Obsequiae, Minnesota’s organic, medieval metal outfit, is preparing for the release of their sophomore LP, Aria Of Vernal Tombs, through 20 Buck Spin later this month. While the anxiously awaited album is already reaping critical pre-release acclaim, the physical embodiments of the record has been very slightly delayed, so in response, the band and label have issued another new passage of glorious audio from the platter to the masses. American Aftermath has lent their assistance in issuing In The Absence Of Light through an exclusive premiere from Obsequiae’s Aria Of Vernal Tombs.
You can listen to In the Absence of Light on Soundcloud.
Obsequiae’s debut, Suspended in the Brume of Eos, was featured on DMU’s best of 2011 album selections.
Tagged as black metal and ambient, Wende is a one-man project that attempts to not only appropriate Burzum’s style, but also build on it, effectively using it to express something different. In this release we find riffs that are not right out of early Burzum, but that one could easily associate with Hvis Lyset Tar Oss. But the approach is not smooth and layered as in that album. There is a diversity of expressions in Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft but it is presented as a series of pictures which are not necessarily strongly connected to each other in a musical way, requiring the listener to make somewhat of a leap and follow the song by maintaining the emotion and atmosphere in mind. In regards to this organization, this album is more similar to Filosofem, more ambient-oriented. It even has the long dungeon synth sections and songs.
Although the subtlety of Burzum is not lost on Wende, and patience is certainly not lacking in this release, the savant genius of Vikernes makes all the difference in the world. The strong link that one can find between Master Vikernes’ riffs and how his songs build up and flow is completely missing here. On the other hand, there are very good riffs that morph naturally over relatively long stretches of time. Riffcraft here is good, but evocative songcraft may fall a tad of the magical offering Varg made to the gods again and again.
The synth music in this release is not allowed to sink into the listeners mind as Tomhet does, slowly extending only to fade away ever so gently. Wende integrated the synth ambient music as sections within metal instrumented songs and experimented with the possibilities this might open. The risks of this decision are not small and the strength of the final creation was visibly affected by it.
Props to Wende for not falling into the trap of being a clone of the band he admires. He took it and ran his own way, attached his own ideas, and made what he deemed were corrections of some sort to the weaknesses in Burzum’s music. The intention is worthy of praise, and the end result is interesting. The end result ofVorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft is not on par with the masterworks of the Norwegian sage, but it is an outstanding disciples’ effort worthy of attention.
Being a casual listener, it is easy to miss black metal’s essence completely. It is easy to think that it is just some repetitive “atmospheric riffing”. What we forget is that verbal descriptions of things do not reflect reality in its entirety but are just placeholders for things we know. And for things we do not know, they just serve as attempts to describe aspects of the object in question. This is why, when it comes to detailed descriptions of feelings, we resort to poetic language, metaphor and example, a simple “sad” or “happy” is not enough to express the experience precisely. This is also where the difficulty of expressing and discussing the success or failure of a music to convey something lies. Some critics resort to evaluating purely musical aspects in a technical way which lets them make solid judgements from the vantage point of tradition and taste. Taste itself lies in the middle-ground between what is considered objective and subjective, since it is a concept developed communally, not individually.
Absconditus take black metal’s most superficial description at face value and runs with it. Kατάβασις (Katavasis) is a collection of repetitive, atmosphere-inducing-oriented pieces that serve more as a background than as proper music. The tracks here all sound like introductions to something else. Simple repetition along with a little groovy improvisation on the drums and a melody here and a melody there carry this set of intros to the end. One gets the feeling that something is about to start and then each track ends. And then the album reaches an uneventful stop. It is as if Absconditus is just making a series of proposals of ideas that could become songs. Even if Absconditus would take its time more and develop actual songs, the way ideas were presented in Katavasis was cliche-oriented and crowd-pleasing, so that the result would still be average at best. This project/album needs to be restarted from scratch.
Luciferian Rites play black metal in a style that at first calls to mind middle-period Graveland. The hand-strum technique outlining chords is also in line with Immortal’s At the Heart of Winter and less obviously with Burzum’s technique. Immortal haunts this monument of an album in its most aggressive parts, but it is the commanding voice of Fudali that we hear echoing through the halls. Once the first impression has passed and the inventory of recognizable influences has been done, though, the individual beauty slowly comes out. It does not reveal itself, as this is very subtle music. It is the listener that must tune in, must hang on to the song, the album, and hear as every inseparable and utterly dependent — and necessary — part of its construction works together to create the transcendental black metal experience.
Drums play an incredibly important role here, lending an eloquence not even Immortal or Graveland, from whom Luciferian Rites borrow their musical language, show. The Achilles’ Heel of When the Light Dies is that songs start and end in strong statements that only serve as such because nothing comes before or after them, respectively. After a song starts, though, it is carried through a seamless transition of sections whose single riffs appear to be the most simple but that brought together create a magnificent super-riff. This could go on and serve as the song itself, but the band will often take a break in the middle, only long enough so that it counts as one. Unlike most other bands who use this structure, Luciferian Rites does not do this as a means to restart a song that has ran out of gas. Instead, in this brief moment the listener’s attention is brought back from the stupor of the first part of the song into conscious focus, only to renew the journey.
Some will say this album is seen in a positive light on this site because it adheres to old school precepts. Simple-minded people prefer simple explanations, it relieves them from the burden of having to think analytically. The truth is much more complex. Luciferian Rites excels in the subtle art of coherent, sensible, and purposeful composition, independently of the style. In their effort to find simple explanations and excuses not to have to face judgement and challenge their own views and the status quo, composition choice is equated to musical style. To some degree this is true, some styles have been built upon essentially flawed concepts (see Deathcore). But it is not true to the extent that we excuse bad composition by calling it stylistic difference, because “we are just different, but no one is superior”. This misplaced humanitarian impulse drives art to starvation and highlights gimmick and novelty acts as the masses of casual listeners turn their heads towards momentary satisfaction.
When the Light Dies is a strong candidate to the Mexican metal pantheon, standing in quality besides the best of legendary countrymen Avzhia and Cenotaph. Calling to mind the sensibility of Ancient’s Svartalvheim, Luciferian Rite’s sophomore release expertly builds on the classic works, sweeping aside accusations of retro-worship in a confident gesture of originality.
Demoncy’s new release: Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) is set for international release onJune 29th on both CD and vinyl LP formats via Forever Plagued Records. Although originally released in 2003 after years of mysterious silence, the renamed Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) is an entirely new recording. Whereas the original 2003 album was recorded with a full band lineup, this Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) was recorded solely by Demoncy founder Ixithra, with the first four tracks being entirely new compositions.
There are some records that achieve greatness through their studied and natural use of the musical language that our civilization has been building up for many centuries. Such a record was Close to the Edge, reaching immortality with its self-titled piece. There are other records that do away with everything that came before them and in an unprecedented bout of madness envision doors to previously undreamed of realities. The key to such a door was given to Parabellum and what they found beyond that wallcrystallized into Sacrilegio.
Unique and meaningful in its expression, Parabellum’s music is hard to trace back to any defined subgenre at the time, perhaps even today. We know it is metal. We know it arises from the 1980s underground tradition and if we look very hard we may find traces of proto-black-death, hardcore and what can only be described as organized noise. At the same time, the band’s music cannot conceivably be cased into any of them, nor can it be wholly accounted for as a concoction of the same. Parabellum’s Colombian underground metal stands entirely alone and makes use of sounds, patterns and rhythms from its influences but is never defined by them.
While the compositions in it date back to 1983 or 1984, Sacrilegio was released in 1987 and is comprised of two tracks. Both of them, Madre Muerte (Mother Death) and Engendro 666 (Foetus-Abomination 666), are of relatively long duration by metal standards. None of them, however, feel overextended. While difficult to gauge here, this writer perceives no obvious loose ends, and no purposeless spaces in the pieces. Not interspersed, not interlocked, but breathing in living symbiosis with the extreme underground expressions we find silences, Azagthothean guitar solos together with painful, woeful laments.
Uncouth, savage and violent, Parabellum’s music also takes us through moments of passive dementia and ecstatic delirium. Together these propound stark, bleak and at points suffocating experiences of desperation resembling but going far beyond the misanthropic nature worship of Vidar Vaaer. If I could put my impression of Parabellum’s music in concise terms, I would describe it as what I picture is life as seen through the eyes of a mad epileptic.
Khors is a Ukrainian black metal band formed in 2004. Coming from the same general scene as Drudkh and Nokturnal Mortum, Khors’ brand of black metal is made by mostly simple riffs and long, simple and slow melodies. These are all very typical of the Slavic black metal sound. Accessible to the novice listener of black metal, Khors offers an experience that lies closer to what purists would consider closer to black metal than most mainstream acts rising the flag of the genre despite the real nature of their music
Cold consists mostly of simple guitar strumming outlining singable melodies with constant rock-like drums that use the double bass intermittently. The music relies on heavy repetition with very little changes. This is compensated by the tightening and releasing the drums provide through the simple effect of using and not using double bass drums. Particularly understated keyboards provide the spacious backdrop in which ghastly vocals carefully make sparing apparitions.
Production in this reissue of the album is stellar, outshining that of releases by countrymen Nokturnal Mortum. The rock-oriented sensibilities of this Ukranian black metal could tick off purist fans of the more extreme expressions of black metal, but Cold remains a black metal album at its center. Content-wise representing little more than a mouthful for the experienced listener, this is a perfect release for those starting out with the genre. Strongly recommended as an authentic gateway album.
Arising from modern popular music, underground metal has retained many vestigial traits that several artists have consciously tried to erase and that some observers have started to question as detrimental to the effective expression of the genre. As the title of this article reveals, the case in point is the matter of albums as song collections. A good example of this becoming a hindrance to the message of the music is Gorguts’ Obscura.
Clocking in at one hour, Obscura consists of twelve songs, a little over the typical ten tracks of metal albums since the mid 1970s. The number ten has traditionally been associated with wholeness or completeness. In the most mainstream heavy metal circles it is considered only right to fill that exact number. No more, no less. A lot of death and black metal albums have veered slightly away from this rule and tend close their albums with eight or twelve tracks. Grindcore degenerates have never let numbers stand in their way and have completely given the finger to this rule as Repulsion, Napalm Death and Blood have shown us with their two-digit track lists.
The reason why more original and progressive-minded artists pay no attention to these unofficial guidelines is because whatever the artist has to say in an album should not be restricted by too many tracks. Even worse than being limited by the number of tracks is having to fill up tracks in order to reach the required number. This is precisely how we get the albums with “filler” tracks. Tracks nobody cares for but which make the album more “meaty” for those who care about such things.
More important than the adherence to a particular number of songs or tracks in an album is the fact that most bands produce precisely that: individual tracks bundled up in collections. This is Gorguts’ worse enemy even on their classic of classics. Every one of the songs up to the sixth track, Clouded, expresses a very distinct message in its method. After that, we basically get more of the same. The songs aren’t bad at all, but they do not add anything more to the album except extra minutes and more good songs whose essence is not any different from the ones before them. It’s basically thesaurus recitation.
Some propose that metal needs to look beyond the number, both as a rule and as a kind of indulgence. Just because that you have more songs does not mean you have to put them in the album. Just because you have more riffs does not mean they need a song to contain them. It is suggested that the album format in underground metal be exchanged for the classical opus format, where we have movements belonging to a coherent whole work, in which saying the same thing again and again is unnecessary and highly discouraged but in which consistency in style and voice is required to a healthy but not over-restrictive degree. Metal is not young anymore, the time to consciously take the step to the next level has come.
Advertised as a black metal release, Terra contains each and every one of the traits people might identify the genre with. The raspy vocals eclipsed by the distortion of the guitars, the dominating use of tremolo or simple strumming on the guitars and the steady and smoothly changing pace of the songs, and even a folk melody or two.
A few tell-tale signs tell us this is more in the vein of post-rock with progressive pretension. The inclination towards plain major-scale melodies can be considered superficial, but more often than not does separate black metal from the foreigners who are only borrowing its tools. The alien scent is most offensive in the blatant filler of Dj-groove sections which almost bring to mind Periphery’s Matt Halpern.
The importance of dissecting Terra lies in the relevance of knowing how to separate black metal’s “atmospheric” tendencies versus post-metal and the lesser (most) ambient music whose sole point is to “create atmosphere”. Black metal creates atmosphere and that atmosphere becomes a tool to what it is saying. Terra’s music is atmosphere.
Music is not about pointing out different elements.
Music, a work of music, is about integrating all the elements.
If you are able to say “this is a very rhythmical part/this is a very emotional part/this is a very technical part/this is a very atmospheric part”, you are not making music. You are, maybe, only producing some (could be also very interesting and very beautiful) sounds.
When receiving descriptions of new releases from labels, one can read all sort of outrageous and preposterous claims on par with “the beginning of a new era in metal”, “unprecedented innovation”, “I’m tougher than Vladimir Putin” or “We went to Afghanistan to bring democracy to the people”. It wasn’t all that surprising, then, to read the first introductory line and find that young Indonesian band Exhumation was being hailed as a classic. I rolled my eyes at this and proceeded to get my face punched.
Exhumation plays a violent proto-black metal in the vein of Sarcófago and an aftertaste of Blasphemy. I will stress that they play in the vein of those bands. But they escape the clone-curse and give the listener a familiar but altogether new and original experience. As underground metal styles death and black have moved well past the initial stages of formation and definition, most bands have turned to simple rehashing or attempts at innovation. Unfortunately innovation is often perceived superficially. We should talk about progress and not innovation, which is often confused with novelty. I would not hesitate to call this album true progress. Albeit a conservative, cautious progress in this particular style.
Opus Death, a silly title which made me seriously doubt the album at first, is Exhumation’s second album. Exhumation understand the language and are proficient users of the same, knowing how to formulate their own statements. Not only are they original in what they say, but they also learn from the classics by avoiding their errors and carefully expanding where there is potential to expand. Ideas and the riffs they span let the listener become familiar with them as is required in the black metal tradition, but they do not overstay their visit nor overstep their roles. Transition riffs are adequately unstable and work effectively with drum patterns to create the gasping effect so that the listener can breath before the music goes on, unrelenting.
Both highly chromatic, Slayeresque solos as well the simple, rough and tonal melodies make an appearance in the record without sounding disparate in any way. The balance of taste and style always carefully preserved. Much can be said of the placing of the solos which is always optimal and contributing to the emotional upheaval they cause within the emotional predictability of this kind of music.
Another feature of this album that should not be overlooked or underestimated is the use of piano and guitar interludes right at the middle and at the end of the album, respectively. It is hard not to draw a parallel with Blessed are the Sick, but I am willing to venture and say that as to their contribution to the album as a whole, they are much more powerful and relevant in Opus Death. Both beautiful in their minimalist rendition of the harmonic skeleton behind the ripping black metal of the band, they contrast the slaughtering slashes of the rest of the album and serve as inverted climaxes.
Trying to praise this as uncompromising is an insult to Exhumation. Rather, the mature and sensible compromises Exhumation incurs in are what account for the steady and sure steps of their music. It might be too soon to call it a classic, but it sure feels like one. Far from naive or wanting in any technical respect, Opus Death shows us that even though traditional and true underground metal may be difficult to carry on whilst being original, it is not impossible, but we need to look beyond juvenile feelings of rebellion to do so. Metal is not young anymore, act accordingly.