Arckanum and more...
Deluge (Debemur Morti Productions)
As grim as any isolated corner of Norway, Ireland is an ideal breeding ground for the misanthropic bile of black metal. This year Cork’s Altar of Plagues will undoubtedly receive all of the critical acclaim because of its masterpiece Teethed Glory and Injury, but after five years of gestation Slidhr (masterminded by multi-instrumentalist JD) has released its debut, Deluge, and birthed a beast.
Deluge is dense, immaculately structured black metal album that grips the orthodoxy of the genre in one razor claw and inverts it with the same invention as Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega and Smohalla. Lo-fi production has been shunned in favour of a monstrous wall of sound (much like Aosoth’s IV: An Arrow in Heart) and each subterranean layer has been meticulously constructed and shrouded in a thick Gothic veil. JD’s vocals croak like fetid air forced from a coffin, and the riffs and rhythms circumvent the tiresome overuse of tremolo and blast beat patterns by also incorporating mid-paced creeps (“Wielding Daggers”), repetitious bass grooves with shards of riffs (“Their Blood”), as well as the subtle dark-wave melodies that lurk throughout. With Deluge, Slidhr has created a sublime work of black metal that does not flagrantly depend on shoe-gaze or post-rock in an attempt to make the music sound original. A reclusive force deep within the perpetual darkness that is modern day Ireland has now emerged, and after the last doom-march of “Rays Like Blades”, Slidhr’s ascendancy is now absolute. ~ DB
Alone in the Grave (20 Buck Spin)
Alone in the Grave is an 18-minute blitzkrieg of fantastically feculent gore from Olympia, Washington-based Bone Sickness. It’s the perfect length to play once, play again, and then once more for extra cellular destruction. The band recalls the messy fornications of death metal, punk and grindcore in their early days, and the result is the hideously ugly progeny of all—ugly, of course, in the best possible sense. Autopsy, Napalm Death and Repulsion all form part of Bone Sickness’s parentage, and if you forced all those bands into a turbo-powered blender with rusty blades, and topped it off with vagrant venom and sullied spite, the seven tracks on Alone in the Grave would be the eventual noxious serum.
Velocity, vexation and gruesome, guttersnipe virtuosity make up the backbone of Alone in the Grave and there’s no breathing room here. It takes scornful skill to plow through tunes this frenzied and head-splitting, and Bone Sickness displays all the moxie and contempt to ensure tracks like “Submit to Decay”, “Paranoid Delusions” and “Alone in the Grave” spit acrimonious acid. Lurching, firing, and exploding with raw and unsanitary excretions, Alone in the Grave is 18 perfectly contaminating and wholly addictive minutes of ferocious death and grind. Also of note is the album’s detailed cover art by Chips & Beer magazine illustrator Hand of Beaver (Chips & Beer being an essential purchase while you’re lurking on 20 Buck Spin’s website picking up this manky gem). ~ CH
Vicious Consolation/Virtuous Totality (Bleak Recordings)
Grindcore is a tricky genre to master. The line between feral bursts of well-charged noise and just plain noise is as blurry as one of Danny Herrera’s blast-beats. Songwriting chops is as essential to grind as any, but when it comes to writing songs that last about as long as the lifespan of a gnat, you better pack enough dynamite to take down a squat. All the greats get this, and grindcore exists because of such commitment to its original punked-up premise.
A new axe to grind for your delectation is Portugal’s Utopium. This Portuguese band know how to write fast, engaging grind, and amongst the blasting comes a keen sense of serrated groove similar to Rotten Sound and Nasum. Formed in 2007 with a handful of releases behind them, Vicious Consolation/Virtuous Totality is Utopium’s full-length debut, and its 18 songs careen from whiplash-grind that crashes to a halt in a matter of seconds (“Lodging in a Rut”) to Dismember-like death-grooves (“Owner of a Kept Abidance”) and jagged Burnt By the Sun noisecore (“Through Coalescence”). Lasting 23 minutes Vicious Consolation/Virtuous Totality is a ramshackle recording that sounds loose, lively and volatile, yet the rapid tempos changes are on point and screeching and gurgling vocals keeps the recklessness running. Sure these guys aren’t going to go down as originators—every grind band has been pillaged Napalm Death, Terrorizer since the invention of the blast—but the quality of the grind and gristle of the performance is more than enough to herald them as an exciting addition to the metal’s most mongrel sub-genre. ~ DB
Adoran (Consouling Sounds)
Adoran is a droning sludge and doom metal project from Aidan Baker (Nadja) and Dorian Williamson (Northumbria). The duo’s self-titled debut comes with two songs, the 27-minute “Careful With That Death Machine” and 30-minute “The Aviator”, and if you were lucky enough to have heard Williamson’s magnificent 2012 ambient/metal release Northumbria (with cohort Jim Field) then you’ll be prepared for the aural monstrousness that awaits.
Similarly, ür-drone is what we have here; two behemoth tunes crawling along on Baker’s hawkish drum patterns with Williamson laying on the hallucinogenic, head-nodding bass—imagine OM with a more contemplative than consecrated cadence. Adoran is as much a tripped-out and celestial voyage as an internal odyssey; finding its balance between the awe of stargazing and the acknowledgment of our own infinitesimally small place in the universe. Passages unfurl at a glacial pace, grinding though the range of senses—with fear, confusion, warmth, and bone-aching chills all encompassed. Propulsion is to be found in Adoran, but it’s a tempo that mimics the turbulent beat of the heart and prolonged turmoil of a mind when considering the big questions. Peace is to be found in comprehending that we all are participating in the inexorable creep to the end, and Adoran certainly provides ample sonic ministrations along the way. ~ CH
Fenris Kinder (Underground Activists / Season of Mist)
Chaos-Gnostic Ideology, and Anti-Cosmic Satanism; those are the points of interest for Sweden’s one-man black metal wraith Arckanum. Since the early ‘90s, that’s exactly what Shamaatae (Johan S. Lahger) has advanced and encouraged, and powerful recent albums such as 2009’s ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ and 2008’s Antikosmos have been magnificently feral and intuitive feasts.
On Arckanum’s eighth and latest album, Fenris Kinder, Shamaatae further explores the apocalyptic Nordic tales of 2011’s Helvítismyrkr, and similarly, the new album is an inferno of raw black metal—with a gruesome undercurrent of death metal, and a punk/thrash pulse. Arckanum reaches back, with second wave black metal playing as strong a role as Venom, Bathory or Celtic Frost’s rancor, and Fenris Kinder is a blazing tribute to the fundamental strengths of corrosive and sinister metal. Stripped of any superfluousness, tracks such as “Tungls Tjugari”, “Dolgrinn” and “Uskepna” are corruptive screeds, and even when the folk leanings arrive on eerier tracks like “Solbols Sigr” and “Hamrami”, the vexatiousness never drops one iota. Fenris Kinder is one of 2013’s best black metal releases thus far. File alongside Aosoth’s IV:Arrow in Heart to show that hell is still hammering as loud as ever. ~ CH