Zloslut – U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama (2015)

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Article by Corey M

Serbian black metal group Zloslut received some well-deserved coverage on DMU in 2013 when they released their first album, Zloslutni Horizont – Donosilac Prokletstva, Očaja I Smrti, in which the musicians demonstrated a humble and patient method of constructing epic songs based around the simplicity of a few chord changes. This method contrasts (pleasantly) with the typical songwriting method of modern black metal bands, which is to hurl rapid-fire oppositional riff pairs at the listener with the intention of disorienting and distracting from the lack of any coherent musical thread. Zloslut’s music promises a refreshing return to the minimalist style that the best black metal bands of the early 1990s used to produce memorable and effective songs.

U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama moves at a familiar pace for the experienced listener, but the albums dynamics are generally so well-balanced that even someone not engaged in black metal would not be offended or confused by the aural layout. The average intensity of the music is nearer to that of In the Glare of Burning Churches than Pure Holocaust, which means that each song has plenty of room to breathe and the listener never feels battered or overwhelmed by density or speed. Songs themselves are built out of a handful of chord cycles that are aesthetically consistent and highly motivational; never does a chord cycle become so stale that you will actually desire its end to relieve boredom, but never is a riff so complex that it blows by and is forgotten for not having been catchy or repeated enough. Each segment of music is paced accordingly and results in each song becoming a miniature journey of sorts, leading the listener along a path through moments of surprise, anger, despair, hatred, and finally toward some appropriate resolution that can’t be described in text, only experienced sonically.

Zloslut’s success stems from the songwriter’s intuitive sense of balance and momentum. When a song picks up speed, the tension increases but is balanced out with slower-moving riffs played with more major intervals. After a song has expended its motivational energy, the guitars drop down and drag the melody through murky valleys of foreboding and loss. I want to be clear that the dynamic balance maintained throughout this album does not mean that the experience is emotionally flat; rather, that every peak is paired with a valley, and every action has an equal and opposite (or, is it complimentary?) reaction. The spacious feel of the album allows for stretches of melancholic introspection like one might find themselves amidst while listening to Vampires of Black Imperial Blood or the more recent When the Light Dies. But don’t make the mistake of associating Zloslut with the emo-leaning depressive style that has crept into the black metal canon over the last decade. U Transu Sa Nepoznatim Siluetama is ferocious and concedes nothing, sparks the listener’s imagination, and encourages one to seek out and confront the obscure biases and phobias that lurk in the far-flung corners of the psyche.

Cirith Gorgor releases video for “Wille Zu Macht”

We covered Cirith Gorgor’s latest album a while back; this Dutch black metal band is ahead of many of its compatriots in terms of writing coherent black metal even if they face very stiff competition from local luminaries as Sammath and Kaeck. They’ve since released a music video for a track off Visions of Exalted Lucifier with the help of their record label (Hammerheart Records). It’s got plenty of violent and possibly disturbing imagery, and it generally seems appropriate for the music, but I’m not enough of a filmic expert to say why or how in any specific fashion. The full album will release to the public on February 12th, 2016.

Upcoming tours – Mgla, Aosoth

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Part of the Agonia Records stable is out on the road again. DMU contributors have discussed both Aosoth and Mgla in the past and at least in some cases have been able to find value in them (although I’ve found Mgla hasn’t aged too well and that their formula is need of greater nuance). Continental Europeans will get a chance to judge these bands for themselves during this upcoming tour. So far limited to 10 dates and leaning towards the northern part of the continent, this seems to be a standard “support previously released material” type of tour. Aosoth is also performing at the Netherlands Deathfest (a subsidary of Maryland Deathfest) on February 28th.

Witchblood – Hail to Lyderhorn(2014)

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Article by David Rosales

Witchblood is a black metal band that falls on the darkest corner of the folky side of the fence. While not specifically minimalist, Hail to Lyderhorn is a very simple and straightforward music that leans completely on the guitars for content and texture. This album may get repetitive or even a little thin at times but its saving grace is its coherent diversity of textures and techniques. The scant but effective use of keyboards is laudable, being effective as it is magnetic.

The guitars function as one only voice most of the time, with a trusty bass for a spinal chord. The meanness of this portion of the instrumentation places great stress over the role of percussion. The drums have now to fill up spaces and act like the second rock in the bolas of an Argentinian gaucho. To Witchblood’s merit, this is accomplished more than satisfactorily, with drums that compliment or mirror the metal strings, rising to the occasion as required.

Comments will be made about the quality of the vocal performance, which is neither deep, rich nor very powerful. Despite this, the overall result of the music in Hail to Lyderhorn does not seem affected negatively noticeably because of this. In part this is because, as with the instrumentation, the vocalizations were performed well within the boundaries of their limits, allowing them to perform effectively, and therefore avoiding the possible blunders of overextension. We may also want to point out that the textures for guitar riffs and their chosen registers stay clear of the space in which the voice moves. When the guitar’s approach changes (for example, arpeggiating chords into higher notes), the vocal approach also changes, sometimes to a haunting witch chant.

Released in 2014, Witchblood Hail to Lyderhorn is a deserving release that might have escaped the radar of most fans who would otherwise have derived much value from it. While it’s no classic or game changer, this album is nonetheless a low-key example of shrewd amateur efficiency and spirit.

Editor’s note: “Hail to Lyderhorn” was briefly covered in our best of 2014.

Blliigghhtted – Kosmoskampf (2015)

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It taunted me with its existence – for nearly half a month, working on DMU meant being privvy to our eventual stream of the upcoming Kosmoskampf. Blliigghhtted is for all purposes another star in the Merdümgiriz constellation (read: label), most notably sharing several members with the AxCx flavored Viranesir. As a result of this, there are some musical similarities, but at least going by the the lyrical content, Blliigghhtted is oriented a bit more towards the occult end of the shock rock spectrum, possibly making it easier for laypeople to digest. It’s still an especially challenging listen. While Kosmoskampf is marketed as a sort of black metal, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had instead been sold as some sort of extreme post-punk recording. Overlap and common ancestors aside, Blliigghhtted’s lengthy, dissonant songs make for easier comparisons to an act like Swans. It just so happens to be the complete antithesis of what I look for in music!

At this point, the reviewer took a break to wallow in his own unfamiliarity with the subgenres on display.

Kosmoskampf is a complete mess, but as far as I can tell, it’s an intentional mess. I remember seeing the term “critic-proof” somewhere while doing my perfunctory research for this review, and to put it bluntly, it’s the perfect description. Each of the songs is a 10-11 minute cesspit of whatever technique thrown together without much in the way of coherent organization. The constantly shifting tempos and repeated periods of pure dissonance don’t exactly tie things together, although the instrumentation stays fairly consistent. So far, I’ve been able to dredge up the occasional guitar phrase reminiscent of a melodic black metal recording, the occasional moaned vocals drenched in reverb, and so forth; in general there are some musical elements I can latch onto, and I can say with some confidence that the album isn’t complete noise. Beyond that, all bets are off. Performing such music must be interesting on a ritual level, but outside perhaps a live experience, a great deal of potential energy (or at least concert debauchery) goes missing.

Despite my attempts not to, I find Kosmoskampf‘s efforts endearing, perhaps influenced as I am by the performers’ antics outside the album. I still would not be surprised if few shared my admittedly nebulous opinions.

Raven Music selling sheet music of Emperor’s debut

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Raven Music Editions is a relatively new company that sells sheet music transcriptions of various ‘alternative’ musics, including black metal. Recently, they’ve published a transcription of In The Nightside Eclipse, Emperor’s classic debut whose quality and notoriety should require no introduction. While the rest of their catalog is fairly limited at this point (consisting of two non-metal albums by Ulver), supporting the company by purchasing these transcriptions at their website may allow them to transcribe more music. Given how much you can learn about a work of music from reading it and analyzing it, it’s my hope that this company is able to continue their work. I’d also like to hear from anyone who does end up purchasing these transcriptions, since the very act of putting music to notation involves some interpretation and opinions are understandably going to vary on how Raven handles that.

Upcoming Tours – Absu

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Spring 2016 will see Absu on their… cumbersomely named “Merelogical Nihilism Connexus Tour”. The main purpose of this tour is building up hype for Absu’s next studio album, which creatively will be named Apsu. As of now, said album is partially constructed, band frontman and percussionist Proscriptor claims that he’s completed recording the rhythm tracks, and makes statements that suggest that a great deal of effort has gone into the lyrics. Hopefully similar effort is being placed into the other aspects of the recording; word on the street is that Absu lost some critical direction and cohesion when they reformed. I guess we’ll just have to listen in; a release date has not yet been set for this material.

A list of confirmed tour dates follows. The gig in Somerville, MA places this technically in my commute radius.

March 17, 2016:  Richmond, VA – Strange Matter
March 18, 2016:  Charlotte, NC – Amos’ Southend (with Abbath & High On Fire)
March 19, 2016:  Charleston, SC – The Tin Roof
March 20, 2016:  Jacksonville, FL – Burro Bar
March 22, 2016:  Tampa, FL – Brass Mug
March 23, 2016:  Gainesville, FL – The Atlantic
March 24, 2016:  Atlanta, GA – The Basement
March 25, 2016:  New Orleans, LA – Siberia
March 26, 2016:  Houston, TX – Walter’s
March 27, 2016:  San Antonio, TX – The Korova
March 28, 2016:  Corpus Christi, TX – Boozerz
March 29, 2016:  Austin, TX – The Sidewinder
March 30, 2016:  Arlington, TX – Diamond Jim’s Saloon
March31, 2016:  El Paso, TX – The Sandbox
April 1, 2016:  Scottsdale, AZ – The Rogue
April 2, 2016:  San Diego, CA – Brick By Brick
April 3, 2016:  Los Angeles, CA – Complex
April 5, 2016:  Bakersfield, CA – Babylon
April 6, 2016:  Oakland, CA – Metro Operahouse
April 7, 201616:  Sacramento, CA – Starlite Lounge
April 8, 2016:  Portland, OR – Ash Street Saloon (Northwestern Black Circle Fest)
April9, 201616: Victoria, BC – Upstairs Cabaret
April10, 2016: Vancouver, BC – Astoria Pub
April 11, 2016:  Seattle, WA – The Highline
April 12, 2016:  Missoula, MT – The V
April 13, 2016:  Boise, ID – The Shredder
April 14, 2016:  Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Bar
April 15, 2016:  Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
April 16, 2016:  Kansas City, MO – The Riot Room
April 17, 2016:  St. Louis, MO – Fubar
April 18, 2016:  Omaha, NE – Lookout Lounge
April 19, 2016:  Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
April 20, 2016:  Milwaukee, WI – Frank’s Power Plant
April 21, 2016:  Columbus, OH – The Summit
April 22, 2016:  Pittsburgh, PA – The Smiling Moose
April 23, 2016:  Rochester, NY – Bug Jar
April 25, 2016:  Burlington, VT – T.B.A
April 26, 2016:  Portland, ME – Space Gallery
April 27, 2016:  Somerville, MA – ONCE Lounge
April 28, 2016:  Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus
April 29, 2016:  Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
April 30, 2016:  Raleigh, NC – The Maywood

Reencarnación – 888 (2015)

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Article by David Rosales

Obscure and wacky ’80s bands are always a treat to listen to. They bring the darkest side of Hellhammer or early Bathory while being completely unpredictable, without going to the completely unhinged music of hipsters like later Deathspell Omega. Reencarnación is another weird Colombian band that published a series of underground metal demos that would rightly be considered the true heirs to seventies progressive rock. Among the very measured use extra musical noise, such as a crowd, or a lamenting voice, there is even an interlude that makes use of a classical guitar and a violin.

888 (originally published as a self-titled) is not an album but a collection of old recordings (possibly remastered, given how clean they sound) put together as a compilation. This plays a lot like Infester’s only album, except songs are shorter and perhaps slightly more disorienting given their use of spasmic sections and percussion pauses that give it a strange feeling like that of a man gasping for air. The music basically consists of nonsense chromatic leads, Sarcofago-like thrashing, and mid-paced grindcore riffing. Quite endearing.

While what we have here is a delicious mixture of experimental and progressive thinking applied to anarcho-punk going through grindcore. Unfortunately, the recordings are section-oriented (but not precisely riff-oriented), forgetting about the importance of linking songs by some kind of theme, even if not by a melodic one. The result is a confusing, winding labyrinth that attempts to emulate the progressive rock of Emerson, Lake and Palmer in their most twisted hour, and succeeding to a large degree, as it suffers from the same sort of problems, only augmented by ignorance or inexperience.

Reencarnación’s 888 is certainly a very enjoyable album which you want to play while drinking alone in your room with your computer screen as the only light source as you read collections of BBS posts saved in a corner of the Internet by another obsessive nerd. However, this will not do as an example of great songwriting or endure objective scrutiny.

Deströyer 666 premieres “Live And Burn” off Wildfire

It sounds like K. K. Warslut has achieved his humble goals for Wildfire if “Live and Burn” is anything to go by. This promotional single sounds like a fairly by-the-numbers bit of 1st wave black metal worship. The aesthetics are modernized, the songwriting is intentionally basic, and so forth. Wildfire seems to still be on the schedule we mentioned when we first wrote about its upcoming release a few weeks ago. I don’t know how long this is going to stay in anyone’s rotation, but it sounds like reasonably good party metal and a safe bet at live shows, including their upcoming tour in Europe.

Defending Belus

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Article by David Rosales; read yet another (negative) contemporary review of Belus here

After an incursion into ambient metal that lasted for a few albums, Burzum was seemingly trying to make a comeback to metal instrumentation. But appearances can be deceiving, and what seems like a failed attempt at creating streamlined metal music may be, in fact, an attempt at riffing-up ambient music. There is also a hint that it is packaged into an integral release that has to be listened to as a whole. This does sound an awful lot like the premise of post-rock, and while there is a good deal of wallpaper repetition, there are also plenty of good ideas in what is the closest heir we have to Vikernes’ seclusion.

The old DMU reception of the album when it had just come out is spot on in its criticism, but much may be added that redeems this understated album. A very clear line of evolution can be traced from Det Som Engang Var through Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and the anti-black metal ambient expansion of Filosofem to Burzum’s 2010 release. For all intents and purposes, an album like Belus is the next logical step. That it cannot harness the energies of black metal while it attempts to spread like synth ambient is proof of the impermeability of distinct genres.

This shaky, middle-ground positioning was resolved marvelously with 2013’s Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, whose incomprehension by black metal fans shows it as a next filter in the practical evolution of transcendental metal as it maintains its ideals. The filters before them can be seen in the commencement of different underground metal genres, with Black Sabbath being the first obscure revolution, Slayer and Metallica on their debut leading the second, and the waves of speed-going-on-black as intermediary steps towards the third explosion of death metal, which in its technical fetish gave way to the more musical black metal. The next great purge takes place after 1995 as several of the best black metal musicians lean heavily towards minimalist ambient-focused projects, which in some cases turn into affairs that are more electronic than metal in instrumentation (Beherit’s Electric Doom Synthesis is one of the crown jewels of this very select group).

Weakened as it is in its most objective sense, the soft, layered and simple cadences and droning melodies unique to Vikernes’ mind are still more full and less candy-coated than the likes of Drudkh. And where, in Belus, the music seesm to drone on, the choice in length is never as much as the likes of Sunn O))) so that it falls completely into the background. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss was a trip to another dimension, each moment pushes forward, but the next album was a trance with subtle pulsations and bumps, breathing in and breathing out in a quality that cannot be measure quantitatively but qualitatively at an abstract level, admitting no materialistic distinction. The repetition scheme here is a compromise and application of what was learned in Filosofem, relying on a certain quality of endurance that Vikernes’ simple but multi-layered riffs focus on and uniquely shine for.

At worst, Belus is solid ambient music played on suboptimal instrumentation, and at best, a unique chance at perceiving these landscapes through metallic lenses which distort and bring to the fore particular contours and colors. When positioned at the right place and at the right time (having the right mentality), the listener may find himself submerged into dense forests, fuzzy with the brume of unreality. The vision that Belus presents is not that different from Burzum’s early efforts, but where the quick underground fan may detect watered-down content, others may see a matured and spiritually refined thinking.

This is not objective music, this is a secluded path for those who have digested Burzum’s music beyond its atomic particles and into the very essence, flow and nature of it. This fourth filtering-out of profane minds certainly leaves most behind, and though these words may seem spurious, those with a balanced and logic mind, a strong and idealist heart, and an avid curiosity may find themselves on the right path to this shrouded grove.