TEN FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a themed list devoted to grouping together albums of similar interest that I missed throughout the year 2019. These albums were overlooked for review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I have a policy of covering 99% of everything I receive in some form, be it mini-review or full-feature, so don’t hesitate to send anything and everything my way.
Here I present a ten album sampler of some of the absolute best black metal music I’ve received for review consideration (so far) this year. Consider it a necessity of captivity, being in the throes of so much exceptional quality that the bar raises ever higher in real time. Most of these albums made it here to Ten From the Tomb because I couldn’t manage the time for a long-form review or because I really didn’t have more than a paragraph or two worth of insight beyond banal description. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with 10 more albums from different styles, genres, themes, etc.
Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because I am not doing full reviews for these releases! I always have some quality control in mind and look for expressive, meaningful, or just damn heavy releases that hold value without gimmickry or bland plagiarism. This weeks focus was chosen because I’d realized a trend of black metal coming out at the end of the month and not always having enough time to cover enough of it for my own tastes, here I’m covering bands on the very precipice of greatness. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate the friendly and positive interactions I’ve had with all thus far. Think my opinions are trash and that I suck? Want to totally tell me off, bro? Click away and let’s all live more sensible lives full of meaningful interactions. I’m too old and bored with people to care.
|Title [Type/Year]||Firebrands and Ashes [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Ván Records|
An early black metal project from folks who’d reach greater visibility within thier more thrashing side projects Scythian and Craven Idol, this black/folk metal influenced entity now appears at its most sophisticated height on their sophomore full-length, ‘Firebrands and Ashes’. The most clear hints here are of the pre-2005 Primordial era that’d not forget its raw black metal roots even amidst gorgeous melodic frontispieces. The title track is simple yet eloquent example of this phenomenon, a pridefully harsh beating with a memorable lead driven refrain that repeats just before wearing out its stride. To be frank, and perhaps somewhat out of line, I’d not intended to write about this album (despite liking it quite a bit) but I’d felt a ruthlessly stupid review on Metal-Archives needed some kind of counterbalance in the SEO for the thing– It really is a fine album that is above average in every aspect. I’d say it isn’t a perfect listen, there are some trudging moments along the way, particularly “Ram in a Thicket”, that make the record feel overly long even at ~44 minutes. If grandiose folkish immersion, melody, and the warmer spectrum of black metal are a winning combination on your part then I believe Crom Dubh will offer intense and worthy concentration.
|Title [Type/Year]||Enitharmon [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Atanas|
The graying ‘self’ and the dissolution of satisfaction with anything, everything, en générale is what powerful desiccant I’d felt when pressured by this sand-etched and spirit defeating post-black metal record from Slovakian band Atanas. It’d absorb the very blood through my skin, carve away the strength from musculature, and weaken the skeleton from the whole, skull first. ‘Enitharmon’ is surely kissed on the temples by Austere‘s graceful ballet of the harsh and the violet suede ease yet I never felt like it were just another post-black record ambling on aimlessly. I am grateful for any music that can press the sorrow of the subconscious up beyond its skin deep hiding place, for all of the blood that’d spill from the cavity emerged there is relief for the open air it stings within. If you are a huge fan of Tujarot as I am make sure to support this equally high quality release but more importantly if you’re likewise a fan of Sombres Forêts, Woods of Desolation and early Drudkh there is that same sense of warming condemnation within.
|Title [Type/Year]||Zarathustrian Impressions [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Folkvangr|
The well of Nietzschean thought surrounding his “death of God” era philosophical needling is perhaps one of the most improperly summarized bouts of 19th century wisdom the world over. A body of work complex (and derivative) enough to be seen as a certain biblical presence for the free-thinker is an excellent foil for the eternally thoughtful realm of black metal and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the application of that foundation within Philadelphia, Pennsylvania melodic black/death metal band Polemicist‘s debut ‘Zarathustrian Impressions’. There is some joy in the stoic elitism of “Concerning the Rabble”, not out of any personal cruelty but for the presence it provides while the band buzzes through their atmospheric and understated melodic ideas. As ideas of cyclical bonds of existence and the self-defeating nature of humanity trickle down as if they were the blood of the freshly scalped so increases the intensity of the guitar performances within this fine album, the true ‘fleshing’ of the experience (for my tastes) comes with Side B where “On Redemption” strikes out into dual guitar soloing and deeply rabid melodic riffs; Surely Polemicist are strongest and most compelling when they are at their most brutal although if they’d gone much further with it we’d have some kind of early Dark Funeral or Naglfar sound that is relatively tuneless. If you’ve listened and not gotten any particular meaning from the lyrics it’d make sense to read Books II and III of Thus Spoke Zarathustra though without a basic primer on context and meaning it’ll all be a bit of a poetic blur for most. Exactly my kind of jam lately though I think the drum patterns could be leagues more varied.
|Title [Type/Year]||Mors Vincit Omnia [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Debemur Morti|
Quite often I come across an album that I (unreasonably) insist that I keep personal and away from the realm of analysis because the feeling it presents is valuable to me. This is the most reasonable praise I can float towards ‘Mors Vincit Omnia’, a black metal album that is the forest and the trees. The presence and fixation allowed by the extraneous vocal performances brought by the otherwise orthodox and beautifully gilded aura of Crimson Moon provided a nigh cultic (‘religious’) tonality that recalled well, German black metal of the higher order– Perhaps this makes sense as the reformation of this well-liked USBM project found Scorpios Androctonus in the Rhineland once again and for some time now. The artists’ sensibilities are beautifully classic in the sense that he’d risen to power through formative death metal and found black metal in the early 90’s. There are surely reasonable lines to be drawn between Crimson Moon in 1996 and today in 2019 but ‘Mors Vincit Omnia’ is yet markedly exceptional for its broader experiential qualities. Even just the first fourteen minutes of this record feel dense and sourced from some diabolical majesty, it becomes draining and satisfying at once as if I’d been focused on a particularly inspiring symphony for hours. The only hump I’d say presents itself is “Godspeed Angel of Death” as it feels redundant where it is placed on Side A where the tracks surrounding it are generally superior in movement. Something grand to loosen the mind within.
|Title [Type/Year]||Wolven Mysteries of Ancient Lore [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Ancestral Shadows|
New Hampshire black metal band Ancestral Shadows appear in the throes of mid-to-late 2019 with what I’d suggest is -the- album of their career in the form of ‘Wolven Mysteries of Ancient Lore’. From his fine album art to the carefully tuned mix and the heavy emphasis on dungeon synth-esque movements as prime accouterments Apparitional Wolf Shadow (J. Smith) has put a great deal of worthwhile focus into the entirety of this record and all of that attention to detail pays off big for my own tastes. A certain sorrowful melodic black metal driver still persists within Ancestral Shadows‘ sound and I doubt most established fans will see this record as more than a most refined iteration upon previous works but I’d felt it was a bigger leap than mere refinement. Melodic ideas are resolved, synth/keyboard elements are more relevant than ever, and many of the compositions elevate the atmosphere of the individual pieces rather than exist within.
|Title [Type/Year]||The Immortal Depths & Treasures of Necromancy [Compilation/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Signal Rex|
Arcane and thoroughly engrossing this vinyl compilation of 2016 and 2017 demos from enigmatic USBM band Olkoth offers itself up as some sort of seductive misanthropy, as if it were plucked from some forgotten isthmus in ancient Europe only to spread necromancy wherever it were transported. Bonus tracks are included though I’ll say I doubt most folks have heard of this band as their releases were limited and very exclusive at the time, it is a fantastic introduction and all songs are presented with professional recording quality. It took some doing to pull me away from the opener “Shrine of Rotten Bones” where lead guitar hooks and deeply atmospheric resonance acted as enough of an opening in the clouds that I’d repeated the track ten times over before I’d let the second piece begin. As it turns out ‘The Immortal Depths’ is an incredible demo, I’d go as far as placing it among the most sublimely musical showcase I’ve heard from an atmospherically driven black metal band in a couple of years. The press release uses the term “shimmering shockwaves” to describe the performances here and I fully embrace that sentiment. The second demo ‘Treasures of Necromancy’ pours on the atmospheric occlusion too much, excess reverb and ethereal keys only detract from the intelligence of the guitarist’s performances leaving the emphasis on the vocals which are solid but not the driver that the guitars could be. Still a fine and relevant demo all the same. As always, Signal Rex can do no wrong.
|Title [Type/Year]||Strengthening of the Black Flame [EP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from AIN|
Another Slovakian black metal band but this time quite different (despite featuring an ex-Atanas member) in terms of style. AIN‘s debut EP finds them leaning towards the ultimate darkness of the occult with a reasonable emphasis upon ‘epic’ movements driven by underlying bass guitar melodies; These proud marches forward aren’t any great puzzle to solve but rather serve as showcase for extended songs that focus upon memorable melodic voice. “Serpent” was the big song here for my own taste thanks to a ramp up in rhythm guitars in the last third of the piece. Also a contender for one of my personal favorite album covers of the year so far.
|Title [Type/Year]||Rending the Veil of Flesh [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.0/5.0]||BUY from Schwarzdorn Production|
Another striking release from the London, England black metal spheres ‘Rending the Veil of Flesh’ is the second album from ex-Phyrexia band Formicarius. I’d say their aim is somewhere along the lines of Cor Scorpii in terms of shredding lead-driven songs that are largely melodic, though I’d say Formicarius go to less of a neoclassical extreme. Things get weird quickly for my own tastes as the focus of Side A turns towards the progressive metal side of things and I’m not sure they take this change far enough before returning to their own blend of symphonic and melodic ideas. Though I think there are some real bright spots on ‘Rending the Veil of Flesh’ the vocals are a string hindrance for repeat listening, at first the sort of croaked main voice is unique but becomes grating as the album develops. I suppose if Carach Angren is your thing this is absolutely the thing to check out next.
|Title [Type/Year]||Transfixion of Spirits [Full-length/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Iron Bonehead Productions|
Prolific Portuguese raw black metal affront Black Cilice is yet a scar and a scab to pick at once on ‘Transfixion of Spirits’; This third full-length for Iron Bonehead is pure iteration in every sense but, the fellow responsible is not yet out of ideas thanks to reasonable breaks in between each release. If you’re really not sure what constitutes raw black metal upon hearing this very atmospheric and obscured form of it I’d say this isn’t ‘beginner’ material so much as a specialized item for the deeply entrenched fan. I generally love the ultra-dedication of the Portuguese black metal scene as a whole and find a lot of great records are fully hidden because of how devout their obscuritas is. On that level I’d say I have warmed to this record nearly as much as one of my personal favorites from Graves (‘Ascensão do Impiedoso’). Raw black metal has great potential when it is thickly melodic but never cloyingly predictable and if the recording isn’t too murky for your tastes, there are some enjoyable passages within these fairly long and ‘one track mind’ songs. Again, a trade between memorability and immersion that works out decently.
|Title [Type/Year]||Gjengangere i hjertets mørke [EP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Soulseller Records|
A stunning and somewhat unexpected side-project among Norwegian avant-black metal elite with a thread of current and former Dødheimsgard membership uniting them, though musicians involve featured in bands like Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, and Nidingr past and present. I saw this as a sort of more free-moving set of songs along the lines of The Konsortium but perhaps less ‘progressive’. I greatly appreciate the polished and forward-but-backwards thinking of this type of project which we see every so often from the old guard of the early-to-mid 90’s. The level of professionalism is satisfying and every detail is buttoned up enough that the focus becomes the songwriting, which I’d say is where Dold Vorde Ens Navn excels. I’d really felt the impact of the first single from the EP, “Vitnesbyrd”, immediately at the time and here in context of the full EP it is even more of a glorious moment and Vicotnik remains one of the most interesting and creative vocalists in black metal today within songs like these. I feel like this is a well tempered set of songs, nothing so outrageous for the sake of ‘art’ but still thrilling for the blend of old and new Norwegian black metal aspects expressed.
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