There’s a lot of black metal in the world, and despite what some people may believe based on how much writing I do here at the Vault, I really am just one person – I simply can’t cover it all. So in the spirit of our regular Beneath the Vault and Short Sharp Shock columns, we bring you Black Celebration, a roundup of the best black, blackened, and black metal adjacent (dark ambient, dungeon synth, etc.) that’s come across my radar recently. If you want to join the Black Celebration, send promos and links to [email protected]
I’ve written about Russian ‘diabolical ritual ambient’ project Corona Barathri before here at the Vault, and will probably do so many more times for as long as they continue to release their dark and evil musical emanations into the world. Now, ordinarily when I mention Messrs. AFFECTVS and Kein, the phrase ‘scares the shit out of me’ usually follows closely behind. However, the forthcoming Diabolical Path [Part II], a seven-song collection of tracks they recorded for various tributes and compilations between 2017-8, almost feels contemplative in comparison to most of their other releases. The acoustic guitars on “Draco Abyssi, Serpens Initialis (feat. Ayzen Kaoz),” and the Middle Eastern-inflected percussion on “Antimonium (feat. Ouroboros)” are both welcome variations on what I’m used to hearing from them. Of course, when now-ex member Lamia Culta, whose final appearances with the band are included here, starts in with the Latin chanting, it’s still plenty terrifying. If you’ve been curious about ritual ambient, there’s no better place to start investigating than with Corona Barathri, and Diabolical Path [Part II] is the ideal entry point into their wicked ways.
Graves – Liturgia da Blasfemia (Iron Bonehead, February 1)
As our loyal Vault Hunters are well aware, I’m all about that kvlt Portuguese shit – you knew that it wasn’t going to be long before a band from Portugal made an appearance in this column. Graves are relative newcomers, with only last June’s incredibly promising Unholy Desecration demo under their (presumably) bullet-laden belts. They deliver on that promise and then some with their first full-length Liturgia da Blasfemia, slightly over 30 minutes of feral, ominous black metal that owes as much to the Finnish underground as it does to The Aldebaran Circle or The Black Circle bands. The undisputed highlight of this one is the ghastly “Do teu Ventre a Maldade saiu,” (“‘From thy Womb, Evil has Gone”) which makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up every time I listen to it.
Templar – Knights of Nuclear Hell Decibelfucking the Charred Remains of the Christ (Self-released)
So I’ll admit that when this demo from these Finnish purveyors of thrashy blackened filth appeared in my inbox, I took one look at the title and thought ‘they cannot fucking be serious.’ The cover image, song titles like “RENEGADE TEMPLAR OF THE RADIATED DESERT” and “WAR LESBIANS,” and all-caps email from guitarist/backing vocalist MASTER TEMPLAR didn’t do anything to change my mind. Roughly twenty seconds into opening track “DECIBEL TYRANT,” though, I didn’t really care anymore about whether they were serious or not – this shit fucking RIPS, and before I knew it I’d listened to it three times straight through. Knights of Nuclear Hell Decibelfucking the Charred Remains of the Christ is 19 minutes of primitive blackened thrash-punk in the grand tradition of Japanese legends Abigail, set in a Satanic Mad Max-style nuclear wasteland and punctuated with the occasional falsetto wails that sound like they came from a totally shitfaced King Diamond. It’s gloriously sloppy, and sounds like it could fall off the rails at any moment, and if that doesn’t sell you on Templar, then you clearly don’t like fun.
Wolfmachine – Wolfmachine (Arcane Angels Records)
I pretty much instinctively flinch whenever I hear the phrase ‘industrial black metal.’ There’s basically Darkspace, Trollheims Grott, and a whole bunch of shit I prefer to pretend doesn’t exist. However, even though Wolfmachine are labeled as industrial black metal, that’s not the dominant vibe I get from it. If anything, I think it hews a bit closer to industrial noise, almost like a slightly less skull-fucky variation on the Gnaw Their Tongues sound. The bulk of Wolfmachine’s self-titled debut comes in the form of the epic two-part “Wolfmachine,” a noisy, hypnotic half hour of harsh, second-wave inspired black metal with martial-sounding drum patterns and the occasional descent into chaotic riffing and even a passage of what sounds an awful lot like freak-out jazz saxophone. Wolfmachine makes for some deeply immersive listening – don’t be surprised if you get lost in it.
XIVIX – 0 (Self-released)
0 is a perfect example of one of my favorite kinds of releases – a strange little kvlt demo that comes out of fucking nowhere and absolutely floors me. I think I stumbled across ‘1 being raw black metal band’ XIVIX on Instagram, but I don’t remember exactly how. And I can’t find anything about the project aside from a statement on the band’s YouTube proclaiming that the two songs on 0 were recorded with “a practice amp, a guitar, a guitar pick, a single guitar cord and an iPhone. That’s it.” I can see the iPhone bit invoking some kvltboi rage, but whatever – this demo is eight minutes of raw, hateful goodness that clearly draws inspiration from the best of the current USBM underground (particularly Unholy Vampyric Slaughter Sect, Sanguine Relic, and Orgy of Carrion) without sounding derivative of any of them. There is a bit of sameness to the two songs, but it is a first demo. There’s also mention of an eight-song release coming in a couple of months that I will now be awaiting anxiously.