Another all black metal list for you today ranging from straight-forward kvlt grimness, to war metal, to the neoclassical and symphonic. Whichever style speaks to you more, this list is filled with albums definitely worth purchasing.
It seems fitting that I review this just days after seeing Cobalt live. While the bands don't have too many things sonically in common, they are both obsessed with themes of war. Minenwerfer and 1914 play some heavy black metal on this split, whose title translates sadly (morbidly) to "I had a comrade." Obviously this isn't going to be the equivalent of a Michael Bay, "let's blow sh@t up" kind of deal. I haven't really dug into lyrics, but the tone seems to say enough about the atrocities involved with this ugly side of human history. Minenwerfer choose to deliver their side with great speed and plenty of thrash and heavy metal influences on the riffs. Ripping solos add further substance to already energetic compositions. If their half is war incarnate, 1914 seems to be dealing with the aftermath. Fusing more doom and blackened death influences, this band trudges despairing through the battlefield and observes the broken and bloodied bodies from both sides. I love the contrast, and intentional or not, it feels like a solid portrayal of what our soldiers go through in the moment when it's their life or the enemy's vs. living with it long after. Grim stuff perfect for this medium. Highly recommended.
If you enjoyed that, you might venture further on to 1914's debut album as well. Released December of last year, Eschatology of War provides further insight into the themes taken in snapshot on the split. The album deals with the duration of WWI, spotlighting specific battles even. And in case you didn't know, "Eschatology" is "the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind." What better way to bestow this kind of knowledge than through the darkest genre possible? I am fascinated by history: both the high and low points, and of course I love metal as well so this has great appeal for me. These Ukrainians certainly have a knack for creating crushing riffs and vocals while also building a very uncomfortable atmosphere. The interludes often contrast old recordings of cheerful period music recordings with the sounds of gunfire and death; forcing the listener to consider what the radio is doing to placate the naive saps at home versus what is actually happening. 1914 seems disgusted with the media censoring and even idolizing the so-called "patriotism" of war; prefering rather to lay it bare lest we forget the ugliness that goes aloong with it.
Sticking to black metal but shifting in tone quite a bit, Nocturna are a neoclassically-driven symphonic BM band from Germany. They were proud to share that this was mixed and mastered by Charles Greywolf (Powerwolf) and Damien of Death Angel commented: "True to form metal in epic proportions with a technical edge." Indeed, this is really strong material, especially for a self-released debut. Channeling groups like Windir and Exmortus, the guitars are always center stage. Yes, I love the bells, epic synths, powerful drumming, and grim, throaty growls; but it's the shredding that most people will be talking about. Plenty of genre influences here from classical to NWOBHM and thrash. Whether tapping their way through a solo or picking their way through a hook hybrid of Gothenburg with Bach, the leads have much to add to this release. But once more, there is plenty to enjoy here besides that. The symphonic additions provide an ever-changing backdrop of tasteful effects that is quite stunning, and all of the musicians do their part to create impressively cohesive tracks. Buy this.
There's that war theme again, only this time we're going back in time a bit further. Los Angeles, California initially seemed like the most unlikely of places to find a black metal project, but the more I thought about how much I hate the popular culture of the area, the more it made sense that someone would be so inclined to express their own vitriol. And despite the sunny locale, this music is just as cold and harsh as its Norwegian influences. Chilly tremolos, disconcerting combinations of high shrieks and nihilistic spoken word, blastbeats. Vesterian takes all of these hallmarks and builds off of them to some pretty grand proportions. Aided by some mild synthesizers (used only when truly necessary) and the occasional more expressive and showy guitar solo, Anthems For The Coming War Age is every bit as impressive to me as early releases from Satyricon, Immortal, or Dissection. At times crunchy and kvlt, others reaching for moonlit atmosphere, this is definitely worthy of all you 2nd wave fans out there.
Black metal bands that build ritualistic atmospheres are a dime a dozen these days, but not all of them pull it off so well as Nox Formulae. With their new album, The Hidden Paths to Black Ecstacy, the band cranks all of the knobs associated with ominous aesthetic up to 11. Songs have a doom edge to them in terms of pacing, but that doesn't mean the band doesn't know how to throw down the blastbeats. Somehow, even when the drums seem to be at full keel, everything still moves in slow motion. It's as if Nox Formulae have mastered compositional control over time itself. The very subtle addition of strings and other instruments woven artfully into the thick backing wall of sound and haunting reverb make this album a spell-binding experience. Check this one out in full when it releases tomorrow.