Kvad – Cold & Dark, As Life [Norway, Atmospheric / Raw Black] (2022)

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Self Released | 6-10-22

It is difficult to type the phrase Norwegian black metal” and not have it anchor to a certain time period. For better or worse this county and style elicits certain images which is a shame for bands and artists who are just making music for the void. Kvad is related to another Norwegian black metal act Darkest Bethlehem who had one single in 2021. Cold & Dark, As Life, for Kvad, represents the debut full length following an EP in 2021. This seems like the start for the act with an explosive 30 minute statement that is full of energy and entropy. There are obvious nods to Norway’s history in black metal with frostbitten aesthetics yet Kvad succeeds as a raw black act that sculpts landscapes of torment and demise. Each of the tracks which run 4-5 minutes feel like a swirling void where the vocals bounce around walls of madness. This is truly music for the distraught and Kvad commands its like a symphony.

Thermokarst – Thermokarst [Canada, Black] (2022)

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Self Released | 2-17-22

Oh hey, I know this one! A thermokarst is an irregular, pitted surface of marsh and bog that occurs near and around permafrost. I knew bumming around in Alaska during my early 20s would pay dividends in underground black metal cred. Well, Thermokarst (capital-T, don’t be confused) is a group based out of British Columbia who plays ferocious, punky black metal that screeches through the burial bog. These drums are painful and plentiful, thundering through the mix with an extraordinary hollow snare sound like smacking the decrepit chests of ex-wendigo lying in the mists. The vocals are pretty horrific in the literal sense: these are throat-shredders at their best. Give it a try for unhinged black metal maniacs.

S/T by THERMOKARST

Dracoempericon – Dracoempericon [Australia, Death / Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 11-14-21

Kap started off the year with reminding us that vegetables are a decent addition to one’s diet, and exercise will occasionally benefit your body and mind. I’m going to kick off my first post of the year with one of those albums that I’m pretty sure all 40 listeners on YouTube are people I know from the Discord network where it was shared. (Indeed, a Google search of this album brought up all of their Last.FM networks.) Dracompericon has no page on the Metal Archives, no member information, and no presence on social media outside of a lonesome Instagram account… and yet they are undeniably rooted in the fiery bowels of Australian black / death. Even the release date is suspect; the YouTube videos say November 2021, but that’s likely the date of upload and not the date of release. Even more so, one must wonder who is a part of Dracoempericon – this LP blasts out the gate with that ever-so-slightly reverbed production and exceedingly constructed extreme metal. To what other bands can I compare Dracompericon – and perhaps muse on potential membership? Well, I hear a bit of the frenetic spider-hand guitar playing that might point to Horror Illogium of Vomitor and Portal. There’s a bouncy bass aesthetic that doesn’t sound too out of place from StarGazer, though with such an emphasis on capital-A Atmospherics with hints of melody poking through the discord on the longer compositions such as “The Moon Is An Eye”. Whether a late addition to 2021 or an early favorite for 2022, Dracoempericon is an out-of-nowhere masterful addition to the Australian black / death canon.

Check out the LP on the band’s YouTube channel here.

Faceless Entity – The Great Anguish of Rapture [Netherlands, Raw Black] (2022)

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Argento Records | 4-15-22

We do not have much to go on at this point. All we have from the Netherlands based Faceless entity is one track from their new full length, a previous release, and a bunch of images and thematics that seem really fucking cool. From just the sound profile of the preview track “Decaying Banners of Existence” when compared to the multipart segments for their 2017 full length In Via ad Nusquam, Facelsss Entity has made great strides in terms of sound. While both of them are still in the raw black universe, “Decaying Banners of Existence” cuts with a more robust sound while still sounding as menacing as recently freed banshees. Combine this is the spectral ectoplasm cover and and air of mystery which builds walls around this release and one could be excused from becoming excited. I will wait until April but everything for this new full length is a promising escape into the void.

Albionic Hermeticism – Brittonic Ways [France, Black] (2021)

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The Hermetic Order of Ytene | 10-15-21

The Hermetic Order of Ytene is a collective of black metal and experimental music bands based out of the UK and France. Naturally, their lyrical themes primarily explore esotericism with a distinctly UK volkisch bent. As far as can be told, the primary creator behind most of these projects goes by the pseudonym “O.W.G.A.” – of which Auld Ridge’s Consanguineous Tales of Bloodshed and Treachery has ended up being one of my favorites of the year with its blend of furiously riffy black metal and neofolk. Albionic Hermeticism is another (awesome) part of the Order – though this band plays more straightforward black metal with some minor death metal influences. Where Auld Ridge is sublime, Albionic Hermeticism is raucous; this release has far more discord and way less gorgeous melody compared to Auld Ridge, though still firmly within “classic” black metal aesthetics. Two stand-out tracks include “Ciele Uppan Fells” with its tupa-tupa beat and “Summon’d Orlaeg” in the brash 11 minutes of fire.

Memorandum – Menhirs… Affres [Canada, Funeral Doom] (2021)

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Self Released | 6-27-21

Did you find that Tardus Mortem album too long? Well, time for some funeral doom! That’s not a joke (for real this time). Memorandum is funeral doom metal, but it’s the most bite-sized funeral doom out there. Menhirs… Affres is a two-track release in under 30 minutes that fits right in with Worship and Ahab. This is a one-man project from Caleb Simard – and if you’re willing to feel bad about your life so far, he’s only 17 right now. Yep, 17, and put out what I currently think is one of the best funeral doom metal albums of the year. The second track brings in a wonderfully dirge-esque piano lead. That can sound hokey when does poorly, but – as both Skepticism and Memorandum demonstrates – when pulled off, it’s pulled off well. Try this out if you’re interested or already into funeral doom but you don’t want to carve out a weekend to finish an album. One can only imagine where Caleb will be in five years, let alone ten or twenty.

Menhirs… Affres by Memorandum

Tardus Mortem – Armageddon [Denmark, Death] (2021)

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Emanzipation Productions | 9-17-21

Well y’all, we’ve got just half a month left in the year. And since the holidays are fast approaching, you know what that means – more time to read Internet blogs about dungeon synth and metal. Yeah, your true family! Let’s top off the start of the end with Tardus Mortem, an utterly bizarre death metal band from Denmark. Now Danish death metal often conjures up images of Undergang and Sulphurous, but this is not just in a different ballpark – it’s in a completely different volcano. Armageddon is pure death metal with five tracks in 52 minutes. Yes, and it’s not death / doom. This includes a 23-minute centerpiece. It is very, very rare for any metal subgenre to have tracks stretching greater than seven or eight minutes and them not having doom or atmospheric black metal influence. This is not that – Armageddon is a thundering production filled with solos like early Destruction and Possessed, acidic vocal performances, and manic drumming. Frequently, the album is held together at the barest of threads; I occasionally feel like the percussion takes a page from the Vomitor school of music, where the tempo is more of a light suggestion. That extreme length is going to put off a lot of listeners, but I can’t help but be somewhat enamored by such an adversarial album in a genre where “confrontational” is passé.

Armageddon by Tardus Mortem

Occulsed – Crepitation of Phlegethon [USA, Death] (2021)

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Everlasting Spew | 9-17-21

We all have our heuristics in pre-judging music, and one of mine is “does the album art evoke Zdzisław Beksiński”. If the answer is “yes”, then there’s a baseline 20 percent chance that I’m going to enjoy it regardless of anything else. Yeah, I’m basic, so what? It’s not like I’m only into drip coffee and indie Metroidvanias or something. Anyway, Occulsed’s choice of album art was a must-listen for me – and it did not disappoint at all. This is primarily the brainchild of Jared Moran and Justin Stubbs – both of whom have been in a metric fuckton of bands (e.g. Encoffination, Father Befouled, and Draug). This is completely early 90s death metal: there’s that off-kilter and unsettlingly airy production style, a brutal death metal-lite style of songwriting that recalls NY death metal, and a stitched-together approach to songwriting that occasionally sounds more like a collection of distinct riffs than cohesive compositions. I don’t mean that third one in a bad way: I love that kind of sound. It’s half of why I’m so obsessed with the year 1992 (the other being Sister Act). Kenneth Parker’s vocals match the style of music with his breathy approach to deep, deep growls. An album like this is practically tailor-made to my interests; if you’re picking up what I’m putting down in the least bit, then give Occulsed a listen.

Crepitation Of Phlegethon by Occulsed

Sxuperion – Auscultating Astral Monuments [US, Black / Death / Ambient] (2021)

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Sxuperion landed on my digital doorstep with last year’s “Omniscient Pulse”. I reductively described it to friends as “Darkspace but death metal”. In retrospect, that’s unfair; Matthew Schott certainly has some of Tobias Möckl’s proclivity for dark ambient and sci-fi samples, but there’s far more to the Sxuperion project. The project began as something akin to war metal with dark ambient, but upon the release of “Cosmic Void”, Matthew Schott began a multi-pronged series of releases based around the harshness and emptiness of space. Yeah, you know how so much space sci-fi is about the adventure of space? Sxuperion is more like experiencing the long period of utter, incomprehensible, nigh-complete emptiness that is most of the universe. Imagine floating in the Boötes Void – the Great Nothing – with the curious effects of relativity changing your perception of space-time, having you become your own Godhead by being the only form within the formless. With, of course, some of the strongest and coolest black and death metal echoing in your afterburners, be it the laser-effect on “Eyes of Gankhar” or the dissolving threads of “Philotic Astrogation”. Sxuperion’s newest LP is one of my favorites of the year so far, and hopefully it’ll be yours too.

Arna – Dragged to a Lunar Grave [Spain, Black] (2021)

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Self Released | 4-23-2021

2020 and 2021 have been the dual years of wampyric black metal. There’s been a significant uptick in bands releasing short LPs or demos themed around erotic death, moonlit nights, and star-crossed romance (and often, all three at the same time). They’re evocative themes and ones that have rightly been a constant presence in the sturm und drang of the popular consciousness. Who doesn’t love a good story about fated love, especially when so many have experienced or nearly experienced it themselves? Well, back to the music: “Dragged to a Lunar Grave” is four tracks of black metal in 28 minutes. Though from Spain, it kinda reminds me of Nachtmystium’s “Demise” and some other mid-2000s US black metal. Fast, riffy, and layered – not at all as raw as the cover art may impress.