For anyone curious, the cover for this record is “Multnomah Falls” by Albert Bierstadt. The use of canonical western art in black metal album covers is wild and hilarious especially given that I would like to know what Bierstadt, and maybe the rest of the Hudson River School painters, would think about their work being paired with atmospheric black metal. If I would hazard a guess and as long as Bierstadt was cool, he would find this paring complementary. Fathomage is an Australian act with lyrical themes ranging from fantasy to Christianity. Autumn’s Dawn, Winter’s Darkness is the seventh full length album since 2018 and honestly the sound feels so much more accomplished than what one would expect from a self released Bandcamp album. Fathomage feels like they have much more to investigate beyond this album including some of the lyrical content and a dark ambient beginning. For now one can rest assured that Autumn’s Dawn, Winter’s Darkness is a fantastic album from an artist that has been operating in the shadows way too long. Bierstadt would be proud.
Mithrandir – Towards the Spires of Dol Guldur [Finland, Black] (2023)Standard
I seem to be finding more raw black adjacent material through dungeon synth searches than the more general new metal release searches. This is fine with me as I get to come across raw Finnish black debut is completely into Tolkien. Mithrandir is mostly a fantasy based project though I suspect some of the non fantasy (maybe?) titles of the tracks are remnants of earlier work. This is fine since a dedicated Tolkien metal project isn’t the most novel of an idea so having something which feels fantasy related but also uses colloquial terms like “välikuolema” is intriguing. Towards the Spires of Dol Guldur is a raw love letter to many themes and throws anything on hand into a melting pot. Black metal, dungeon synth, dark ambient all go and get melted down into a thick murky soup. There is no expectation from the band nor the audience which makes Towards the Spires of Dol Guldur a delightful find that I would have missed had not been in the right search.
Astarot – Journey from Melancholy Landscape II [Mexico, Dark Ambient] (2023)Standard
Journey from Melancholy Landscape II is a “compilation of Dark Ambient / NeoFolk / Neoclassical tracks from 2017-2021.” This is the second volume of ambient tracks with the first being a 2017 collection of ambient tracks from 2012-2016. It is a strange thing to only have a relationship with one style of music from an artist. Even though Astarot is a black metal act, these two compilations are entirely in a separate space. This space is contemplative, emotional, and eerily mystical in its foundations. Ambient tracks within black metal records are suppose to set mood and tone and now removed and placed within their own album, that thematic aura echoes off each other. While I enjoy listening to black metal, I am thankful these types of songs can be enjoyed on their own as they possess a personality that can be appreciated. If this type of stuff is interesting, one might be inclined to travel over to the 2023 release De Mystica Silva ad Cosmos which is the same type of atmosphere just added with atmospheric black metal. Astarot seems to deal in the trade of ambience and Journey from Melancholy Landscape II is a testament to that.
NACHZEHRER – Eternal Deities of the Black Hordes [US, Raw Black] (2023)Standard
There are a lot of things I have to qualify about this release. The self released tag is only because MA lists it as an independent release. The Bandcamp comes from a Virginia based label called Planetary King Records which seems to be defunct. The main MA page lists Eternal Deities of the Black Hordes, as well as a related band Vergewaltiger, as coming from Mamzer Records. Mamzer is the label with the most active YouTube page so by right of proving, I am deferring to Mamzer as the label but still releasing this as independent until things become more clear. When you get to the lower floors of heavy metal, there is some wandering around and investigation which comes with the process of listening to a record. Eternal Deities of the Black Hordes is a decent enough release to warrant this investigation as indicated by the artist’s unabashed love for Satanic Warmaster and black metal that abandons all decorum and modesty. In a short 16 minutes, this act proves to be aware of the aesthetics and vibe and they execute it with grace and energy.
Sigils of Ruin – Demo I [Indonesia, Death / Doom] (2023)Standard
I usually like to find albums that only a few people know about since I get to be really excited about sharing things. I think Sigils of Ruin already came enjoyed by at least 10 people. Indonesian death has been on the rise for the past couple of years and the style of riff heavy death in the court of bands like Undergang and even Vastum feels like a knockout. It is a knockout and everything about Demo I comes off with such little effort with classic songs titles like Untitled and Untitled II, it is amazing this came without more people knowing about it. I am sure that will change once more time passes. For now grind your face against concrete.
Trüciciel – Promo MMXXIII [Poland, Black / Punk] (2023)Standard
I am grateful for this release using the naming convention of Roman Numerals being including int he pantheon of underground metal adopting the very familiar naming sequence. Similar to conceptual and minimal art using “Untitled” there is something comforting about a promo being named after the year. Trüciciel is from Poland and the demo/promo for 2023 is actually the second release of their debut EP Syf, groby i demony in 2020. Promo MMXXIII feels like more of a proper introduction. While only two tracks each of the selections hits with accuracy and the album art is simple and effective. This is a perfect place to start with any black metal that has the sound of a clanking hammer buried somewhere in its music.
Lazer Throne – Citadel Of The Elder Star [US, Dungeon Synth / Synthwave] (2023)Standard
First up: amazing cover. Visually outside of everything this cover is perhaps the thing which got me to listen to the record out of a sea of terrible artwork. Secondly, the genre for Lazer Throne’s debut record is perfunctory. Yes this there are elements of dungeon synth and the visual and aural styles point towards synthwave. Beyond those two aspects, the sound for Citadel Of The Elder Star hosts many guests from Tangerine Dream influenced Berlin School and Neptune Towers worship drone. There are even parts where late era Pink Floyd guitar and synth warble their way across an infinite horizon. The fact remains, Lazer Throne is confusing and ever more intriguing since going into the record one would expect dark synthwave with a high BPM. This music is less a cyberpunk dance party and more sword and sorcery with neon lighting. Citadel Of The Elder Star is a pilgrimage across a dark landscape influenced by many thing and with the courage to adopt aesthetics and sounds but not be constrained by their rules.
Extispex / Maeglin – Built in Sanguine Eclipse [US, Dungeon Synth / Raw Black] (2023)Standard
I have a suspicion that most of the releases from Witchcult Records are from the same circle of artists and / or have album covers all done by one artist. There is a symmetry in each of the J-Card designs that dates back to 2019 and it is glorious. Built in Sanguine Eclipse is different though as one of the artists has a Metal Archives link and with releases on the DS based Ithildin Tape Productions. Built in Sanguine Eclipse is a split between the Extispex and Maeglin, two acts who mix synth and black metal. Both entities are wonderful and exist as a balance to each other. Where on the one side you have a somber ridden 132 minute soliloquy which breaks into black metal and on the other a black metal composition garnished with symphonic synth. Built in Sanguine Eclipse serves as an introduction to two acts who could have remained in the shadows but for this moment have decided to come out and haunt the dreams of its listeners.
The Visceral Madness Condition – Ambàscia [Italy, Sludge Doom] (2023)Standard
It is my intention to start branching out from raw black and death reviews but we will see how this goes. I enjoy sludge despite the genre being saturated by tropes regarding sound and subject matter. I also say the same thing about other genres but I usually can listen to similar raw death for days. The Visceral Madness Condition is an Italian group who is continually complex the more one looks into their music. From odd looking band photos to the fact their song titles share the name with popular acid house songs from 10 years ago, The Visceral Madness Condition seems like it should be understood with a quick glance but weird things keep ones interest. Ambàscia is the band’s third release and continues their love for bands like Eyehategod, Sleep, and Acid Bath but this time around has them singing in Italian. If there is something I love it is native language used in popular forms of music. This combined with an odd woodblock print for the cover which looks like a black metal demo, Ambàscia holds enough interest to be fucking weird around you and gets one to think about it long after the record stops playing. The Visceral Madness Condition is the strange group your friends invite to the party but never leave and most likely drink all of your beer and ask for more.
8bitdkhd – Now, See Me [Australia, Noise] (2023)Standard
This might not really be heavy metal. This might not really be anything. From a previous release last year, 8bitdkhd described the 2022 release, Psychward Burt Newton (Jan-July) as follows
Artist/drone discovers that is possible to record themselves. Proceeds to buy the cheapest audio to computer interface and record whatever nonsense occurred to them in 6-months. This is to be considered embryonic, masturbatory (but free) self-indulgence-core. Instrumentation is provided by some guitar, some synth but mostly feedback experimentation with the most obscure guitar pedals. Occasionally a beat occurs ala ‘shaking’, which thumps along to the gimp inside your head whispering sweet nothings, it encourages the fool to play.
These releases are released on the internet but with little expectation to be heard or even cared about. The artist seems to take an antithetical approach to craft in trying to produce the ugliest thing possible. this is beyond tortured beauty or misunderstood genius rather 8bitdkhd creates things no one should hear and releases are akin to nuclear waste that are buried in mines far below ground. Now, See Me is weird and very ugly yet despite the potential intentions of the artist it is also fascinating. A short fever dream of echoing guitar and reverb vocals which border on stream of thought and violent gibberish. An appreciation for this goes beyond outsider fetishism, though stumbling on something that is only linked to a small social media is exciting. The world of 8bitdkhd is psychedelic and resides int eh space where your trip starts to get a little weird and uncomfortable. You are not in a full blown panic just quite yet but things are not going well and you have to plan your exit in the most normal way possible. Now, See Me drinks from the font of the strange and maybe submerges their head beneath its waters. It is without form, or function, or description.