Last month of 2022 and although releases were a bit more scarce, the quality did reach a high. For the most part, it has been quite a dark time, therefore black metal sits on top of December’s list. But I will keep it so and just invite you to dig in! – Spyros Stasis
Änterbila – Änterbila (Nordvis Produktion)
Despite clocking in at less than half an hour, Swedish black/folk metal quartet Änterbila’s eponymous debut manages to manifest a vivid, lived-in world. Because of their storytelling approach, the eight songs on the album are best understood as parts of a whole, chapters of the same narrative indivisible from each other. The atmospheric fiddles and synths of opener “Valllåt från Gnarp”, the epic, galloping, and insidiously melodic black metal anthems “1704” and “Äntergast”, and the subdued acoustic guitar outro “Nattens Gåvolott” all contribute specific moods and vignettes, connecting past and future histories, folklore, and myths… – Antonio Poscic
Dødsengel – Bab Al On (Debemur Morti)
Their origin is deeply rooted in the Scandinavian black metal tradition, yet through the years Dødsengel have found ways to move between different states. The fifth record from the Norwegian, Bab Al On, finds them carrying on this vision. There is an abundance of the orthodox mentality, ushered in through Ondskapt’s pivotal works and defined by Funeral Mist’s Salvation. The title track features this asphyxiating quality, while the reverse ecclesiastical spirit is highlighted through the chants of “Agnus Dei” and the atmospheric inclinations of “Dies Irae”. The earlier stages of the genre still have their place, the lead work of “In the Beginning” showing this devilish touch, while the blazing procession of “Hour of Contempt” and the old-school approach of “Abomination Gate” complete this transition.
Within this space, Dødsengel lean towards other forms of extreme music. The ambient inclinations offer a solid foundation, extending the sonic palette with the minimal explorations of “Annihilation Mantra” or the sparse black metal representation of “Bursting As Boils From the Back of Slaves”. Still adventurous, slight avant-garde tropes find their way into Bab Al On, the quasi-industrial manifestations bring to mind the milder times of Dødheimsgard and the likes of Slagmaur. There again, the eerie essence of moments like “The Lamb Speaks” sets a psychedelic trope over the proceedings. It is the holistic understanding that matches Dødsengel’s ambition. With Bab Al On they travel through different defining moments of black metal, from the early day rawness to the strict orthodoxy but without forgetting the experimental tendencies. – Spyros Stasis
Hammers of Misfortune – Overtaker (Independent)
It is a difficult task to balance the retro lust of progressive music and forward-thinking innovation. Yet, that is exactly what Hammers of Misfortune have been doing since 2003, in the process having released six excellent specimens of all-encompassing heavy metal. They return today after six years of silence with their first independent release, Overtaker. Everything that made Hammers of Misfortune such an enticing act is still present and vibrant. The old-school admiration is of course front and present, in-your-face and unstoppable; it shines through the frenetic pace of the title track. Verbose guitars set the foundations while adding flourishes through short solo bursts. The keyboards enhance the depth, on one hand acting as time machines, setting the clock but to the 1970s, and yet providing boastful energy to “Dark Brennius” and “Vipers Cross”.
Slight extreme twists enrich the recipe, adding unpredictability to “The Raven’s Bell”, providing purpose and drive to “Ghost Hearts”. This mentality creates schizoid switches between the brutal metal approach and the prog-rock spirit. The epic crescendos of “Outside Our Minds” are defined in such a way, while the furious yet melodic approach of “Orbweaver” and “Outreacher” define this equilibrium. The Sabbath-ian touch always hovers over the proceedings, the doom aspect coming to view in the opener and with a mutated hard rock swagger in “Aggressive Perfection”. Still, what Hammers of Misfortune do so well is not the patching of genres or the excellent execution. No, this act can create an otherworldly sense through its frantic and punishing approach. It is a constant for Hammers of Misfortune, this sense of magical exhilaration, and it still defines their work in Overtaker. – Spyros Stasis
Misþyrming – Með hamri (NoEvDia)
Misþyrming has been one of the defining acts of the infamous Icelandic black metal scene. Their evolution has been quite interesting. The initial orthodox-inspired Söngvar elds og óreiðu saw the raw spirit and lo-fi elements prevail, yet Algleymi found the act enamored with the melodic inclinations of Mgla. Now, Með hamri splits the distance between these two worlds, finding Misþyrming at an interesting crossroads.
On one hand, the in-your-face approach is pivotal. No-holds-barred methodologies explore the bitter brew. The wicked sense rising through the contorted riffs of “Engin Miskunn” prevail, while the venomous drip is further applied in closer “Aftaka”. Yet, the melodic self still finds its place. Catchy inclinations rise with the second track, however, there is an epic twist that enhances the experience. These new underpinnings see a Bathory-type lineage embed itself in the progression and movement.
“Engin Miskunn” and the short interlude of “Blóðhefnd” take this to pompous levels, while “Engin Vorkunn” sees a mid-tempo, towering groove with attitude come in. Although all their albums have been excellent, it feels like Misþyrming are still drilling toward finding their own identity. Með hamri is a great step in that direction, carrying the orthodox torch of Funeral Mist, the catchy yet traditional outlook of Mgla while still not forgetting the origins of the genre. – Spyros Stasis
Nidare – Von Wegen (Through Love)
Berlin’s Nidare nurture a post-black metal style that is equally indebted to black metal’s traditional roots as it is to external influences, from post-hardcore and crust to ambient. While they are still a fairly new band formed in 2019, their first effort at combining these elements into a full-length is thoroughly successful. Von Wegen is a rumbling, aggressive beast that alternates super compact black metal attacks with airier, more atmospheric sections and typical post-metal crescendos. The vocal delivery and instrumental flesh morph accordingly, as deep growls become emo screams, crunchy riffs turn into shrieking, frantic tremolos, and the patient march of drums accelerates into blistering blasts. Grim, lovely, and extremely well-executed stuff. – Antonio Poscic
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