Pa Vesh En – Maniac Manifest (Iron Bonehead)
Since the project’s beginning in 2017, Pa Vesh En’s charm lay in the diffuse, texture-like production and mastering that swallowed whole expressions of raw black metal. Previous albums by the Belarus one-person band —2019’s Pyrefication in particular—used this approach as a tool for conjuring a permeating atmosphere of malevolence. They filtered the most insidious aspects of black metal throughout these records to make music that could best be described as experimental ambient sourced directly from hell. But as much as it didn’t sound like metal at all, it simultaneously felt like the purest distillation of the genre’s essence. Somewhat differently, Pa Vesh En’s third LP fleshes out the previously abstract, far-away sound into more sculpted forms.
Take opener “Homicidal Sacrifice”, for example, where the project’s usually insane arsenal of texture and noises explodes in a proper metal roar. Or consider “The Eyes Full of Horror”, which witnesses a distinct guitar tremolo float into the soundscape to unleash a bout of nigh traditional black metal while remaining fully committed to the idea of feeling and experiencing rather than just listening to music. Finally, rock out with “Spellbound by the Witchmoon”, the band’s most conventional yet still thoroughly insane cut that ushers the disembodied, floating dissonance of “The Black Coffin”. Considering the album as a whole, it becomes clear that Pa Vesh En wear this bit of variety quite elegantly, evolving their sound without sacrificing the elements that made them special. – Antonio Poscic
Pestilential Shadows – Revenant (Seance)
September was a very strong month for Australian black metal. There are four releases from the land down under that are worth checking out this month. The blackened epics of Runespell, the sophomore work from Ichor, and the debut EP from Shuyet are all worth a listen. But, for me, it is the return of Pestilential Shadows that intrigued me the most. The historic black metal band features some heavyweights, including Nazxul, Drowning the Light, Advent Sorrow, and Temple Nightside. Now, seven years after Ephemeral, Pestilential Shadows return to haunt our days with Revenant.
In a way, Pestilential Shadows can stand between the dark and the light. Their approach to black metal does not follow the completely harsh and dissonant path. Neither does it relish in the pronounced melodies. They stand in between, invoking both sides to elicit a response that can go through a range of flavors. The opener “Procession of Souls” immediately shows this ability, the melodic touch sprouting through the eerie black metal methodology. Similar is the case with the harrowing melodies of the title track, with Pestilential Shadows erecting a bleak and brutal domain. From there on, a number of different modes are visited. The epic presence of “Hunter and Reaper” awakens a majestic emotion, while on the other end, the traditional riffing of “Twilight Congregation” leads to a dark and damned fate.
Revenant radiates with this sense of bitterness. “The Sword of Damocles” and “Revenant” taking down this road to unleash moments of brutal ritual or oppressive polemics. But still, there are times of introspection. Slight ambient passages, the clean guitars in “Procession of Souls”, or the minimal interpretations in parts of “Twilight Congregation” and especially “Beneath the Dying Stars” offer terrifying glimpses into the undeniable truth of all existence. Fascinated by death, Pestilential Shadows have enthralled all the existential angst through a traditional black metal recipe. And since it is veterans driving behind the wheel with a deep appreciation and understanding of black metal, is there then really a need to change the recipe? – Spyros Stasis
Sermon of Flames – I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive (I, Voidhanger)
In 2019, in Ireland’s underground extreme metal scene, a duo produced one of the nastiest works possible. That was the introduction to Sermon of Flames, whose Heralds of the Untruth demo dazzled in raw black metal spirit. The lo-fi production, the dissonant and brutal edge were all on point. Yet, what the production kind of hid was the extent of the duo’s experimental need. Now Sermon of Flames return with I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive, a record that unravels the simplistic pigeonholing of the act as just another “raw black metal band”.
I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive spreads across extreme metal and descends into power electronics and noise. In recent years many acts, like the Body, Primitive Man, and Full of Hell, displayed in different ways how these divergent scenes can be incorporated to a coherent result. And it seems like Sermon of Flames are eager to join in. The noisy intro of “To Behead One’s Desire” plunges the world in terrifying darkness, while the ominous industrial march of “G.O.D” comes with martial intentions. It is infernal and unyielding, yet the duo also tap into Prurient’s melancholic vein with “Mephitic Seraph” and into the dark ambient bliss in “Hymn of Apotheosis”.
Still, the core of the structures lies in a black/death mentality. Brutal and technical, Sermon of Flames do not hold back with “Cauldrons of Boiling Piss” exploding to reaching for intense aggression. Tied with noise elements, this is a ride through hell itself. The duo carries on, unleashing havoc with the blackened touch of “Chords Wrung From the Ribs of the Earth” and the punishing “Dance of 6 Agonies”. They stretch further, taking on the sludge dirt for their distorted guitars and reaching a ceremonial manifestation in “Vehemence”.
Resurrecting the spirit of Finnish tech death legends Demilich, Sermon of Flames employ a spasmodic and intense progression through “I__H__D__O__D__E__S__I__W__A__C” and “Jahr Null”. The grind spirit is not left out, as a bastardized Napalm Death outing sees “Vacuous _ Disjointed” and “Seething Radiance” provide an oppressive outing. A multifaceted work for sure and very well structured. The flow is excellent, but there seems to be more that Sermon of Flames can excavate from the depths of their darkness. I Have Seen the Light, and It Was Repulsive is an excellent start to this journey. – Spyros Stasis
Skepticism – Companion (Svart Records)
Time flies, unlike Skepticism’s music, which glides forward at a glacial pace. It’s already been a quarter of a century since the release of the Finnish funeral doom outfit’s genre-defining debut Stormcrowfleet. On each of the five full-lengths since, their style has shifted only gently, adopting flickers of doom-adjacent metal genres while never venturing too far from their trawling funeral origins.
This sort of orthodoxy ultimately led them to stagnation and made 2015’s Ordeal particularly tedious instead of majestically slow. Within this context, Companion feels like a new jolt of life (no pun intended!) rather than just another regular release for Skepticism. Primarily, the gait of the music is different here, the mass of riffs, drums, and growls careening forward with more intent and speed than on any other album in their career, only to submerge it all in thick molasses.
They often employ sweeping melodies, black metal tremolos, and grandiose rocking movements throughout the six cuts to give the music a sense of immediacy without losing any of their signature emotional impact. As guitar chords open up the closing “The Swan and the Raven” and dress the cut in shades of Earth drones and Agalloch melancholy, the stirring power of Skepticism sounds as mighty as it ever did. – Antonio Poscic
Sol Kia – Zos Ethos (I, Voidhanger)
Whenever Neptunian Maximalism’s mastermind Guillaume Cazalet is involved in a project, you can count on the resulting music’s inventiveness is matched only by its stupefying visceral impression. The Sol Kia duo with vocalist Stephane Van Tricht is no different. Teetering between black metal and a cornucopia of avant-garde musical abstractions, Zos Ethos’s opener “Sulfur” layers plane upon plane of abrasive sound, unleashing chaos of noise to rage over electronic beats, inhuman screams, and synthetic howls.
Just when you think you can’t take any more of this sonic insanity, Cazalet and Van Tricht let loose completely. Across the following seven cuts, deconstructed black and doom metal jump off into abysses of experimental ambient affectations before resurfacing within hallucinogenic black metal trips. Nothing is what it seems here as heaven and hell become one. – Antonio Poscic
Wharflurch – Psychedelic Realms Ov Hell (Personal Records/Gurgling Gore)
A sense of existential dread lingers just beneath the surface of space horrors like the Alien series or slashers like Event Horizon and Pandorum. While some death metal bands like Wormed tap directly into that apparent, straight-for-your-jugular sense of terror, Florida’s Wharflurch are more interested in its cosmic aspects. Their debut Psychedelic Realms ov Hell perfectly embodies these tendencies, meshing razing synthwave rays with desolate doom and death metal concoctions.
This combination alone makes for sublime, aggressively moody music that gets carried forward by filthy and massive riffs, hardcore-like drum patterns, glimpses of sci-fi synths, and alternating growls and vocoder-ed vocals. But add to that the absolutely thrilling leads and solos (courtesy of Myk Colby and Steven Klein alias Kur) that lurk around every corner of the six songs, and you get an album that eclipses genre boundaries to quite possibly become the pinnacle of death-doom in 2021. – Antonio Poscic