Megalith Grave / Entsetzlich – Beyond Morbid Fascinations of Cryptic Spirits (2017)
One-song-per-band splits are great for the audience to take a quick and decisive look at what bands have to offer these days, and it helps us shift through the fodder quickly, or be convinced of a project’s value right away. Each band occupies less than five minutes and we are able to get a good look at their method and overall atmosphere. These two are raw black metal, which already gives the listener an idea of what they are in for. Audiophile pussies may rightfully stay away, and those obsessed with riff complexity sanctity can go listen to Testament.
Megalith’s track, ‘Immense Despair Emits From Candlelight Orbs’, plays on the drum style made popular by Fenriz‘ minimalism, and getting a functional profit from it, fluctuating in a satisfying way and maintaining trance at a proper pace and exchange of pulses per section that keeps things fresh but allows the listener to sink into the atmosphere as vocals advance the narrative almost imperceptibly. The second track, ‘These Vast Abyssic Tombs Are My Kingdom’ by Entsetzlich, comes closer to what Les Legiones Noires were doing in terms of taking liberties with their minimalism and rough soundscaping. Taking a deep look at black metal under the religion of the riff and the aping of rock-derived music, we can understand music like this as the link between black metal and something like dungeon synth. As a trial track, this is promising as Entsetzlich is very expressive and shows a sense of steady but very measured development throughout. A real test will be how they manage to not make an album simply out of ‘infernal jingles’ disconnected from each other or not doing much on their own.
Let’s vote for more of this, preach it right and left, and try and favor these splits more even if traditionally it has not been the preferred format. Infamous has done a good job, for instance, of helping us avoid a lot of shitty bands by doing splits with them and showing us how boring and unimportant they can be with one song. We will never hear anything from them again. As for these two, they seem moderately worth your time, if you are into and understand what raw metal is about, and if it connects to you in a personal way. In 2017, very little else is as honest and ‘real’ as actual raw black metal.
Vaal – Doudeskraaft (2017)
Finally, this is what we would expect Hammerheart Records to be releasing under their umbrella. Vaal plays unadultered Dutch black metal, an idiosyncratic melodic ‘war’-rough take on harsh black metal that stands out for its honesty and promising flexibility. Vaal start out with a track which would not be out of place among the releases by bands like Tarnkappe, while not overdoing it and being better at evaluating the staying power of riffs and songs, bringing the opening track to a close after less than three minutes.
The second track surprises us with a droning synth that accompanies the equally droning guitar in a dance-like 1-2-3 signature that lulls us into a strange and foreboding atmosphere without overdoing it or stretching it too much. The latter third of the song brings a slope that accentuates and makes a gesture that gives the song a bit of a curve without disrupting its linear-minded drone. The third song gives us yet another take, sounding like a punk-n-roll tune covered in raw black metal style, ‘Lamentatie’ has a strange feeling of transposition and distortion that is clumsy and childish but also satisfying.
Towards the end of this demo, Vaal gives us a more aggressive raw underground delivery of drone-like aggression that shifts away from the purely Dutch influence and into the Franco-German sphere done in a satisfying way, even though it is not even close to the best of this style. The lamentable closing track is a jumpy Infamous-club-meets-Netherlands that does nothing to give weight to the demo and bids farewell to the audience with a better version of that joke party-punk black ‘n’ roll of Finnish clowning asshats.
Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect – Canticle Bound In Spirit – The Faith In Vampyric Blood (2017)
An opening intro of just bass accompaniment and melody played in one instrument is both promising and worrying, given both the precedent of mighty Necromantia and the hordes of hipsters that ape empty bullshit. When next Unholy Vampiric Slaughter Sect are able to show us what they really have to offer besides the odd intro, we are confronted with a freak show of screams and growls over an almost electronic beat that becomes ridiculous at some points and almost stadium rock at others. There is almost no sense of narrative and the second song (or first actual song) sees the band starting a new song right in the middle of the track. The next tracks include a “Dark electro” tune and more pseudo black metal nonsense like the one just described.
While this release will lure many, enticing it by ticking some boxes, this is a straight warning that this is a false positive for good underground or raw black metal. The worse part of Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect in this release is the childish drumming, which borders on the moronic, and a strangely mediocre lack of musical sense. Mediocre is always more difficult to detect than utterly bad, because mediocre is often mix with some honesty or some near hits, and so somewhat camouflaging its worse traits.
This record is a good warning for those looking for a dark experience in black metal, but we should also stress how its stupidity should not detract from the possibility of other projects being worth your time. Even if this plays like Misha Mansoor trying to do raw black metal, you can train yourself to listen through the images and the fals positive signs, and use it as an exercise to distinguish it from the real deal on more serious releases.
Funeral Altar – Black Mark of the Lost Path (2017)
Starting out fabulously with an enviable necro sound of the most exquisite modulation, Funeral Altar assault us with mid-to-fast-paced droning riff that switches speeds and beats while being afflicted by an inhuman vocal performance blanketed by the rest of the instruments. Just when we feel the first track is going to go Demoncy on us (that is, boring us to death with melodic low-register drones without taking the music anywhere) Funeral Altar varies the register and approach to riff ever so slightly, to bring some variety to the atmosphere itself, articulating but not ‘progressing’ out of order in a way that would obliterate said atmosphere. Climax in this style is always difficult, and Funeral Altar manage to construct a functional one by a strange obfuscation that blurs the music for a moment and then bringing the pace down for an arrested mid-paced trudging that morphs into a stronger pulse towards the end to musically drive the song towards the end as fast d-beats foretell a final cosmic retribution.
So much for ‘Death Mastery’; now, the second track, ‘Black Howls of Entrails’, does not rely on a closed template in the sense of simply repeating the flow of the previous track. It is written in the same style and keeps to the same closed toolkit in riffing style and song-advancing methods, but it is a completely different narrative experience than the first track. The decision to place this second track last was probably the most sensible one, because it seems to allow the guitar to depart from the mid-low center register it commonly inhabits more quickly into a higher-register melody, to then come back, and it is also more prone to rhythmic departures from the band’s norm. In this sense, the first track has entranced us and made us ready for what is to come.
As a whole and in its singularities, Black Mark of the Lost Path is a satisfying true underground demo that bears the marks of the best of the modern Satanic underground in its Germanic style. We can also see in the work of Funeral Altar the perfect fusion of riff-based atmosphere that does not leave behind the drums and makes a smart use out of the vocals. I would take this any day over the totally over-aped Demoncy.
Siech – Total Filth (2017)
Here be more Germanic style modern Satanic black metal, but this time played by actual Germans. Again, this should not be called ‘war’ metal simply because of a riffing choice, Blasphemy may be an inspiration but it is simply ridiculous to confuse the newer approaches and developments with the anti-climatic work of beyond-boring Blasphemy tits. There is a fury in Siech’s approach, however, that brings them somewhat closer to their Dutch neighbors, and which distinguishes them from a purely German approach. This ever-so-slight blood transgression is duly paid for, as Total Filth manages to be less effective than the best bands using this approach while at the same time becoming distracted with Dutchisms.
As the repetitiveness of the compositions is superficially blanketed with weak attempts of bringing disparate though sort of compatible Dutch muddyings, Siech never quite manages to get the listener past the atmospheric introduction phase. This work is only a stylistic dot in the landscape, the band does not quite manage to build actual compositions. The reader is encouraged to take Black Mark of the Lost Path over Total Filth, and the interested student to study the similarities and differences to develop a sense of what good black metal ought to be.
Tags: 2017, article, black 'n roll, Black Metal, compact cassette, demo, demos, entsetzlich, flowing black metal, funeral altar, megalith grave, review, siech, split, unholy vampyric slaughter sect, vaal