Not quite sure how it happened, but I’m suddenly getting a lot of music sent my way by small black metal cassette labels. I’m definitely not complaining, though. I think perhaps more than any other genre, if you really want to know what’s going on in the kvlt corners of the black metal world, you need to pay attention to what’s happening on the small labels. Granted, you might accidentally stumble across an NSBM distro or two while you’re out there looking for the next big kvlt thing, but that’s why Metal Archives exist, right?
Anyway, one Saturday morning a couple of weeks back I awoke to an email from a brand new boutique cassette label called Pristine Blight and a download link for a demo called MMXVII by a band called Canid. There’s next to nothing out there on the interwebs about Canid – just a Bandcamp page and a Metal Archives entry, neither of which provides any insight into the band aside from stating that they’re a “North American Collective.” Pristine Blight has a Facebook profile that reveals even less. However, when the black metal is this good, I’ll forgive them both for cultivating an air of mystery. I could give a fuck where either the band or the label actually came from – all I want to know is where I can find more.
A large part of what I appreciate about Canid is how difficult their sound is to actually pin down. At first blush, their logo and the general aesthetic of the album artwork might lead one to expect an album firmly rooted in the Norwegian second wave, but that’s not really the case. Ambient track “Music of the Moon” may share some DNA with certain tracks in Burzum’s discography, but a better point of comparison would be the synth-heavy tracks Alex Poole did with the early Ringar recordings and on Chaos Moon’s Origin of Apparition.
With the other two tracks on the demo, however, Canid show themselves to be significantly moodier than most of their atmospheric peers. Opening track “Shake Free the Earth” stays mostly in the mid-tempo range and has an almost tribal/industrial feel to it that falls somewhere between early, No Wave-era Swans and Godflesh. In fact, in many ways the drums and some ambient keyboard accents basically carry the track, as the guitars and vocals are both saturated to the point of almost being blackened noise. The contrast between the two in the mix makes for some very tense, compelling listening. “As Kings Enthroned” features a few more traditionally trebly, tremolo picked riffs, but the drums stay firmly rooted in the tribal/industrial realm. And while the tempo does occasionally pick up throughout the song, it never quite gets to the level of blast beats. Instead, the drums sound like they’re playing half time behind the faster riffs, which once again serves to increase the tension of the music. The addition of bells at the end of the track is a really nice touch as well.
So if the purpose of a demo is to whet the listener’s appetite for more, MMXVII succeeds on almost every level. If I have one complaint, I do wish there had been another heavy song instead of the ambient track. Still, I’ll be anxiously awaiting whatever Canid—and Pristine Blight, for that matter—does next.