Finland has always pioneered various forms of disturbing, unsettling death metal. Demilich, Demigod, Convulse, and Adramalech have gone on to inspire waves of death/black metal bands far beyond Finland’s borders. Desolate Shrine is very much a different kind of beast, equal parts black metal and death metal, with the crushing weight of doom metal and disturbing flourishes of unhinged dissonance and chaos. Their fourth full-length album finds the band refining and evolving their sound by exploring old influences in new ways on their best album to date.
I’ve always believed that Myrkur had it in her to release a truly great album. Amalie Bruun strikes me as a woman invested in the music she creates, who loves what she does, and has been steadily but surely improving and refining her music since her debut EP in 2014. I still think that her self-titled EP didn’t do her justice, and said as much in my review at the time. Her debut full-length album M the following year was a significant improvement, but I knew she was capable of more, if only she would let go of the need to stick so rigidly to writing “black metal” and allow herself to compile a more diverse set of songs; on her second full-length album Mareridt, Myrkur finally delivers on all the promise that I knew she had, and has succeeded in creating the best album of her career to date, and one of the best albums of 2017.
There are perhaps few genres more niche than dungeon synth. This strange love-child of black metal and dark ambient music was birthed in the early 90s, often tracing its roots back to albums by Burzum, Mortiis and Summoning. On an aesthetic level, dungeon synth is deeply indebted to the black metal scene of which its early pioneering artists were members, and frequently draws on many of the same themes and concepts: high fantasy literature, melancholy and sombre moods, nature, and — of course — dark, mouldy dungeons. But the means by which it creates these sometimes ominous, other times triumphant, atmospheres could not be more different. Even today, artists still more often than not rely on ancient analogue synthesizers and little else. There’s an enormous sense of respect for the old ways of doing things — an ethos one can of course trace back to the genre’s roots in black metal.
The deep love of many black metal musicians for the fictional work created by J. R. R. Tolkien is well-established at this point, and it goes back almost to the birth of the genre itself. Thangorodrim is in fact named after the three enormous volcanoes within the Iron Mountains which Morgoth raised during the First Age, while his third album’s title means ‘Star of High Hope’ in Sindarin. Since his last album, Taur Nu Fuin, Thangorodrim has been spoken of in tones of reverence among the dungeon synth community, and as such the anticipation for Gil-Estel has been high.
Vancouver-based technical death metal crew Archspire have been active since 2009, but gained attention after their previous album, 2014’s The Lucid Collective, mainly due to the incredible speed and technical skill of the musicians on that record. It was fast, violent, and hectic, and predictably divided opinion over the issue of whether the music was simply so technical and polished that it lacked any soul. On their third full-length album Relentless Mutation Archspire seem to have engaged in some critical self-reflection, enabling them to create one of the most stunning albums in the entire genre to date.
Californian blackened deathgrind/blisteringly-heavy-as-fuck band Plague Widow have returned from something of a hiatus. They released their stunning split EP with London’s Oblivionized, “This Black Earth”, in 2013, but in 2015 entered a period of inactivity, which they attribute to “many complications over the past couple years such as various lineup changes, relocating to another city, and set-backs in the recording studio”.
If you’ve ever talked to me about music, you probaly know I’m a huge fan of Bölzer. I think they’re the most exciting band playing in extreme metal today, bar none, and their string of releases over the last few years as well as renowned live shows have cemented their place as one of the most talked about extreme metal bands around. I’ve also long been an admirer of Svartidauði’s music, particularly their album “Flesh Cathedral” which remains an all-time favourite, and whose fundamental importance in the growth and development of the Icelandic black metal scene cannot be understated. So imagine my joy when I heard the announcement of the Continental Crucifixion tour, which would bring both of these phenomenal bands along with black/death warlords Archgoat and the bruising blackened death metallers in Eggs of Gomorrh to a city very near where I live! Read on for more details of this incredible tour lineup!
I needed an album like this in 2017. An album to take me away from things as they are, away from all the specifics of my own circumstances, and to a place I think many of us have a kind of subconscious nostalgia for, a place we might never have been to, a place which perhaps never existed at all. Olypmia, Washington black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room have always succeeded in this respect. With their debut album ‘Diadem of 12 Stars’, the band translated the cold style of Norwegian black metal into their own American cultural context, re-emerging as an expression of the band’s deep connection with the Pacific North West. The band don’t fundamentally change their approach on “Thrice Woven”, but it’s certainly a more aggressive and immediately gratifying approach to a familiar concept.
Profane Nexus is yet another superb offering from one of the most consistent bands in death metal. Rather than seeking to reinvent the wheel, Incantation have been focusing on polishing and refining their genre-defining sound and honing their song-writing chops. Recent years have seen a surge in bands inspired by Incantation‘s cavernous, morbid approach to doom-drenched death metal, but Profane Nexus proves that Incantation are still the reigning kings, as they return with a vengeance. Continue reading “Album review: Incantation – “Profane Nexus””
Cryptic Shift are a technical thrash/death group from Leeds, Yorkshire. After encountering them opening for the legendary Exodus in 2016, I was instantly won over with their aggressive, technical brand of sci-fi metal. They’ve toured and performed with bands such as Vektor, Lost Society, Mithras, Ingested, and will soon be opening for the death American metal juggernauts Suffocation in Leeds. After their monstrous 2016 EP ‘Beyond the Celestial Realms’, in April they released their new digital single ‘Cosmic Dreams’ through UKEM Records. Read on for an interview with their guitarist and vocalist Xander on death metal, sci-fi, and touring with Vektor.
Time Lurker is a one-man atmospheric black metal project that came to life in Strasbourg, France in 2014. Though it is technically a solo project, a number of other musicians contributed to this record, including members of Paramnesia, Pyrecult, and Le Mal des Ardents. Their debut full-length album, the eponymous Time Lurker, channels charts a course that explores the nature of the human condition through the medium of introspective, atmospheric black metal. Stylistically it reminds me of Mare Cognitum, Aureole, or Spectral Lore. The sheer scale and ambition of the compositions contained within is as impressive as it is daunting, the intensity of the emotions and the consequential catharsis exhausting. While it very occasionally bites off more than it can chew, Time Lurker is an exhilarating, emotionally draining record from start to finish. Continue reading “Review: Time Lurker – “Time Lurker””