Khold – Svartsyn (Soulseller)
In the volatile dimensions of black metal, Oslo’s Khold are somewhat of an outlier. Around since 2000, they have been on a sure and steady course with a very stable lineup since inception, releasing new albums every few years without much fanfare or controversy. While Svartsyn has been a long time in the making, it fits right into the band’s signature framework of midtempo, rolling black metal as if their previous LP Til endes came out yesterday and not in 2014.
Despite some minor sprinklings of flavor like the Alice in Chains-like grungy, waving melody on “Bryt i udåd ut” and the slowly growing, Howls of Ebb-evoking dissonance of “Helligdom av Døde”, there are nary any surprises here. Rather, each of the ten songs is a lovely miniature of black metal groove and atmosphere that will be well known to Khold fans, with bumbling, digging tremolo-picked riffs and a rock-solid rhythmic foundation opening just a little bit of space to let Gard’s demonic ramble sift through. Creepy, unsettling, yet oh so pleasant stuff! – Antonio Poscic
Merihem – Incendiary Darkness (I, Voidhanger)
Merihem is an act dedicated to the dark and dissonant side of black metal. An ethos that travels back to the orthodox visions of Mayhem magnum opus, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and continued through the works of Ofermod, Ondskapt, and Funeral Mist. This international collaboration between members of Manetheren, Israthoum, Frostmoon Eclipse, and Suffering Hour aims at fanning these flames of old. With their debut record, Incendiary Darkness they do exactly that.
The sinister concoction shines immediately. The clean parts of “Crimson Communion” glimmer like obsidian in the distance. The atmosphere here is key, and Merihem make sure to erect this eerie construction as soon as possible before they drive into their more brutal and unyielding presence. Soon enough, the cataclysm arrives. A storm of discordance rages with blasphemous intentions in the second half of the opener. Here, Merihem create this constant pressure, a push and pull that never stops. It results in moments of nauseating brutality as is the case with “The Geburah Apozem,” the dissonance becoming an unstoppable force in the likes of “Inhospitus” and “Actors of Omega.”
To complement this overwhelming approach, once again Merihem turn to their forefathers. The ritualistic presence of Mayhem breaks through to baptize this malformed worldview. The theatrical dimension they add to the vocals speaks volumes about the influence of Attila Csihar, both in “Inhospitus” and “Actos of Omega,” wth the chants in the latter adding a grand effect. “Three Times A Legion” drops the pace, shifting into this nightmarish soundscape, with the Czarl-inspired vocal delivery standing out. It is Merihem’s deep knowledge and genuine love for the scene that makes Incendiary Darkness stand out. And despite not offering much novelty, it is able to shine through with its dedication and ethos. Given the participants, we should not have expected anything less. – Spyros Stasis
Mine Collapse – Delusions (Nefarious Industries)
Formed from the ashes of Chicago-based metallic punksters Arbogast, Mine Collapse inhibit the same sonic space. The tenacity and weight of their metallic lineage find a perfect partner in crime with the punk and hardcore ethos. With just one EP release, in distant 2016, under their discography, Mine Collapse now arrive with their debut full-length, Delusions.
Delusions is a work that embraces a variety of sonic tropes. “Bone Saw” comes in and the post-hardcore vibe takes over. The Fugazi and Helmet pedigree by way of the Austerity Program are pivotal here, creating a complex and yet direct tone. It adds a degree of unpredictability to the already relentless rhythmic backbone, shining brightly in moments like “No Return”. But that is not all Mine Collapse have to offer. The sudden switch towards psychedelic notions in “Death Spirals” fills the space with its hazy tone, caught somewhere between an early Down (minus the Southern twang) tone, the dreaminess of Torche, and the heavier moments of Boris.
It is the synergy between these different forces that makes Delusions a delightful ride. Blastbeats enhance the extreme tonality, only to be met by krautrock infusions. Desert-like sceneries appear in “Unraveling” only to be deconstructed into an urban cinematic background. Similarly, the technical aptitude and complexity are shown in the likes of closer “Empty Void” live harmoniously side by side with the oppressive and dark tone. Mine Collapse have offered a distilled and very potent offering of metallic post-hardcore. – Spyros Stasis
Mortuus – Diablerie (WTC)
Conceived in the early 2000s by veterans of the Swedish black metal scene, Johannes Kvarnbrink, and Marcus Hinze, Mortuus subscribe to the orthodox offspring spawned into this world by the orthodox Swedish scene. Still, what separated Mortuus was an adherence to the eerie and dissonant vibe of Ved Buens Ende, coupled with the cyclothymic concepts of Thorns. This instilled into their works a deeply guttural yet atmospheric sense, which is further augmented through the slower tempo. Unfortunately, Mortuus’ discography has remained sparse, with the duo releasing a new work every seven years. So now, to go alongside two excellent works in De Contemplanda Morte; De Reverencie Laboribus ac Adorationis and Grape of The Vine, the trifecta is complete with Diablerie.
Darkness falls from the start, as “Threefold Harrowing of Hell” kicks off with a graphic and visceral sense. Beneath the eerie facade lies the fiery energy that propels Mortuus’ vision. There are times when that reaches an intense and animalistic level, as blastbeats pierce through the dissonant veil of the title track. But then, the tempo subsides, and the sweet spot is found along the shores of the Written In Waters disharmony. The midsection of the opening track and “Furnace of Sleep” take on this form, further aided by the doom pace. The resulting ambiance is truly hellish, with chants and synths briefly appearing in the background to complete this grand presentation. Moments like the start of “In Graves Remote Even The Worthless Have Meaning” feel like an endless march towards damnation.
The recipe has not changed for Mortuus, and probably neither should it. Dissonance and grandeur, black metal cacophony on top of mid-tempo sovereignty are where this duo feels at home. A few melodies weaved into the skeletal structure of their tracks, and then an immaculate hold on dynamics revealed some of the small alterations to the formula. Still, for the most part, Mortuus do exactly what they are expected, and we are grateful for it. – Spyros Stasis
Saor – Origins (Season of Mist)
The rise of Saor has been meteoric, to say the least. The project helmed by Andy Marshall took the underground black metal scene by storm back in 2013 with the release of Roots. Raw and relentless, it adapted the epic visions of Bathory to a Caledonian scenery. Through the years Saor did not remain static, Aura continued investigating the raw black metal space and then Guardians augmented the folk presence. The twist came with Forgotten Paths, Marshall taking the project down a mellower direction, with a nice dose of post-black metal characteristics. Four years, and a Fuath record, later Saor returns with their Season of Mist debut, Origins.
The first quality that comes through Origins is a step back from the post-black metal applications of Forgotten Paths. The new record does not dwell on the ethereal realm of its predecessor, instead reinvigorating much of the black metal flame of the past. “Call of The Carnyx” sees this powerful approach come in as a storm, while “Beyond The Wall” and the title track double down on this ethos. It is something that ties in naturally with the Bathory-ian lineage, crafting an epic presence. Be it war-like, as is the case with the relentless progression of “Fallen,” or grand, with the chants in “Aurora,” it gives the album a polemic quality. That of course has its own counterweight, with the elegant folk infusions taking over. The clean parts in “The Ancient Ones” bring this essence to the surface, and the additional instrumentation, in the form of bagpipes, in the opening track completes this vision.
Where Origins makes a turn is through its enamourment with a more traditional heavy metal quality. The black metal spirit, with a healthy dose of melody and atmosphere, still defines the spine of this full-length. Yet, the arrangement of the guitars and their lead work scream with the ethos of the ‘80s. The aggression of “Fallen” is balanced through these applications. And there is this rocking groove that Saor take on. “The Ancient Ones” arrive with that intoxicating progression, the heavy metal influence shining, while the double lead in “Aurora” dazzle with their radiance. This quality completes the latest offering from Marshall, showing that Saor have not reached a plateau and they are still seeking. May they continue to do so. – Spyros Stasis