Why yes, there is more Dutch Black Metal, thanks for asking
Ever think about how people go to the Netherlands to get high? Bruh.
Since my year-spanning round-up of Haeresis Noviomagi releases already included a band that isn’t actually part of that collective (which would have taken all of 5 seconds of research to find out… whoops!), I thought I might as well take a look at some other exemplars of the Dutch scene. Except I didn’t actually seek any of these out; I just happened to come across them and eventually concluded that the Netherlands has (have?) a very interesting black metal scene. So here are some more releases from the flatlands that I’d like to tell you about.
Bezwering – Aan de Wormen Overgeleverd
Ván Records | May 1, 2020
Bezwering boasts quite a different sound from any of their countrymen we’ve examined here, which is both good and bad. After a bit of build-up, the first song hits with a midtempo groove that kind of rocks. They double down on this with the second track, which comes out swinging in such a way that I cannot help envisioning leather jackets and sunglasses. The menacing rumble of the bass guitar contributes a fair bit to the overall badass vibe of moments like this. I avoided the “black’n’roll” tag when talking about Korgonthurus earlier this year, but it kind of fits at several points throughout the album.
The band generally leans more on moderate tempos and outright doomy passages, reminding me of said Fins as well as Thrall. As with those two, blast beats do occur, but are in the minority. That’s all pretty cool. What’s not so cool is that the second song also introduces the clean vocals, which then go on to dominate the next song and several others throughout the record. It’s not that the dude can’t sing, it’s just that it feels like a bit much, both in quantity—they pop up in every song except the first and the last—and quality.
He puts so much effort into infusing his tenor with gravitas that it can end up sounding overly dramatic. It’s not always bad, mind you. “Aan Gene Zijde” puts both the clean and the harsh vocals together, and it works very well. The same happens later on in track 7, with the added benefit that the guitars also veer into more melodic territory throughout the first half, making more of an effort to fit the mood that the vocals seem to be going for. More often than not, however, this operatic style becomes a big distraction for me.
And that’s a shame, because while the harsh vocals aren’t exactly anything to write home about, at least they allow me to focus more on the consistently varied songwriting, which strikes a neat balance between ballsy rock, doom, and black metal. The last two songs even get a bit more experimental, with “Het Tweede Gezicht” incorporating quiet, almost ambient parts very well, and the closer being a semi-instrumental track where the vocals are just distant shouts and wailing, which effectively paints a picture of insanity.
All in all, there’s enough good to be found here to warrant a couple of spins, but I’m afraid in the long run it may require just a bit more patience than a lot of people (me included) are willing to give the album.
Duivel – Tirades Uit de Hel
Vàn Records | April 2, 2020
I was a bit hesitant to include this one at all because I feel like I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, so maybe consider this a kind of interlude—a break from all these sadbois with their high-falutin’ concepts behind their music. Yes, it’s time for some straight-up second wave worship, as you’ll immediately notice from the tinny, frantic blasts and tremolos. The vocals, the feedback noise, and the telltale laugh at the beginning of the third track help to narrow it down further: it’s safe to assume these guys are really into Darkthrone. The first track immediately made me think of Under a Funeral Moon, and the second one, with its slower tempo and way too up-front vocals, decidedly recalls Panzerfaust (i.e. Nocturno Culto at his drunkest).
While “True Norwegian Black Metal from the Netherlands” doesn’t quite say everything about this record, it doesn’t exactly sell it short, either. Duivel does show a bit of an individual note by employing a keyboardist rather liberally, who adds some spooky vibes to the songs, and further notes of identity come to the fore in “Dolend Verteerd” and “Sluimering van de Dood” in the form of a bit more vocal range, some unprecedented riffing, and a guitar solo (gasp). None of this makes for a grand revelation at any point, however. There’re still worse ways to spend half an hour, but the album feels oddly inconsistent, and the vocals (seemingly mixed different in nearly every track) have a tendency to become grating. This one’s only for the kvltists.
Shagor – Sotteklugt
Babylon Doom Cult Records | October 30, 2020
Almost missed out on this one because the beginning of the first track struck me as a little uneventful (says the guy who praises repetition in black metal every chance he gets). The transition from “I already know what I’m in for” to “this might be interesting” came when the lead guitar rose to the forefront, bringing with it a surge of emotion, before losing the distortion to veer off into entirely unexpected picking that evokes a sort of Western vibe (they may be aiming to invoke an entirely different musical trope here, but that’s what it feels like to me). The end of the song returns to that earlier soaring, melodic tremolo before everything ebbs into an outro featuring likewise unexpected humming. A basic picture of what these guys were about was formed, and it was one I liked very much: cold, stark black metal enriched with just enough emotion and ideas to keep me interested.
The clean vocals are picked up at the beginning of the second track, where a hypnotizing chant is accompanied by doom-paced instrumentation. This successfully evokes vague images of warm candlelight illuminating cold castles, which is a good vibe for black metal to have. The song goes back and forth between this and “classic” black metal parts—again dominated by that soaring lead guitar—before both elements come together at the end for a grandiose finale.
The variation on display so far is already quite satisfactory to me, and the third track only adds to that. Semi-clean, pained vocals make their first appearance, culminating in a sad crescendo in the chorus before the middle part of the song quickly whirls through utterly frantic riffing directly followed by a slow part, which in turn is followed by the most stoic bout of straightforward black metal. It’s quite the ride, so it feels only right for follow-up “Verdoolde Hemelbol” to dial things back and rely purely on acoustic guitars, moaning vocals, and a little splash of that Western vibe, creating a desolate atmosphere that fits the mood of the album very well.
And that brings us to the long-winded closer “Dodendans,” which delivers most of everything that was great about the previous tracks—the tempo variations, the different kinds of vocals, the majestic lead guitar (no chanting and no Western guitar, sadly)—yet somehow fails to go the distance. I think it’s a matter of its duration; the second half of the 11+ minutes just doesn’t seem like the band’s heart is in it anymore. With regards to where I started out, I guess the album kind of comes full circle that way.
Overall though, I am very taken with this record. Despite the final song, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it combines a lot of what I liked about the other Dutch black metal albums I talked about: a cold, drab atmosphere coupled with rage and melancholy, choir-like cleans, and just a wee bit of outside-the-box elements. A fitting end to my journey through this particular scene.