Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of US black metal, I don’t often think of New Jersey. Yet the Garden State where one-man black metal outfit Afar calls home. However, judging by the atmospheric/folk black metal contained on their debut full-length Selfless, which was recently reissued on cassette by Fólkvangr Records, one could be forgiven for thinking they hail from somewhere a bit woodsier, like the Pacific Northwest. There’s a definite Agalloch influence in Afar’s sound, along with a healthy dose of Drudkh and a dash of Moonsorrow, but that’s not to say that Afar’s music is derivative. In fact, I.K. brings enough unexpected elements to the table—in particular, an old-school death metal influence in vocals and some of the riffs—to make Selfless sound both familiar and surprisingly fresh.
The album opens with “Healing,” a slow-building track that features a lengthy, lovely clean guitar intro before transitioning into a second wave rager. There’s also a nice mid-paced section later in the song with some very cool ethereal keyboard accents. “Cascading Shadows” is a moody, melodic number that veers into some almost progressive territory with some very effective clean vocals. Epic album highlight “Tsalmaveth” features some of the best guitar work on the record, from the acoustic intro to the tremolo-picked melody lines. “Aerial Discord” and “Beckoned Into Fog” are the most heavily death metal-influenced tracks, with growled vocals and some very cool use of harmonics in some of the riffs. Closer “Twelve” ends the album on a mellower note, with a generous use of keyboards and a slow, almost post-punk bass line before opening up into more shoegaze territory.
All told, this is a really solid album, and hopefully the reissue will put this band on a few more people’s radars. If you like your black metal on the earthy side and don’t mind a little experimentation, you would do well to check out Afar.