Showing posts with label black metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black metal. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

video review: 'forgotten paths' by saor

Just catching up on a few posts here - and this is a fantastic album. One of the best of 2019, definitely worth it!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

album review: 'forgotten paths' by saor

So when I covered Astronoid a week or so ago, I mentioned that in my exploration of black metal I tended to gravitate towards more of the atmospheric side and the stuff that was blending in sounds from other genres, adding a little more familiar colour and texture to ease me in. And in 2016, after a draining year where I had again not covered enough black metal and I desperately wanted to hear more, I found an album by an English band called Saor, where they were taking atmospheric black metal textures and blending them with Celtic folk...

And the rest is history. That album Guardians wound up as one of my favourites of 2016, a windswept, textured experience balancing out acoustics, strings, and even bagpipes against the surging tremolo guitar lines and guttural vocals for a wild, cacophonous experience rich with huge melodies, and absolutely keeping them as a band to watch going forward. And for me, it was those layered melodies that sealed the deal - almost a visceral, borderline power metal appeal at its root, it was a band striving to sound epic and they absolutely nailed it, so you can bet I was interesting in their newest project. Four massive songs, with Neige of Alcest contributing vocals to the title track, this was one of my most anticipated albums of 2019 - so what did Saor bring with Forgotten Paths?

Monday, November 26, 2018

video review: 'cease the day' by in the woods...

So here we go... yeah, kind of disappointing with this one, but it happens, I guess?

Next up, new season of Billboard BREAKDOWN, and hopefully it'll be something interesting in the next week, so stay tuned!

album review: 'cease the day' by in the woods...

So it seems like for the past three or so years I've reached the end of the year to discover I haven't covered as much black metal as I'd like to, and in 2016 I was relatively enthused to discover that the 90s atmospheric black metal group In The Woods... had reformed with a new vocalist and a new album Pure that year. I was a little bit less enthused to discover while listening to the album that Pure wasn't exactly a straightforward black metal album by any stretch. If anything it felt like a bait-and-switch - I remembered the huge melodic swells of Omnio and I had high expectations... only to get a project that was just as melodic, but also way more contemplative, clean, and owing more to both progressive metal and doom metal along the way. And here's the thing: in comparison to a lot of fan response I'd seen, I was a lot more positive on it than most, as I thought the writing put in a lot of heavy lifting and the melodies were as strong as ever - even as somebody who isn't really into doom metal or its offshoots, In The Woods... clicked for me.

So fast forward to now, I still have the feeling I haven't covered enough black metal, and out of nowhere I discovered In The Woods... was putting out another project! Seriously, I put this on the schedule myself, and I was excited for this: from the track listing it seemed more streamlined, reportedly they had increased the tempos and brought back more of the black metal elements with even some death metal touches... yeah, I had every reason to believe this could be great, so what did we get from Cease The Day?

Monday, October 8, 2018

video review: 'grave mounds and grave mistakes' by a forest of stars

So this was a mess... honestly, I was tempted just to put this on the Trailing Edge, but I wound up easily having enough for a full review, go figure.

But of course, what everyone's really talking about is...

album review: 'grave mounds and grave mistakes' by a forest of stars

You know, there was a time when I was starting to get into black metal that I was unsure if I'd be recommended acts I didn't like within the genre. That's the funny thing about extreme music and one reason why critics who don't exclusively specialize in it tend to hand out high scores more often, mostly because it's more organic. The good stuff rises to the top and picks up popularity, the bad or incompetent stuff just... doesn't, and winds up in the pits of obscurity.

Of course, the big exception to this rule is when a band slips into 'avant-garde' territory and is simply so unique that they seem custom-made for a cult following even if the quality isn't there - and on that note, A Forest Of Stars. I'll be very blunt and say that when I checked out their first few albums, I wasn't a fan whatsoever - and given my fondness for fantasy or at the very least Celtic folk tones you'd think they'd be up my alley, but with every listen I found the slapdash blend of black metal, quasi-futuristic psychedelic rock, and pompous neo-classical folk to be a total mess. Yeah, the poetry was okay, but the progressions were underwhelming, the production rarely rose above mediocre and nothing close to consistent, and the less I say about the attempted blend of male and female vocals, the better. I'll admit they got better with each passing album, but up until this release I'd only call them okay for some good violin work and some passable black metal segments, and I've never been a fan of the vocals across any of their projects. They reminded me a lot of Diablo Swing Orchestra, who at their best were able to balance the ridiculous camp with some genuine menace and chops but at their worst could come across as oversold and gimmicky, which is just as true about A Forest of Stars down to their fake origin story! And when I heard that this album was going to be revisiting sounds from their 2012 release A Shadowplay for Yesterdays - which is arguably where their theatricality picked up the most flop-sweat - I was steeling myself for a rough listen. How did it turn out?

Friday, September 28, 2018

video review: 'fortress of primal grace' by vallendusk

Man alive, I really did enjoy this - great black metal, sorry I got to it so late.

Now back to the hip-hop train and an episode of Resonators for which I'm genuinely excited - stay tuned!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

album review: 'fortress of primal grace' by vallendusk

It seems like every damn year around this time I make the statement that I just don't feel like I've covered enough black metal... and to be fair, some of that has come with schedule complications I've been struggling to work through over the past several months, but this review has been overdue for long enough!

So, Vallendusk. I first covered the Indonesian band way back in 2015 when I working to get into black metal, and while I had really dug their breakthrough album Black Clouds Gathering from 2013 for flat-out insane guitarwork and some really striking melodic composition balancing acoustic passages with more atmospheric black metal, their follow-up didn't quite resonate as much as I had hoped, mostly through expanding their sound towards folk metal in ways that only seemed to detract from a rock solid core. And what got a little frustrating is that the talent was still very much there, but either through production missteps or the introduction of some awkward clean vocals and organs or just a few weird compositional choices held the project back for me. Still a good record, just not quite great... but for all intents and purposes, Vallendusk had redoubled on the raw atmospheric black metal this time around for Fortress Of Primal Grace, and while I'm extremely late to the party, that was effectively what I was hoping they'd do here. And considering nobody else on YouTube seems to have covered this, might as well be me - so what did Vallendusk deliver with this?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

video review: 'ordinary corrupt human love' by deafheaven

So this review was incredibly frustrating to put together, but overall a welcome reminder to do your fucking research before you put out a loaded statement in a review. Either way, enjoy!

album review: 'ordinary corrupt human love' by deafheaven

I remember where I was when I reviewed New Bermuda - and when I say that I'm referring to my position with respect to black metal. Sure, I had done some of my research to familiarize myself with the trends in the genre, but I still felt very much like I was on the outside looking in, the hipster music critic using a band like Deafheaven for his inroads into the larger genre but getting scared off when it got too real...

And yet that didn't happen, and while I still wish I could find more black metal records to cover here, I'll freely admit my personal preferences within the genre have deepened and matured in the past three years - not the point where I'll outright dismiss the success Deafheaven has found in taking atmospheric black metal to a larger audience, but to me they've never risen past being just a gateway act. In fact, I'll be blunt: outside of maybe the occasional cut from Sunbather, I haven't really revisited Deafheaven in a long time, and I certainly wouldn't put them up against stronger material from the black metal that's made my year end lists the past three years. But on a similar note, I'm not really about to dismiss Deafheaven either - yeah, frontman George Clarke has not endeared himself to me whatsoever in some of his comments off the mic, but at their best Deafheaven can tap into the soaring crescendos and high points that drew me to atmospheric black metal in the first place, and where New Bermuda stumbled was trying to simultaneously double down on the heaviness and brighter rock segments where the clash felt discordant. So when I heard that Ordinary Corrupt Human Love was heading back in the direction of Sunbather to re-embrace their prettier atmospherics, I was actually looking forward to how this could turn out, especially as the band can be pretty intriguing on a lyrical level as well. So alright, what did we get from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love?

Monday, June 11, 2018

video review: 'stranger fruit' by zeal & ardor

You know, I have absolutely no idea how controversial this review will wind up being... but if anything, I'm more disappointed that I didn't like it more.

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN, and then whatever my Patrons vote for - enjoy?

album review: 'stranger fruit' by zeal & ardor

So the honest truth about much of the criticism I create is that it's pretty agnostic when it comes to the intent of the authors... or at least I try to be. As much as I might take issues with the ideology at the core of some work, I try to give everything its fair shake in execution. And sure, while there is something to be said for liking art that affirms your worldview and disliking art that rejects it, that's more amplification rather than a deciding factor - after all, I've heard enough anarcho-punk that while I might like or admire the politics, presentation ultimately pushes me away. 

But all of this comes from the fundamental assumption that the intentions of the artist are sincere, and while you do get your fair share of satires and genre deconstructions, artists that are openly disingenuous in their artistic pursuits and don't really give a shit about the aesthetic or ideas they're promoting can exist as well in a weird space. Now there are not that many acts in this lane - authenticity is a prized commodity from country to metal to punk to hip-hop, and flaunting your disdain for that tends to get you shoved out of a lot of spaces - but when there's a lot of money to be found they tend to pop up. You could make the argument that Limp Bizkit or the very least Fred Durst fell in this space for a time in the late 90s, using nu-metal and rap rock as a openly nihilistic cash grab artistry be damned, but I put that more along the lines of studio creations and reality show artists, where the money is the primary motivation but art can happen along the way. Then you get acts like Lil Dicky, who entered hip-hop to get famous to go on and do other things and to make a point that he could, which is one reason why so much of his music is one-note, nakedly contemptuous of good taste and tends to suck.

And then there's Zeal & Ardor, an act that when I first heard about it I was genuinely excited - following the wake of Algiers to fuse traditionally black spirituals, soul, and blues with black metal, that sounded awesome and indeed my first few listens really sucked me in... until I started seeing interviews where the band's frontman Manuel Gagneux said the band primarily started as a joke and dare on 4chan. And that would be fine - execution can overrule original intent, and I've seen art made for worse reasons - but both black metal and spirituals are two genres and styles that prize authenticity, and co-opting the latter for a cheap Satanic inversion felt in poor taste, especially given the current state of affairs in the world. But then something strange happened: the first Zeal & Ardor record actually got critical traction, and suddenly Gagneux had to expand a concept that he had approached somewhat haphazardly on the debut for something with a little more meat, and I was curious how on earth he could follow it up, especially considering he named the record in a clear reference to the Billie Holiday song. Maybe he'd take on these topics with more gravity, so okay... what did we find on Stranger Fruit?

Monday, May 21, 2018

video review: 'echoes from eta carinae' by alrakis

Yes, I know this has been LONG in coming, but I'm happy I got this out - great atmospheric black metal, really enjoyed this.

Next up... hmm, let's do KYLE and Billboard BREAKDOWN, so stay tuned!

album review: 'echoes from η carinae' by alrakis

Oh, I'm happy I finally got this one, the sort of project that I was originally going to put on the Trailing Edge but took off specifically to cover here in a full review, I was that excited about it...

Well, perhaps 'happy' isn't the right word, because today we're going to be talking about a brand of black metal that is pretty controversial - yes, even for black metal. This sub-subgenre is labeled DSBM, an acronym for depressive suicidal black metal, where the tones were more dreary and drone-like, the lyrics more nakedly introspective and dark... and that's the polite way of getting around how some of these acts could dig into some of the most transgressive and masochistic material both on and off the microphone. And if you do some research into what some of these bands did it can be shocking, enough to push away from exploring more - especially for me, given that I'm not really a huge fan of drone or doom metal and I'm behind schedule as it is - but more research unearthed some articles describing the raw catharsis this subgenre could trigger, that its exploration of such themes through the agency of art gave the artist and by extension the audience some form of release. And while I'm not quite sure I can buy into all of those themes, especially when the bands pair those tones with more conventional, naked aggression, it at least gave me some context.

And even with that, I'm not sure I needed to dig that much deeper with Alrakis - from my research, he's a German artist known for blending DSBM tones with a more atmospheric soundscape, which some have branded 'cosmic' black metal. He broke out in 2011 with Alpha Eri, but it's been seven years since, and he had a behemoth project here: a single track, over fifty two minutes long, with the title 'Echoes of Eta Carinae'. And while I initially thought I wouldn't have enough to say - after all, it's just one song - a single listen changed my mind and convinced me I would have to cover this at length. So what was so compelling about this that I took it off the Trailing Edge?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

video review: 'the scars of man on the once nameless wilderness (i and ii)' by panopticon

And man alive, this took a ton to finish. Next up, Kali Uchis - stay tuned!

album review: 'the scars of man on the once nameless wilderness (i and ii)' by panopticon

I'm not sure without Panopticon I'd have gotten into black metal.

Oh, it was a genre I was exploring, but it was mostly at arm's length, tentatively probing into alien walls of screaming guitars, hammering drums and howled vocals, and while the huge melodies were appealing in the more atmospheric material, I was waiting for that special record to really click. And then came Panopticon, blending in elements of bluegrass and folk and country, genres I knew well, and with records like Kentucky served as my bridge into a genre that captured the primal character of Appalachians, both at its most abandoned and wild to the mountains ravaged by the coal industry and desperate poverty. Yeah, even though I've always found the lyrics from Panopticon nearly impossible to make out - and project mastermind Austin Lunn has no interest in making them easy - there was something to his guttural roars that painted a stark picture to pull me back again and again, culminating when he released Autumn Eternal and it made my year-end list for the best records of 2015.

So, three years later... and we have a two-hour double album, half of which was atmospheric black metal, the other half country folk with an ambitious breadth of instrumentation that almost seemed to imply a more progressive side coming through with this band. And with that album title, it was hard to avoid the thought that Austin Lunn might be returning to the more stark political subtext that hammered through Kentucky. And while I knew this was going to be a LOT to fully take in... hell, I was on-board, so what did I find on The Scars Of Man On The Once Nameless Wilderness (I and II)?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

video review: 'TRIDENT WOLF ECLIPSE' by watain

Well, I'm not going to deny this black metal is a little outside my comfort zone... but hey, it actually wound up closer to something I'd like more than I expected. Interesting review, to be sure.

Next up... I'm not sure, we'll see!

album review: 'trident wolf eclipse' by watain

So when I've talked about black metal, I haven't really talked much about record labels - and that's mostly because as a frequently controversial metal subgenre that has remained almost entirely underground, most major labels and distributors don't touch it, and that suits groups just fine. Now on the one hand that can make finding certain black metal records a real pain in the ass, because distribution can be limited and scarce... but on the flip side, if you hear that a black metal group signed to a major label or distributor, more often than not you could give odds that the group will have diluted or diversified their sound.

Now granted, when it came to Swedish black metal act Watain in 2013, some of that you could have predicted already. While their early records did showcase some impressive shredding and a theatrical brand of theistic Satanism - which of course led to the sort of elaborate live show that was intensely controversial - I personally never found them all that challenging or abrasive. The production was always pretty clean, the vocals were never too guttural, and the song structures felt more accessible. And by the time they signed with Century and put out The Wild Hunt, openly dabbling in tones that were more progressive or doom-inspired with even clean vocals, they were primed for that crossover and had the sales to prove it, even the atmosphere, intensity, and writing had taken a bit of a dip along the way... and then close friend of the band and occult rock artist Selim Lemouchi committed suicide. It was a moment that shook the band deeply and drove them back to expanding on the desperate dark empowerment themes that characterized their full-length debut in 2000, a truly nasty little album that might have textures that'll satisfy black metal purists, but really doesn't showcase the refined compositional strengths that would start to come later on Casus Luciferi. So if they were going back to that tone and style as seasoned veterans, this could make for a pretty damn potent listen, right?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018


Well, this was fun. Not sure how many of you are going to be into it, but I'm happy I got to cover it regardless, there's definitely an audience that'd love to hear more of this.

And next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!