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 best black metal releases released this year. Consider it my way of making sure I cover as many late year releases before 2019 ends. 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 curated for the sake of many of my friends doing “Nothing but Black Metal November” lists every year on RateYourMusic/Sonemic, I won’t be sticking to only black metal releases as a whole but Ten From the Tomb will be covering black metal ’til the end of the month. 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]||En Olam [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Satanath/Exhumed Records|
Israeli black metal mainstays Arallu return with their seventh full-length ‘En Olam’ since forming in 1997. As always the comparisons with Melechesh and Rudra are warranted thanks to the use of middle eastern melodic devices alongside a love for aggressive 90’s black and death metal standards. ‘En Olam’ is probably the best balance of those inherent traditional music ideas and Arallu‘s own approach to black metal which has always shown some great love for the purity of the second wave. I like this album about as much as ‘Six’ (2017) and I’m glad to hear the band incorporating a great deal more variety as well as expanding their approach to vocal patterns and bigger atmospheric moments; Check out “Guard of She’ol” for a great example of this.
|Title [Type/Year]||Sanger Fra Auschwitz [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.5/5.0]||BUY from Saturnal Records|
I’m not sure if Oslo, Norway based black metal act Katechon are referring to Playing For Time (1980) and its associated story with the title of thier third record but the inclusion of the word Auschwitz in the title of a black metal album is sure to perk the wrong kind of attention in 2019. As it turns out ‘Sanger Fra Auschwitz’ isn’t at all what you might think it is, a radical and poetic high-concept black metal album with a clearly anti-totalitarian intention in its themes. After their second album (‘Coronation’, 2015) the band dropped their second guitarist and drummer, left Nuclear War Now! Productions and enlisted Sarke‘s drummer as they began work on this record. Though I’ve certainly run into musicians influenced by poets like Paul Celan I wasn’t expecting his perspective, an artist truly impacted by the events of World War II, as one of a few used to explore not only the dire brutality of those times but their impact upon all human beings afterwards. This also marks a shift to a more purely black metal modus for the band and I’d not felt any of ‘Sanger Fra Auschwitz’ touched upon the dissonant death atmospherics of their previous works. Something for folks into the Dodheimsgard, Ved Buens Ende, Thorns side of Norwegian black metal.
|Title [Type/Year]||Interlude [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Hypnotic Dirge Records|
A fittingly vague blend of atmospheric and depressive black metal styles for a Montréal, Quebec based project, Maeskyyrn were not all that distinct when I’d first approach their full-length debut ‘Interlude’ if only because the fragility of their sound is not immediately apparent. Four 7-10 minute pieces, three interludes, and instrumental bookends make for a long-winded but rewarding full listen that does the bulk of its convincing in the midst of those extended pieces, which range in style from black/dark metal hybrid to psychotically pure depressive black desperation. I love when a black metal album manages its immersion by surprise where I fall through its trapdoor into a worm-filled paradise of rotten soil and self-mutilating husk — ‘Interlude’ fills that void beautifully. “These Battlefields, Where None Walk Twice” is probably the strongest, most dynamic track of the lot and the piece I’d recommend most.
|Title [Type/Year]||Thghtlss Lght [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||PREVIEW “Shattering the Vessels” on YouTube|
Named after a town in Norway where their favorite alt-rock guitarist died of a likely drug overdose, NRVK (formerly Narvik) are a bit of a challenge to understand and perhaps their self-label of “Psychotic black metal” communicates some intention in that regard. Otherwise any fan of modern German black metal will instantly understand their musical language, which is not a far stretch by comparison with Ascension, Shrine of Insanabilis, and a small hint of Urfaust for good measure. ‘Thghtlss Lght’ is more or less guitarist Lupus‘ (Ahnenkult, Carn Dûm, Werwolf) re-imagining of NRVK‘s sound into something decidedly more esoteric, meandering, and occasionally stunning. These three songs are about nine minutes apiece and though they are all somewhat similar in pace each represents its own trip, almost manifesting as spells or incantations towards chaos. “Into the Patterns of Ajna” particularly shines for its build towards intensity, a relentless act of release, and then a restful exit. Simple as that truncation of dynamic might appear in passing, the whole of the EP is dramatic and effective despite its brooding nature. This should appeal to fans of modern Icelandic black metal as well as those German bands I’d mentioned prior.
|Title [Type/Year]||Mardom [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from War Anthem Records|
I’ve always found German black metal band Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult interesting for their association with mind-bending acts like Bethlehem and Pavor despite their orthodox approach to black metal, which aims for the early second wave of black metal minus the youthful sloppiness of that era. As such they can be easily compared to certain ‘modern’ releases from bands like Taake, Endstille, Tsjuder as they provide that polished-but-unhinged feeling that a refinement of classic black metal can bring. I’d been introduced to the band through their fourth album ‘Saldorian Spell‘ in 2009 and I was sort of shocked to grab this one and find it sounded like a direct follow up to that album a decade later, with the production being the only improvement upon their staunch perspective. “A Beseechment Twofold” was my favorite track of the lot.
|Title [Type/Year]||‘In the Noose’ [В петле] [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Death Knell Productions|
Think of this debut full-length from Затемно as a crossing of wires between the folkish modernity poetics of Drudkh, dissonant/experimental black metal, and a healthy hit of folk-fucked era Peste Noire. Russian musician Vasily Suzdalsky has developed his own vision of black metal as he pulls from many strange niches and this makes ‘В петле’ unique yet quietly referential as it plays. Even if you’re not sure what to think of this one I’d at least stick around until you’ve heard the second track “Лишь только ветер” and its accordion driven core, things get even more varied and odd from that point. I don’t understand the Russian language and that’d been the only thing keeping me at arms length from this album.
|Title [Type/Year]||Light the Candle in Honour of Devils [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.25/5.0]||BUY from Hell’s Headbangers Records|
Missouri blackened heavy metallers Vaultwraith return with a second full-length of black/thrash attitude set to a mid-paced ruckus fitting enough for their Razorback Records roots. If you’re familiar with Scaremaker or Surgikill you can pretty much draw a straight line of refinement from one project to the next leading up to Vaultwraith. I love the 80’s gloom and true metal gallop that persists across ‘Light the Candle in Honour of Devils’ and no doubt their finest guitar work happens on this better-produced and dynamic full listen. But, and it is a big but, I don’t think the band needs a dual-vocal approach; Vocals go from zero to ten throughout and this kills the affect (any nuance) of the music. I understand what they’re going for and the outrageously early 2000’s grimy, horror-ness of it all makes sense but I found the yowling irritating after a while.
|Title [Type/Year]||I, The Devil [LP/2019]|
|Rating [3.75/5.0]||BUY from Hell’s Headbangers Records|
I dunno about you but a lot of modern black metal puts me to sleep in terms of pacing, riffs, and general intensity. Not every band has to be a big fuckin’ nuke but I definitely appreciate bands like Deiphago, who’ve been beating listeners over the head with their heavy take on war metal since about 2006 when they released their debut ‘Satanik Eon’. Think of Blasphemophager, Abominator, and Diocletian for their newer stuff… That ripping Sarcófago metal played at earthquake speeds. This is their first album since 2012 without drummer Savnok and it follows up ‘Into the Eye of Satan’ (2015) which had been produced/mastered by Colin Marston to great effect. Erick Meija (Corpse Garden) serves as a studio drummer for this release and production from Kurt Ballou feels less dynamic but perhaps more appropriately chaotic. “Chaos Protocols” was the point where I’d felt like maybe I needed to listen a bit closer and pick the gem-like moments from the hulking noise of it all, I’d recommend starting there.
|Title [Type/Year]||Erste Beschwörung [EP/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Dying Victims Productions|
Originally self-released in 2018 this debut EP from the so far anonymous German blackened traditional heavy metal band Hexenbrett has been accurately described as an ‘alternate reality’ for the first wave of black metal and a distant echo of the horror shared among the many wild acts influenced by Venom, Mercyful Fate, and other evil heavy metal of the late 70’s and early 80’s. The theatrical swing of prime-evil Root, Death SS, and the gothiest of Celtic Frost dirges live in the belly of ‘Erste Beschwörung’ and as obscure as that might sound… This music is much more bizarre and catchy than those comparisons would suggest. I’ve linked the vinyl issue coming up in early December here but Caligari Records released a limited run of cassette tapes as well, it may not be sold out yet. In terms of modern groups, think along the lines of Malokarpatan and maybe Kringa from a more operatic rock point of view. I’m curious to see how they can develop this sound and avoid sounding like early Ghost in the process.
|Title [Type/Year]||Dismal Spells from the Dragonrealm [LP/2019]|
|Rating [4.0/5.0]||BUY from Werewolf Records|
No longer the go-to option for the less-musically inclined bassists (or imprisoned guitarists) of early Norwegian black metal bands the ambient/dungeon synth release is today a wildly interpretive ecosystem of independent and limited releases that are rarely scored with any meaningful intent. This fine record from one of Finland’s finest ‘underground’ talents is the exception. A bent away from Summoning influenced ambient black metal arises seemingly out of necessity as the font of V-Khaoz’ (Vargrav, Marras) creative flow diverts towards an enthralling fully ambient work for his third Druadan Forest full-length, ‘Dismal Spells from the Dragonrealm’. Four movements and a total of ~74 minutes, each song here makes its own atmospheric realm from works that should be entirely redeeming for fans of ‘Født til å herske’ / ‘Ånden som gjorde opprør’ era Mortiis. Each piece is wryly memorable, the sort of instrumental that weaves its way into the mind not through rote repetition but slowly earned moments of inspiring grandeur. It isn’t black metal and I’d meant to put Marras‘ album here but I’ve found myself completely fixated on this album since September and wanted to find an appropriate place to recommend it.
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