It’s arguable that no genre has benefitted more from the resurgence of cassette-based labels than black metal. Fans of underground (read: kvlt) black metal in particular have been enjoying a seemingly worldwide renaissance of mysterious musicians from unknown origin making music that’s frequently as painful to listen to as it is pained. Granted, that kind of proliferation generally results in considerably more chaff than wheat. However, to (somewhat awkwardly) extend the metaphor, there’s still plenty of blackened wheat to be found out there in the fields.
In terms of USBM, few of the bands that have popped up in the last few years do it better than Atlanta’s SunSpell. Since releasing his first pair of singles in December of 2015, lone member Doulos has quickly proven himself to be a consistently excellent practitioner of the metallic black arts. SunSpell’s take on the genre is a bit more melodic than some of the other US underground standouts like True Love, Whitewurm, Haunter, or Byyrth, sounding a bit closer to the depressive/suicidal end of the black metal spectrum, with perhaps a bit of Xasthur influence thrown in for good measure. That melodicism doesn’t make it feel any less nihilistic, though. Blast beats, tremolo-picked melodic guitar lines, wraith-like shrieks that are barely audible in the mix – familiar elements all, but Doulos’s sense of songcraft and his execution inject those elements with a much needed venomous dose of vitality.
The high point of SunSpell’s discography thus far is From the Mist, We are but Dust…,last year’s split with Canadian raw DSBM outfit Saudade. Originally released on vinyl by Iron Bonehead, SunSpell’s half of the split is getting a standalone cassette release from Grey Matter Productions (Cloak of Altering, Xuun, La Torture Des Ténèbres) on May 25 (limited to 50 copies–one of which I’ve already bought, so make that 49–so snag a preorder here). Unlike his last couple of releases that featured more compact songwriting, Doulos stretches out on From the Mist, We are but Dust…like he hasn’t done since “My Ghost in Eternal Chains” on his first demo Memento Mori. Comprised of two tracks that each top out at over ten minutes, From the Mist, We are but Dust…is easily his most adventurous and dynamic material to date.
Opening track “Consumed By Emptiness,” which we’re thrilled to be streaming today at the Vault, starts off with an extended keyboard intro that might give those not already familiar with the band the impression that SunSpell plays either ambient black metal or dungeon synth. Once that first riff kicks in, though, any false sense of security those listeners may have been lulled into is instantly shattered and then systematically battered into dust in the ensuing onslaught of frenzied riffs and harrowing screams. However, the second half of “Consumed By Emptiness” isn’t just a blur of tremolos and blasts. There are enough different riffs and a couple of tempo changes that keep the song from feeling even remotely close to its nearly eleven-and-a-half minute length.
Don’t just take my word for it, though – you can check out the track for yourself below. If you’re into the black stuff, then I feel confident in predicting that you won’t be able to just listen to it once.