The Return of Ben: Black Metal Roundup
Just like Gandalf the Grey disappeared for a while after sacrificing himself to save his companions and came back as Gandalf the White, I return after many months, just as heroically, as Beany Boy the Short-Haired and I bring you a roundup of some cool black metal records. I’m gonna start with a heavy hitter, and then go through some more indie and underground offerings so there should be something for all you fine folks here in the bowl.
Dawn Ray’d – Behold Sedition Plainsong
I don’t fuck with black metal as much as I used to anymore, due in a big part to being burned too many times about how much white nationalism has infested the scene. Luckily, there’s a burgeoning, though not exactly new, anti-fascist counterpart in black metal and Dawn Ray’d are one of the bands at the forefront of the groups pushing against the elephant in metal’s living room.
I liked a lot of parts of their previous album, especially the single “Emptiness Beneath the Great Emptiness,” but it didn’t end up sticking with me that much overall. Partly a slight lack of cohesion, partly personal taste, partly early burnout on the album. Behold Sedition Plainsong marks a huge improvement in songwriting and cohesiveness, and the violin sections are also greatly improved, with an almost lite-Ives-like layering of different and intertwining tunes. Earworms also run rampant in this new album, especially the single “Like Smoke Into Fog,” featuring rolling and aggressive black metal tremolo lines that briefly give way to the Ivesian layering and folky acoustic strains. Another favorite for me is the somber “A Time for Courage at the Borderlands.” Stay and watch your children die / Or run and they might survive / Evade the pigs at the border / Unflinchingly ruining people’s lives.
I’m very pleased with this improvement and refining of Dawn Ray’d’s sound, and the poignant lyrics only add a cherry on top for me.
Behold Sedition Plainsong is out now through Prosthetic Records.
Seas of Winter – Dead Forest
If you dig that real old school black metal sound this one is for you. This is a new project started in 2019 with writer, sex worker, and all around cool person Espi Kvlt handling vocals and lyrics and Mike Snow taking care of instrumental duties.
The EP is dedicated to Pelle “Dead” Ohlin if you want an idea of what kind of more overt influences you’ll be able to hear, and also centers a lot of lyrical themes on the climate change crisis. There’s not much more to say, honestly. It’s got fantastic old school flare, doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it’s NYP on Bandcamp. If you’re interested in a physical copy, there’re a few tapes still available through Akashic Envoy, with some super handsome packaging, and two dollars from each sale gets donated toward Amazon rain forest conservation.
Bliss-Illusion – Shinrabansho
I will fully admit to sitting on this promo for way too long, considering I got the email for it way back in July. Bliss-Illusion is a Chinese post-black metal band featuring Buddhist themes and some traditional Chinese instrumentation. It’s very much the Alcest brand of sunnier, brighter, ethereal shoegaze-tinged post-black, but a little heavier and with some really lovely folk parts.
It’s a refreshing album in a lot of ways, not just because of the thematic content, but because it isn’t retreading or reinventing the trappings and tropes we usually see with folk-influenced black metal. The track that really made this start to click with me was “Sunyata,” featuring a throat-sung chant and flutes.
My one and only big complaint is that things began to grow stale for me before the end of the album, but this is still a very interesting album and band with a fresher, more unique sound than I’ve heard in a while, it just feels like they’re still growing into their own style. Definitely worth checking out and a band to keep an eye on for future releases.
Shinrabansho is out now through Anesthetize records
LUCIA – Monuments Adrift
LUCIA is a band from Vancouver, BC, featuring the very familiar flavor that tends to come with Pacific Northwest black metal with moody ambience, building ostinati, a ton of fuzz and reverb. This deceptively long little 3-track EP is very well done and lays it on heavy with the mood-building and ambiance. Like a lot of the music from the PNW scene, the focus on building textures, mood, and ambiance might lead some listeners to check out early, but those who stick around will be rewarded. I especially like “Follow me to the Plains” with its buildup and layering of ambient noise, drumming, and slight dissonance to a melancholic wave supporting the entrance of harshly wailed vocals. Fantastic use of mood-building throughout the entire EP and I really like the harshly barked and wailed vocal work here.
Our own good owl did an interview with Matt Roach, who produced and mixed the album, if checking that out would strike your fancy.
There we are! I hope you gave these a listen and enjoyed at least some of them.