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.

Various – Black Steel from the Heart of the World [Finland, Raw Black] (2022)

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Sol / Deviant Records

“Local scenes have always been crucial nuclei of the Black Metal underground. Separated from their contexts many of the most important releases we know would not have emerged the way they eventually did. Mutual inspiration, reciprocal challenging, the creative flux of ideas and at times decades long personal ties of comradeship form invaluable dynamics – a rich multitude of perspectives on the one hand, common distinctive sounds and patterns on the other. One of such spheres that constantly managed to excite us over the past years is the obscure Black Metal underground of the Jyväskylä area in the western Finnish Lakeland. Here at the dark, cold, hilly and forested slopes of the Jyväskylä ridge already plenty of Deviant Records releases originated. “Black Steel from the Heart of the World” offers a gathering of seven closely connected entities, each deeply rooted in ecstatic Black Metal yet each with their very own share of this somewhat intangible moonstruck lunacy that is born under the same moon, the same stars, the same night sky.

I feel including the Bandcamp description was important for this compilation as it captures to scope and thesis for this collection. This is also important since the music from this compilation is cast without much information. From far as I can tell most of the material is new or unreleased from these seven acts. This is exciting especially when given a focus as this is a very interconnected scene of Finnish raw black from a local region of a country. Some of these bands share members and most all of them have probably played on the same shows. there is a cohesiveness when presented with a time and place and Black Steel from the Heart of the World does just that in the loudest way possible.

Black Steel from the Heart of the World by Various

Alhistja – Alhistja [Netherlands, Black / Punk] (2022)

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4-8-22

I don’t think I have ever been so surprised by a guitar riff than in the middle of “TERINGFRIEDUS.” Perhaps that is follows a sinister laugh from the guttural pit of vocals or that the song abruptly ends following this bright implosion of melody. There are many things wonderful and wild about this Dutch black / punk band and at the top of the list is the ability to be surprising in offering flowers in one hand and bricks in the other. Alhistja comes partially from the black metal band Botulism and filled in with the vocalist from German death metal act Chapel of Disease. the collision of talents plus an unorthodox approach to an unorthodox style results in a very short but brilliant demo that is full of bats, piss, and searing attitudes.

Alhistja by Alhistja

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

Brånd – Wo draht da Weg? [Austria, Experimental Black / Punk] (2022)

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Self Released | 2-4-22

This is positively bizarre black / punk from Austria. Wo draht da Weg? is a completely out-there EP in five tracks. Though raw black metal on paper, the vocals completely eschew the typical harshness of either black metal or punk. There’s baritone prostrations to whatever god of Faust might be listening at the moment. Perhaps it’s better to describe this as black / post-punk. The title track certainly demonstrates this, with an echoing guitar lead that is slowly buried under the cacophonous percussion and lo-fi aesthetic. And then it rips right back into tupa-tupa-tupa beats that place it alongside a deranged Raspberry Bulbs. Give this a listen if you enjoy your black metal raw and wriggling.

Wo draht da Weg? by Brånd

Pale Shroud – In Sight O the Bog [UK, Raw Black] (2022)

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Self Released | 1-29-22

Oh frequency illusion, have heart! Bands with “shroud” in their name keep popping up in raw black metaldom. For us today, it’s In Sight O the Bog – the second demo from the anonymous Pale Shroud. In my raw black metal listenings, there exists the “Paysage threshold” of emotional resonance – a moment like in Paysage d’Hiver’s self-titled album where the violin soars through the ice-cracking tremolo. Well, In Sight O the Bog has one of those moments – it’s on “VII” where the synth briefly soars through the punky rhythms. Those little moments of “oh wow” are what elevates exceptional melodic raw black metal from the fray of so many Darkthrone worshippers – moments where the hair on my arms stands up just a bit. Pale Shroud also stands out by how punky it is; though the whisper-raps might put off, the crashing stilted percussion works (again, “VII” stands out). Alright Kap, your move on the raw black game.

In Sight O The Bog (Demo II) by Pale Shroud

Rose Cross – Rosicrucian Song [US, Raw Black] (2022)

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Self Released | 1-17-22

Pull out your copies of Foucault’s Pendulum. Rose Cross is a raw black metal-cum-punk band from Florida that plays three tracks exploring the arcane. In contrast to the more rapid-fire black / punk of bands like Bone Awl or Raspberry Bulbs, Rose Cross is a bit more mid-tempo. “Ceremonies for Ancient Knowledge” is nearly ritualistic, and “Madathanus” could be described as plodding. But that doesn’t mean to imply boredom; check this out for some of that dirty raw black and punk rock sound that just might have strong feelings about prime numbers. The Templars do not hold a stake in Tape Wyrm.

Rosicrucian Song by Rose Cross

Deathless Void – DEMO MMXXI [Netherlands, Death / Black] (2022)

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Iron Bonehead | 2-4-22

Well this is it. A release which has all of the the parts that are cool and interesting. Iron Bonehead vinyl / tape. Death / Black. Netherlands. Cryptic album cover. Even with three or two of these, I would be interested but all four makes for an exciting time. Deathless Void is a new entry into the world with this debut demo proudly displaying the bandmembers as initials. Through three blistering tracks the listener is treated to a chaotic world which is abrasive yet accessible. Dynamic riffs and a versatile sound palette makes for an easy onboarding experience into something that is potentially dangerous. This is a sound in which things seem the most intriguing and full of deathless life. Though this whole package could have been constructed based on things the internet likes, to hear it in real life hits just the same.

DEMO MMXXI by Deathless Void

Vast Night – The Mountain’s Shadow Demo [UK, Raw Black] (2022)

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Self Released | 1-3-22

The Mountain’s Shadow Demo is the first release from solo artist Vast Night, who claims to have worked on the demo for two years. Nice! Congratulations on your first release. Now what is it? Well, this demo is six tracks of raw black metal with a bit of an “atmospheric” black metal sound. But that atmosphere comes not through muddling riffs, but through a commitment to sharp guitar aesthetics (like Ulver) and significant dark ambient influence. Vast Night has a snow-tearing shriek, but the album also features a lot of reverbed spoken word that evoke an appropriately creepy tone. While the demo doesn’t really have much in terms of straight-up riffs, that’s also not entirely the point; the pain and frost is a feature, not a bug. Ever been lost at night on a talus slope? Well, with Vast Night, you could be.

The Mountain's Shadow Demo by Vast Night

Vintlechkeit – Is Vidder… [Norway, Black / Ambient / Drone] (2022)

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Self Released | 1-18-22

It’s been a weird week in the Chesapeake Bay. While we had a lovely month of suitably winter weather (with not a few days getting down in the single digits at night), we’ve been slapped in the face by weather that sadly can no longer be called “unseasonable”. And next week it’ll only be weirder, with highs like a late spring and lows like an late autumn. In times like these, I stick to my frozen vegetables: Paysage d’Hiver, DarkSpace, Arkhtinn, and Lunar Aurora – anything that can trick me into believing it’s actually a frosty wonderland outside (there’s a reason I no longer live in Florida). We can also add Vintlechkeit to that mix. Is Vidder… is just one part of a very, very large discography of instrumental black metal + ambient music – like a low-key (and lo-fi) version of Paysage d’Hiver’s Einsamkeit. These three Norwegians specialize in that kind of slow-burn (or slow-freeze?) type of dirge-ish but not necessarily depressive black metal, being more a long gaze toward an obfuscated sun. The first track is more guitar-oriented, whereas the second track is oscillating drone. It’s icicles made from frozen tears all the way down.

Is Vidder… (demo) by Vintlechkeit