nattramn makes his appearance. The Satan Ov Hell hit the nail on the head in his article, at first, this seems a bit silly. I have not heard black metal vocals quite like these on any other album. They are very audible, and extremely high in the mix compared to the majority of black metal shrieking. You really have to hear them to understand. Nattramn announces the album’s trve beginning, and the black metal begins. Tremolo picking, fast steady drumming, and that… voice. Six or so minutes into “Death, Pierce Me” the vocals waiver and quake off into another quieter segment. “Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels” picks up with a more epic feel, and the vocals approach more “typical” black metal fare as well. The track lengths fall mostly between eight and eleven minutes, outliers include “Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels” at about six minutes and the last track, “Feeble Are You, Sons of Sion” at a mere three minutes. Nattramn has what sounds like a coughing or gasping fit during the second track, which closes with a galloping series of riffs.
Admittedly, during my first cursory listen to Death, Pierce Me, I thought I had, in fact, shot myself in the foot placing Swarth in STYA’s second installment. It was near the end of this album’s third track “Taklamakan”, where I regained confidence. Near the end of its eight plus minute run time I realized I had been lulled into a false sense of security, and that Death, Pierce Me is a slow descent via mine cart into some uncharted level of purgatory. Depressive black metal is an apt label; this is bleak, haunting, and hypnotic. What initially seemed silly became off putting and unsettling. Death, Pierce Me began to speak to parts of my psyche I had long thought buried. At forty eight minutes, it is not that this album overstays its welcome. Near the end, I was ready for the trip to be over… until I had to play it again.
Deathspell Omega are a band that need little introduction to those familiar with black metal or heavy metal in general. The Toilet Ov Hell’s own writer, political figure, and outspoken character Howard Dean has called them the best heavy metal band, ever, period. He described them as the “apex” of what dissonant, otherworldly bands could hope to accomplish, while still maintaining stellar songwriting. Heavens to Murgatroid. I was introduced to Deathspell Omega late in the game. I first listened to their most recent effort Paracletus and worked backwards. The second focus of this installment is on their third studio album, Si Momentum Requires, Circumspice, which marked their evolutionary leap from Darkthrone-esque black metal into the formidable, malevolent entity they are today.
Si Momentum Requires, Circumspice is a masterwork of black metal. It combines technical, dissonant black metal with religious chanting, choral singing, and stark, bleak imagery. What about that cover? The listener is able to make out some lyrics as well, like the first growling uttered on “Sola Fide I”, Mikko Aspa’s call for Satan. Si Momentum Requires, Circumspice is seventy seven minutes long. Allow me to climb on top of my soapbox for a moment here. In going over this installment of the series with my co-conspirator ad naseum, I debated including Si Momentum. Is this a more difficult listen than Portal’s Swarth or Indian’s Guiltless? At first glance or a cursory listen, no. It isn’t. It is comparably difficult based on individual songs, because of its chaos, dissonance, and strange, alien sounds. However, Si Momentum Requires, Circumspice is as a whole Deathspell Omega’s artistic statement. I have long held the belief that good and great music should be taken as a whole, in the realm of extreme music or any other genre. Songs are an expression of the album; the album is the artistic statement. Great albums play through from beginning to end; they guide the listener through their entirety. Sequencing matters. Themes matter. Music, melodies, and patterns emerge and reemerge throughout. In discussing this particular album with Howard Dean, he pointed out that Deathspell Omega intended this to be a painful experience. Seventy seven minutes of extreme black metal, meant to be taken as a singular experience. Apart from time, obviously, it requires endurance, and can separate the casual listener from those willing to go the distance, so to speak. I imagine we could unearth longer albums, but how many combine length and difficulty at this level of quality?
Enbilulugugal are a band which Islander at No Clean Singing once said he was glad to avoid interviewing, because of how scary the band seemed. These are both songs from Enbilulugugal‘s The Day After, and thankfully, for you, we aren’t pushing that far yet. You really should thank me. Enbilulugugal play both raw black metal and horrific “black noise”. The last focus of this installment of Soundtrack To Your Annihilation is on Enbilulugugal’s raw black metal album, The End Is Extremely Fucking Nigh.
I mentioned in the beginning of this piece that black metal has come a long way since its inception. In examples like Si Momentum Requires, Circumspice, and countless others, the production quality can be quite good. However, some bands have pushed in the opposite direction entirely. Some bands have worsened the production on their albums far beyond black metal’s 2nd wave or even that of the one man black metal bedroom project. Enbilulugugal have done exactly that on The End Is Extremely Fucking Nigh. This is raw black metal in the rawest form.
The End Is Extremely Fucking Nigh is a concept album fitting its title. It opens with harsh noise and a voice over of a man describing what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. Music begins on the album’s second track, “IX”. This is slow moving black metal played under an impenetrable swamp. The riffs are buried in static, a drum rhythm is only somewhat detectable. If you listen closely enough you can hear a melody under the surface… is that a flute? Izedis provides ghastly vocals here and throughout. The next track “XIII” opens more aggressively, but it is still bathed in hardened lava. Things become a bit “easier” on “XXXIII”. The next interlude is comprised of noise feedback and more instructions about surviving in a nuclear fallout shelter. The concept and interludes on this album genuinely fit with the music. The album’s fourth track (of music), “LXVI” features the most pained vocals yet. The last track is a cover of The Bright Side (from Those Poor Bastards). The End Is Extremely Fucking Nigh is a short album, roughly thirty two minutes, but this is extremely difficult stuff. If you’re looking for more listenable metal under the “raw black metal” umbrella, look to bands like Ash Pool (one of many side projects of Prurient’s Dominick Fernow) or the related Akitsa. If you’d like to be challenged, here is that challenge, but don’t be surprised if at some point you find yourself praying for that nuclear blast.
I would be remiss to not mention our pal Christian Molenaar’s involvement with The End Is Extremely Fucking Nigh. On the Bandcamp for the album, he is credited as “Molenaar: Guest Guitar Wanking on IX”. Christian has also helped me a great deal with this series, and recommended Enbilulugugal as one of the many bands for this installment. Since I am not a writer, and am only pretending to be one (somewhat successfully, hey!), I don’t know that this explanation is required, but, I thought at the least I should mention it to present some level of journalistic integrity. I hope you have enjoyed this edition of Soundtrack To Your Annihilation, as much as a person could, and embraced your own inner darkness in the process. Look to the Toilet Ov Hell for more examples of stalwart journalism in the near future.
Stay Void, Toilet.
Thanks to Christian Molenaar for the assist in the conception, planning, and execution of this series.