Blackdeath – Also Sprach Das Chaos (End All Life)
The initial impact of the Scandinavian black metal outbreak caused a ripple effect on the extreme scenes around the globe. From France to Poland, from the US to South America it didn’t take long for this ethos to spread. In the mid to late 1990s, this sound infected a band from St. Petersburg with the name Draugwath. They would soon change their name to Blackdeath, allowing the flame of the early Darkthrone spirit to live through them. Because at the beginning, that was Blackdeath’s bread and butter. The monotonous and relentless quality of the genre’s raw beginnings.
Yet, as years passed, Blackdeath would make this sound their own, not interested in merely copying the legends of the past but leaving their own mark. And so, especially in the 2010s, they have released some excellent works of direct and passionate black metal. Katharsis: Kalte Lieder aus der Hölle, Φόβος and Phantasmhassgorie stand out as testaments to Blackdeath’s polemic quality. But, the return now with Also Sprach Das Chaos turns a new page for the act.
Throughout their past work, even when Blackdeath refined their style, they still maintained a traditional approach to their black metal. There have not been many if any, experiments that the Russian act seemed interested in performing. However, this now changes drastically with Also Sprach Das Chaos. The first indicator of this fact is the duration of the tracks, with the record featuring just two offerings that clock over the 14-minute mark. A first for Blackdeath, this move allows them to explore more fully their concepts and ideas.
They start on familiar ground. “Paralysiertes Äquinoktium” kicks off with a fairly expected but still really well-placed bitter black metal assault. It is merciless and punishing, carrying still the deviant spirit of the early Scandinavian scene. It is undoubtedly old-school, but then strange things begin to materialize. The onslaught mutates, and when there once was a direct approach, further elements are altering the core. In subtle ways, industrial influences make an appearance, coupled with no-wave applications. It is a challenging approach, merging the Darkthrone ferocity with the mystical essence of Einstürzende Neubauten. And it is not the only one. “Im Labyrinth” sees a similar switch, as the initial eerie harmonies, called upon from masters Ved Buens Ende, lead the way into a space that screams with the experimental mindset of Master’s Hammer.
What is stunning here is not so much that Blackdeath incorporate these elements, but rather that in doing so they do not lose their traditionalism. The undiluted black metal sound is still there, but it is now enhanced through layers of effects. It is a tilt that allows for Blackdeath to craft terrifying atmospherics. At times they evoke a primordial, ritualistic essence, as with the ending of “Im Labyrinth”. The rich tapestry acts as the perfect background for the vocal chants, giving an archaic quality to the proceedings. But, of course, there is the psychedelic twist, spacey effects coming in and shaping the space in dark colors. The winning factor remains that Blackdeath did not give away much to move into these new directions. They have aptly incorporated them in their brutal and direct black metal, making Also Sprach Das Chaos a unique experience. – Spyros Stasis
Eos – Les corps s’entrechoquent (Mystiskaos/Iron Bonehead)
Even though Canada’s Eos is releasing their debut record, their origin is found back in the mid-2010s. Appearing in their native underground scene, Eos’ dissonant black metal take was conceptualized with their 2014 demo L’avalé. Released through the now-defunct Fallen Empire label, L’avalé featured a raw, lo-fi presentation. Yet, beneath this harsh surface, one could detect a diamond in the rough. Unfortunately, the act’s output was sparse, with just one split release with fellow Canadian atmospheric black metallers Malebranche arriving in 2019. Thankfully, after a long wait Eos does return with their debut record, Les corps s’entrechoquent, aptly released through Fallen Empire’s spiritual successor in Mystiskaos.
Now, the Canadian black metal scene has developed its unique black metal blend for this century. Looking beyond the country’s early extreme metal pioneers, in Blasphemy, it was artists like Akitsa that defined the country’s current black metal scene. It’s a tradition that stands strong to this day, with the likes of Oriflamme unleashing top-quality works. Now, Eos are a bit different. They do not adhere to the tropes of their native underground scene, and they instead tend to look outwards. Mainly towards the dissonant and chaotic approach that acts like Deathspell Omega have brought into existence. As a result, they formulate a multilayered and labyrinthine work in Les corps s’entrechoquent, with Eos joining the current orthodoxy of the style. Building walls of cacophony, letting their obsidian soul shine through the rabble. It is a presence that allows them to take a fierce, almost elemental form. Tracks like “Sommeil” and “L’ether” feel like you are going against some force of nature. It is a scorching experience, and Eos deliver it with unstoppable momentum and drive.
Yet, they still manage to find places where their melodic inclinations rise. The solo work in Les corps s’entrechoquent is genuinely excellent and contradicts the bitter, black metal tradition. Both “L’ether” and the title track feature some exquisite guitar solos, taking on a more traditionalist, classic metal approach. That also naturally leads to the atmospheric side of the project. Even though Eos do have their pedal on the metal, for the most part, they bring moments of eerie grandeur. The processional rendition of the opener, “Nier le corps, nier les jours” sees them constructing this bitter canvas. It is a pathway that leads to moments where this free-flowing energy arises, something that can make the scenery appear hypnotic, as is the case with “L’ether”.
All in all, Les corps s’entrechoquent is a very well worked out record. It is easy to tell that Eos has been working on these compositions for a while, and they manage to present in the best way possible. The only downside is that, even though they still add a few twists to their dissonant black metal recipe, they do not diverge that much from those that came before. However, that does not take anything away from the high quality of Les corps s’entrechoquent. – Spyros Stasis
Feral Season – Rotting Body in the Range of Light (Profound Lore)
Now, this is a trip to the past. Capturing the aura of a scene of bygone years is no simple task. Yet, with their debut record, Feral Season do precisely that. Founded by Karl Cordtz and Patrick Hills, members of Chrch and Occlith, the duo has the singular focus of awakening the cold, bitter touch of Scandinavian black metal. And much like catching lightning in a bottle, Rotting Body in the Range of Light delivers that. A work drenched in the spirit and ethos of the early and mid-1990s, when dissonance and eeriness freely roamed.
It is an onslaught from the start, with the old-school beginnings of “Tied to the Sun”. The grit is undeniable as the traditional cacophonous riffing erupts through the cold landscapes. From there on, Feral Season pass through some different modes. The chaotic progression of “Methuselah” sees them with an intense edge, adding vulgar unpredictability to the proceedings. And from old-school spirit and chaos, Feral Season walk into the eerie as the title track unfolds. It is a mean and relentless march through the dark, with Cordtz and Hills perfectly navigating the endeavor. The final clean part of “Tied to the Sun” washes over “Methusalah”, bringing to mind the early experiments of Ulver. It is an idea that comes full circle with “Thickets”, as the acoustic start lays down the dark folk ambiance.
It is easy for an act to lose itself when trying to recapture the magic of old. But, Feral Season do not simply display keen insight into the mechanics and aesthetics of the genre. They also deliver their music with intense passion and angst. Moving through their cleaner implementations, they add slight hazy twists, completing a mesmerizing offering. They further enhance their relentless onslaught to feature epic underpinnings, as with the mid-tempo groove of “Seized in Emerald Grief”. And as the record progresses, the compositions become bolder.
In the final two tracks, “Thickets” and “The Sigil of Snags”, Feral Season unleash an ardent assault. The polemic nature of “Thickets” is injected by exquisite melodic hooks, while the closing track masterfully brings in the clean vocals to reach a new spiritual high. This attitude makes it really hard not to pick Rotting Body in the Range of Light as the best of old-school black metal record of this year (at least so far). – Spyros Stasis
Full of Hell – Garden of Burning Apparitions (Relapse)
It is quite interesting trying to define what is truly extreme. The extreme metal underground has been pushing this question in different directions. Is it a lo-fi and DIY attitude? A harsh and raw production that retains the pure energy of an artist? Is it ultra-technical ability coupled with harsh vocals? Or is it a minimal and ambient setting? Longform and freely moving drones that slowly cause you to asphyxiated.
For Full of Hell, being extreme comes from a lineage of punk pioneers, grind legends, and death metal aficionados. And to make things even more excruciating, the US act encapsulates noise and ambient influences. While other like-minded artists exist across the board, from the Body to Demdike Stare and Merzbow, Full of Hell have found their own special place. Their discography is a journey of this harsh environment, and the latest outing in Garden of Burning Apparitions does not deviate from the path.
Condensed to just over 20 minutes, Garden of Burning Apparitions fumes with aggression and hostility. This is a serious stampede as the grind havoc of “Guided Blight” is unleashed upon you. Uncontrollable, primal chaos is just set loose upon the world. It is a force that Full of Hell call upon multiple times, merging it with a death metal sense to produce devastating moments like “Eroding Shell”. But, it is just one side of the multi-faceted act. When combined with the powerviolence and punk attitude, the virtuosic guitar work brings to mind the early experiments of Converge. Chaotically moving through “Asphyxiant Blessing” and “Burning Apparition”, the energy feels unstoppable. As the bastardized punk motifs of “All Bells Ringing” give way to the heavy hardcore groove of “Celestial Hierarch”, it’s difficult not to stand in awe in front of such a shattering experience.
Still, just scratching the surface for these guys. Despite its short duration, Garden of Burning Apparitions does not shy away from detours. Noise rock components begin to evolve through “Reeking Tunnels”, probably one of the smoothest parts of the album, before the industrialized context of “Industrial Messiah Complex” swoops in. Once more, the noise raises its ugly head, washing over from “Asphyxiant Blessing” into “Murmuring Foul Spring”. An ambient meltdown, before the full hybrid grind/noise state, arrives with “Derelict Satellite” and “Non-Atomism”. This is an endless wasteland, and this is its voice.
Even though the experience is staggering and Garden of Burning Apparitions is a very well worked out and presented record, there are still some questions here. Full of Hell have found their sound, and record after record, they have truly honed their craft. They are getting better with every release. But it does feel like there is a certain repetition. So, the question remains, what more can these guys do? They have pushed the extreme metal sound to its limits. They have skillfully incorporated disparate influences to increase their brutality. How can they top themselves? Well, that is for another day. For now, we can enjoy the dystopian nightmare of Garden of Burning Apparitions. – Spyros Stasis