Black, Raw, & Bleeding: Into The Castles, Catacombs, Caverns, & Crypts Of The Black Metal Underground

Here we are, once again emerging from the new moon: the darkest of eves in the lunar calendar, the one night of the month when the light of the sun no longer reflects upon the eternally shifting lump of rock and dust that orbits our humble planet. The darkness holds many secrets, yet today we focus in on some of the necrotic hidden treasures gleaming in the further reaches of the universe of black metal, the ones truly buried beneath the cloak of obsidian in a world consistently being smothered in new music.

While Black, Raw, & Bleeding initially began as an attempt to cast a torch into the seemingly bottomless pits of black metal (specifically, the traditionally “rawer” end), it has become, as such things are wont to do, its own living being – constantly evolving, redefining and shifting its phases as the very moon in the night sky. This time around, there’s an unusual amount of, to put it bluntly, less-than-raw releases that have reared their heads and howled a bit louder than the rest of the pack. In this regard, we re-examine the definition of raw: It’s not just a tag slapped onto a production value, but a spirit that lurks behind the music. It’s the unbridled will to release a vision unto the world, unchained and unbound by constriction. Raw. Primal. Uncompromising. For those searching for a more traditionally raw aesthetic, fear not – the original spirit of this feature still skulks within the confines of the page. However, to fight change is a futile struggle against the inevitable, and so we are faced with a choice: fall into stagnated, predictable formulae or choose to expand, grow, and evolve. I, for one, choose the latter.

Biesy – Transsatanizm

Release Date: May 8th, 2020 Label: Godz Ov War Productions

Hailing from the fertile black soil of Poland, Kraków’s Biesy are certainly working on the outskirts of black metal. Drawing inspiration from early outsiders spawning off the shrapnel of the explosion of the second wave, Biesy find a lot more in common with the bizarro, drug-fueled world of Aborym or the progressive approach of Blut Aus Nord than, say, a band like Immortal. In fact, opener “Ihs” breaks things out with an over-compressed electronic kick, as though attempting to bludgeon a mechanical precision of a robotic existence into the mind. Hints of the long-form melody that plays across the song can be pieced together in the din before it glitches out. It’s as though a shift occurs in the digital, robotic programming to drop it into a much more organic, natural feel – freeing it of the battering, rigid, inhuman oppression. The industrial elements instantly become more subtle against the hypnotic, repetitive riff. Synths play a large part in the flavor here, moving the song along across its fluid spine like nervous synapses sending shudders of pain (or pleasure?) across the cord, triggered by unpredictable narcotic release upon the system. The call-and-response set of vocals reverberate like a war with an inner monologue, pushing away the thing that shouldn’t be as it casts its influence upon the track. It’s surprisingly cohesive for being so bizarre and unpredictable.

This isn’t to say Biesy isn’t working with some familiar elements here – “La Dolce Instant” and “W Krainie Grzybów” both have moments that drive like traditional black metal, but the strange psychedelia always bends it a bit, whether in the phasing of the guitar effects or the synths rising out of the backdrop like some sort of Krokodil across the ripping pool of consciousness. The songs have an ability to move into foreign realms without losing their fluidity and the twisted logic in their progression. Everything fits and makes sense, in other words, it doesn’t become experimental to the point of losing its footing. It’s still grounded, mostly by the long sections of repetition in the guitar department and the unrelenting precision of the drums, which play in creative rhythmic patterns as opposed to solely providing a pulse of blasts.

Transsatanizm fluidly captures contorted angst within a framework of mind bending psychedelic madness for one hell of a sophomore effort. There are so many subtle elements at play within the clearly defined shadows of the production that make repeat listens even more rewarding than the previous. It’s what lies beneath the surface that really brings the album to life. This is one for an active listen and an opened mind, armed with both Transsatanizm blossoms like a nightshade blooming in the collapse of daylight.

Ifernach – The Green Enchanted Forest Of The Druid Wizard

Release Date: June 1st, 2020 Label: GoatowaRex (vinyl), Tour de Garde (cassette)

Self-described as “a solo project based in northeastern Canada, resurging ancient spirits to avenge the forgotten native souls,” Ifernach has crafted quite an opus with their fourth full-length album, The Green Enchanted Forest Of The Druid Wizard. Set at the nexus of history and fantasy, the album focuses in on a fenian raider who has fled to the forest following an unsuccessful attack on native soil. There he encounters a forest spirit (Mikumwessuk) and the quest to The Green Enchanted Forest Of The Druid Wizard begins.

There are plenty more details of the tale behind the album on Ifernach’s Bandcamp page below, so we’ll just focus on the music up here, shalln’t we? The opening track sets a tone that perfectly compliments the album art. No drums, no bass, no vocals – simply guitar carrying a melodic introduction that shimmers like sparkling golden light through the tress, reflecting across the Feywild. It is a fairly simple but incredibly powerful introduction to the full song. The drums dart out beneath the fading strings and the song kicks into an infectiously magical harmony between the full-force guitars. The drums sound oaken and powerful, with the kicks dominating their airspace. However, it is never at the expense of the rest of the instruments. Despite being a touch non-traditional, the production just fits the music like a natural wonder – sometimes nature does strange and wild things, but there is always a purpose; it fits into the greater picture of the ecosystem.

Occasionally, there will be a black metal band that comes along that just gets interludes – the latest from Obsequiae and Runespell come to mind. Ifernach make a beautiful use of minimalism on “The Passage of Dithreabhach” as soft, gently distorted guitars wander freely, as though coming across an open field after the trek through the dense wood before.

The careful observer of the quest will surely take note of some of the underlying subtleties in the songs. The hollow, clean choir vocals (or synth?) tucked away neatly on “Teinm Laida II” add a particularly mystical air to the enchantment of the song, which explodes into one of the album’s clear highlights: “A Winter Tree Clad In Black Frost.” That chorus melody has no business being anywhere near black metal – it is joyous, it is hopeful, it is, simply put and in every meaning of the phrase: Effervescent in its exuberant jubilee. And it works, goddamnit. It is a preternatural hook that grabs you by the hand; it thrusts the listener into the zenith of the album. The song is only to followed by another one of those sublime outros that cools the album off for a fully rounded, encapsulated adventure.

The Green Enchanted Forest Of The Druid Wizard is something special. Given the context of the band’s location and the historical exposition in the form of the fenian raids on Canadian settlements, the album can be seen to bridge two classically conflicting cultures through a lense of the fantastical. It is clearly a mythos that reflects the dichotomy of its creator, all spun into a remarkable yarn of truly noteworthy black metal. Ifermach has constructed something quite exceptional here, and the passion behind it reflects like the sunlight on the gleaming pools of the enchanted forest itself.

Pandiscordian Necrogenesis – Elohim Glowing Bile

Release Date: June 30th, 2020 Label: Vexations Records

Ah, the one-man band. Often a powerful statement of a singular vision, these sorts of projects are a dime a dozen, especially in the world of underground, raw black metal. But how many of these projects are composed and performed simultaneously by the dark sorcerers that conjure such musics? Well, Pandiscordian Necrogenesis certainly marks at least one. The San Francisco project heralded by Ephemeral Domignostika (Spirit Possession, Ulthar) is a work of pure, in-the-moment inspiration, drawing spiritual comparisons to Finnish legends Ride For Revenge.

The first two tracks on Elohim Glowing Bile are fairly traditional, higher energy black metal with a particular pleasing crunch to the guitars and delightfully demented rasp-shouting vocals. The riffs bleed seemlessly from one another as Domignostika’s fancy changes, crafting a work from nothing to fully realized before the listener’s ears. The third and final track, entitled “Hidden Supernal (Eternity Unveiled) takes a wild shift in tact, slowing the pace down to a repetitive, droning crawl. The noise-laden riff beats its rhythm into the mind, harsh and searing. It seems as though it is this singular riff and drum pattern across the entire seven and a half minutes of the song, but with an active listen, small tweaks and improved variations are found within the dirge of sinister hypnotism. Elohim Glowing Bile is an odd little duck in the black metal pond and definitely one worth checking out for the purveyors of the more novel, unusual works of the genre.

Obskuritatem – Hronika Iz Mraka

Release Date: July 5th, 2020 Label: Black Gangrene Productions

One of the more notable active circles on the rawer end of the spectrum, the Black Plague Circle hailing from Bosnia and Herzegovina have constantly been pushing the realms of otherworldly, ritualized, animalistic nihilism since 2012. Obskuritatem is something of a flagship project for the group of artists, having been one of the most consistent and defining acts since the first casting of the circle. Yet in the past eight years, Hronika Iz Mraka marks only the second of the band’s full length efforts, the act mostly content with short burst of auditory necromancies in the form of demos and splits. While always raw and punishing, Obskuritatem have, in more recent years, been refining their approach to constructing atmospheres of bleak, untold horror. The flavor bits of ambience and vocal manipulation are pushed a bit more to the front, opening up the scope in sound of the band.

The harrowing moans and off-kilter strumming set a tone in the introduction, with walls of noise oscillating like the labored breathing of a slumbering nefarious elder god. The beast awakens on “Obamrlost Vremena,” tremolo riffing and blasting abounds before working into a weighted, doomy groove. The vocals call out, as though casting furious incantations in an attempt to control the waking god. The leads pluck eerily across chords, creeping in a twisted opposition and laying that sinister atmosphere on exceptionally thick.

The back half of the record proves even stronger than the first, with “Filozofija Bijede” upping the intensity of the tension in the first half. Even when blasting, there’s this feeling of doom present across the lead work. It feels as though there is a subtle presence lurking beneath the audible wash of sound and vile spewing of vocals when the tempo drops for the mid section of the song. The haunted calling of the cleaner vocals wail out in desperate prayer, as though being consumed by the swirling darkness that encapsulates the mood. The gravitational pull towards total madness further peaks with the title track, as the swirling wash gives way to total chaos amidst a particularly harrowing scream. The lurking beast behind the music makes its presence fully known in the inhuman growling vocals buried in the cacophony. The final section of torment feels like giving in to the elder god as the light of hope is slowly extinguished by the swirling digestive fluids in its belly.

There’s a reason why the Black Plague Circle are one of raw black metal’s best kept secrets, and Obskuritatem’s Hronika Iz Mraka marks one of their pinnacle moments to date.

Moldé Volhal – Into The Cave Of Ordeals

Release Date: July 27th, 2020 Label: Independent

Epic black metal isn’t really a genre or even definitive style, but it certainly is something you know when you hear it. Norway’s Moldé Volhal fall distinctly into that somewhat blurry category. Utilizing much of the relentless tremolo style beholden to their homeland, the band channel the aggression into abject might. An uplifting wash of guitar sound paints the backdrop on opener, “Into The Cave Of Ordeals,” setting the scene for the debut mini-album of the same name. The song itself holds its own, but gets the extra treatment of a bit of well-placed guitar solos that will become a highlight of the band. Other factors reinforce the sound and mood; the holy, airy synths beneath wash of sky-high riffing add a thickness to the atmosphere, while strategically timed key changes attempt to break the force of gravity on their continual quest to reach the stars themselves. Fans of Havukruunu looking for a somewhat more stripped-down approach will find a lot to love in the fast-paced call to glory that Moldé Volhal are channeling here. The lightning tremolos light up the sky of sweeping melodies, rushing like winds betwixt mountains and fjords of a mythical, super-terrestrial landscape, flirting enthusiastically across the clouds in a subtle blanketing of the ethereal.

The ungodly amount of reverb on the kick drums makes them roar like a thunderous stampede across wide open plains, the aforementioned mountains and crags still visible along the line of the horizon. Playing with conviction and just a bit of a swing, the drums sink deep into a pocket. They only emerge for quick little fills of flavor to accent changes in the song; the percussion is never overly flashy, rather, the drums are content to serve the songs with power and reliability. The bass is extremely subtle, mostly filling out the sound even further rather than taking much initiative in melody. The mood is firmly focused on the upper range instrumentation, giving it that ecstatic feeling of wind whipping your robes around as you soar above the terrains spawned from the imaginations of Moldé Volhal.

Vital Spirit – In The Faith That Looks Through Death

Release Date: August 28th, 2020 Label: Hidden Tribe

“Even when Judas hanged himself, there was a storm, too.” – The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly.

Vancover, British Columbia’s Vital Spirit have been brewing such a storm, one with a heart that beats of the American West. The reaper rides a different pace in the desert lands that harvest death – it’s a harsh environment, and mortal peril lurks unseen in the seemingly endless wastes.

While the opening track, “Heart Of Sky,” certainly hints at the core of Vital Spirit with a bit of Wayfarer-esque black metal leading to a particular breakout riff of note that becomes topped with some spicy solo flourishes. Yet it isn’t until the following track that the sound of the band really opens like a cactus flower at dusk. “Centaur” warms up with a very southwestern, Americana bit of guitar work – you can almost hear the wind a’blowin’ and see the tumbleweeds a’rollin’. This wind instantly whips into a sandstorm, kicking into full gear with the erosive power of some relentless tremolo riffing. There’s a warmth to it, largely accentuated by the war-hits of the percussion, that separates it from the traditional icy feels of the classic Norwegian style. Hinting back at the introduction, the main hook of the song is full of the bright reds, yellows, and oranges the chalk the air of the desert lands. Giving way to a proper gallop, Vital Spirit hit their mark fully as they find their stride with the twangy leads over the trot of the rhythms. When it’s all brought back around to the main hook, there’s a new context for it that makes the impact of its return that much greater. The solo just brings it on home, emotively and melodically ringing out over the open, emancipating spirit of the desert lands.

“Face Of The Sun” ensures the momentum of the EP keeps moving, kicking straight in with high energy, Immortal-style riffing. It builds to a high-energy climax, the vocals driving the point home with the repetition of, “So it was said!” as the leads dance across the rhythm. The song sets as the instruments drop out to more of the lone, twangy guitar, accentuated spaciously for maximum atmospheric effect. Then, BOOM! The energy is back for closer, “Ghost Dance.” The closer may very well be the best track on the entire EP, mostly because the elements of black metal and Americana feel so intertwined. While incorporated well before, the two still felt separate from one another. With “Ghost Dance,” the concept truly shows promise, weaving the twangy guitar and whistling desert winds with the unrelenting intensity of black metal into a tapestry, and I would love for Vital Spirit to return with a full length of material with this level of execution. The group has more than displayed a proof of concept with In The Faith That Looks Through Death, and is a project that could be tapping into something truly great.

Nimbifer – Demo I & II

Release Date: August 23rd, 2020 Label: Vendetta Records

What we know to date about Nimbifer is fairly minimal. For starters, they are a two-piece black metal act out of Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany. Furthermore, we know that they released one demo last year, followed by a second this year. Believe it or not, Demo I & II is a compilation of these two demos. Wild, I know.

However, the most important thing we know about Nimbifer is their appartent fetish for stabby things. Each demo has featured artwork of the classic medieval variety, all revolving around a bunch of strangely apathetic individuals stabbing the hell out of each other. This, with a bit of a stretch, carries a metaphor for Nimbifer’s ability to stab raw black metal right through the heart. No flashy gimmicks, no over-underdone production, no abstract noise or top-hat-adorned synth players sneaking their way in. Nimbifer play raw black metal that sounds like the Satanic Black Devotion/Disciple Of The Heinous Path era of Sargeist, albeit through just a touch more of the fuzzy haze of a proper demo work.

Nimbifer’s Demo I wastes no time in establishing their style. Twin, overlapping tremolo riffs swirl in a melodic frenzy around one another. The guitars are never content to stay still very long, there isn’t a lot of the hypnotic repetition going on with Nimbifer. Melody is the name of the game here. “Im Fahlen Schein” throws a bit of variety to the formula with a third guitar adding an extra, higher register layer to the wash of tremolo. Not quite a solo, but it adds an extra element that helps impact and create a feeling of climax towards the end.

While the Demo I side is certainly a fun romp , for my money the Demo II side is a bit stronger. Always good to see improvement moving forward! The musical style is much the same, but some tweaks in the production make it a bit more aggressive, biting, and powerful. Still raw, the subtleties of the audio are a little more discernible. Being able to hear the pick scraping against the strings, for whatever reason, always adds an extra touch, almost like a secret percussive instrument working in tandem with the blasts. “Der Herrscher” re-employs the third guitar trick with a bit more resounding impact, and the percussion varies rhythms more, unafraid to drop into a slower pace while the guitars still fly furiously across the soundscape.

Someone mentioned a while back that there’s enough second-wave worship to last a lifetime, and while I understand the sentiment behind that statement, hearing a band like Nimbifer play with such passion and gusto kind of makes that argument fall apart. Lots of bands go for this, and few can really stand out with this veracity. Definitely another newer act to keep the sights honed in on in the near future, or even one for those nights when you want to kick back in the La-Z-Boy and enjoy a couple of badass demos of nonstop hurricane force tremolos that whisk you to the lands of yesteryear with the benefit of youthful vigor.

Old Nick – The Night Of The Ambush And The Pillage By The Queen Ann Styl’d Furniture, Animated By One Of The Dozen Or So Spells That Thee Eastern Vampyre Has Studied (T.N.O.T.A.A.T.P.B.T.Q.A.S.F.A.B.O.O.T.D.O.S.S.T.T.E.V.H.S.)

Release Date: September 4th, 2020 Label: Grime Stone Records

erest thou present for the prior edition of Black, Raw, & Bleeding, then surely thoust do be aware of thine stylings of Old Nick! Twas but five moons past since the first play of extension was bequeathed unto thine world, and since five more hath been rendered, in addition to a split with fellow bards Sauvan Sankari, two compilations of their collected efforts, and now, with the release of thy concisely titled The Night Of The Ambush And The Pillage By The Queen Ann Styl’d Furniture, Animated By One Of The Dozen Or So Spells That Thee Eastern Vampyre Has Studied (T.N.O.T.A.A.T.P.B.T.Q.A.S.F.A.B.O.O.T.D.O.S.S.T.T.E.V.H.S.), two lengths most full. Such an abundance of output in such narrow a span of space and time most certainly raises a modicum of doubt, I should think! However, it hath yet been the day when our friends Nich’las The Elder hath failed in their manic quest to deliver a whimsical and tantalizing adventure into their bizarre world of absurdist metals most black!

heir sound adorned in the standard of the classic raw bequeathment laden with a guitar tone that doth so snap and bite amongst a hazy fog of fuzz, Old Nick certainly fall into the fidelities of the lower persuasion. Yet the sounds whence doth so clearly ring out into distinctive riffs do be crafted in such twisted fashion as to boggle thine ownst imagination! Draped in the waggish synth work that doeth titillate a mischievous aire to the cacophonous affair, we need only examine the creeping introduction to know what we’re in for – eccentric, yet cartoonish, the opening notes are alone but enough that we’est might comprehend the dichotomies at play here. Thee line the band doth walk is but of the thinness of a single llama’s hair – betwixt parody and genuine, passioned fervor.

ake, for example, “The Abysmal Chess Masters Plate Of Fruits, Figs, Cheese, & 3 Varieties Of Apple.” The sheer energetic release of guitar couples with a wyrm of thine ear in regard to the synthplay in its quirky upbeat. The primary caroler doth screech with such conviction and vitality most sincere! Yet the hymn not yet steeps fully outside the realms of the predictable – until the pomp-and-circumstance do take a most succinct precedence at the conclusion of the hymn! How thine horns doth blow with such triumph, indeed. Granted, they are delivered though the mechanism of emulation via synthesized keyboard, but it no less affects the impact, and, dare I mention again, conviction in the music!! The grandiosity of Wagner delivered via the wizardry of the electronic chip over the youthful indignation of noise connects in a cacophony of epiphany – a revelation stumbled across between the realms of comedy and reverence, I should say so! It strikes both swiftly and true as both irreverent and nonetheless honest, which, when examining the most obsidians of steel, carries the weight of a thousand swords into whatever thine bard’s quest may shall be.

uch whimsical whonders do even further reach on the alb’m with “The Witch’s Terrible Library Book, Due On October 31st, 1756.” The trilling trill of the keys! The riffing riffs of the electric lute! The pulsing pulse of thine percussive percussion! No wytch’s spell doth possess thine power toeth extinguish thine ownst very feeling of dread, but not at the five-pence fine, no. Tis but thine stern gaze of judgement of thinest own disappointed librarian upon a late return that doth drive such a spirit of haste, methinks! Yet the rushing of drums at the end of thine aforementioned ballad do so ever speed with a greatest veracity and thine feeling of ecstatic rush that thine wytch might herself return the tome within faire time and goode standing towards the literary community! Urgency bleeds across the shifts in riffing patterns in a blending of magicks that do so please thy auditory palette in the most glorious of ways – this do so be one of the finer hours of the legacy of Nicholi The Senior, or should mine own father’s name be disgraced in thy eternal eternity of internships!!!!

or within contradiction lies truth – the realization that things can be mutually exclusive and yet coexist whithin a singular framework. It opens an entire world of possibility, lo, though it do be a fine line to walk. Old Nick hath captured this magickquell balance and proven their merit but time and again, kneeling only before the grand Imp of the Perverse. The Night Of The Ambush And The Pillage By The Queen Ann Styl’d Furniture, Animated By One Of The Dozen Or So Spells That Thee Eastern Vampyre Has Studied (T.N.O.T.A.A.T.P.B.T.Q.A.S.F.A.B.O.O.T.D.O.S.S.T.T.E.V.H.S.) is yet another example of the seemingly bottomless depths of the creative well from whence Old Nick doth draw inspiration from. It do be both an adoration and outright rejection of black metal, which be about the most black metal deed such obsidian warloks can commit thine focus toward. Hats off, old chum, and keep ’em coming, long as thy well doth draw true!

 

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

I listen to music, then I write about it. On Twitter @d00mfr0gg (Outro: The Winds Of Mayhem)

  1. Harder Farter Darker September 17, 2020 at 9:07 am

    I’ve discovered Old Nick thanks to you over our previous chat, and man, I’ve been pretty obsessed with them ever since. Their whole discog is pretty remarkable, despite the band being uncannily prolific. Thank you for the heads up!

    What I find particularly remarkable is that they manage to keep everything concise, while still brimming with ideas and narration within their songwriting. Each track is a little adventure of its own, as opposed to many contemporay acts which fill 10 minute tracks with boredom and monotony.

    I’m only familiar with a couple of the things you have posted here, I will take the time to explore the rest when Old Nick will have let go of me!

    Reply

    1. Hey, good to see you again! Old Nick just gets it, and you’re dead on with the strength in variety. The earlier stuff is fun, but unlike a lot of hyper-prolific acts they just seem to be getting better and better.

      Hope you find a few others here to enjoy as well, was definitely blessed with a very stacked amount of excellent output over the past months

      Reply

  2. “Epic black metal isn’t really a genre or even definitive style”

    I beg to differ. Epic black metal is stuff like Summmoning, Emyn Muil, Elffor, Caladan Brood, etc. Stuff where the keys carry more of the load than more trad/Scandi-style 2nd wave stuff, but not in the neoclassical manner of the “symphonic” wing

    Regardless, digging the riffs on this Moldé Volhal. To me this falls closer to stuff like Drudkh (minus the folky feel), the new Serment, etc. Havukruunu namedrop will make me check anything out

    Reply

    1. I agree with your point about Summoning! I suppose I could have phrased it better, there’s “epic black metal” and black metal that is epic in sound and scope that doesn’t fall into that category. Definitely a valid criticism, and I shall administer six lashings upon mine back in penance for my failures.

      Thank you, and glad you’re liking it! Make sure to scope that Ifernach as well if you haven’t.

      Reply

      1. No worries there, semantics at the end of the day and you’ve turned me on to another great black metal act! And I hear what you’re saying about the epic feeling of projects like this and Havukruunu. These sort of higher register, racing riffs that seem to be soaring skyward over sparkling keys always remind me of Windir, and that’s always welcome around here

        Reply

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