Black, Raw, & Bleeding: Calcified Beneath The Sunken Obsidian Temple Of The Black Metal Underground

Greetings once again, Trav’lers of the Night. As we approach the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of the eve of All Hallow’s Eve, we are again embraced beneath the reflection of the Hunter’s Moon. While the words of this feature are oft scrib’d ‘neath the cloak of the darkness, beq’eathed by the unseen shadows cast from the sunlight of the new moon, the autumnal equinox hath brought with it a bountiful harvest indeed! In the glow of the light of the full Hunter’s Moon, those whomst’ve hunted within the darkened caverns, haunted forests, and sequestered keeps are sure to find something which challenges the reflecting gleam of the onyx mirror.  Doth thou seek noise and abrasion? To thee I say, find challenge in melody! To thee whomst might’s’t seek an atmosphere in which to drift thine minds, I say greet the trodden soils of the earth with thine face! May those seeking escape and isolation find meaning and brotherhood, may those searching for truth find lies. May those looking for nightmares find dreams, and those who seek peace find terror. May those who seek familiarity find discomfort, and, above all, may those who seek death find life.

Anyway, here’s Whoretex Of Darkness:

Knüppelknecht – Whoretex Of Darkness

Release Date: April 23rd, 2021
Label: Hexenkult

The “I Am The Graves Of The 80s” award for this edition of Black, Raw, & Bleeding absolutely goes to Knüppelknecht. The Swiss project’s debut EP, Whoretex Of Darkness is a whirlwind of blackened metal punk. Perhaps not “raw black metal proper,” but as stated in previous editions of this feature, raw spirit can be enough to edge something into the realm of coverage, and Knüppelknecht are about as raw as downing four warm tallboys of cheap beer during the aptly-titled 80’s whorror soundtrack synth into of “Synthesizing The Whoretex (Intro)” before hurling your drunk ass into a spike-addled pit of violence.

The meat of the EP is in the following fifteen minutes of blitzkrieg metal terror. “Black Speed Zombie Squad” is an anthemic call to arms for diesel-huffing speed freaks addicted to punky riffs and rollin’ kicks. You can almost feel the saliva of the gruff, rabid dog vocals splattering in your face before turning to testicles-caught-in-vicegrips shrieks on a dime. The “Whoooooooortex” clean vocals on the chorus sound right out of Darkthrone’s playbook from The Underground Resistance–and, in the excellence of their execution, not far removed from their contemporaries in Bunker 66 or Trenches. The alternating vocals on “Castlefreak! (Hideous Hungry And Loose)” sound like camp-ridden beasties from a low-budget horror flick, reflecting the title of the track and the evil fun to be found in the heart of the band. The riffs are fairly simplistic and punky, but the songwriting absolutely sells it. There’s so many layers working, particularly when the second guitar comes in for a tremolo accompaniment at the apex of the tune like a shot of nitrous straight to the engine. “The Shrill Laughter Of Death” continues this–there aren’t a whole lot of ideas at play here, but elements like the swift and bendy solo are delivered with such ferocious vigor that it makes Whoretex Of Darkness a perfect fast-burner extended play. If the band can mix in a bit of variety into their formula, even for just a track or two, then I have no doubt an album effort would be something to keep an eye out for. Until then, throw on Knüppelknecht’s first offering and pound beers until you vomit black blood.

Baazlvaat – The Higher Power

Release Date: September 12th, 2021
Label: Self-Released
Available soon on vinyl and cassette from Labyrinth Tower (US) and Babylon Doom Cult Records (EU)

Where to begin with Baazlvaat? Their self-titled debut–quietly released on Bandcamp almost a year ago–felt like an excessive experimentation. Well, perhaps excessive is the wrong word. The Flint, Michigan band’s first outing is a massive undertaking beneath it’s lo-fi cloud of haze. Their music shifted and mixed styles on a whim– shoegaze, kraut rock, shred metal, classical guitar all make nods in all encloaked in black metal and powered by some truly Progressive undercurrents that carry inspiration across the entirety. Granted, a full listen of Baazlvaat is one hell of a commitment (the record clocks in roughly an hour and a half total runtime), but it gets increasingly difficult to pull away. It’s almost seductive in how it lures ears into its bizarre, trippy journey as the band channel their inspiration unrestrained.

Baazlvaat is an “experience album,” the kind of record you remember is good without remembering a whole lot of specifics. You put it on every once and a while and let it sweep you away, experiencing it in the moment. This would be opposed to a “memory album;” this kind of record being the sort that sticks in your head long after it has ended or the kind you want to play back-to-back again and again.

While their sophomore record, Guitar Exotic (it definitely lives up to its name, but we most sally forth for the moment) was another full-on experience album, again feeling like unbridled waves of inspiration across its bizarre, stream-of-consciousness approach, Baazlvaat really made something special on their third long play. The Higher Power strikes that extremely rare, special, and, frankly, uncanny balance between being an experience album and a memory album. The level of focus and more refined constraint in songwriting, as well as the memorable twin Celtic leads (drawing parallels through the lens of rock and metal, they are very Thin Lizzy sounding) elements of 70’s prog rock and 60’s psychedelia. That capital-P Progressive element remains, but the torchs that line the path through the music are exceptionally more well-lit than that of prior efforts. This isn’t stumbling in the dark, on The Higher Power, when Baazlvaat grapple with their muse, they take it by the horns and lead it in a an extremely determined direction without ever losing the plot. Yet it still feels fast ‘n’ loose, lo-fi and raw, like Baazlvaat are just banging out a masterpiece in an afternoon: They’re organically jamming out a flow of ideas with such focus it boggles the mind: The leap the band have made into wizened, mature songwriting!

I realize I haven’t done a whole lot of musical description here, but words feel a bit unjust. I cannot sing enough praises for this band: The Higher Power is one of the most unique and boundary pushing works to be included within the scrolls of Black, Raw, & Bleeding, and Baazlvaat achieve this by taking a step back. Treat yourself to The Higher Power and for fuck’s sake, keep an eye on this band.

Vauruvã – Manso Queimor Decorado

Release Date: September 23rd, 2021
Label: Self-Released

The first release by Vauruvã, and the latest release of prolific Brazilian artist Caio Lemos (four albums under the Kaatayra moniker and two albums and an EP from Bríi–all since March of 2019), Manso Queimor Decorado is his most concise work to date. While prior projects are excellent, they often require a certain commitment; be it in long epic songs that take their time building across various moods or albums that pack on a ton of ideas with a devil-may-care attitude toward self-editing. Up to now, that’s part of what’s made his work so fascinating, but with Vauruvã, Lemos is stripping it all back to basics–or at least, as much as he can.

There’s a certain complexity to the way Lemos carves his riffs out of blasting tremolos. I mean, the things this man can speak with a couple of guitar tracks is nothing short of amazing. From the sky-climbing opening of “Florescência” to the eerily calm, classical guitar of “Baféu Vara Fronteiras” to the rhythmic changes and extended ominousness of album closer “Os Ipês,” Vauruvã retains a certain energetic devotion to melody. The riffs flow over the violence beneath; it is, in a way, a return to the early black metal roots of Sarcofagó, at least in the way that the melodies don’t feel constrained to the pulse of the riff. While Sarcofagó was, of course, belligerent thrash riffs sloppily thrown over a chaotic spine of drums, Vauruvã feel like they are bringing the melodicism of Norway’s Kvist back home to Brazil. Album highlight “Jequitibá-eté” illustrates this point perfectly. The tremolos feel free and unrestrained, only occasionally checking in with the rhythm section to maintain some sense of gravity. The bits of palm muting thrown in rely on their own strength, the palm mutes feel indebted to nothing. It is all freely channeled from the heart of Lemos, operating in the loose framework of the still-enigmatic percussion. The way the solo just breathes out of the music is so purely organic that any idea of thought behind it is immediately thrown out the window–it’s nothing but pure, unadulterated feel and the results are nothing short of stunning.

The inclusion of vocalist/lyricist Bruno Augusto Ribeiro is also felt particularly strongly on “Jequitibá-eté.” His raspy snarl is a bit buried by the rich soils of the melody, and intentionally so. It sounds like a voice from beyond, felt more in the subconscious than directly listened to. Still, his performance is delivered as though it were the premiere focus. They rise and fall with the intensity of the music, and litter bits of variety occasionally throughout, such as the reverb/delay drench of whispered vocals over the extended bridge to leading to dreamworld. There’s an ethereal quality at play here, and even more-so when the clean, single-note picking over the chords of the “Baféu No Grande Ocaso” bridge hits. It’s hypnotic and trance-like, it’s melancholic heroin to any fan of the more melodic stylings that black metal has to offer, delivered beneath a humble curtain of muted production that keeps it just outside the immediate realization of just how good it is.*

As a complete work, Manso Queimor Decorado is the bare soul of Caio Lemos. All the melody and heart of his prior works, exposed without frills (or as least, as minimally as Lemos can compose them–there are still elements of hand percussion and classical guitar that sneak their way into the fury). Vauruvã is the stripped down essence of what makes Lemos’ music so great: Soaring melodies and a seamless, organic transitions that flow like blood from vein to vein as it’s pumped from the heart. This is the kind of album that makes me truly believe that art is channeled from some plane above the physical.

*As always, increase volume for maximum results.

Bätlick – Demos

Release Date: September 25th, 2021
Label: Vřesová Studánka

Imagine, on the first night of your existence, as you emerge from your mother’s womb beneath the gaze of a cursed moon, the woman who has carried your malignant soul for nine months looks down upon this life she has birthed. You look up at her, her image reversed in your untrained eyes as your brain still struggles to decipher the existence in which you now dwell. You, covered in the ashen placenta expelled from a cursed vagina, allow your confused eyes to meet with that of your life-bearer, and she speaks:

“I shall name thee: Bätlick.”

Yeah, I’d probably make some weird fuckin’ music too.

The Czechian black/noise enigma has, in conspiracy with Vřesová Studánka, released a compilation of their demos, and it is a pleasantly bizarre dive into the twisted mind of Mr. Bätlick. Dark, spooky synths dominate the narrative, and though the compressed television static of the drums add a mechanized feel, it never comes across as flat. The production highlights the space between the elements, giving room for the weight of the dungeon chains shackled to the down-tuned guitar to be felt, particularly on tracks like “Prachofet.”

Another part that separates the programmed feel of the percussion is the thought that is put into the patterns–Bätlick make the drum machine a part of the musical process itself rather than just a rigid backbone of the tempo. They become part of the eerie, dread-ridden soundscape. It’s a bizarre mix of raw black metal, dungeon synth, and ambient that, at times, feels like its taking the heroin-fueled nightmare worlds of B.S.O.D. and Blod Besvimelse into a more industrialized house of horrors. The maddening pulse and wail of the synths on “Pochmurno Culto” highlights Bätlick’s ability to craft a dark and vigorous journey into caverns dripping with sanguine nectar as the blood coagulates from stalactite to stalagmite. Demos plays out like a horror soundtrack composed over a loose, decomposed black metal skeleton. A perfect pick for playing loudly on the front porch to both set a mood and to freak out/terrorize your neighbors with this Halloween.

Frozen Flesh Order – Extra Terrestrial Terrorism

Release Date: Octoberr 12th, 2021
Label: Tour de Garde

Black metal has always had a fetishistic view of the synthesizer. On one side, there’s the urge to be as “trve” to metal as possible. No keys, just raw energy from the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. The opposing side, is, of course, a focus on the atmospheric. And what better musical device than the synthesizer to create otherworldly sounds and unsettling moods? The instrument transcends the human, analogue element of the barbaric plucking of intestinal matter stretched into strings across the gutted remains of a tree or the crude bashing of stretched animal hides. There’s a trans-humanist element to the synthesizer, an otherworldliness that still begs for experimentation decades after pioneers like Giorgio Moroder exposed the possibilities of the instrument.

Take, for instance, the mysterious Frozen Flesh Order. Sure, we’ve heard slow, mournful black metal before. Sorrowful, weighted melodies that are stitched out of the cloak of fuzz and static are as commonplace in the style as cadavers in a crypt. However, while Frozen Flesh Order construct a serviceable enough black metal backbone, where they really excel on Extra Terrestrial Terrorism is in crafting an atmosphere. The album sounds like the aftermath of having one’s home planet destroyed, only to be cursed with immortality and forced to wander alien starscapes, battered into isolationist madness by the resulting existential torture. The last of your kind, floating through the infinite darkness, every moment a constant reminder of just how small and alone you are.

Frozen Flesh Order pull this off largely in the minimalist synth melodies, but the icing on the cake is the feeding of the haunted vocals through a pitch shifter of some sort. Only guessing here, but the way in which they are shifted makes it feel like they were manipulated as they were recorded–there is so much organic emotion in the way the alien violence matches the conviction in the suffering cries. The hollow, breathy synths subtly gleam out simple melodies like twinkling stars in the enveloping darkness as a soft crescendo builds on “X (Incinerate Living Tissue).”

Following the peaceful, reflective interlude on “Radioactive Inferno,” Frozen Flesh Order kick into the mid-tempo “Cyanide Paradise.” The song feels more like a post-punk number through a black metal lens (alien vocals still included!), but it’s where the Order truly excels. The keys take a more pronounced and forward role, and the vocals, while delivered in the same style, are testing their boundaries little by little. In fact, the entire album is crafted around variations of the same thing, but it’s paced so well from beginning to end and that never feels overly repetitive. The perfect teaser of thirty-three minutes always leaves a craving for a bit more when the album concludes, but perhaps that is what makes it so addictive. It sparks the imagination towards other possibilities and future directions of the band, but the album also feels it has the potential to be a one-and-done: A perfect jewel floating deep in the eternal; lost to time and space save for those who happen across it in the dark netherworlds of black metal.

Kūka’ilimoku – Pahu O ka Ua

Release Date: Octoberr 13th, 2021
Label: Self-Released

A series of small fires have been breaking out in Hawai‘i since 2019 as one-man band known only under the moniker of Kūka’ilimoku has been hammering out his craft over a series of EP’s, demos, and splits. With his debut album, Pahu O ka Ua, Kūka’ilimoku have erupted with force into a roaring blaze of blackened punk and speed, their raw fury sparked between the flint and steel of two traditions:

1) The Flint: The tradition of his people and land.
2) The Steel: The tradition of black metal.

Kūka’ilimoku selects the Hellhammer in his quest for Hawai‘i, holding largely to the groundwork of Tom G. Warrior and Quorthon’s first two efforts. Bits of pounding tremolo from The Return… can be heard throughout. “There Is Nothing To Be Recognized Anymore” is almost a tribute to Hellhammer with it’s downstroked eighth note riffs, complete with single bends at the end of the phrase (You know, dununununun-nuuuuuh). Bits of Motör-powered kicks and a particularly noisy solo punch a hell of a climax into the song as well. A healthy amount of crusty UK-82 can be found in the G.B.H.-sounding “‘Opala Man,” seared, of course, over the searing hellfire of pure anger. The steel is of a fine alloy, indeed, and not far off from the punkier arc of Darkthrone.

While the steel holds strong and true, the flint is what really captures the spark that makes Pahu O ka Ua ignite. Friction is provided in the subtle undertones of what my presumably ignorant ears will refer to as “surf-rock.” While hints of these elements are foreshadowed with the tom/snare combo on the drums that kicks off album opener “Birthed, And Then Dark,” they begin to blossom with the deep, clean reverb that lurks like danger in the waters on “Breathe Before The First Breathe.” There’s got to be some single-coil in the guitar tone: While its appearance is teased on “Breathe,” it’s pretty much confirmed by “The Man With The Water Gourd.” There’s a twang to the sound that feels of the islands–and it’s fucking pissed.  With Pahu O ka Ua, Kūka’ilimoku is masterfully mixing Hawaiian sands with the peat of black metal into a rich soil: One he uses to cover the graves of those who would attempt to snuff out that which he holds most dear. It’s raw, it’s pissed, and its bloodlust is infectious as all hell.

Posted by Ryan Tysinger

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

  1. Fascinating as always, can’t get enough of this bizarre corner of the metal underground. Black metal is really tailor made for passion to shine through. This vauruva is really reminding me of spectral lore and ayloss in general. Keep it coming my dude

    Reply

    1. If you like Vauruva, I highly recommend Kaatayta and Bríi as well. They get a little out there (especially Bríi), but Carlos has such a knack for encompassing it all in those melodies. Thanks for the kind words, will continue! Been having such a blast with this column.

      Reply

      1. Ok very cool, I’ll check them out. Yea man I love this style of music when it’s good but it can be a lot to dive into without a life raft. I appreciate the effort, it’s a deep space that deserves exploration. Now that the weather is changing I can sit in my chair in the dark and dedicate some more time to the darkest of sounds

        Reply

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