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Black Celebration Reviews

Black Celebration, Volume II

Welcome back for the second installment of Black Celebration. Even though it’s only Volume II, I’ve already decided to change the format slightly after this entry. Instead of covering Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient as part of this column, I’m going to split them off into a column of their own called Dungeon Crawl. So keep an eye open for that. One thing that’s not going to change? How you can get in touch with me if you want to be included in either Black Celebration or Dungeon Crawl: send links, promos, and whatever else to [email protected]

Cénotaphe – Empyrée (Nuclear War Now! Productions)

French duo Cénotaphe are looking like the first surprise success of 2019 – their second EP and fourth overall release Empyrée sold out of its initial pressing in about two weeks, and a second pressing is already on the way. Inspired by 19th-century French literary figures like Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé, Empyrée is a wonderfully tempestuous, capital-R Romantic EP. The album cover, an 1893 painting by Polish symbolist painter Jacek Malczewski entitled “In the Dust Cloud,” gives a pretty good indication of what you’ll find inside – black metal that’s familiar-yet-not in its form, and painted using a brighter range of colors than one would expect. If you only have time to check out one track, start with “Même mort, il brûle” (“Even dead, he burns”), which includes some of multi-instrumentalist Fog’s strongest riffs and provides the best showcase for Khaosgott’s rather unique vocals.

Katechon – Sanger Fra Auschwitz (Saturnalia Records – March 1)

If you felt yourself involuntarily give a little twitch when first reading the title of Trondheim-based Katechon’s third full-length, which translates as ‘Songs from Auschwitz, I don’t blame you at all – I did as well. But this isn’t that sort of album – instead, it’s an anti-totalitarian exploration of the way that WWII affected people on both sides of the fight, incorporating elements from Paul Celan, T.S. Eliot and beat poetry. According to the PR materials, on the album Auschwitz represents “not just the physical, but also the metaphysical manifestation of evil on earth.” As one might expect, it’s a remarkably bleak album, but with surprisingly warm sounding guitar and drum tones, and some unexpected synth and mellotron textures. In short, it’s another winner from Saturnalia Records (All My Sins, Burial Shrine, Sacrificium Carmen, Vuohi, etc.), who have been on an incredible hot streak as of late.

Lousberg – The Death of Humanity (Dunkelheit Produktionen – February 15)

Falling somewhere between dungeon synth, dark ambient, and perhaps even modern classical music, Lousberg’s The Death of Humanity is a pretty astonishing, 25-minute long piece of music. The secret? Textures. On the whole, The Death of Humanity is a fairly minimalist, slow-moving composition that’s carried more by the well-chosen applications of a few select textures in a way that has more in common with classical music than either dungeon synth or dark ambient. It’s incredibly introspective music, and as we’ve been dealing with sub-zero weather here in Indiana over the last couple of days it’s been the perfect album to listen to on earbuds while having my morning coffee.

An Old Sad Ghost – A / Der letzte Koenig B / Der erste Koenig (Self-released)

Dungeon synth fans got a VERY welcome surprise last week with the surprise release of a new two-part release from a project that was believed to have been retired: An Old Sad Ghost. The Austrian project’s A / Der letzte Koenig B / Der erste Koenig (The Last King + The First King) were both inspired by the work of Symbolist/Expressionist printmaker and illustrator Alfred Kubin, whose “Der letzte Koenig (1902)” adorns the covers of both releases. AOSG isn’t quite as minimalist in his approach as Lousberg, as he works with a much wider variety of sounds and textures courtesy of his Yamaha YPT-260. I don’t want to say much else right now about these releases aside from calling them majestic and gorgeous,  since (spoiler alert) we’ll be hearing more from An Old Sad Ghost here at the Vault in the not-too-distant future.

videdemo (Self-released – Feb. 8)

For the second column in a row, I’m wrapping things up with a two-song demo. I didn’t plan it that way – I organize these columns alphabetically, and that’s just how it worked out. At any rate…one-man depressive black metal project vide hails from somewhere in the swamps of Louisiana, but (thank fuck) no vestiges of NOLA sludge managed to sneak their way into either of the tracks on this demo, which was originally released digitally last year by Grotesque Discovery Records and will be getting a very limited release on cassette next week. What I particularly like about vide is the amount of variety in these two songs. “Darkness” balances hauntingly melodic mid-tempo sections with more overtly aggressive passages, while “This hell” has more of a gothic/post-punk feel to it thanks to the heavy synth accents. This is pretty impressive – I’m looking forward to hearing a full-length from this project.

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