Tag Archives: Black Metal

Pure

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The Local Woods, This Morning
The Local Woods, This Morning

When I took the dog out for a nice long walk in the woods this morning it was rather foggy, and I took a few pictures as the scenery put me very much in mind of the kind of imagery that can be found on numerous black metal albums, such as “The Dark Hereafter” by Winterfylleth, Darkthrone’s “Panzerfaust”, “In These Woods, From These Mountains” from The Wretched End and “Death Of The Sun” by Wyrd.

In The Woods
In The Woods…

Naturally this, coupled with the atmosphere such conditions evoke, led me to spin some black metal albums when I returned home. One of these albums found itself on repeat, and it seems more than appropriate that the record in question was “Pure”, the latest release from Norwegian band In The Woods…

Christian "X" Botteri
Christian “X” Botteri

The band formed way back around 1992 by three members of metal band Green Carnation – being guitarist Christian “X” Botteri, bass player Christopher “C:M.” Botteri and drummer Anders Kobro.

Adding singer Jan Kenneth Transeth and guitarist Oddvar “A:M” Moi, the band released three studio albums between 1995 and 1999 before the band split in 2000 after the release of compilation album “Three Times Seven On A Pilgrimage”.

Christopher "C:M." Botteri
Christopher “C:M.” Botteri

In 2014 it was announced that the initial threesome of Botteri, Botteri and Kobro had reunited as In The Woods… and then last year came news that singer James Fogarty was to complete the new incarnation of the group. These four are responsible for “Pure”, with additional lead guitar provided on the final three tracks by Bjørn “Berserk” Harstad.

Anders Kobro
Anders Kobro

Looking at the few pictures of the band that can be found online you’d be forgiven for thinking that In The Woods… are not perhaps the happiest of bands. Lyrically, however, “Pure” would seem to counter that to some degree with lines such as  “…a shining future waiting, a promise of the pure…” or “…we left the darkness, walking into the light…” to balance against mentions of darkness, black holes and grief.

Jan Kenneth Transeth
Jan Kenneth Transeth

Musically, the band are not straight forward black metal by any means. With progressive and avant-garde stylings present throughout their relatively brief back catalogue one could perhaps make comparisons to the likes of fellow Norwegian act Ulver. I felt there are echoes of modern-day Enslaved and Swallow The Sun to be heard within these grooves.

Oddvar "A:M" Moi
Oddvar “A:M” Moi

What’s beyond dispute (at least to my ears) is that this is the kind of album that lends itself perfectly to this time of year and the colder, gloomier weather that comes with it – just as the aforementioned Swallow The Sun’s epic three-disc “Songs From The North” from last year still does. Granted “Pure” cannot compare with “Songs…” in terms of scale and variety but more than holds its own as a great piece of work.

James Fogarty
James Fogarty

Opening with the title track the vibe is at once doomy yet spacey, and displays the album’s rich and warm production. Fogarty’s voice is powerful enough to stand out over the heaviness of the guitars, bass and drums and the compositions are both complex and accessible – which is no mean feat.

There isn’t a truly weak track on this record, but for me the picks of the bunch would have to be “Towards The Black Surreal”, “Cult Of Shining Stars” and the ten-minute-plus instrumental piece “Transmission KRS”. “The Recalcitrant Protagonist” isn’t far behind either.

In The Woods...
In The Woods…

Guitar work throughout the album is imaginative and impressive. Sometimes hypnotic and sometimes crushing, but never dull. The same can be said of the vocal lines too. I suppose atmosphere is the word that might best be used when thinking about the sound of this record.

Many reviewers have commented that the album sounds dated and disappoints in comparison to the group’s earlier work. Well, “Pure” is my entry point to the band so I am, I guess, in the fortunate position of not being able to hold it up against the likes of “Omnio” (1997) or the debut “Heart Of The Ages”. I wouldn’t agree that the material sounds dated, however. To me “Pure” is fresh, has vitality and is an organic sounding album that ought to see wider recognition that will likely be the case for a relatively low-key band in a niche genre. Good stuff!…btm

“Pure” tracklist:

1. Pure / 2. Blue Oceans Rise (Like A War) / 3. Devil’s At The Door / 4. Recalcitrant Protagonist / 5. The Cave Of Dreams / 6. Cult Of Shining Stars / 7. Towards The Black Surreal / 8. Transmission KRS / 9. This Dark Dream / 10. Mystery Of The Constellations

Mausoleum

myrkur-mausoleum

Myrkur
Myrkur

A recent discovery here in the shadows is Danish black metal project Myrkur. When the first recording was released, the 2014 seven song self-titled EP, nothing was known publicly about the personnel behind the music other than it was a one-woman band from “…the darkness of Scandinavia…” The music contained thereon was described by the artist as “…a combination of ethereal choir vocals and evil guitars and aggressive blast beats…” She went on to say “…I always dreamed about becoming a Huldra, an Elver girl, a Valkyrie, the goddess Freja. These powerful women in Norse Mythology have an element of beauty and mystique, but they are also deadly…”.

Amalie Bruun
Amalie Bruun

There was some controversy and something of a backlash (including death threats!) from less open-minded black metal fans when the woman behind Myrkur was revealed to be New York based model and singer / songwriter Amalie Bruun, previously frontwoman of pop/rock band Ex-Cops.

Amalie Bruun - Black Metal Girl At Heart
Amalie Bruun – Black Metal Girl At Heart

I haven’t heard Ex-Cops, or indeed any of Denmark-born Bruun’s earlier solo work but I can attest that since moving into the world of black metal (although it’s worth pointing out that she stated that she was “…a black metal girl at heart…” in an interview she did for a fashion website back in 2012) her music certainly fits the aforementioned description of fusing ethereal singing with traditional black metal sounds.

Kristoffer Rygg & Myrkur
Kristoffer Rygg & Myrkur

The impressive full debut album, titled “M”, was produced by Kristoffer Rygg, vocalist and keyboardist for Norwegian avant-garde black metallers Ulver and released to generally positive reviews – if still resistance from some of the genre’s fan-base – in August of 2015. This is probably oe of my favourite extreme metal releases of last year.

Emanuel Vigeland's Museum / Mausoleum
Emanuel Vigeland’s Museum / Mausoleum

For a project whose name, Myrkur, apparently means “darkness” in Icelandic it seems entirely fitting that the third release should have been recorded live in the rather stunning venue that is Emanuel Vigeland’s museum / mausoleum in Slemdal, Oslo.

Norwegian Girls Choir
Norwegian Girls Choir

Leaving the blast beats and abrasive black metal guitars at home, Bruun is accompanied on this haunting acoustic recording by the Norwegian Girls Choir and former Ulver member Håvard Jørgensen.

Myrkur
Myrkur

Not an acoustic album in the usual sense, the songs are recognisable from the original versions and yet the treatment given here means that they do stand up in their own right. In fairness, I find it impossible to point to any particular highlights on this record as all nine tracks are uniformly excellent. Despite not having the extremes in sound of the studio work this beautiful recording still enchants the listener. Best listened to late at night in the dark, or perhaps out in the forest or on a hill without modern civilisation breaking the spell, this is twenty-seven minutes of pure atmosphere. Utterly compelling listening…myrkur-btm

“Mausoleum” tracklist:

1. Vølvens Spådom / 2. Jeg Er Guden, I Er Tjenerne / 3. Skøgen Skulle Dø / 4. Byssan Lull / 5. Den Lille Piges Død / 6. Frosne Vind / 7. Onde Børn / 8. Song To Hall Up High / 9. Dybt I Skoven

1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9 originally from “M” (2015) / 5 originally a single release (2015) / 6 originally from “Myrkur” (2014) / 8 cover of Bathory song from “Hammerheart” (1990)

The Dark Hereafter

winterfylleth-the-dark-hereafter

winterfyllethI have talked briefly about Manchester-based black metal band Winterfylleth before, when they were the opening act at Behemoth’s 2014 show at the O2 Academy in Birmingham. At that time I mentioned that the band’s name is taken from the Old English for “Winter Full Moon”. Other sources have stated the word to represent an ancient heathen festival to welcome the first full moon of winter, and others still that it simply means “October”. The band’s own stance on this, taken from their official website, states that it “represents the first full moon in October as well as the Anglo-Saxon festival of the arrival of winter.”

Winterfylleth - The Ghost Of Heritage (2008)
Winterfylleth – The Ghost Of Heritage (2008)

Lyrically the group strive to portray “tales of England’s archaic history, re-counting major events, battles, the spiritual outlook of the people and the way they lived and even draw inspiration from certain sites and scenery that grace the countryside of England and have played an integral part in England’s history.”

Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere (2010)
Winterfylleth – The Mercian Sphere (2010)

This intent has led to accusations of racism in the past and the band describing themselves as English Heritage Black Metal is bound to draw comparisons with other bands who celebrate the ancient heritage of their particular countries. Inevitably this national pride is often viewed as national socialism, or simply put, Nazism – particularly during turbulent times such as those we find ourselves in these days with such fierce debate around subjects such as multiculturalism and migration where folk talking of their country’s history are often perceived as anti-everywhere-else.

Winterfylleth - The Threnody Of Triumph (2012)
Winterfylleth – The Threnody Of Triumph (2012)

I am not overly concerned with the personal views of the members of bands that I listen to, and take the view that the lyrics form a part of the whole package – just as plot elements of films and books do – and that I don’t have to agree with or endorse any such views to appreciate the music on offer, as touched upon when talking about Shining’s latest album “XI : Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends”. That said, I do not personally feel that writing and singing about the history and landscapes of your homeland should be considered as racism and that too often these days political correctness does more harm than good.

Winterfylleth - The Divination Of Antiquity (2014)
Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity (2014)

Anyway, enough rambling – what’s the new record like, I hear you ask? Well, “The Dark Hereafter” is Winterfylleth’s fifth studio album and follows on from 2014’s offering “The Divination Of Antiquity”. The first thing to note is that whilst previous albums have nine or ten tracks and clocked in at around an hour, this one contains only five tracks and has a duration of just over 40 minutes.

Ulver - Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler (1995)
Ulver – Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler (1995)

Of those five tracks one, “Led Astray In The Forest Dark”, is a translated-into-English cover of a track first recorded under the title “Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild” by Norwegian band Ulver back in 1995 on their debut album “Bergtatt – Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler”. Ulver are one of the band’s primarily influences, along with acts such as Enslaved and Slavic black metal bands like Drudkh. The album artwork is also clearly influenced by the Ulver debut.

Chris Naughton
Chris Naughton

Another track, “Pariah’s Path”, appeared as a bonus track on the aforementioned “The Divination Of Antiquity”. This suggests that, even though band leader Chris Naughton reckons that they are about two albums further down the line in terms of writing they were perhaps a little short of inspiration when preparing for “The Dark Hereafter”?

Simon Lucas
Simon Lucas

Whether or not that is the case I do think it’s fair to say that this is another really good record from one of the shining lights of today’s black metal scene. It may not be black metal in the traditional corpse paint and Satanism sense, but there seems to be a definite shift in appreciation for history and nature in recent years and Winterfylleth’s music fits in with this perfectly.

Nick Wallwork
Nick Wallwork

This isn’t “summery” music. The soundscapes here compliment the colder and bleaker seasons and suggest the majesty and beauty of the beautiful lands in which we live. Beauty may seem like an odd choice of word for such harsh and brutal music but the elements of folk music (though there is less of that than on the previous albums) together with clean and choral vocals that form part of the sound help to give a broader feel to proceedings. I also think it’s perfectly possible to appreciate the beauty in our landscapes during the coldest and wettest times of year so see no issue with doing the same with the aural representation on this album.

Dan Capp
Dan Capp

Of the remaining tracks it is without doubt “Green Cathedral” that is the highlight and centrepiece of the whole record. Not only due to its length (using up 13 of the 40 minute total) but also due to the sheer expansiveness of the song. Apparently influenced by author Ben Myers who wrote “The Green Cathedral is a place, a series of places, a philosophy, a feeling, a mind-set, a movement, a lack of movement, a meditation. Many meditations. It is walking and running, sitting and seeing…” this is surely the group encouraging us to get out and reconnect with nature – or at very least imagine that we are doing so whilst immersing ourselves in the music (best experienced through headphones). A truly excellent piece of music.

Mark Deeks
Mark Deeks

Winterfylleth these days features founding members Naughton (vocals / guitars) and Simon Lucas (drums / vocals) joined by long serving bassist Nick Wallwork, new boy guitarist Dan Capp (who also does the artwork) and keyboard player Mark Deeks. Though the overall sonic template hasn’t altered much since day one for this distinctive outfit I do feel that each release has shown some progression and development from the previous one, and “The Dark Hereafter” is no exception.

Winterfylleth
Winterfylleth In 2015

Although if you discount the inclusion of “Pariah’s Path” it is essentially only really three new songs and a cover this is still a really worthwhile addition to the band’s catalogue. The title track and “Ensigns Of Victory” are good, if typical, Winterfylleth tunes, but the best of the record is without doubt the aforementioned “Green Cathedral” and the really great version of “Led Astray In The Forest Dark”. Well worth exploring as the winter draws in…winterfylleth-btm

“The Dark Hereafter” tracklist:

1. The Dark Hereafter / 2. Pariah’s Path / 3. Ensigns Of Victory / 4. Green Cathedral / 5. Led Astray In The Forest Dark

In These Woods, From These Mountains

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Tomas Thormodsæter "Samoth" Haugen
Tomas Thormodsæter “Samoth” Haugen

A band that have recently assaulted by senses for the first time are Norwegian band The Wretched End. Formed in 2008, the group initially comprised just guitarist Tomas Thormodsæter “Samoth” Haugen and guitarist / bassist / vocalist André “Cosmo” Søgnen.

Samoth had previously been a member of black metal band Zyklon and has been in black metal legends Emperor since the early 1990s. For his part Cosmo is also a member of Mindgrinder, another black metal band.

André "Cosmo" Søgnen
André “Cosmo” Søgnen

By the time the band’s debut album “Ominous” was recorded and hit the shelves in 2010 the pair had been joined by drummer Nils “Dominator” Fjellström of black metal act Dark Funeral.

Second album “Inroads” followed in 2012 and now, after a four-year gap, comes album number three “In These Woods, From These Mountains” – a title that evokes imagery similar to that seen on the album cover before you even see it.

Nils "Dominator" Fjellström
Nils “Dominator” Fjellström

Despite the band members’ backgrounds the sound of The Wretched End is probably best described as simply extreme metal, containing, as it does, elements of black metal, death metal and thrash metal. That said, now that I’ve had a chance to hear their back catalogue too I reckon that the new album is the most black metal sounding, to me, of the three. Indeed Samoth has been quoted as saying that “It’s great to finally have this album ready for release. It took us some years for various reasons; different things in our every day and professional lives that took a lot of focus on our parts. We never felt any great pressure.  Looking back, I think the whole process affected the album in a positive way. I personally feel I’ve almost come full circle with this new album, bringing more elements rooted in the darkness of black metal.”

Attila Csihar
Attila Csihar

The album kicks off with the furious sounding “Dead Icons”, a fabulous slice of black metal with all the requisite glacial guitar sounds, blastbeat drumming and guttural vocal delivery. This leads into the slightly more sedate “Primordial Freedom”, before “Old Norwegian Soul” brings the first guest appearance on the album with Attila Csihar, vocalist with fellow Norwegian black metallers Mayhem, lending his pipes to the track.

Einar Solberg
Einar Solberg

The other guests crop up on the final track “Dewy Fields”, which is a cover of a track by Norwegian pop act Bel Canto. This features vocals from Leprous member Einar Solberg and programming work from Lars Sørensen of Red Harvest. This particular track feels somewhat out of place stylistically to be honest and I’m not sure that the album wouldn’t have been better without it tacked onto the end.

The Wretched EndHowever, prior to that, the rest of the album continues with some solid black metal tunes, the best of which are probably “Atheos”, “Generic Drone” and the fabulous “The Decline And Fall”. Granted there’s nothing really groundbreaking to be found on this record but this is nonetheless a worthwhile black metal album that could easily soundtrack a journey down from the mountains of Norway and into the woods on a particularly bleak day and I’d say that it’s the best of the band’s work to date…btm

“In These Woods, From These Mountains” tracklist:

1. Dead Icons / 2. Primordial Freedom / 3. Old Norwegian Soul / 4. Misery Harbour / 5. Atheos / 6. The Decline And Fall / 7. Burrowing Deep / 8. Dewy Fields

Triangle

Schammasch 2016 Triangle

Swiss avant-garde black metal band Schammasch was formed in the city of Basel in 2009 by guitarist / vocalist Christopher “CSR” Ruf, drummer Boris “BAW” AW and guitarist Marc “MA” Altorfer. They were joined in 2012 by current bassist Swart “AT” (CSR having also handled bass guitar up until that point).

Christopher "CSR" Ruf
Christopher “CSR” Ruf

I’ve not been able to find out much about this somewhat mysterious outfit, save that the band’s name is taken from that of a sun-god in ancient Babylonian mythology. The group’s debut album “Sic Lvceat Lvx” was released in 2010, and the second album – a double album titled “Contradiction” followed in 2014 and was a marked improvement on the first record.

Not being content with producing a double album, the group’s latest release is no less than a triple album, which is titled “Triangle”. Each disc has its own title – I is “The Process Of Dying”, II is “Metaflesh” and III is “The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void”.

Schammasch
Schammasch

Although “Triangle” follows in the footsteps of Swallow The Sun’s excellent “Songs From The North” triple album last year, with a distinct sound to each disc, Schammasch have taken the concept even further by carefully arranging for each disc to have a running time of 33:30 thus ensuring that each point of this particular triangle accounts for exactly a third of the whole. Granted, 100 minutes of music could easily be spilt into just two discs but the Swiss troupe clearly felt it was important for their artistic statement to be arranged in the manner in which it is presented.

Schammasch
Schammasch

Conceptually the project, according to songwriter CSR, reflects “three different steps towards a fulfilled state of being. The Process of Dying describes the experience of loss and change through death, and furthermore its acceptance. Metaflesh stands as the balance between earthly life and the spirit world, pointing out the necessity and the reality of both of them. The Supernal Clear Light of the Void represents the final state, the mastering of the ego, a state of freedom, light or void.” In addition, it would seem that the band’s albums are, thus far at least, connected to numerology in that the debut was looking at the number one, “Contradiction” concerned the number two (hence two discs) and “Triangle” obviously also tackles the number three, with the album “based on the number three in which is the symbol for the state of unity in various religious contexts. The three chapters of the album can be seen as an abstraction of the holy trinity symbol.” 

1So far, so deep. But what of the musical contents? Well, kicking off with “Crepusculum”, the first of two instrumentals on “The Process Of Dying”, disc one is the most traditional sounding in black metal terms. There are doom metal influences to be felt too, but the overall atmosphere is very much black metal. “In Dialogue With Death” and, especially, “Consensus” are the standout tracks on this disc.

2The “Metaflesh” disc begins with “The World Destroyed By Water”, and this track demonstrates that this is going to be a more experimental sounding piece of work. There are no instrumentals on this disc, but the songs all have numerous stylistic changes and textures within them, with much more clean vocal and guitar lines in evidence, with “Above The Stars Of God” being the highlight of the record, “Metanoia” coming a close second. The comparatively delicate “Conclusion” brings part two to a suitable end.

3Finally we have “The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void”. For the most part this is an instrumental piece of work, with the exception of the last track “The Empyrean”. This disc has ambient and world music elements, tribal percussion, chanting and non-singing vocals – making the whole thing seem initially very un-black metal. However, many black metal bands are expanding their musical horizons these days whilst still staying true to their beliefs and artistic vision and clearly that’s what Schammasch are attempting to do here, with some very impressive results.

I don’t think Schammasch have quite managed to produce a work as impressive as the aforementioned Swallow The Sun release, as “Songs From The North” is more accessible and contains more beauty (not perhaps a word generally associated with black metal anyway) to my ears. Nonetheless, “Triangle” is a seriously good piece of work and should be heard by many more people than it is, sadly, likely to reach. Worth a spin…Schammasch btm

“Triangle – Part I : The Process Of Dying” tracklist:

1. Crepusculum / 2. Father’s Breath / 3. In Dialogue With Death / 4. Diluculum / 5. Consensus / 6. Awakening From The Dream Of Life

“Triangle – Part II : Metaflesh” tracklist:

1. The World Destroyed By Water / 2. Satori / 3. Matanoia / 4. Above The Stars Of God / 5. Conclusion

“Triangle – Part III : The Supernal Clear Light Of The Void” tracklist:

1. The Third Ray Of Light / 2. Cathartic Confession / 3. Jacob’s Dream / 4. Maelstrom / 5. The Empyrean

Abbath

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Immortal In 1992
Immortal In 1992

Norwegian black metal band Immortal were formed during 1990 by vocalist / bassist Olve “Abbath Doom Occulta” Eikemo (also simply known as Abbath), and guitarist Harald “Demonaz Doom Occulta” Nævdal (aka Demonaz) and drummer Gerhard “Armagedda” Herfindal.

Abbath & Demonaz
Abbath & Demonaz

This line-up produced the band’s first studio album, 1992’s “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism”, but by the time of the second album “Pure Holocaust” the following year Armagedda was history and the drums were performed by Abbath (even though Erik “Grim” Brødreskift is pictured on the record’s cover and credited as the drummer). Abbath and Demonaz were the only performers on album number three “Blizzard Beasts” in 1997 as well.

Horgh
Horgh

Demonaz suffered acute tendonitis, meaning that he was unable to play guitar in the style required for the band, so he concentrated on lyric writing for the band whilst Abbath took over guitar duties in addition to his usual roles for 1999’s “At The Heart Of Winter” – which also saw the introduction of drummer Reidar “Horgh” Horghagen. The band’s lyrics centre on a fictional place called Blashyrkh, imagined by Demonaz and Abbath as a kind of mirror isolation felt living close to the Norwegian countryside around Bergen

Immortal - Damned In Black
Immortal – Damned In Black

Bass player Stian “Iscariah” Smørholm was on board for “Damned In Black” in 2000, joining Abbath and Horgh, and remained for 2002’s “Sons Of Northern Darkness”. As had been the case since 1999, Abbath and Horgh composed the music with Demonaz penning the lyrical content.

Apollyon
Apollyon

The band split in 2003, with Abbath and Demonaz working together on a short-lived band simply named I. However, before that outfit’s debut album “Between Two Worlds” saw the light of day in late 2006 the pair, along with Horgh, had resurrected Immortal. With a new bassist, Ole Jørgen “Apollyon” Moe, joining thetrio of Abbath, Horgh and Demonaz, the band recorded 2009’s “All Shall Fall” album.

Immortal In 2010
Immortal Live In 2010

In 2014 it was reported that issues between Abbath on one side and Horgh and Demonaz on the other had resulted in a stalemate with the band unable to move forward on a follow-up to “All Shall Fall”. This seems to have intensified when Abbath applied to obtain sole rights to the band’s name and logo – a move that was blocked by lawyers acting for the other two.

Abbath
Abbath

Early last year it was reported that Abbath was moving forward without the other members of Immortal, under the banner Abbath, with Immortal being laid to rest. Abbath was quoted as saying “…the name of Immortal… will rest ; the essence, the power, the music – and Abbath – will not…”. However, a few months later came the announcement that “Norwegian black metallers Immortal – now consisting of lyricist/guitarist Demonaz and drummer Horgh following last year’s split with frontman Abbath – are working on material for the band’s next album, to be released via the Nuclear Blast label”. The remaining pair have subsequently put their version of events on their website, putting the blame firmly at the door of Abbath and his “personal problems”. Time will tell how successful the newest incarnation of Immortal, without their founding frontman, will be.

Abbath
Abbath

Now, though, we have the first album to be unleashed under the Abbath banner, also called “Abbath”. Rounding out this new band are bassist Tom Cato “King Ov Hell” Visnes, formerly of Gorgoroth and drummer Kevin “Creature” Foley.

King Ov Hell
King Ov Hell

The record starts with “To War”, a headbang-inducing number which is, to my ears, a great mix of black and traditional heavy metal. Abbath’s lyrics are, as is so often the case in black metal, pretty much unintelligible so can’t really comment on the subject matter but it’s a pretty good opener.

Creature
Creature

“Winter Bane”, a single from the album, is up next and is another good number with a decent groove going for it. The tempo increases noticeably by the time “Ashes Of The Damned” comes around – with some impressive stickwork from Creature on display and some flourishes that sound distinctly brass-flavoured.

Abbath Live In 2015
Abbath Live In 2015

Abbath’s vocal delivery is just what you’d expect if you are at all familiar with the work of Immortal. Musically the comparisons are there to be had too, as well as maybe hints of Gorgoroth too, but this is an album that stands on its own merits too and is definitely a step up from the aforementioned “All Shall Fall” opus.

Abbath
Abbath

King Ov Hell and Creature supply some excellent black metal backing, but Abbath is – naturally – the star of the show with his fierce vocals and impressive riffing and some tasty lead work too.

Favourite tracks are “Fenrir Hunts”, “Root Of The Mountain”, “Winter Bane” and “Count The Dead”. The bonus track, a cover of Judas Priest’s classic “Riding On The Wind” is perhaps unnecessary (let’s be honest, Abbath is no Rob Halford vocally, but then it is a bonus track!) but in “Abbath” I do believe we have the first great black metal record of 2016…

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“Abbath” tracklist:

1. To War / 2. Winter Bane / 3. Ashes Of The Damned / 4. Ocean Of Wounds / 5. Count The Dead / 6. Fenrir Hunts / 7. Root Of The Mountain / 8. Eternal / 9. Riding On The Wind

The Sacred And The Profane…

“Rebellion is a part of youth. Sometimes it’s dangerous. Instead of a sword, I hold a guitar in my hands. I’m in the same, rigid world but instead of Molotov cocktails, I’ve got a computer. It’s a much more powerful weapon.

‘Confessions Of A Heretic’ is the forthright and erudite memoir of the front man and driving force behind the Polish heavy-metal group Behemoth, currently at the top of their game following the release of their 2014 US Top 40 album ‘The Satanist’.

Presented as a series of interrogations by friends and associates, the book reveals a complex man of great contrast-a health-conscious, highly personable intellectual known for his extreme views and even more extreme music – lifting the lid on everything from his clashes with the Polish Catholic church to appearing as a judge on the Polish edition of The Voice to his recent battle with leukaemia.”

Nergal-Confessions-of-a-Heretic-Englsh-Translation

Behemoth In 1997
Behemoth In 1997

I’ve just finished reading “Confessions Of A Heretic – The Sacred And The Profane : Behemoth And Beyond” by Adam “Nergal” Darski, frontman and founding member of Polish black metal band Behemoth. Released earlier this year, this is the English translation of his book “Spowiedz Heretyka – Sacrum Profanum”, which was originally published back in 2012.

Adam "Nergal" Darski, Krzysztof Azarewicz & Piotr Weltrowski
Adam “Nergal” Darski, Krzysztof Azarewicz & Piotr Weltrowski

The book is essentially a really long interview. Two friends of Nergal’s, Krzysztof Azarewicz and Piotr Weltrowski ask the questions and Nergal answers them The whole thing has then been translated from Polish into English by Mark Eglinton. Although therefore the book perhaps isn’t technically an autobiography, you are still essentially getting one man’s story in his own words.

Adam "Nergal" Darski
Adam “Nergal” Darski

The questions are clearly designed to get Nergal to really think about the subjects at hand and to open up, sometimes they seem phrased in such a way as to deliberately provoke a reaction. Throughout it all Nergal remains true to himself.

Adam "Nergal" Darski & Dorota Rabczewska
Adam “Nergal” Darski & Dorota Rabczewska

As the book progresses we learn about Nergal’s childhood and the beginnings of his band, about life on the road, his relationship with the Catholic church , his appearance as a judge on the Polish version of TV talent series “The Voice”, his relationships with his parents, brother and women – including his high-profile engagement to Polish pop star Doda (real name Dorota Rabczewska) – and his life-threatening brush with leukaemia, the latter of which led many to expect Nergal to turn to the Christian god of his upbringing.

Adam "Nergal" Darski
Adam “Nergal” Darski

Whether or not you regard the man as a “true” Satanist, and no doubt there are many different variations just as there are with many other religions / beliefs, there is no doubting his complete sincerity in terms of his beliefs and his total opposition to the Christian faith.  It’s also worth saying that I don’t think you need to be a fan of Nergal or his uncompromising music to appreciate the human story told here.

Adam "Nergal" Darski
Adam “Nergal” Darski

As the book originally saw the light of day in 2012 it does not cover the period since which saw the recording of Behemoth’s superb 2014 album “The Satanist”, the increasing success of the band, and Nergal’s venture into co-ownership of a barbershop. Leaving aside the absence of the immediate past, however, this tome provides a fascinating look at the man behind the corpsepaint…

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Diabel

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With Halloween on 31 October and Samhain on 1 November both having longstanding connections with Satanism and paganism it seems like as good a time as any to have a look at a new black metal album.

Tomasz "Klimorh" Klimczyk
Tomasz “Klimorh” Klimczyk

During 1997, in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland, black metal band Non Opus Dei were formed by guitarist / vocalist Tomasz “Klimorh” Klimczyk, bassist / rhythm guitarist K’ris and drummer Radoslaw “Fux” Fuks.

As “Opus Dei” translates as “Work Of God” it’s reasonable to assume that the band’s name is intended to mean “Not The Work Of (The Christian) God” – about right for a black metal act, I’d Say.

Non Opus Dei - Diabolical Metal
Non Opus Dei – Diabolical Metal

The group’s debut album “Diabolical Metal” emerged in 2002 by which time the line-up was comprised of Klimorh, Fux, guitarist Krzysztof “Nex” Kułakowski and bassist Sarkueil.

By the time second album “Sem Al Diavol Va Porti Al Mal” was released in 2005 the band’s line-up had changed once more and it is only in the last few years that the current four-man group has been together.

Klimorh has been the only constant from the group’s beginnings, with a number of other bassists, guitarists and drummers coming and going over the years.

Wojciech "Gonzo" Błaszkowski
Wojciech “Gonzo” Błaszkowski

Since 2012 however the line-up has seen Klimorh joined by drummer Wojciech “Gonzo” Błaszkowski (joined for 2006’s “The Quintessence”), guitarist Horizon and bassist Isil (who both first appeared on 2013’s “Dziwki Dwie” release which was split with fellow Polish band Morowe).

Horizon
Horizon

This line-up’s first full studio album together (the band’s seventh) is the year’s “Diabel”, released in September on the appropriately named Witching Hour Productions label.

This album is described as being lyrically and conceptually “inspired by the cult of the Devil (Diabel) in Poland, with an emphasis on the territory of Warmia” and certainly starts off sounding fantastically demonic with the vocal introduction to opening track “Milk Of Toads” which sounds rather like their fellow countrymen Behemoth at times.

Isil
Isil

Aside from the evil sounding vocal stylings, the guitars, bass and drums are all very impressive. Gonzo’s drumming, particularly the bass drum patterns, are fast and furious and whilst not perhaps as interesting as some other bands’ drummers do point to an amazing stamina level!

Guitar-wise, there are plenty of traditional discordant black metal style riffs from Klimorh and Horizon, but also echoes of technical bands like Meshuggah and even Tool can be heard too. Isil’s bass playing is, as you would expect, solid and unfussy and anchors everything nicely.

Non Opus Dei - Diabel
Non Opus Dei – Diabel

As is often the case with this genre the lyrics are pretty much unintelligible and with at least some of them being in Polish too there’s no chance of me being able to understand them. However, knowing that they are related to the devil and being soundtracked by some really rather good black metal means that this is unimportant as the intended feeling is well conveyed to the listener anyway.

My favourite numbers here include the aforementioned “Milk Of Toads”, “Trickster – Shapeshifter” and “Gold-Finding Hen, Kiss-Finding Whore”.

I would say that “Diabel” is the Non Opus Dei’s best album to date, and hopefully they will continue to improve with future releases. The artwork is pretty striking too! Well worth checking out…

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“Diabel” tracklist:

1. Milk Of Toads / 2. In The Angles Of Her Sigil / 3. Władca Ropuch / 4. Gold-Finding Hen, Kiss-Finding Whore / 5. The Other Side Of The Mushroom / 6. Pustka Twoja We Mnie / 7. Trickster – Shapeshifter / 8. Plony / 9. Oko Kruka, Głowa Anioła / 10. The Tenfold Gift

Hammer Of The Witches

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Cradle Of Filth In 1991
Cradle Of Filth In 1991

Formed in the Suffolk town of Ipswich by lead vocalist Dani Filth back in 1991, Cradle Of Filth have steadily become one of the leading black / gothic metal bands in the UK.

Dani Filth
Dani Filth

The initial line-up was completed by guitarists Paul Ryan and Paul Allender, bassist Jonathan Pritchard, keyboardist Benjamin Ryan and drummer Darren Garden. Since then the band have undergone numerous personnel changes including around a dozen guitarists, half a dozen drummers, keyboard and bass players, and a number of backing vocalists.

Richard Shaw
Richard Shaw

Following in the wake of such classic albums as the band’s 1994 debut “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh”, “Nymphetamine” (2004), “Cruelty And The Beast” (1998) and “Thornography” (2006) comes “Hammer Of The Witches”, studio album  number eleven – if you ignore 2012’s orchestral outing on “Midnight In The Labyrinth” which only featured Filth, backing vocalist Sarah Jezebel Deva and keyboardist Mark Newby-Robson.

Marek "Ashok" Šmerda
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda

The first record to feature the latest incarnation of the band – Filth, guitarists Richard Shaw and Marek “Ashok” Šmerda, bassist Daniel Firth, drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka and female vocalist / keyboardist Lindsay Schoolcraft, the album was preceded by the single “Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych”.

Daniel Firth
Daniel Firth

Introductory instrumental track “Walpurgis Eve”, all atmospherics and violin, leads into the fast and furious “Yours Immortally…” and it seems clear to me that this album is something of a return to the band’s earlier approach.

I personally didn’t find the previous record, “The Manticore And Other Horrors” as satisfying as others the band have released. With “Hammer Of The Witches”, however, I think that Filth and his troops really hit the mark.

Martin "Marthus" Škaroupka
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka

Vocally Filth is brilliant – using his full range of shrieks, screams, growls, grunts etc., and backed up nicely by the clean singing of Schoolcraft. With the exception of the interlude “The Monstruous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven)” the majority of the album is intense and complex. New guitarists Shaw and Šmerda weave spellbinding riffs and solos. Škaroupka’s drum work is very impressive and the orchestration is also sport on.

Lindsay Schoolcraft
Lindsay Schoolcraft

Also worthy of mention is the excellent album cover artwork, by Latvian artist Arthur Berzinsh.

My favourite tracks include “Blackest Magick In Practice”, title track “Hammer Of The Witches”, “Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess”, and “Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych” but ultimately this is Cradle Of Filth at the top of their game and this is an excellent album – highly recommended for fans of the genre…

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“Hammer Of The Witches” tracklist:

1. Walpurgis Eve / 2. Yours Immortally… / 3. Enshrined In Crematoria / 4. Deflowering The Maidenhead, Displeasuring The Goddess / 5. Blackest Magick In Practice / 6. The Monstruous Sabbat (Summoning The Coven) / 7. Hammer Of The Witches / 8. Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych / 9. The Vampyre At My Side / 10. Onward Christian Soldiers / 11. Blooding The Hounds Of Hell / 12. King Of The Woods / 13. Misericord

Málmhaus

Following a small write-up in a recent issue of Metal Hammer magazine, I checked out the Icelandic film “Málmhaus” (which translates to “Metalhead”), which was written and directed by Ragnar Bragason (“Mr. Bjarnfreðarson”, “Children”).

metalhead poster

12 year old girl Hera Karlsdottir (Diljá Valsdóttir – “Days Of Gray”) witnesses her older brother, heavy metal loving Baldur, suffer a horrific fatal accident on the family farm. At the subsequent funeral in the small village church it’s clear that Hera feels very angry towards God and she storms out to return home.

Diljá Valsdóttir
Diljá Valsdóttir

In Baldur’s bedroom Hera picks up his guitar and strums gently whilst images from the numerous heavy metal posters on the walls flash through her mind. She burns all her feminine clothes and takes Baldur’s heavy metal t-shirts to wear instead, as well as his guitar and record collection, and determines to leave home and catch the daily bus into the nearest town. However, it’s a bus that she never seems able to make herself board.

Thora Bjorg Helga
Thora Bjorg Helga

We then cut to several years later where we find Hera (now played by Thora Bjorg Helga – “The Deep”, “Brave Men’s Blood”) still living on the farm with her parents, still angry and lost. She has become proficient on the guitar. She has closed herself off from her parents and friends with the music her lifeline. It’s one that no one around her can understand though.

Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson
Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir & Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson

As the film progresses we see the struggles that her father Karl (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson – “Of Horses And Men”) and mother Droplaug (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir – “Devil’s Island”) have with the church, with Hera and with each other. Baldur’s room remains as it was when he died.

Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson
Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson

Janus (Sveinn Olafur Gunnarsson – “Jar City”), a new priest, comes to the church and persuades Hera’s parents to return. Hera herself misreads things and, having watched a TV news report about church burnings by black metal bands in Norway, adopts corpse paint and channels her pain through her own black metal compositions.

Thora Bjorg Helga
Thora Bjorg Helga

Before long, however, things have become so bad for Hera that she feels that she has to run away…

I won’t go any further into the plot of the film as that would risk giving away the whole story.

The older Hera is portrayed brilliantly and is a character who I suspect many real-life heavy metal fans would be able to identify with on some level. This is a genre that is stereotypically said to appeal to the angry youth, the disenfranchised, the loner. Those things may all be true in some circumstances. What this story illustrates though is that the genre can become a way of life to which its followers are fiercely loyal and that those same followers can gain an awful lot in positive terms from it.

Thora Bjorg Helga
Thora Bjorg Helga

Aside from Hera’s love and passion for her music, we also see her vulnerabilities, frailties, anguish and her defiance. She is a complex and conflicted character.

Whilst the icy landscape of rural Iceland provides the stunning and often bleak visual backdrop, the heavy metal music provides a musical one. The soundtrack is never in your face, and indeed is just a part of a much greater whole.

metalhead_ver2This is not a kind of heavy metal “Footloose”, a troubled teenage metalhead versus the churchgoing villagers type thing – although there are elements of the latter in places. This film – for me – is a powerful and often bleak look at a family as it struggles with its loss and grief in different ways, and yet there is also joy and humour to be found here. Just like real life, then…