The English translation of Tero Ikäheimonen’s comprehensive Finnish black metal book, Pirunkehto – Suomalaisen black metallin tarina, is coming out September 15th on Svart Records with the English title The Devil’s Cradle. The book features interviews and career retrospectives of Beherit, Impaled Nazarene, and a bunch of other bands who do not count and have no reason to be in the same book as they suck and play crossover thrash with high-gain guitar pedals and RAC/oi themed pop-punk . These modern black ‘n’ roll bands aren’t even from the same era; they are just poseurs.
Infamous have delivered us yet another split with a weaker but by no means incompetent band. Winter Darkness provide the almost filler this time on Symbols of Scarlet Revenge, playing somewhat generic, riff salad black metal that doesn’t really go anywhere special on this split has promise if they could unite the various parts together in order to express something greater than merely “We actually play black metal, we wrote riffs, they’re not random, and our music is not that so bad that it will make the Death Metal Underground editor press a power drill into his skull.”1 In their defense, Winter Blackness use RAC-like drumming, and songs that conserve sneering tension that sometimes resolves on “Demons of Winter Blackness” and leaves you wishing the band would explode on “Frozen Nocturnal Blood”. A slow burning match that burns out into darkness rather than lighting a fire is not the best way to conclude a record. At least Winter Darkness are way more aggressive than Gratzug’s half of the Infamous / Gratzug split.
The following is a short list of black metal releases (with a commentary on each) that would general fall off the edge of the usual stylistic lines that Death Metal Underground follows when looking at genre releases. These are all exceptional and form part of what could, in hindsight, be described as the lone wolves of an established and matured black metal genre — generally unnoticed or passed by without receiving substantial attention among the waves of excess of the 21st century; treasures hidden in plain sight for those with a developed sense beyond mere form.
Continuing a prolific streak of distinct and high-quality recordings, Sardinia’s Infamous summons up the dormant spirit of black metal on this recently released and apparently untitled split album with Gratzug from Bavaria.
In 1998, a few black metal musicians — many of whom faced legal troubles in their home countries — came together to make a recording. The result, Asgardsrei, captured black metal in transition: its epic past, its roots in punk merged with Oi, and its tackling of unpopular subject matter, in this case out-of-the-closet NSBM.
This form of music differed NSBMTM that was to follow which meant exclusively Drudkh-style droning sugar-substitute melodies and battle-related titles with neo-Romantic lyrics:
Alone I wander
Wastelands of the soul
Among the corpses and ash
A single flower rises
Kill the Jews with fire
Absurd back in the day combined a poetic style that might be called “immaturism,” a wide-ranging complaint with the modern world, and yes, some rather violent ideas. It defied categorization. Their debut album, Facta Loquuntur, sounded at times like ultra-simplistic punk with lyrics from a child’s point of view, pointing out not policy failures or physical breakdown in Western society, but its completely backward spirit and denial of all existential importance. Always on the edge of black metal, Absurd both increased the discernible Oi/RAC influence and put together more black metal style riffing, creating a hybrid that kept both voices without allowing the extremes of either to take over.
Fast-forward to 2012. Absurd — now with none of the 1999 members — re-issues Asgardsrei in a new form. As it is arguably the most musically interesting album from Absurd, combining the raw forest metal (this is the band that wrote “Green Heart” after all) with greater proficiency and alertness, it could be a big seller for this band. Unfortunately, they decided to under guise of a re-master actually alter this album. First they turned up the guitars and turned down keyboards, background sounds, etc. They replaced the subtle intro with patriotic bluster and industrial percussion. Then they either modified or added drums to give the album a constant kick-happy Oi beat. Finally, they modified vocals to sound more like the recent Oi/metal hybrid the band has been putting out. The result crushed all subtlety and made this album very much the exact thing this band in its original form would have recoiled at.
Thuringian plain, deep dark forest
Evil dwells on there in the woods
Snowcovered hills, cold winds blowing
Romantic place, is it understood ?!
Evil in the forest in Germany’s Green Heart !
Hateful savages, strong black minds
Out of the forest, kill the human kind
Burn the settlements and grow the woods
Until this romantic place is understood !