The Visit – Through Darkness into Light (self-released, 09 October 2015)
The Night Watch – Boundaries (self-released, 15 July 2016)
Nathanaël Larochette – Earth and Sky (self-released, 29 July 2016)
Hey, folks — have you read this review of Canadian neofolk/baroque trio Musk Ox‘s 2014 album Woodfall? If you haven’t, I’d be kind of surprised — after all, in the two years since it was published, that review has become the most popular single item to ever appear on this website (as I alluded to when I named the album as an honorable mention for the Top 14 of 2014 list). In fact, it has had more visitors than the About or Contact pages, and far more than any other article I’ve ever written: twice as many as the second-most popular review ever, and almost three times as many as the most-visited article that I published in 2016.
As incredible as all that is, it’s absolutely true, and I figure it can be ascribed to one of two things: either I’m exceptionally good at writing about non-metal music performed with folk/classical instruments, or Musk Ox is just really, really popular. On the off chance that it would happen to be the first one, I’m going to take some time over the next few days to write about some more neo-folk/neo-classical groups whose orchestrations are decidedly non-metal. But in the event that the second thing also comes into play, I will be hedging my bets a bit today: what I’ll be sharing with you has been released by three different musical entities that each involve one or more of the three people who make up Musk Ox. And away we go …
It’s Monday and I’m tired and crabby and I don’t really want to be here and I just want to punch everything and everyone right in the damn face. It probably wouldn’t be advisable to do so, because there’s a good chance I’d end up losing my job — and despite what you might think based on how much bitching and complaining I do, that would probably not be a good thing. So as per usual, I’m stuck keeping all that annoyance and rage bottled up inside, with no real outlet through which to channel it. The best I can do is try to calm my nerves by grabbing a pair of headphones and blocking the whole world out with something loud and angry and particularly ugly. In fact, looking ahead at the schedule for the rest of this week, #SpoilerAlert, there’s going to be a lot of angry and ugly going on. So stay tuned for that.
To start off the week, we’re going to visit with St. Louis ultra-doom trio Fister. It’s been nearly three years since I wrote about their Gemini album on the day they were coming here to Pittsburgh with their friends and neighbors The Lion’s Daughter. At that time I had mentioned that there was quite a bit of stuff in the Fister discography, including a split record with The Lion’s Daughter, and that I had chosen to listen to Gemini (and share it with you folks) simply because it had been their most recent release at the time. Well those guys have continued to be pretty active since then, both touring and recording, and I figured it’s about time we checked back with them.
In particular, I thought we could take some time to check out a couple more records that have come out over the past two months. (There’s much more out there on Bandcamp, if you’re curious, but for practical reasons I had to limit myself to two releases to discuss today.) The first will be a split 7″ with Teeth from California, and the other is a split with Dopethrone from Montréal.
All right, people. Today we’re going to kick it old school.
Please accept my apologies for such a lame introduction, but honestly it’s all I have the energy for right now. After a busy weekend that was capped off with watching the Penguins seal a Stanley Cup victory late last night, I barely managed about three hours of sleep.
So anyway, here’s what I’ve got for you: a pair of newly reissued classics by two bands who — while I definitely wouldn’t call either of them unknown or obscure — have never seemed to achieve the level of recognition that they each seem to deserve …
Auriga – VII – Dimensions of Asymmetry (Avantgarde Music, 19 January 2016)
Astral Path – An Oath to the Void (Avantgarde Music, 15 April 2016)
On the way down the street to the bus stop — this is around 5:00 this morning — I realized something. I was hearing birds chirping and singing, and sometimes as I walked past houses, window air conditioners whirring and humming, but otherwise very little background noise whatsoever. It took a few minutes, but finally I came to the conclusion, all of the cicadas must have been sleeping. All those millions of big, ugly, flying things that have gradually emerged from their seventeen-year arboreal naps over the past few weeks to create a deafening cacaphony all over the surrounding area. Over the weekend, when I was stuck spending much of my days outdoors, cutting grass and pulling weeds and various other activities that put me right in the middle of the flight path for hundreds of the clumsy, red-eyed bugs, this nuisance seemed to have reach a terrible crescendo. Sounding like a cross between a gas motor, an alarm bell, and a UFO, the swarm of insects could easily provide a soundtrack for any horror or suspense movie.
Anyway, completely unrelated to anything, today we’re going to spend some time talking about atmospheric black metal. The two different albums I’d like to share with you were both released earlier this year by Avantgarde Music. These bands — one Lebanese, the other Canadian — take slightly different approaches to the genre, but they both generally have a sort of outer space vibe going on. Enjoy!
Sig:Ar:Tyr – Northen (Hammerheart Records, 15 April 2016)
Hey there, ladies and gentlemen of the internet! I hope you’re having an okay start to your week. Typically I’d be talking about how Mondays are so terrible or whatever, but truthfully, I realize that things could be much worse. Around the middle of last week, I experienced a little bit of a minor medical emergency — hospital visit, a couple days away from work, that sort of thing. Everything around here got really disrupted and it kind of sucked, and I can honestly say I’m actually glad to be back to the normal daily routine, however awful and soul-crushing it may be.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the music! I’ve had to shuffle things around a bit since my schedule got so thrown off over the past several days, but we’ll do what we can to get back on track and get to sharing the albums and other news you people need to hear about. Today let’s take a look at a pair of releases from earlier this month, each by a one-member band (although each had some assistance on these recordings), and each having a Viking connection. It has been a month since the last time we talked about Viking metal — don’t forget that Amon Amarth are still in the middle of their North American tour, with a few weeks left — and it seemed like it might be fun to do it again. One of these albums actually includes a reference to the same source material as the Jomsviking album, and the other deals with ancient Viking settlements in North America …
Laster – De Verste Verte is Hier (Dunkelheit Produktionen, 01 November 2014)
Sordide – La France a Peur (Avantgarde Music, 21 December 2014)
Cantique Lépreux – Cendres Célestes (Eisenwald, 18 March 2016)
My calendar is lying to me, I am sure of this. How could it possibly be only Tuesday, when it already feels like this week has lasted about sixteen years?? I have no reasonable or logical explanation. Anyway, as I sit here watching the seconds creep by, I might as well get something written to share with you folks. How does some atmospheric black metal sound? What about albums by three different bands, who approach “atmosphere” in three different ways? And — rather peculiarly — what about a unifying theme between all three albums that just might make you want to get up out of your chair and dance? What if all these questions were rhetorical, because no matter what your answer, that’s what you’re getting anyway?
Éohum – Ealdfaeder (Mycelium Networks, 18 March 2016)
Have you ever noticed that the first example of something you hear — not all of the time, but pretty often — tends to have a profound impact on you and can color or influence your perception of any similar thing you hear later? For example, the first album you hear by a particular artist, even though that album might not be critically or generally viewed as their best work or even among their best, nevertheless will often establish itself as your favorite album by that artist. It’s an often-repeated joke, that upon an artist releasing new material, hipster-type people will commonly declare their previous albums (or their first demo) to be vastly superior. Since another cliche about hipsters is that they always claim to have heard of (or been fans of) a band or style of music before it had become familiar to the general public, it seems that claiming that an artist’s first material was better than their later work kind of goes hand-in-hand with having been familiar with that artist earlier than most other people — because it seems natural that in such a case one would indeed feel more of an affinity towards that earlier material, that having been the example of the artist’s work that was heard first. (I suppose it’s when these claims are made falsely, or as an affectation, that the derisive term ‘hipster’ would come into play, but that’s a different subject entirely.)
Anyway, the reason I brought up this discussion in the first place was that I had been thinking about my earliest encounters with black metal. Outside of a brief exposure to Celtic Frost at a rather young age, at a time when that vocal style was so far removed from anything I’d ever heard up to that point that I wasn’t even sure how to react to it, my relationship with black metal as a genre began somewhere around 1999-2000, at the height of the Napster era. I was in my early twenties and had started branching out as widely as possible, discovering anything I could get my hands on. Almost by accident, I had stumbled upon the Cradle of Filth song “Malice through the Looking Glass,” and it was like a whole new world had opened up to me. That orchestral introduction, and the way that unworldly shriek pierces through it, the insane-sounding metal arrangement that should never work juxtaposed with those symphonic elements but somehow it just does.
From there, I sought out anything similar I could find; I quickly developed an affinity for bands like Immortal and, especially, Emperor — anyone who was taking that black metal sound and combining it with other contrasting sounds. Sure, there was plenty out there that used the keyboards or samples in an over-the-top, cheesy manner, and I tried to avoid these as much as possible, but I also learned that once I’d experienced the symphonic variety, regular straight-up black metal just felt kind of stagnant and unexciting. And it all comes back to what I had heard first — so that, still to this day, I have a tendency toward music that blends different things in new and interesting ways. Today I’ve got an example to share with you: a Canadian band that includes some unexpected instruments within its arrangements …