…From the Tomb 11/09/20: “Nothing But Black Metal November Part II.”

…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 second of five Nothing But Black Metal November features each containing short reviews for new releases from this week or last [October 17th through November 20th, 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: 6.5 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:November 13th, 2020
LABEL(S):I, Voidhanger Records

It might feel like a bit of a riddle to unravel in plain description but the Precaria side of this split release will be included on a discography compilation in a couple of weeks and the band on the other side of the split, Ôros Kaù has a debut full-length from earlier this year releasing on vinyl at the same time. So, the heart of ‘Theosulphuros’ is a vessel to discover the latest material from each band and gauge interest in more elaborate releases. Mexican atmospheric/avant-garde black metal project Precaria is driven by a more brutal era of black metal drumming nearest to the early 2000’s though the guitar arrangements often trail upwards into more complex threads a la Nightbringer. The drums trade off between textural presence and ear-cracking annoyance in terms of the recording but they aren’t entirely obtuse, the guitar work is often insistent upon its diretor’s role and the avant-black percussive and dissonant pieces (see: “Heautontimorumenos”) tend to showcase the most comfort and confidence for the artist.

Ôros Kaù hail from Brussels and though their sound is marked by the same concessions all solo black metal productions tend to endure, the music itself is a satisfying crossing of putrid raw aesthetics and some ambitious structural feats. Ralphed vocals that buzz and grind in the ear, brutally slapping programmed drums, and ringing raw arcs of blast-speed riff and ringing psychedelic tonality make for a cacophonous listen. The ‘Imperii Templum Aries’ LP that preceded it should hold much of the same appeal. Consider the extremes of Wormlust / Skáphe‘s split from the middle of last year and reel them into more standard song structures and it might work on a similar wavelength. This pairs very well with Precaria, both bands have a distinctly rabid form of black metal on their hands that manages some inhumane atmospheric highs along the way. I tend to pick favorites on splits yet this time around each band is unique and previously unknown — Ôros Kaù are a pitch-shifted surge of psychotic delirium that feels dangerously extreme; Precaria approach with an occult, ashen flair that is ruinous as it is intelligent. A strong pairing of dark and avant-edged black metal acts that ends up a worthy cohabitation and compliment.

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:Through the False Narrows
RELEASE DATE:November 20th, 2020
LABEL(S):Hypnotic Dirge Records

This debut record from Victoria, British Colombia-based atmospheric black metal trio Liminal Shroud certainly delivers and deserves quite a few more adjectives than mere “atmospheric” status; In fact ‘Through the False Narrows’ achieves a crawling, tightly performed and intense bonding of post-metal, depressive black metal, and atmospheric black metal ideals without losing the plot to tunnel vision or indistinct movements. With this sort of trailing upward, looking downward craft the artist’s intent is everything and this is where Liminal Shroud achieve something special and evolved yet still raw around the edges. Inspired where mist, ocean, rolling shores and the green and grey of their meeting the band envision change (personal, spiritual, physical) in this natural ebb of shore into surf. It is music of dissolution and persistence, a wrestling mind creating something beautiful even if not entirely original.

Triumphant jogs and sorrowful melodic phrases leave me with the sensation of a flight-and-plunge towards devastation, long spun threads create this mood via guitar work that could touch upon (a certain era of) Primordial and Agalloch within the same piece and yet no two songs attempt too similar a feat. The melancholy of it is quite persistent yet it won’t feel like they’ve had you staring at the floor entirely too long. Look to depressive/atmospheric black metal for similar records and I’d say this one stands out for its impressive roadmap, the structure of the running order and the individual songs presents an epic (“A Hollow Visage”) to start, a peak of this language introduced (“The Grotto”) and a number of different tonal pieces before another epic (“Lucidity”) finishes things off in a satisfying way. The sub-genre that Liminal Shroud are touching upon here tends to achieve early substance that blusters into mundanity, rushed ideas and incomplete pieces, whereas ‘Through the False Narrows’ presents a complete (slightly rambling) statement from start to finish with effective visualization throughout. Satisfying melancholia I’d recommend.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:November 13th, 2020

Of course I’ve started playing Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla a bit earlier than expected so this means I’ve naturally dug up all of the keyboard heavy black/viking and black/folk metal bands I’d loved so much in the early 2000’s. Oddly enough I’m not familiar with many German bands of this era, some of them came later than the Scandinavian ones or I’d just moved away from the viking metal spectrum once melodic death and power metal instrumentation began to take over for black metal grime. Köthen, Germany’s Thrudvangar have been around for twenty years but they’d take a seven year hiatus between albums ’til now. This is a band renewed in spirit, I’d say, not only for their capture of a certain key era of viking metal but for some vastly improved ‘cinematic’ feeling for their slower pieces. This style is closest to much later Thyrfing, the chunky riff era of Amon Amarth, and King of Asgard. This means very straight forward songs, simple riffs, not a ton of melody or black metal elements. Overall this might seem a bit standard but if you are patient and looking for this type of thing it should satisfy. The single “Siegvaters Maid” is a standout beyond opener “Wächter der Brücke” and these songs make the best first impression via leads, choral vocals, etc. but most of the album isn’t as ornate. Even if it is only for the sake of nostalgia I’d say give those songs a try for the sake of relighting some of this odd evolution of viking metal in mind. A loose interpretation of black metal but, eh.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
TITLE:Varg [Demo]
RELEASE DATE:October 17th, 2020

‘Varg’ is the first demo from this Swedish black metal duo who’d been a key proponent of Murdryck‘s evolution from a blackened dark ambient project into a more traditional black metal act. After that project ended it sounds like the three songs on this Åskog demo were already in motion not long after ‘Födelsen’ was realized. I wouldn’t say this is traditional Swedish black metal in terms of guitar technique but certainly a well-meaning entry into the ‘modern’ side of things conscious of both raw, melodic, and rock influenced ideas of recent years while still sounding like actual black metal. “Korp” shows the most prowess, weaving in a lot of exciting lead runs, silvered synth touches, with bent and swaying guitar riffs maintaining some effective tension when needed. I suppose I’d need to hear more than a few songs to make a strong judgement, I’d like to hear both extreme speed and a funereal pace from these guys to see what else they can do with this sound. A little bit special, a little bit standard, it’ll be interesting to see how the band develops beyond this first tape.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:October 31st, 2020
LABEL(S):Purity Through Fire

This debut full-length from Finnish black metal musician Vexd (To Conceal the Horns) offers some odd twists and turns in reach of inhumanity, cold Norse black metal that is raw yet full of small surprises. The best surprise here beyond the keen bursts of synth throughout is probably the session work from drummer Gorath Moonthorn a key member of now defunct Alghazanth who turns out an above average work here which helps ‘Syvyyksistä‘ stand out beyond its esoteric nature. With some patience for the myriad ideas introduced without any serious tact the album reads as inherently exploratory, enthusiastic and affected by all manner of darkness… A skull full of grey mush that boils away via some self-directed flame. Most pieces range between 4-5 minutes feature mid-paced gallop with pockets of fast and slow modulation in regular intervals via melodies that vary from standard Finnish fare to inspired turns away from tradition. Some might see this as inconsistency but I find it characterizing expression of an inspired mind, seeking personal rhythms with broad strokes and refusing limits via idiosyncratic choices. “Kaipaus” does a good job of illustrating most all of these points but most any song will highlight this balance between “serious” and seriously affected.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:The Inheritance of Evil
RELEASE DATE:November 18th, 2020
LABEL(S):Helldprod Records

Motörcrust punk from the raw black metal perspective sounds pretty average at face value but the shades of Hellhammer and Axegrinder that bleed into this mid-paced and very straight forward black metal tape ends up riffing-out to great satisfaction with simple yet sophisticated charm. But hey, maybe I’ve lead you astray a bit… The type of slow motion hardcore punk dirges that drive ‘The Inheritance of Evil’ in its overall statement have more in common with the classics of Orange County and Boston hardcore of the early 80’s than they do Discharge or Varukers (most of the time) and this means floaty rifts of circle pit songs that stomp and kick in a spiral, revolving chairs music meant to get the body moving. By sticking in one place and writing black metal songs with these patterns in mind Black Mold create a bit of a ‘storming in place’ feeling that persists throughout this debut full-length. It isn’t a dramatic shift from their two demo tapes but it does feel like the best realization of their balance of thrashed out punk influenced bare bones black metal. I’d really gelled with this record, not only because it clips out like a moody mid-80’s hardcore punk record but because it still registers a primitive black metal metal heartbeat throughout. A high recommendation.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
TITLE:Rex Eterminii (The Hand of the Opposer)
RELEASE DATE:November 20th, 2020
LABEL(S):Ketzer Records

With each decade that passes the fellows in Bogota, Colombia-based band Horncrowned tend to update themselves via a new project (or, side project) that matches the extremity of black metal of the time. Throughout the 90’s their first band Inoculation focused on the mid-to-late second wave black metal ideals in the North but as the millennium arrived they’d disband and Horncrowned was born. This was a brutal new realm of black/death inspired both by the brutality out of Brazil (and their local death metal scene) but obviously also by the tempo of bands like Marduk and Dark Funeral. Around 2019 some members would form the updated Daemoni yet Horncrowned has persisted nonetheless now releasing their fifth album. This album maintains their unchanging sound where brutal ultra-sped and brutally slapped tempo hits direct everything forward at a psychotic pace, always killing and always straining forward as hard as possible. I think a band like Sammath does this a bit more coherently, distinct songs with organic but impressive drumming, Horncrowned lean on the side of a synthetic and overblown sound that relies on a production worthy of early Krisiun. This was very good for a few songs but once the songs slow down a bit the record loses its energy. Not a bad album but most of the appeal is in spectacle and oppression.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Mephisophelian Exordium
RELEASE DATE:November 20th, 2020
LABEL(S):Hessian Firm

You’ll have to suppose that this “necroclassical” compilation counts as black metal by spirit and in the abstract as Goatcraft is yet one man and a keyboard set to “piano”. Known as Napalm when he was briefly a key member of post-Nocturnus project After Death in the mid-2000’s the fellow drenched in blood and playing some seriously dirging neoclassical preludes goes by Lonegoat and now holds I believe four albums to his credit thus far in this style. ‘Mephistophelian Exordium’ collects three pieces that showcase key moments and out-of-print milestones. The first is perhaps the most moving piece perhaps because it is longform (~22 minutes) and captivating as an entry point: A 2015 live performance on KSYM-FM college radio in San Antonio, Texas. The title track is an extra from the ‘Yersinia Pestis’ (2016) sessions, showcasing more recent developments in pacing and movement in his work. The third addition is the full 22 track run of pieces from a 2010 demo of which I believe ~17 where included on a limited run tape circa 2011.

As a compilation this is a fine showcase of the artist’s distinct point of view. From my point of view there is no hiding one’s learning nor personality behind a piano when it comes time to compose original pieces. The distinct five fingered rolling motion of the bulk of the self-titled tape/demo release isn’t entirely rooted in 70’s and 80’s horror soundtrack trills but the vibe is certainly there for the imagination to extract by virtue of dark intent. A few pieces act as light synth interludes and others which reach the six, eight and even thirteen minute range tend to resemble stately mysteries, castles of ill haunt and menace. Tempo changes, repetition, and chord tension directs most of this demo to its most interesting places, pieces I can imagine as extreme metal songs under certain circumstances.

I’d compare this effect to one of my favorite records from Xytras (Samael) and his neoclassical/synth version of the ‘Passage‘ album back in the late 90’s where he not only presented the musical bones of that album but suggested a way, to similar effect, that metal guitar techniques could be directly translated back-and-forth with a bit of the artist’s personality in tact. I mention this in detail for the sake of reaching for something that’d likewise vitally grasp the spirit of extreme music and apply it to an virtually uninterrupted piano tone. Generally speaking I’d probably suggest the live performance first because it is fixating and provides the compulsion to hear more, the demo is a bit more menacing and ethereal in its expanded range but the technique displayed on the live performance is most impressive.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
TITLE:Dirges For the Void
RELEASE DATE:November 13th, 2020
LABEL(S):Wolves of Hades

Anonymous dissonant black metal singularity Uthullun hails from the Chicago area, a solo artist who appeared quite suddenly and with great focus on realizing a vision of a very specific style of chorded, ringing guitar phrases set to fairly minimal beats. This reads more like early Oranssi Pazuzu than DsO in most cases due to the post-punk influenced movement and perhaps unintentional Voivod-isms striking up in their midst. “Penitence” in particular leans into that staggered rock beat quite comfortably and “Ecstasies” offers the jagged movement suggested otherwise. The tunnel vision for these well-worn guitar techniques wouldn’t be particularly interesting without the outliers on the rhythmic map of the full listen. Energetic as opener “Sunless” is, six more identical tracks might’ve sounded like a competent imitation of Icelandic black metal several years prior, not a bad thing but certainly a common sort of release. The vibe isn’t perhaps severe enough for my taste or, the riffs rely on just one or two tricks that suffer from overexposure along the way. The result isn’t a bad dissonant black metal album by any means but perhaps one I would primarily admire for its high standard of render, presence, and practiced technique rather than its compositions, which often lack any thrilling movement.

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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