Nefarious Spirit – Nefarious Spirit demo (Underground Soundscapes, 2016)

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Can a band’s country (or a wider geographic area) of origin be surmised by its sound? During the early days of the second wave black metal I do think that this was a case – though not a simple one, and definitely not without exceptions. There was a characteristic Greek black metal sound (which if expanded a bit could be characterized as Mediterranean), and a Scandinavian one (mostly Norwegian and Swedish to be honest), as well as some smaller and not so easily defined other scenes’ sonic flavours. By the end of ’90s, however, the diffusion between the scenes was on a level that enabled bands from one country to sound like originating in another; the only thing left was useful (if a bit hazy) encyclopedic categories, like “the ’90s Norwegian sound.” Still, just before listening to a new band, I try by looking to their place of origin, to take a guess as to its style, or vice versa.

Onwards to the Nefarious Spirit demo, clocking just under 15 minutes, which was released by the Greek label Underground Soundscapes. This label is focused on distributing releases coming from the other side of the Atlantic, with a very strong emphasis on US (which stands for USA here, not Underground Soundscapes, just to be clear) bands. The same is true for the bands that it has released, almost all of which come from the US. Another thing that lured me towards America was the band’s name, since aesthetically Nefarious Spirit is something that could belong to the host of black metal groups that seethe deeply in the US underground soil – and a great name it is. Finally, the demo’s sound, though not easily geographically located, could come either from the vast US expanse, or some Scandinavian village that was isolated by the world since Aeternus “..And So The Night Became” was released.

Well, my surprise was not small when I saw that Nefarious Spirit were Greek. This is definitely not your typical Greek sound of old, but it’s also far from the occult black metal that seems to have gained much ground here during the past decade. Nefarious Spirit play instead a serpentine, cavernous (abyssal may be a better word) black metal, with growling, commanding vocals, and a deep and thick production, which easily combines underground spirit with listenability. The demo’s soundscape is like a seething subterranean sea, boiling with archaic riffs – which when floating above the surface, like in the middle of the opening track (“Thrones”) they graze this watery surface with impressive eloquence. Things are not complex here: well-played furious black metal, with a stubborn cantor during the blast-beat moments, which easily motivates you towards mania. When it decides to drop the speed a few notches, a nostalgic majesty comes into the front, and that is when the (old) Aeternus name clicks into place – the weight of eons and elder battles is evoked.

Coming out of nowhere, Nefarious Spirit were almost an apocalypse – their place of origin playing its part. This is high-caliber black metal, a demo that speaks tones of the band’s devotion to the black metal past. Their next release will be crucial, but I have pretty high hopes for this act.

2016 – Top 20 Albums

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For the top 20 demos and EPs check here


20. Bölzer – Hero

Probably this year’s most controversial and loved-to-be-hated release, “Hero” is a masterpiece that grows with each listen, almost justifies the whole hype around the Swiss’ name. Yes, the vocals need some time to be digested, especially if someone has no contact with the deathrock scene, but the songwriting is excellent, as is the concept, and though not as outwardly impressive as “Aura” was, “Hero” is a multi-layered monstrosity, much deeper than the excellent and much-revered EP.


19. Skáphe – Skáphe²

Skáphe²” is a beautiful beast of an album. It stands way beyond and above the snoring boredom that characterizes most of the albums of this chaotic type, blazing as dark incense inside the listener’s mind during its 35 minutes of duration, guiding the audience in a grotesque journey through occult lands of non-Euclidean geometry. It is the audio equivalent of fever mentality, and thus it certainly is not an easy album to tackle, yet it rewards with an experience that keeps calling the listener back to it, more so because this experience is inaccessible outside the record per se. An excellent specimen of contemporary black metal. Full review here.


18. Panphage – Drengskapr

Not much to say about this Swede, those who followed the blog last year may remember my love for his works. Continuing on the relentless path of folk-influenced frigid black metal riffs, a la early Taake and other mid/late ’90s artists, with vocals that are immensely satisfying, and excellent song-writing skills, Panphage has been established as one of the best thing to come out of Scandinavia during the past years. Nordic black metal of the highest quality.


17. Antaeus – Condemnation

“Condemnation” is the comeback that we would have expected if we had anticipated a reanimation of Antaeus. It maybe too close to what we expected, the French may well have pulled it off quite safely, they were perhaps never interested in diversity. The thing is, that listening to this album, one thinks that the band had pressed “Pause” for ten years, and as soon as “Continue” was triggered they kept playing like no time passed – with just a slightly more robust production. The album is not innovative, the tracks may have similarities, yet “Condemnation” forces you to furiously reach for invisible oranges throughout its duration – thus fulfilling excellently its unholy role. Full review here.


16. Battle Dagorath – I – Dark Dragons Of The Cosmos

The cosmic black metal release of the year unites the ungodly dark spaces of Darkspace with the nocturnal atmosphere of early Emperor, not denying itself a plunge in some well structured melody (usually in the form of guitar leads). Cold, majestic, and just as extravagant as is necessary, Battle Dagorath’s fourth album is what traditional black metal is all about – an extraordinary work.


15. Arizmenda – Beneath This Reality Of Flesh

Crepusculo Negro’s production was quite scarce this year, with only two full-lengths coming out, the Shataan one and Arizmenda’s “Beneath This Reality Of Flesh” (edit: apparently there is another Arizmenda full-length, “Despairs Depths Descended,” out on December 18th via Androgony Whore records) being the only new things released. Arizmenda continue to trot upon a path of maniacal, thin guitared black metal, with unconventional compositional structure and surpringly catchy leads. An overdose of aggressive and weird guitar-work, Arizmenda remain the most extreme among Crepusculo’s roster.


14. Aenaon – Hypnosophy

Aenaon, as Hail Spirit Noir, succeed in presenting three out of three great albums, seemingly effortlessly, a thing to be admired, but also leading to puzzlement as far as what kind of improvement can we expect in the future. “Hypnosophy” is a kaleidoscope wandering through a never-ending celebration, which, despite the use of instruments unorthodox as far as black metal is concerned (apart from the saxophone there are also string ones like bouzouki and shitar – building up to a kind of ethnic essence in parts), has not severed its ties with the mothership genre – the album’s beginning and ending clearly state so. Full review here.


13. Tardigrada – Emotionale Odnis

Expansive, passionate, archaic, like a wraith gliding over castle ruins, Tardigrada’s debut was among the things that I highly anticipated since their 2012 demo (review here), and thankfully it did not disappoint me at the least. This is a case study on how black metal can be romantic – drawing upon the artistic and philosophic movement meaning of the word obviously, not its contemporary and vernacular one. Soaring guitars, a grandly thin production, this is how nostalgic atmospheric black metal is done.


12. Naðra – Allir Vegir til Glotunar

Passionate, utterly frigid, melodic and imbued with the pagan spirit of a decade gone by, “ Allir vegir til glötunar” is an ode to the early Icelandic black metal scene, boasting some of the best riffing that can be traced back to contemporary Iceland (and not only). I had written in the review that it was an early yet strong contestant for this year’s end list, and I have not changed my mind since then. Better than the 95% of the black metal torrent that is coming from this particular land during recent years. Full review here.


11. A Diadem of Dead Stars – Kingdoms Bathed In Golden Light

Who would expect that what Wolves In The Throne Room sowed would find nurturing land near the Pagasetic Gulf of Greece? However, it seems that the Volos-based Pilgrim manages to shine with his sophomore album in a sub-scene that seems to be plagued by lukewarm clones of 2-3 archetypal bands. Sporting a genuine knack for composition excellence and an atmosphere that is more reminiscent of Northern vastness rather than Greek countryside, the album’s five tracks are the best species of Cascadian black metal for 2016.


10. Virus – Memento Collider

The album is a mesmerizing, flowing-yet-solid whole, which unfolds into labyrinthine tracks of jazz attitude, tracks that dissolve and restructure themselves with a protean ease and grace. This fluctuating character does not make the album tiresome, as would be the case in lesser bands, but on the contrary captivates its listener with an almost summery felicity – quite a paradox if you think of its density and diversity. The keys to the album’s brilliance seem to be the absence of solemnity (pretentious or otherwise), Czral’s compositional genius, and the amazing chemistry between the band’s members. The result is something oscillating between the liquid and solid states of being, a physical paradox brought to life before the listener. Time will show if this is the band’s greatest moment. Until then, Memento Collider is certainly Virus’s most ample and feel-good creation. Full review here.


9. Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä

Steeped in kraut rock and psychedelia, yet never straying from the extreme metal path, “Värähtelijä” functions as a thick hallucinatory fog, with high points its ominous rhythms, the obsessive jazz passes and the keyboard “infinite space” glamour. Each listening session is like wandering in an astral museum of curiosities, with distorting mirrors in each corridor. With their latest and maybe best album to date, Oranssi Pazuzu may well be truly expanding extreme metal boundaries. Full review (in Greek) here.


8. Book Of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda

Though unequivocally anarchistic, Book of Sand retains in its latest opus that spark that is missing from most of the artists of the RABM sub-genre: ominousness; the “occult” in the album title is not just décor left over from the genre conventions. Herein lies atmosphere that many, so-called occult bands would love to permeate their works. This is an album that one can listen to and feel the blood falling upon the grains of sand as the ritual is performed. This is black metal done right, dark, slithering, raw, menacing, otherworldly. Full review here.


7. Hail Spirit Noir – Mayhem In Blue

Three out of three for Thessaloniki’s avant-garde black metallers, which remain at the forefront of the Greek (and why not, international) extreme/bizarre scene. Despite the increase of the keyboard role and the long dives in the ’70s landscape, “Mayhem In Blue’s” heart remains dark; here lies a shade so deep that not even the hand of God can extirpate. Oh, and “Lost In Satan’s Charms” is easily among the top ten tracks of 2016. Full review (in Greek) here.


6. Agatus – The Eternalist

As with Zemial, Agatus continue to disregard any solid boundaries between musical genres, focusing on converging all their music influences on a diamond of untarnished epic/lyrical metal, straight out of the ’80s forge, with a pinch of winks towards their extreme past. This is what “complete, whole metal album” means. This is heavy metal at its finest.


5. Cultes des Ghoules – Coven, or Evil Ways Instead of Love

The Polish had ravaged the whole scene with 2013’s Henbane, the epitome of dark medieval folk witchcraft. Last year’s “The Rise Of Lucifer” EP was somewhat underwhelming, but enter this autumn’s “Coven,” a magnificently ambitious double record, drawing upon the spirit of Master’s Hammer “The Jilemnice Occultist,” yet retaining the band’s characteristic crunchy medieval sound. As for the concept, it is a grand occult play, with a medieval setting, centering on witchcraft obviously. The sort of witchcraft that is inscribed with dark blood upon yellowed pages and human skin. This band may well be the single more graphically black metal entity in the world right now.


4. ΟΔΟΣ 55 – ΟΔΟΣ 55

In their sophomore full-length, Athens’ ΟΔΟΣ 55 build upon the synthwave motif of their past releases, spreading through seven solid rays/tracks a bionic view towards contemporary society. Hypnotic, ravenous, revolutionary music to dance to, their material easily dissolves any thoughts about the staleness of the resurrected ’80s post-punk/new wave Greek scene, and gazes at the present with confidence, a true child of recent times and social conditions. Full review (in Greek) here.


3. Candelabrum – Necrotelepathy

There is black fire burning in the subterranean places of Portugal during the past years. Last year it was Black Cilice (which most probably shares members with Candelabrum), this year’s Iberian peninsula revelation is Candelabrum’s debut, “Necrotelepathy,” which seethes with spectral ritualistic high-pitched black metal of the highest hypnotic atmosphere. This is how I envision the kind of black metal that is to be heard while strolling among bones and sunless underground places, while ghosts wail all around, and deathless occultists stir in their dusty graves.


2. Eternal Champion – The Armor Of Ire

The extraordinary thing with “The Armor Of Ire” is its resistance towards characterizing it as outdated, despite its deep roots towards the past, despite its non-originality. Eternal Champion presented us with an album of timeless epic heavy metal, which continues on the excellent tradition of recent years. Lyrical, combative, rough, magical, the Americans’ debut radiates with an effortless sincerity and momentum, and contains several tracks that are already lying side by side with genre hymns upon the epic pantheon. Full review (in Greek) here.


1.Ψ.Χ – Το Φως Το Αληθινό

It was several years before the spectres behind Ψ.Χ. decided to gather the tracks haunting the internet since 2008, to add a bunch of new ones, and “release” the whole in a quite unconventional way (namely they sent a CD-r copy of it to the Greek METAL HAMMER magazine, addressed to a particular editor, urging him to spread it in whatever way he chooses – you can find the album here, along with the booklet). The result is an unbelievably black creation, its spirit closer to the menacing spectrum of black metal than any other release in quite a long time. Full of ravishing grimness (and with a twist before the end), its breath is seemingly coming from a demented interpretation of a tuberculous “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” Welcome (back) Menace to Black Metal (once more), gliding on nightwings to snuff out the candles, to be immersed in Tradition, making the hearths cough like sickness incarnate. Full review (in Greek) here.

2016 – Top demos & EP’s

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12. Whoredom Rife – The Worship of Idols Instead of God; Idolatry [EP]

Norway has been less than stellar during the past years, as far as black metal is concerned, and 2016 was no exception. Thankfully there are a few dark twinkles in this sea of mediocrity, as is this EP from Trondheim, which mixes furious majesty with triumphant darkness. Here be hints of early Enslaved mixed with a more down-to-earth approach reminiscent of the turn of the millennium (Tsjuder for instance). 


11. True Love – To Pray For Perpetual Violence [demo]

The raw black metal demo of the year could well ride into this list on grace of its amazingly malicious cover alone. The fact that it is also well-versed in the black arts of insectoid-like articulated guitars riffs as well as in that of double-echo vocals and thrashy pauses is only adding points to it, as do both the group name and the release’s title. LunaticsaguinemSatanworship.


10. Draug – In Glorification Of Dark Legions [demo]

Ancient Record circles’ Sir N’s new project will not surprise those familiar with his other bands (which are not few). Maybe slightly more angular and warm, with an essence of interior spaces. As always, Sir N. knows how to build up traditional ’90s black metal atmosphere. One more worthy addition to Sweden’s amazing contemporary underground scene.


9. Kaffaljidhma – Ι & ΙΙ [demos]

The Dutch Kaffaljidhma’s first two demos (laconically named “I” & “I”) is an prime example of naturalistic image-crafting music. With hardly any riffs in the traditional sense of the word, they are ambiance floating upon the wanderer’s path, a path ravaged by snow and trees. They are a-temporal exercises in meditation, pure atmosphere distilled in two expressively named songs, one in each demo. Full review here.


8. Duch Czerni – Reality of Black Spirits [demo]

Subterranean, slithering ritualistic black metal from Poland, which crawls elegantly discharging spasms of incense on its chaotic path. Here lie parts of the spirit of Mortuary Drape and Necromantia (more like detached spectres gliding above the music, rather than being incorporated in the songwriting). An excellent specimen of how the Occult can be sculptured in a black metal release.


7. Light of the Morning Star – Cemetery Glow [EP]

One cannot go wrong with a De Mysteriis-esque black/purple cover depicting a cemetery. This one-man band from UK is dominated by ominous gothic riffing (with slightly black metal hues) which is highly effective in the creation of a gloomy menacing atmosphere. Throw in the mix a vocal performance which draws upon the -wave monotony, and you have an unexpected dark gem – with a guitar blink at The Cure’s “Pornography” just before ending.


6. Surtr – Nocturnal Mysticism [demo]

This US band appeared out of nowhere in late September, unleashing 3 demos in less than two weeks’ time, all three releases capturing excellently the forest-walking spirit of early Satyricon, and generally of the mid-’90s “traditional” Norwegian scene. All 3 demos are almost interchangeable as far as a place in this list is concerned, “Nocturnal Mysticism” just won me a bit more due to the unconventional beginning of its first track.


5. Unbegotten – Proem of the Unborn [demo]

The veil of Archaic majesty – manifested through a sound that worships Les Legions Noires – covers this tape masterpiece coming from the Iberian Peninsula. Steeped in occult atmosphere, with surprisingly interesting vocals and grainy guitars that wander through catacombs, with amazing cover art, and a name that revels in its extravagance, this entity seems to have a highly promising future.


4. Necromantic Worship – The Calling… [EP]

Despite its quality, the Dutch masters’ second demo proved unfortunately to be their last one. Continuing on the Necromantia worship path that they set upon with 2015’s monumental “Spirit Of The Entrance Unto Death,” Necromantic Worship created with “The Calling…” another stellar rendering of the dungeon-ish ritualistic Evil sound of early Necromantia. Of cracking tombs and floating spheres.


3. Cult of Fire – Life, Sex and Death [EP]

The Czech trio returned with another killer EP, following on the tradition of the amazing “Čtvrtá symfonie ohně.“ With a deep sense of folk melody integrated throughout the riff structure of the four tracks, this release showcases the ascending progress of the band since its 2013 breakthrough (not forgetting last year’s Death Karma as well). Melodic, without compromise in its furious moments, and with a level of songwriting that is to be envied, “Life, Sex and Death” is a species of uttermost interest.


2. Mystik – Af Herrens Mystik… (Kapitel I) & Dunkla klangor… (Kapitel II) [demos]

If Bekëth Nexëhmü is a name with which most are well-acquainted, Mystik is an entity that sprouted this year seemingly out of nowhere with two amazing compilations of unreleased demo recordings spanning six years (2009-2014). Their style is as ’90s as the label’s aura invokes, reminiscent of a more tense and densely articulated Bekëth Nexëhmü. Drawing upon the Scandinavian atmospheric legacy of such names as Ulver, Isvind, Kampfar and Setherial, among many others, the two Kapitels are artifacts of an underground scene that seems to be without equal.


1. Bekëth Nexëhmü – De Dunklas Återkomst [demo]

The obscure Swede masters of ’90s-esque atmospheric black metal unleashed two full-length-duration demos this year, remaining one of the best things (if not the single best) to come out of the Ancient Records’ womb. Steeped in the lo-fi nighttime elegance of a spectre wandering in a haunted forest, “De Dunklas Återkomst‘s40 minutes are an oasis of nocturnal snowy atmosphere, graced with a sound that is as thin as a ghost’s density.

Ψ.Χ. – Το Φως Το Αληθινό

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Download link: http://www69.zippyshare.com/v/1BPctKqf/file.html

Καλημέρα Απειλή, καλώς (επαν)ήλθες στο black metal με νυχτερινή φτερούγα για να σβήσεις τα κεριά, για να σαβανώσεις τα μωρά, για να βουτήξεις μέσα στην Παράδοση κάνοντας τα τζάκια να βήχουν σαν φυματικά.

Σε ένα φθινόπωρο που έχει βαλθεί να ρεφάρει για την ποιοτική ανυδρία του προηγούμενου διαστήματος της χρονιάς, το μεγαλύτερο ίσως σοκ ήταν η από το πουθενά εμφάνιση της πρώτης κυκλοφορίας των Ψ.Χ. (συγκεκριμένα το πήρα χαμπάρι μέσα από αυτό το εξαιρετικό κείμενο). Μια κυκλοφορία που παραδόθηκε σε κόπια μια (1) στα γραφεία του Metal Hammer, με προτροπή/προσταγή προς τον αρμόδιο συντάκτη, να τη διανείμει με όποιον τρόπο μπορεί (βλ. link στην αρχή του κειμένου). Αρχές λοιπόν του Νοέμβρη, υπήρξε μια μίνι Αποκάλυψη για όσους είχαμε σκελετιάσει παλιότερα με τους σποραδικά εμφανισμένους στο διαδίκτυο μονάχα ύμνους της μπάντας, γιατί:

-αφενός για πρώτη φορά μαζεύτηκαν τα γνωστά κομμάτια σε ένα δίσκο, με (χρονολογικό απ’ ότι φαίνεται) tracklisting, ένα (έστω υποτυπώδες) εξώφυλλο και τυπωμένους στίχους αλλά και μανιφέστο των οντοτήτων, έτσι ώστε να περάσει το στάτους του συγκροτήματος από αυτό της σκιώδους παρουσίας στα αραχνιασμένα σοκάκια του διαδικτύου σε αυτό της σκιώδους παρουσίας με τη σφραγίδα του οριακά χειροπιαστού.

αφετέρου, πέρα από τον εμπλουτισμό/αναδιάρθρωση των γνωστών κομματιών, υπάρχουν και τρία καινούρια τραγούδια, η ποιότητα των οποίων μας κάνει να προσευχόμαστε σε χθόνιους θεούς για την ύπαρξη επόμενου βήματος των Ψ.Χ.

Το Φως Το Αληθινό είναι η πιο black metal κυκλοφορία που έχει βγει από τη χώρα μας (πιθανώς και γενικότερα) εδώ και αρκετά χρόνια. Κλειστοφοβικό, τσιτωμένο, υπερβατικό, ένα καζάνι με αναβράζοντα riffs, που άλλοτε εξακοντίζονται κυκλικώς με ρυθμούς καρφώματος φέρετρου, άλλοτε με τη συχνότητα αναπνοής πτώματος, πάντοτε όμως με την αλλόκοσμη ψυχή του black metal κατά νου. Εδώ κατοικοεδρεύει πάνω από όλα η απειλή· ακούς το υλικό και σκιάζεσαι, φοβάσαι να κοιτάξεις πίσω σου, νιώθεις την ακατονόμαστη φιγούρα από το Selbstverstümmelung να σέρνεται στα όρια της όρασής σου. Αυτό είναι κάτι που λείπει από τη συντριπτική πλειοψηφία του Μαύρου Μετάλλου των τελευταίως δύο δεκαετιών, το να νιώθεις να αγχώνεσαι για κάτι που δεν είναι αυτού του κόσμου.

Riffs τα οποία απλώνονται σαν βαριές πένθιμες κουρτίνες πάνω από παράθυρα που αφήνουν σκιές ενός παγανιστικού παρελθόντος να φανούν. Οστέινη ψύχρα, αναρριχώμενες και καταρριχώμενες Παγωμένες, βίαιες κιθάρες, χωρίς εύκολα καταφύγια σε μελωδικές λύσεις, μονάχα αεικίνητο σκότος,. Εδώ ξαναθυμόμαστε γιατί κάποτε αναφερόμασταν στις κιθάρες του είδους ως Ξύστρες και σε κάποια riffs ως Κόκαλα. Σιδηροδρομικές γραμμές κατασκευασμένες από υψίσυχνη παράθεση κοφτών ξυραφωτών χτυπημάτων (σα να παίρνεις συστάδες riffs με το δικράνι και να τα πετάς στη φωτιά), ή απλά πλήρη κατανόηση του συνθετικού και εκτελεστικού πνεύματος της ελίτ της νορβηγικής σκηνής των ‘90s. Θα έβαζα άνετα το “Παιδομάζωμα” σε κάποιο άτομο που θα με ρώταγε τι θεωρώ ως ιδανικό black metal riffing, ή το μπάσιμο του κυρίως ειπείν τμήματος των Κουκουβαγιώνως δείγμα ιδανικής αβυσσαλέας έναρξης. Παρά τον ετεροχρονισμό της συγγραφής των κομματιών, το άλμπουμ λειτουργεί ως εγχειρίδιο έγχορδης (ακόμη και το μπάσο, όπου ακούγεται, είναι ουσιαστικό) Μαυρίλας.

Τα φωνητικά των Ψ.Χ. ήταν ανέκαθεν σημείο τριβής, λόγω της ακρότητάς τους, η οποία από πολλούς εκλαμβάνεται ως ιλαρότητα. Πρόκειται για φωνητικά που δεν έχουν καμία επαφή με τη λογική και την πραγματικότητα, ιαχές, κραυγές, σκουξίματα από τον τάφο, από τα σωθικά θυσιαστηρίου θύματος, από τα φτερουγίσματα των νεκρικών κουκουβαγιών, φωνές γριών που περιφέρουν το δόντι και το μάτι τους. Οι Ψ.Χ. δεν είναι για όσους ξεκαρδίζονται με τη φωνή αυτή, για όσους (όντας τόσο διαβρωμένοι από τον κυνισμό και από τη δήθεν αποστασιοποίησή τους από το παράλογο) την αντιλαμβάνονται ως αστεία. Η μουσική των Ψ.Χ. σχεδόν απαιτεί να μπορείς να νιώσεις θρησκευτικό φόβο, να είσαι από αυτά τα άτομα που αφήνουν καλού κακού ένα φως στο δωμάτιο το βράδυ και κλειδώνουν τις ντουλάπες για να μη συρθεί κάτι από μέσα τους. Πέρα από αυτά όμως, εδώ έχουμε και για πρώτη φορά τόσο καθαρά φωνητικά (όπως στο δωδεκάλεπτο αναπάντεχο έπος “Νεκρικά Φεγγάρια”), όσο και απόπειρες ψαλμωδίας στο καινούριο και καλύτερο κομμάτι του δίσκου, το Η Νύχτα Της Κρυστάλλινης Σιωπής(που ενδύεται το De Mysteriis-ικό μοτίβο του υποβλητικού παρανοϊκού/χυδαίου κηρύγματος πάνω από λυσσαλέο ερπετικό black metal).

Θα μπορούσα να πω πολλά ακόμη για το Φως Το Αληθινό: για τους beherit κουκουβαγισμούς, την παράξενη γείωση στην καθημερινότητα που δημιουργούν οι περισσότεροι εκ των στίχων, για τη χρήση του “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (εμβληματικό κομμάτι του 2001, A Space Odyssey) στην εισαγωγή του δίσκου, για την πιθανή σύνδεση των μελωδικών ’70s με το Σκοτάδι το Αληθινό δια της νοσταλγικής εκ της οικογένειας αντιμετώπισης τους. Δε νομίζω όμως ότι έχει ιδιαίτερο νόημα κάτι τέτοιο. Αυτό που κρατάω πάνω από όλα είναι πως το πρώτο πρωί που έβαλα να ακούσω τον δίσκο, περπατώντας με ακουστικά, κατά τη μισή τουλάχιστον διαδρομή έκανα αόρατα πορτοκάλια δεξιά κι αριστερά, και ήθελα να συρθώ στους τοίχους: αυτό είναι, για μένα τουλάχιστον, απόδειξη του πόσο καιρό είχε να εμφανιστεί δίσκος με πραγματικά Μαύρη Ψυχή, ικανός να μου δημιουργήσει τέτοιες ορμές. Αριστούργημα.

Funestus – In Perpetual Silence (Self-Released)

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Gazing upon the lovely, primitively impressionist-like cover of Chile’s Funestus first demo, Descent with capital D comes into mind. A wintry barren wood, the crescent moon just above the center, like an eye distorted looking down, where an overflow of light seems to imply an abyss ready to receive the invisible wanderer treading upon the landscape’s path; even the clouds themselves seem to ripple downwards. A descent which, sound-wise, is materialised via an amalgamation of Judas Iscariot-esque majestic ferocity and Xasthur’s dungeon wanderings, all wrapped in a raw, somehow thin production that is however far from being bothersome or unlistenable.

The idea is quite simple, true to the teachings of Darkthrone: repetition of long-winded yet simple (structurally) riffs, crispy guitar sound which sometimes verges on the mechanical due to a weird distortion, drums that are especially fond of their metal components. Harsh screams are sporadically flickering, sometimes approaching Akhenaten’s lordly hue and articulation (like in “Nightside Of The Storm”), yet never quite grasping it – there is obviously the issue of Hiem Egregor’s (the band’s one and only member) not being a native English speaker. Of tempo variances there are fluctuations between slow and hyperblasting moments, contrasting otherworldly wanderings with wintry charges. Biting frost and relentless battle are the main ingredients of this release’s atmosphere; a sense of subterranean melancholy is embedded in most of the riffs, more prominent during the slower parts, as well as in the acoustic interludes. There are some executional mistakes, especially on drums and tempo changes, but as far as first demo releases go, this one is surprisingly elaborate.

All in all, the thing that Funestus succeed in almost flawlessly with their first demo is that the release grasps and retains this ravishing grimness that is the core essence of golden-era Darkthrone, as well as the raw splendour that was the trademark of Akhenaten’s discography. A demo that creates high expectations about this project, highly recommended for fans of traditional, grim yet atmospheric 90s black metal.

Haxen – Haxen (Eternal Death records)

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Haxen have apparently been around since 2000, releasing a steady (if a bit sparse) stream of demo releases, yet it took some 16 years in order for their eponymous debut full-length to be finalised. Though hailing from the west coast of the Atlantic, the band seems to be wholeheartedly devoted to European scenes of yore, especially the Norwegian and the French (Les Legions Noires era) one, creating an album which revels in its rawness under the night skies.

Things are quite straightforward, as far as composition is concerned, yet not in a simpleton way. While many bands try to up the complexity of their musical structures, striving to establish their extremity that way, Haxen embrace rawness both sound- and composition-wise. Songs are rather short (most of them under the five minute marker), each permeated by a small number of tight-wrapped riffs, not much caring for progression, but rather holocaust-winding their way through the soundscapes of the release. Crispy guitars, a bass that is not as inaudible as one would expect, and a host of scratchy, harsh vocals make up the material building blocks of this release, while there is a hint (to say the least) of live recording in several tracks, distinct in the sound directness which mortars the whole. Yet melody is never far – listen to the mid-tempo decadent majesty of “Abismo” for instance.

If one is to name bands that seem to have influenced this creation, three groups stand out: Mutiilation (which can be held responsible for the romantic, archaic darkness evident in several tracks – for instance “Sleepwalking”), Carpathian Forest (to which is owed much on the aggressiveness and riff departments, as well as on the origins of thin layer of grooveness that appears sometimes) and Høstmørke-era Isengard (responsible for the slight thrashy edge, as well as the mosquito-buzz-like riffs – remember “Total Death”). One could deduce a triptych: dark and archaic grim melody, furious (sometimes bordering on death metal) riffing that strays on the chaotic, and a pinch of creative insectoid black thrash. In essence, this is distilled European blackness coming from the far side of the Atlantic. Nothing spectacularly original, but an album that is very well-written, and thrives like a parasite on the listener’s cravings for well-executed (mostly) 90s black metal.

Sun Worship – Pale Dawn (Golden Antenna Records)

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The lone and wandering riff is perhaps the quintessential black metal music-component figure. Dismal yet passionate, adventurous, trying to break the shackles of time and history, a candlelight gliding through perennial corridors. It is ideally without beginning and end, just fading in and out of our perception, yet eternally there. And if the riff is the microcosm of the genre itself, then one can perceive black metal as a being against time, striving to be out-of-time itself, to haunt and wander eternally, like a pure force of nature, free of human concepts. Germany’s Sun Worship, with their sophomore album, “Pale Dawn,” embody this aspect of black metal, creating a monolithic album that resembles a massive monument to eternity. One could say that it captures the image of a frigid, pale dawn, and then it fossilizes it upon a wall that is outside the cosmos.

Elder Giants,” the band’s debut, was an excellent take upon the Scandinavian sound, and how one could distill its iciness and barren glory. It was quite doubtful whether the band could surpass this masterpiece, and their participation in the 4-way split “Into The Vortex” with an ambient track, made me anxious of a musical direction change. Thankfully, from the first notes of “Pale Dawn” it becomes apparent that Sun Worship have retained their trademark sound.

The core materials are well known: Norwegian riffing, of the “Transilvanian Hunger” and “De Mysteriis..” school, filtered through a less dark, more icy prism. Each song is built around a riff (lone and wandering as aforementioned), long-winded, ecstatic as the figure of Zephyrous on the “A Blaze In The Northern Sky” cover. They keep unwinding, like from a never-ending ball of yarn, with laconic fluctuation, imprinting upon the listener the granite of timelessness; due to this backbone each track resembles an icebreaker. Beyond each of the basic riffs however one can discover a few melodic guitar mannerisms, some almost-thrashy moments, mid-tempo deep breaths. Vocals are desperate, coming from beyond, flickering like fog for a while, then returning to uncreation, or just beyond creation. But there is also beauty in here, harsh or otherwise (like in the amazing hymnal vocals of the last track (“Perihelion”) which evoke the ritual majesty and sombreness of the namesake track of “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”). What ultimately dominates here is a single-minded passion, a mania one could say; but due to the inhuman quality of this artifact it is not so easy for one to get away with such terms, mostly associated with human feelings and states of mind. Better use descriptive imagescapes:

Giant plateaus of pure majestic inhumanity, now and forever reclaimed by the elements; stone figures standing unmoving; the moment of arctic dawn after months of darkness, forever frozen in time. That’s the spirit of “Pale Dawn.” I cannot yet say whether it surpasses its predecessor, but it is definitely close to achieving it. Still, this is not really something that matters. What matters is that this band from Germany has managed to capture the essence of northern black metal, much better than most of recent band hailing from the far North in question. A study in pale frost – and how it immobilizes time.