Four great albums, four short reviews. This time the theme is the murky depths of black metal. All new stuff from the underground to your ears, so get your headphones out and support these bands.
Yoth_Iria – Under His Sway (2020)
This is an interesting project comprised of ex Rotting Christ members… and a track from Rotting Christ entirely, apparently (“Visions of the Dead Lovers”). Under His Sway is epic black metal with heavy metal and doomy influences, I also feel some video game influences with the synth and the fact the album art is a piece by Ubisoft concept artist Harshanand Singh. The artwork is what hooked me and I was pleasantly surprised by the sound which subverts all of the boring parts of black metal and makes something legitimately intriguing. Rather than excessive tremolo picking and tryhard intensity there’s a galloping power chord rhythm that is just as likely to give way to chanting as often as it does black metal shrieks. They use melody to sound just as evil as “heavy”. It nails the epic aspect in every way.
The second track has an ungodly deep percussion sound that at first I thought was someone in my house dropping a huge box or something. You’ll know it when you hear it (headphones). The final track is what you’d expect from a fuller band, it’s a wider sound and pretty damn good. It’s a pity that this EP is so damn short, I’ll be looking forward to more of this aesthetic in the future.
Nipenthis – Scourge Of The Stars (2020)
It’s raw but it also has a ton of atmosphere. Scourge Of The Stars is the second full length from the long running underground greek black metal band Nipenthis. The strength of experience certainly shows and serves to separate this album from the litany of underground releases every week with it’s striking guitar licks and very pronounced drumming tone fed through a coherent song writing structure. There’s a lot of melody at the front of the sound that uses the momentum created by an aggressive rhythm section that allows for the return of the black metal growls and shrieks without a moment’s notice. It’s a well constructed album that has a lot of melancholy and atmospherics without losing the punch or drifting too far into post black metal territory. It’s darkness, it’s cosmic, it’s sad and yet it’s still very much defiant in spirit. There’s a couple of surprises throughout the record such as a very new kind of vocal introduced halfway in.
My favorite track is “Πεθαίνοντας”, the only song written in Greek and it’s somewhat of a romantic epic black metal “ballad”. This is a really good album that hasn’t been heard by many people and I think that’s a damn shame, so give it a go.
Avern – Witch’s Eyes (2020)
Hailing from Spain, this project fuses black metal and heavy metal with a punk approach. It’s dark but it also grooves pretty well. It has Tribulation’s level of spookiness but if they had way more of a blues element to their sound, it’s almost southern sounding in the American metal sense. It’s very much in it’s own element that’s hard to pin down. The recording and mixing are quite raw which puts it on the more abrasive side – it gives it a strong edge that can’t be watered down by any amount of heavy metal power chords or solos. It’s essentially a blackened speed metal album if you halved the speed but upped the stomp. I’m into it.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to drink beers or perform a satanic ritual, perhaps both would do the trick. You’ll just have to listen to it. I like the dark color tone of the artwork. This piece was done by Brookesia Studio who has a very interesting variety of styles for many of your favorite bands, check out their posters.
Modarin – In The Distance… (2020)
This is a solo project from Germany with a serious bit of artwork from Moonroot Art. It’s quite a hodgepodge of ideas from black metal, post metal and drone with an overall melancholic daze to it. I found it super endearing as a first album that is dedicated to someone special, it provides some levity to the emotion on this record. It very much feels like a musical exploration of feelings rather than concise songs, it’s quite explorative. This would be ideal for a long walk and I believe a part of the album is about exactly that, a sense of being in touch with nature or one’s self through moments of isolation (get away from indoors for a bit, you look like you’ve had enough).
I know heaps of people that would dig into this, it’s decent for a first attempt at making music. As the musician said themselves, they learned a lot in the year long process of making this and still have more to learn. I’m certainly interested in the future yields of further learning.