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Krallice – “Diotima” Review

Krallice - "Diotima"

Kralice – “Diotima” (Profound Lore Records, 2011)

These days many bands squawk and rave that they are influenced by Black Metal. The influence usually comes in two forms — either as slavish imitation that results in mind numbing and useless generic blackened metal or bands include a blast beat or two and some constipated, “spectral” vocals because our sub-genre carries some cache of coolness right now (I can’t believe I just typed those words). In other words, few aggregations use Black Metal to build something new and uniquely their own. Krallice, a Brooklyn-based super group, is one of the exceptions. Their new album, “Diotima,” takes the blueprint laid down by Darkthrone and other early 1990s Norwegian Black Metal groups and builds something distinctive, exciting and skull crushing.

What sets Krallice and “Diotima,” their third album, apart from the legions of uninspired Black Metal practitioners? It bludgeons the listener – something that very few Black Metal-influenced records do. What makes it so heavy? Krallice’s dense, intricate and savage sound. The term “wall of sound” is overused but it fits perfectly for the album’s interweaving of tremolo-picked guitar and blast beat drumming. The result is a disc that is as relentless and intense as the Swans or Einsturzende Neubauten even though Krallice isn’t a noise band. Don’t think Black Metal can hammer you? Check out “The Clearing”:

Krallice – “The Clearing”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwgbmwtQGFw

I wasn’t lying, right? It is unrelentingly urgent; Krallice doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath. Krallice and “Diotima” challenge you to wake up from the comfortable stupor of your everyday fugue and break shit. Grab it when it comes out on April 26th.

Tsjuder – Black Metal’s Discharge

January 22, 2011 1 comment

Tsjuder - "Desert Northern Hell"

Tsjuder – “Desert Northern Hell” (A Season of Mist, 2004)

I try to write a review at least once a week but I haven’t penned one in a while because, honestly, I was tired of listening to Black Metal that didn’t rock. I was sick of listening to bands that sounded like Black Metal Depeche Mode, Black Metal Journey or Black Metal Genesis. A metalhead has his limits, friends – it may be blackened but it’s still supposed to be heavy. And just when I despaired I would never find a Black Metal album that would stomp a mud hole in Satan’s ass, I stumbled upon Tsjuder’s “Desert Northern Hell.”

Tsjuder are a trio of insane corpse paint posse dudes from Oslo, Norway who have been traveling a dark path since 1993. Unfortunately, though, “ Tsjuder called it quits in 2006. But their last album, “Desert Northern Hell” has no silly, 5-minute, atmospheric, Gothic intros and no useless, dollar store Wagnerian symphonic pretensions – just lots and lots of uncompromising blackened metal. And it is a different sort of uncompromising from bands like Deathspell Omega. Deathspell Omega’s relentlessness originates in an idea, their theology, if you will. Their ideology came first and the music followed. Tsujuder is just the opposite – their intensity comes from the music.

Here, listen to the disc’s first cut, “Malignant Coronation.” It will give you an idea about what I am talking about:

Tsjuder – “Malignant Coronation”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r1jDtKVo1Y

Now I just want to give you the idea that “Desert Northern Hell” features the most creative or innovative Black Metal out there. It doesn’t. Tsjuder actually play pretty generic Black Metal but the difference is the fact that they play it harder and rougher than any of the other cats in blackened metal land.

You can really hear the punk influence on “Malignant Coronation.” Punk rock is always listed as one of the influences on Black Metal but it is usually difficult to hear it. I actually hear the influence of British punk icons, Discharge. Now let’s get this out of the way right now: Tsjuder are not even close to as good as Discharge, Tsjuder’s songs aren’t not as heavy or as hook-laden as Discharge’s work, and “Desert Northern Hell” isn’t nearly as well recorded or mixed as Discharge’s vintage Clay Records stuff.

“Desert Northern Hell” is the punkest, hardest and rockin’-est Black Metal record I’ve heard so far. I hope there are more like this one out there.

Behexen/Satanic Warmaster EP Review

Behexen/Satanic Warmaster EP

Behexen/Satanic Warmaster Split EP (Hammer of Hate, 2008)

Split EPs are a great idea theoretically. You throw your hard earned money down on them because you hope they contain an “A” side and a “B” side from both bands. In practice, though, few bands are willing to surrender their best – “A” – material for a release they are sharing with another aggregation so split EPs usually end up being the place where bands dump their leftovers, tracks that weren’t good enough to make their last album, or – worse – tracks that have been languishing in the vault for years and never should have been released to see the light of day. This problem cripples this EP in particular: It features the best of underground Finnish Black Metal and the worst of underground Finnish Black Metal all on one release.

Behexen hold up their end of the bargain. Formed in 1994, Behexen are one of the granddaddies of the Finnish Black Metal scene. 2008 was a busy year for the “Lords of the Left Hand,” as Behexen also like to be known as (whatever the hell that means); they released two Beelzebub-centric albums, “From the Devil’s Chalice” and “My Soul for His Glory,” in addition to this split EP with Satanic Warmaster.

The first song on the EP, “Mouth of Leviathan,” is a wild six-minute ride. It begins at a moderate pace featuring a hellaciously good riff at the 1:00 mark. For the rest of the song it switches between frantic thrash beats and the moderate pace and back again. It also features one of the craziest, most extreme vocal styles in all of Black Metal land. It is – all in all – one of the best Black Metal songs I’ve ever heard.

Behexen – “Mouth of Leviathan”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoicTieIEFs

The other song, “Where the Devil Spoke,” is simply traditional, generic Black Metal. It isn’t bad – it just isn’t as innovative or as interesting as “Mouth of Leviathan.”

Behexen – “Where the Devil Spoke”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6WIob8sbNI

This brings us to Satanic Warmasters’ two songs, “Where Eternity Awaits” and “The Burning Eyes of the Werewolf.” Lauri Penttila – or “Satanic Tyrant Werewolf” to his mates and family – is the driving force behind Satanic Warmaster, a Black Metal band from southern Finland. “Werewolf” has been performing and “recording” using the band name Satanic Warmaster since 1999.

I put the word “recording” in quotes because the tracks on this EP sound terrible. They are poorly recorded and poorly mixed. The tracks were recorded between 2004-2007 on an “analog 4-track” and so they sound like they were recorded one afternoon after school in the damp recesses of Mr. and Mrs. Warmasters’ basement. The words “amateur recording” doesn’t begin to cover it.

“Where Eternity Awaits”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBsjCk-WERI

“The Burning Eyes of the Werewolf”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqHeFyCfplk

It is unfortunate that guitars and Werewolf’s slimy, constipated vocals dominate the mix because the drummer, VHolm, kills it within the very narrow confines of Black Metal drumming.

The song writing – the craft of putting a song together – is immature. Satanic Warmaster sound like British Oi band, Anti Social, with fizzy Black Metal guitars. The worst part – the “amateur hour” moment – comes during “Where Eternity Awaits” at 3:50 when the “spooky” keyboards come in and they can never quite get in tune with the guitar (and then they return in all their out of tune glory at 4:45).

The final verdict on Satanic Warmaster’s contribution to the split EP? Bands that say they follow Lucifer obviously never prosper because they can’t afford a decent recording studio session.

The good: Behexen songs – satisfying traditional Black Metal.

The bad and the ugly: Satanic Warmaster songs – low-fi recordings of low-rent songs.

Deathspell Omega – Satan’s Grad Student Theoreticians

Deathspell Omega - "Paracletus" (2010)

Deathspell Omega – “Paracletus” (Norma Evangelium Diaboli, 2010)

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” This phrase appeared in Dante’s Divine Comedy when he strolled through the gates of H-E-Double-Toothpick but, honestly, it should be nailed above the door of every liberal arts department in graduate schools. Why? Because there are no jobs, no money, no nothing in academia these days unless you want a wheelbarrow full of low paying, long hour adjunct jobs, a circle of hell that Dante never visited. So what are a group of newly-minted Philosophy and Comparative Literature Ph.D.s supposed to do when they can’t find gainful employment commiserate with their educational accomplishments? Turn dark, bitter and resentful, transfer their years of marinating in Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari and Lyotard to an all-consuming obsession with Satan, form a band and release a trilogy of the most ferocious, dense and Satanic Black Metal discs the world has heard. And call their band, Deathspell Omega.

Now, granted, this scenario is pure speculation on my part. I can only guess about them because there is no biographical information about France’s Deathspell Omega – no website, no photographs, and only a few academic, impenetrable interviews. They refuse to play live shows and to tour. Deathspell Omega exists, it appears, only to spew the darkest vitriol.

Let’s get this straight at the start – most of the Satanic stuff in Black Metal is downright stupid. The band Gorgoroth, for example, has a song called “Procreating Satan.” Now, I can’t tell from the title or the lyrics what the song is about but if it is about “procreating” Satan then it should be titled, “Doing Satan’s Mom.” Deathspell Omega are not silly or stupid like Gorgoroth – they are intelligently and intensely serious about their Dark Overlord. They fancy themselves as theologians, theoreticians and ideologues of the Black Metal Satan sweepstakes.

Here is what little I have been able to piece together about Deathspell Omega. They recorded a demo, Disciples of the Ultimate Void, before putting together their first album, Infernal Battles, in 2000. Both of these efforts were supposedly Darkthrone-influenced generic Black Metal. In the years since these early efforts, the band had transformed themselves from an aggregation that survived by churning out derivative work to an experimental, technical and avant-garde, post-rock, dark metal behemoth.

The transformation began with the monumental Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice (Latin for “If You Seek His Monument, Look Around”) in 2004. It was the ferocious first installment of a trilogy of platters exploring the relationship of man and woman with God and Lucifer. The next installment of the trilogy Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (“Divine Law – Depart from Me, Ye Cursed, into Everlasting Fire”) crawled out of the abyss three years later. The concluding disc, Paracletus, was released last month.

What does it sound like? Aggressive, dissonant, and intense – intense as hell:

Deathspell Omega – “Epiklesis I” and “Wings Of Predation”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7ENR2iGuy4&playnext=1&list=PL69FCF529A57F50F8&index=30

Musically, the album is gloriously resplendent in its atonality and seasick rhythmic complexity. It sounds as if Don Van Vliet had captained a Black Metal band when he cut “Ice Cream for Crow” or if Greg Ginn’s band had been called “Black Metal” instead of Black Flag.

The intensity of Paracletus makes it Black Metal’s only truly scary album.

Nick’s Condensed Metal Reviews

December 22, 2010 1 comment

Swans - "My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky" (2010)

BY NICK

They say brevity is the soul of wit – well most metal cares little for brevity and would eat/destroy your soul if it could. Here are some quick thoughts on music I like or don’t that has some (often tenuous) relation to metal.

Swans – “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky“: The heavy moments of this are pretty much what I am looking for when I troll the internet for metal. 30 years of skill, work and talent. White hot, atom splitting transcendence. My favorite band ever. Swans – “No Words/No Thoughts”

Deathspell Omega – “Paracletus” You’ll read more about this slab of vinyl later here on Pitch Black Brigade. Horrible/Beautiful Qliphothic emanations from disturbed and ravenous minds. These guys are operating on a much higher level than pretty much EVERYONE else in metal and I am glad to benefit from their quest (as should be the goal in all art) to figure out just what the fuck is going on here. And by here I mean reality. The whole satanism thing is a reactionary misapprehension as far as I am concerned, but that is ok. They are eloquent and possessed of genius in the exploration of that misapprehension.

Agalloch – “Marrow of the Spirit“: I honestly can’t see what the big deal is. It doesn’t suck, but not sucking is a far cry from the slavering reviews this has received. Makes me think of poor dead Gary. Ya know: Diff’rent Strokes. It also makes me think of the renaissance fair, those giant turkey drumsticks in particular – not sure why.

Burzum – “Belus“: Makes me really glad for WITTR, Deathspell Omega and all the other interesting and intelligent metal bands out there. I can turn to them when I need a fix of the dark ‘n’ heavy, and I don’t have to listen to this douchebag. The misguided douche is clearly some kind of savant, though. This is no “Filosofem,” but it is undeniably good.

SUNN O)) – “Monoliths & Dimensions“: Genius. Especially Alice. Which is tribute to Alice Fucking Coltrane. These guys have clearly received some special mojo from – ya know – down below or something. And by that I mean their bowels. Art galleries ? Homemade Richard Serra t-shirts ? Trombones ? Yes.

Nadja: The 17 and a half HOURS of music in my library. On the island of metal, it is nice to know that the professors in Nadja are here to school the corpse paint wearing Gilligan-esqe hordes in the science of heavy. But they put out too much music. Seriously.

Mount Eerie – “Wind’s Dark Poem“: Kinda like J Mascis and Varg Vikernes get together to watch Twin Peaks in their jammies. And maybe cuddle.

Family Band – “Miller’s Path“: Not metal at all, yet it is. Husband/Wife hipsters go rural and play darkly atmospheric folk. Check out the Priest/Maiden but clean guitar riffs Definitely a novel and satisfying combination.

Alcest – Hipster Black Metal

Alcest - "Ecailles de Lune" (2010)

Alcest – “Ecailles de Lune” (Prophecy Productions, 2010)

Something weird is going on when earth tone corduroy wearing, facial hair sporting, fixed-gear bike riding, gingerbread-oatmeal-chocolate-butternut-acorn-squash stout drinking hipster start listening to heavy metal. Let’s face it – heavy metal is the least hip genre of music . . . ever. It is – at its heart – “outsider music for outsiders.” But Black Metal-influenced bands like Frances’s Alcest and Amesoeurs may soon change that and make it down right cool for you to flash your Slayer t-shirt somewhere other than the stale, alienated confines your parents’ basement.

For some mysterious reason, France has become the official research and design laboratory for Black  Metal. Yes, Norway gave birth to the genre in the early 1990s but, let’s be honest, the original formula – low fi recordings of bacon sizzling treble guitars, blast beat beats and Satan-centric constipated vocals – could use some thoughtful and inspired re-imagining and reconsidering. France has taken this task of broadening and renovating Black Metal seriously. Lots of interesting and crazy things are being dreamt up in the land of Bernard Hinault (google him if you don’t know who he is), soft cheeses, crusty breads and Jacques Tati (google him too), including Black Metal’s Satanic theoreticians and theologians, the mysterious, obtuse and abstruse, Deathspell Omega (I am convinced they are a bunch of Comparative Literature graduate students who transfered their obsession with semiotics, Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari and Lyotard to Satan), the glorious weirdness of Glorior Belli and the mind blowing diversity and craziness unleashed on the world from the label, A Season of Mist.

Alcest started as a side project for Neige (“Snow” en francais), a break from the nastiness of the Avignon Black Metal band, Peste Noire. Neige and the other members of PN cut a four-song demo called “Tristesse Hivernale,” as Alcest, in 2001. This demo was straight-ahead first generation Norwegian Black Metal. After this demo, though, Neige reclaimed Alcest as his own and ditched the frosty but generic Black Metal stylings, resulting in the startling and critically acclaimed “Souvenirs d’un autre monde” (“Memories of Another World”). Three years later, Alcest – with Neige playing everything but drums – released their masterpiece, the album that might make Black Metal cool, “Ecailles de Lune” (“Flakes of Moon”).

What is there for a straight leg, skinny jean, Pabst Blue Ribbon-chugging hipster to like? It doesn’t sound like metal at all. It’s not even metal-esque. Alcest have morphed into a hypnotic, atmospheric, dreamy, jangly alternative shoegaze band. What you ask was shoegaze? Shoegaze was a style of music that shuffled and slumped out of England in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The name comes from either the fact that the members of the band stood around and gazed at their shoes (or more likely at their enormous chains of effect pedals) while they played live. Shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine , Slowdive and Swervedriver featured guitars churning out droning riffs, and an emphasis on melody, melody, melody laden with hooks. Alcest poached this style, added a little early REM jangle, threw in the tiniest bit of blast beat pounding, treble guitars and blackened vocals to create  to a compelling and intoxicating album, one of the only platters that my wife won’t yell, “Turn that crap off” when I put it on the turntable.

Listen to this and you’ll understand why my wife, critics and painfully self-conscious, cooler-than-thou hipsters like it:

Alcest – “Ecailles de Lune, Part I” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dwrrLb-uJQ

Here is a link to the second song on the album and it features harsher vocals but still it dreamy and jangly:

Alcest – “Ecailles de Lune, Part II” –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mzICkQNmMQ

If Alcest are able to keep the hipsters plugged in, metalheads all over the world might get laid . . . in their parents’ basement.

Rimfrost – “A Swedish Black Metal Blizzard”

Rimfrost - "Veraldar Nagli" (2009)

Rimfrost – “Veraldar Nagli” (Season of Mist, 2009)

As I have mentioned several times before, many Black Metal bands have forgotten that the term “Black Metal” is shorthand for Black HEAVY Metal. Instead they think it stands for “Black Depeche Mode” or something equally ludicrous and un-rocking.  Thank God, Satan or Odin – take your pick – Sweden’s Rimfrost aren’t interested in phony dark atmospherics and “textures”; they are only interested in bludgeoning the listener.

Who are Rimfrost? They are a duo of “corpse paint” wearing metal dudes who live in Boras, Sweden and they are damn proud of that fact based on how many times they mention it. The singer and guitarist, Hravn, began jamming with Throllv, the drummer in 2002 at the tender of age of 14 so they are now approaching their wizened and elderly mid-20s. Rimfrost don’t have a permanent bass player at this point but Peter Laustsen (Nox Aurea, ex-The Cold Existence) plucked four strings on the album.*

Speaking of the record, “Veraldar Nagli” is Rimfrost‘s second slab of vinyl. According to the band’s myspace site, the album’s title translates into “Axis of the World,” which means the North Star.* It is their first album for the always interesting French record label, A Season of Mist.

What does it sound like? The band’s mission statement reads like this: “The Swedes from Borås are organically fusing Black, Death and Thrash Metal into a mighty sound of their own.”* While that description is a little over the top, you can’t blame a band for trying so make themselves sound more distinctive than they are. The truth is, though, Rimfrost are  heavy like “a cement mixer filled with anvils,” as one person put it. And I liked this album after the first few seconds of the first song because it sounded like heavy metal. No long “intros” to slog through – just heaviness based on riffs you can imagine Iron Maiden or Metallica or some other metal band playing.

Rimfrost – “Varaldar Nagli”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8lmx1317z8

My enthusiasm for this record now brings us to a point that I have been studiously avoiding – it’s metal but is it blackened metal? Rimfrost touts the album as a “A Swedish Black Metal Blizzard,” which is an interesting description because Sweden isn’t really known for its Black Metal – Sweden’s specialty is ye olde Death Metal.* And honestly “Veraldar Nagli” has more in common with Amon Amarth than Burzum or even other Black Metal bands like Vreid. There are no bacon sizzling treble tremolo guitars here, lots of “cookie monster” vocals instead of spectral blackened vocals. In the end, it doesn’t matter which label you want to stick on this record because it bludgeons regardless of which genre of “extreme” metal it gets stuck in.

*http://www.myspace.com/rimfrostofficial, accessed 12.2.10

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