…From the Tomb 11/02/20: “Nothing But Black Metal November Part I”

…FROM THE TOMB is a weekly feature in the form of a list grouping short reviews for albums selected from the current weeks new releases. These albums were overlooked for full review for any number of reasons with the most common reason being constraint of time. I try to cover as much 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: grizzlybutts@hotmail.com


Here I present the first of five Nothing But Black Metal November features each containing short reviews for new releases from this week [October 30th through November 6th, 2020]. This ends up being the most effective way to cover as many releases from 2020 in a timely fashion so things don’t bottleneck at the end of the year. Most of these albums made it here to …FROM THE TOMB due to time constraints for processing long-form reviews or because a paragraph or three’s worth of insight was all that was necessary. If you’re not into the selection this week, relax! This’ll be back every 7 days with more new releases from different styles, genres, etc.

Hey! Don’t dive in thinking this will all be shit just because these records aren’t getting full reviews. Quality control is an important part of this process, lasting value is the major goal in approaching each piece. Thank you! I am eternally grateful for the support of readers and appreciate friendly and positive interactions. 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.


Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:SVARTSYN
TITLE:Requiem
RELEASE DATE:October 30th, 2020
LABEL(S):Carnal Records
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

There are perhaps ten thousand words I could write about Swedish black metal musician Ornias and his steadfast presence in Svartsyn, a project he’d started with a fellow named Tormentor in 1991 under the name Chalice. By 1993 Tormentor had passed away and Ornias would ultimately choose to press on as a solo act with intermittent association, usually session drummers. I’ll more or less cut to the chase in suggesting that all nine of the full-lengths under the Svartsyn name are worthy of perusal and enjoyment as his guitar work pulls equally from first and second wave black metal in craft of truly Swedish ideas that are satisfyingly idiosyncratic yet eternally bleak in their melodic development. Before I get into what makes ‘Requiem’ a formidably obsidian breach of consciousness I’ve one important note: Find the original version of ‘The True Legend‘ (1998) and sure, much of the melodic nuance is lost in the rapacious, echoing blister blasted noise of it all but early Gorgoroth fans will understand why this is key, the re-recording version takes away this harrowing storm of sound and emphasizes songwriting over the naively stylized original. This is the best place to start with the band, if only because I love the provenance of the hideously echoing candlelit cavern on that original debut album.

If you are to ever truly understand the incurable Satanic magic of early second wave Swedish black metal any Svartsyn album offers a lot of key lessons to glean from structure, style and their exaggerated expansion of early Bathory blueprints. That isn’t to say that all records present exemplar work but that those standards are remarkably self-directed and ever-improving. I was drawn to the band for their frequent commission of Chadwick St. John for artwork, specifically ‘Timeless Reign’ (2007) which was their last record for their now current label Carnal Records before a three album run on Agonia Records. By the time ‘In Death’ (2017) released the focus of the project had kept its eye upon increasingly lengthy songs, edging from 4-6 minute pieces at the start of the decade and pushing for 7-9 minute songs here on ‘Requiem’. In shooting for lengthier, more atmospheric pieces Svartsyn‘s greater listening experience is more entrancing than ever, texturally riveting with mid-to-slow pace emphasized to great effect. We’d already heard this malevolent, dirging verve on ‘In Death’ and in most every sense this follow up emphasizes those strengths even more than the last. Of course we trade some ripping speed for wandering, sullen character and I am personally up for it, just as I was with regard for the most recent Funeral Mist record.

Of course slowing down means the vibe too often sinks into a surrealistic sense of movement that characterizes the full listen, wrathful but crossing the threshold of the unknown. “The Desolate” is immediately effective in expressing this but each song has its crawling, tension-built moment that never quite reaches the point of ripping death worship. So, this means it could be warmly received if you were a fan of the most recent Armagedda record but, I wouldn’t suggest ‘Requiem’ feels exactly as triumphant or vitriolic. “Inner Demonic Rise” could convince me otherwise at some point, the intro is pristine and suggests perhaps I’ve initially missed the power of those subtle and somewhat complex guitar arrangements at mid-pace. There is black magic at work here that I have resisted making any quick judgements upon; Svartsyn are perhaps Sweden’s Black Funeral in that sense, where a largely underground presence spanning countless years must be appreciated for its tenacity and the unique, insularly developed talents therein. A high recommendation for now, perhaps higher when I’ve allowed more time with it.


Rating: 7 out of 10.
ARTIST:OCTOBER FALLS
TITLE:Syys
RELEASE DATE:October 31st, 2020
LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

For the uninitiated, Finnish musician M. Lehto is among a generation of musicians who’d perhaps warmed their feet to the fire in view of bands like Opeth mid-transformation, and certainly found extraordinary worlds within themselves beyond albums like ‘Damnation’. That isn’t to say that any of his works resemble anything of the sort but that their high standards of craft and composition still inform his muscle memory when primarily acoustic guitar centric works arise. Most of the time a somber yet skillful atmospheric/folk black metal style stirs from October Falls who’ve just recently issued their fourth full-length (‘A Fall of an Epoch’) this year and the acoustic stuff, which we’d called Nordic folk or dark folk back in 2005, has generally released as singles or shorter EP releases with themed constancy. This latest acoustic release, ‘Syys’ arrives as a full ~33 minute concerto with an orchestra of naturalistic ambiance (birds, storms, etc.) and some intermittent use of cello and percussion to emphasize the captivating sombre spirit of the music.

These acoustic recordings have some strong resonance with me because I’d discovered the band just before they’d released ‘Streams of the End’ and this meant ‘Marras’ (2005), the most recent acoustic full-length, was my first true engagement with Lehto‘s work. What will appear as quite simply arranged pieces cannot be reduced to their harmonized plucking, though, as each record is itself a stream of intentional movements that encourage intimacy with one’s own thoughts and sit ray-lit within a setting that is unmistakably forested. I find this leagues more compelling than most self-estranged acoustic black/folk metal records that depend so heavily upon vague extensions of early Ulver innovations. As with each other October Falls release of this type, folks will suggest this is for diehards only but I’d rather suggest that this is a vital portion of what makes the project so charming and effective, a piece of their greater naturalist perspective that is potent and worthy of some extensive meditation. The context of the ‘Kaarna’ (2014) compilation will be helpful as well, since it collects all previous acoustic/forest folken releases in one place.


Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:YAOTL MICTLAN
TITLE:Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar
RELEASE DATE:October 30rd, 2020
LABEL(S):American Line Productions
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

Since I’ve an extensive, perhaps indirectly achieved history with distinctly Mayan or simply indigenous Mexican themes and instrumentation in extreme metal I’m not sure the concept of a band like Yaotl Mictlan blows my mind up front or, meets my over the top expectations. Xibalba Itzaes and death/folk act Mictlan both represent some of the most original application of culturally evocative music in still very viable, heavy extreme metal via the raw underground of the early 90’s and likewise the brutal Nile-heavy death metal of Xipe Totec offers an insane set of hidden gems to discover via bewildering waves of intense traditional instrumentation. What Yaotl Mictlan does is much more gentle in application as the trio offer a sleek and easily palatable take on atmospheric black metal with some folk elements implied. In every sense it is modern pagan black metal music from the pre-Hispanic Mexican point of view. The lyrics focus intently on conquistador driven overrule of ancient heritage and the severe erasure of native peoples identity via manifest destiny as it spread throughout central America. We see a lot of this sentiment echoed in the works of (mostly) white folks making black metal in the United States and Canada in terms of first tribes and native American themes but, Yaotl Mictlan offers something much more authentically revealing in terms of identity, seeking open pride for ancient cultural history alongside a righteous anti-Christian sentiment.

These themes are compelling, admirable yet I don’t find they translate into the actual music in obviate ways. This could be due to my own understanding of Mexican indigenous music being somewhat archaic but the core melodic devices presented are not entirely uncommon among atmospheric or psychedelic black metal mutations. The riffs are where much of the unique personality of this project comes across, tripped-out bends and swaying choral rises maintain a sharp focus throughout this often unpredictable foray into atmospheric black metal build-and-release tension. A fair deal of watery, triumphant guitar leads offers a notable lineage between past releases and this one. When searching backwards into Yaotl Mictlan‘s discography the evolution becomes a bit more clear as we count the years in between. ‘Sagrada Tierra del Jaguar’ is actually a long-awaited update to the band’s sound as they’ve not put out a record in a full decade.

The major standout moments don’t come quickly but guitarist/vocalist Tlatecatl (ex-Ibex Throne) does provide strong enough payoff for each moment of patient arrival. There is triumph and sweetly effective drift within the graces of “Nuevo Fuego”, appropriate methodology for strafing the gap of a decade long silence. I especially liked the stomping percussive moments on standout “Ba’alche’o’ob”, a vibrant-yet-meandering piece that kicks along nicely. In terms of over the top or, more obvious instrumental adornment it isn’t until “Buho Lanzadardos” that I felt like Yaotl Mictlan pushed for a sound that embodies the major goal and message of the project. The moment came, it just felt somewhat subdued due to the atmospheric/pagan black metal nature of the project. Of course this is an album to sit with, to stew in, and perhaps read all of the lyrics along with but in my own frenzied devouring of it I’d found plenty to like along the way. By all means don’t make any judgements until you’ve taken in their two other records first, I believe at that point folks will be most sold.


Rating: 7 out of 10.
ARTIST:GELKHAMMAR
TITLE:The Sword of Gelfiser
RELEASE DATE:November 6th, 2020
LABEL(S):Xenoglossy Productions
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

Filled with the spirit of antiquities, aiming for the profound capture of landmarks left by the long-dead crusades raw black metal trio Gelkhammar hail from Sicily with an immediately transfixing sense of disintegrating grandeur on their debut full-length ‘The Sword of Gelfiser’. Thirteenth century French swords embodied, sixth century graves unearthed, the long buried history of the land practically boils from the ground in the hands of these triumphant and rather simple melody driven pieces, raw but not in complete shambles as they tremble each riff outward. Receiving raw black metal on its own terms is quite difficult for me most of the time, not that I need better production in any case but that lo-fi production should serve the music and in this case Gelkhammar serve themselves well with a very simply achieved palette that never feels artificially obscurant, which was an issue with their debut EP, ‘Cossyra’, back in 2018.

The vocalist here, Warrior, also features in raw black/grind project Perpetuum Mobile and his own doom/noise project Ancestral Vision yet I’d say of these three projects considered within the same ecosystem a considerable amount of expression goes to Gelkhammar here. If you’re familiar with ‘Heir of Ecliptical Romanticism’ from Lamp of Murmuur or the more recent flux of raw black metal out of Portugal lately (see: Graves, Black Cilice, et al) this is perhaps a similarly felt hypnotic raw aesthetic with a bit more attention paid to theme, melody, and clarity. Simple yet effective, appropriate tendencies for raw black metal and yet surely not abrasive enough for some.


Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:SVABHAVAT
TITLE:Black Mirror Reflection
RELEASE DATE:October 30th, 2020
LABEL(S):Eisenwald
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

‘Black Mirror Reflection’ arrives as the sudden debut from Portland, Oregon early second wave black metal conjuration Svabhavat, a duo comprised of former members of Infernus whom you’ll likely not recognize unless you’ve kept up with Moribund Records over the years. Guitarist (at the very least) J also features in Uada and Aleynmord and his long-standing love for the classics of Norwegian black metal doesn’t outshine the “modern” echoing dread that characterizes his guitar work. “Great Tiamat, Filled With Corpses” is the finest, most immediately example of this twist upon the eldest classics, where much more capable guitar technique pushes the limits of ‘Pure Holocaust’ into an effective melodic stance. As each of the six pieces pass it feels as if the sweet spot of the album is its middle portion, the guitar language of the full listen is utilized to its fullest there. Despite this “Abhicaara” and “Chalice Of Poisoned Souls” feature a minimum of twists upon the standard drum performances, this is the only performance on the album that feels a bit too simplistic or, at least in need of a more effective rendering. Still, the dark power of the album lies in the centermost left and right hands as they unfold. If you tend to bury easily within albums that tunnel forward with blinders on, the steadfast nature of this album will appeal even before the full listen completes. A strong album but it didn’t really stick with me beyond its guitar work after a handful of listens.


Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:SHAIDAR LOGOTH
TITLE:Chapter III: The Void God
RELEASE DATE:November 6th, 2020
LABEL(S):Sentient Ruin/Cavsas
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

The greater verve of Minneapolis-based duo Shaidar Logoth requires a full clip of descriptors but the general idea is ambient black metal fused with darkest post-metal idealism. It is not only a bespoke conjure on the part of all instrument handler S.H. but an effective vehicle for showcasing the impressive stylistic range of vocalist A.C. who also features in Skeletonwitch, Pulchra Morte, and Noose Rot among others. Each artist has some long distant experience with Midwest metalcore yet the largely aggressive avant-black metal crafted here understands well enough the difference between a sliding Emperor riff, such as the strong jut of the first half of “Consume Pieces of God”, and a skittering math metal thread. I only mention this because it differentiates this apex of the suggested EP trilogy here from something like Mourir or the more post-metallic Feral Light nearby yet it’d make sense to put them all on a bill together. The ~50 minutes of ‘Chapter III: The Void God’ appear entirely appropriate as the peak of a three act showing yet I’m not entirely sure that the ambient sections of the two extended (16 and 19 minute) pieces that bookend the full listen are making efficient use of their space; I’d probably feel differently if I was baked or whatever, but the vibrant exploration of sub-genre bending ideas in the black metal sections are so inspired I’d felt those ambient spaces were superfluous. For this reason I found myself focusing pretty intently upon the two shorter pieces in the middle of the record. An effective return for the project overall.


Rating: 7 out of 10.
ARTIST:GUIGNOL NOIR
TITLE:Mantric Malediction
RELEASE DATE:November 6th, 2020
LABEL(S):Repose Records
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

Yet another band pulling the spirit of second wave black metal unto their own unique voicing, Swiss duo Guignol Noir arrive with some vague association with the impressive Helvetic Underground Committee. Their sound is not entirely minimalist yet it is primarily self-engineered with some help from Kerberos (Dakhma, Arkhaaik) for the final rendering. Much like Duivel the first impression is quite plain if not discouragingly so but as the second track “Black Flame Ov Malevolence” whirrs in it becomes clear we’re working with both raw second wave dynamics and some entirely unorthodox tirades throughout. Dødheimsgard comes to mind most frequently but ‘Mantric Malediction’ isn’t just plain weird or progressive, they shape most pieces into something resonant enough, such as the melodic rumbling of “G.N.” or the dissonant shivering of “Pact”. No doubt this will be a taxing full listen as brash and frequently ideated takes on standard black metal forms don’t always pay off. Yes, the record is excessive and long-winded but perhaps in the best way possible for folks looking to shake a bit of weird into their black metal listening. If you do invest some serious time into the record the last third of the tracklist ends up being the most twisted, expressive section of the experience where “Rotten Drugfest” and “Graveyard Bogey” help to provide some stronger imprint of Guignol Noir‘s characteristic wiles.


Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:PROCLAMATION
TITLE:Advent of the Black Omen
RELEASE DATE:September 22nd, 2020
LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions,
Ross Bay Cult
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

This past September all four classic full-lengths from now defunct Spanish black/death metal (read: “war metal”) act Proclamation were reissued via cassette tape and CD, so I’m mostly gearing up for the eventual vinyl LP reissues that are vaguely slated for this winter. If you go fuckin’ nuts for Caveman Cult and the most recent records from Antichrist Siege Machine and Abysmal Lord you’ll find the spirit of each pulls directly from the wretched power of this Madrid borne monstrosity. What I’d always felt made the band’s debut so special was the feeling that you were sitting right there next to a real goddamned garage death metal band as they grind out their heaviest off-kilter stuff, swinging too hard but sounding all the more evil for each hit. I believe this album wasn’t too far off of their infamous split with Teitanblood, an event that would ensure both were in full view of the brutal arts at the time.


Rating: 7 out of 10.
ARTIST:PROCLAMATION
TITLE:Messiah of Darkness and Impurity
RELEASE DATE:September 22nd, 2020
LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions,
Ross Bay Cult
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

Historians aren’t all that kind to the brutal world of war metal, it takes some serious delusion to attempt intellectualization of the intentionally belligerent “fuck you” to pretentious black and death metal that it embodies. For the enduring fan, an album like ‘Messiah of Darkness and Impurity’ represents a heavier buzz, an emboldened death metal edge duct taped to their mutilation of the Blasphemy god-form circa 2008. You’ll find flippant, bitchy reviews of Proclamation all over the internet but most of us know this band actually represent an especially effective coffin full of riffs beyond the norm. I personally lean towards the raw garage-heavy bustle of the first album but this one is just murderous in a different way. A lot of that meanness comes from the distorted bass tone and grinding midrange blur of distortion on the guitars; Back in 2008 this was a lightbulb for me connecting the spirit of early grindcore a la ‘Scum’ with that of ‘Oath of the Black Blood’ and ‘Fallen Angel of Doom…’. Energizing, ruthlessly brutal stuff and probably the most pissed Usurper of Eternal Condemnation and Inverted Crucifixion ever sounded.


Rating: 7 out of 10.
ARTIST:PROCLAMATION
TITLE:Execration of Cruel Blasphemy
RELEASE DATE:September 22nd, 2020
LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions,
Ross Bay Cult
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

The third record from Proclamation came almost immediately after the previous and I have to admit it took me forever to give it a chance. This one shifts to blood curdling puked vocals, even more receded guitar tone which I’d consider an anti-tone if anything and a less audible bass. It is probably the one I’d most likely get on vinyl just to hear what the mix might sound like if touched for dynamic at all. Vaulting off the sentiment I’d applied to ‘Messiah of Darkness and Impurity’, this one always felt like a straight up grind album to me but without any clarity in the riffing I’d never fully connected with much more than the fucked up puking wretch of the vocals. “Morbid Lust” has to be one of the most vile, evil pieces the band ever turned out. Imbalanced and freaked out shit but Hell, maybe all the more distinct for it?


Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:PROCLAMATION
TITLE:Nether Tombs of Abaddon
RELEASE DATE:September 22nd, 2020
LABEL(S):Nuclear War Now! Productions,
Ross Bay Cult
BUY/LISTEN:Bandcamp

Proclamation cut things off where I’d probably begun to like them most. The garage slapping drums of the first album, the grinding distorted bass of the second album, and the blood cyclone spitting torture of the third album’s vocals everything about ‘Nether Tombs of Abaddon’ was horrifyingly over the top. Sure more and more bands were playing in this style by 2012 but few managed something as abrasive or extreme as this at the time. You’d think this was my favorite record from these guys but the CD still just hurts my skull. I might generally stick with the first album but that shouldn’t minimalize the insane progression of the band in getting to this most undeniably extreme point.


Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
ARTIST:SACRAMENTUM
TITLE:Finis Malorum
RELEASE DATE:October 30th, 2020
LABEL(S):Vic Records
BUY/LISTEN:Webshop

Consider this Vic Records released remaster/compilation both a vital collection of this legendary Swedish melodic black metal band’s early legacy and some of their most crucial B-sides. Although the remaster of this album only serves to clarify the chaotic melodic death metal attack of this album, aligning its swerving closer to the first Eucharist album via a “black metal” spirit (and ‘The Somberlain’ as a result) the building blocks of their mastery upon ‘Far Away From the Sun’ are all essentially discernable on ‘Finis Malorum’. The last official non-bootleg version of this EP was released back in 1995 and the vinyl issues from 2019 only contained the EP. I’m not entirely sure if this remaster by Varathron/Katavasia axeman Achilleas Kalantzis via Suncord Audiolab is the same one that Cosmic Key Creations used on their vinyl issue. I’ve always considered ‘Finis Malorum’ a second demo even if it was quite professional, the chaotic stumbling of the two guitars still feels like formative work.

Though it will seem counterintuitive I’d almost rather suggest the importance of the ‘Sedes Impiorum’ demo for the greater early Gothenburg melodic death metal scene. This is a strong summation of what At the Gates ‘Gardens of Grief’ and Grotesque‘s ‘Incantation’ EP had achieved where Sacramentum takes just a few steps beyond Unanimated‘s ‘Fire Storm’ tape and includes a few tricks (such as acoustic guitars) that Eucharist lead with on their ‘Demo I’ tape. Line these actual dates up in what order you see fit, it was clearly a group effort in finding this community evolved melodic black/death metal thing unique to Sweden. For perspective, these are some of the very best death metal riffs to ever come out of the country and to have the full demo, clear and entirely present, on this CD is actually something special. We’re also treated to late 90’s covers for Mercyful Fate and Sepultura, of which I’d say “The Curse-Antichrist” is the main event. Sacramentum are no doubt one of my favorite bands so, I’ve a heavy bias in hand but you can’t necessarily argue with the functional archive presented by this CD.

https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_k4NGJMcVQIq9TreS3yZqNGZ2r4xRGVfGU


If I missed your favorite album from 2020, whoa! E-mail me or hit me up on Instagram if you want me to review it. If you’re in a band and you want a review of your latest, hit the Contact page and send me a copy, I’ll consider it.

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