July 22, 2017

Tchornobog - Tchornobog

By Justin C. Markov Soroka gave me a challenge two-and-a-half years ago, namely how to write about his Aureole project. The debut album, Lunar Citadel, is an elusive, space-based journey through ambient/atmospheric black metal soundscapes
By Justin C.

Markov Soroka gave me a challenge two-and-a-half years ago, namely how to write about his Aureole project. The debut album, Alunar, is an elusive, space-based journey through ambient/atmospheric black metal soundscapes, and as much as I liked it, its ethereal qualities made it difficult to put into words why I liked it so much.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

Now, after a long gestation process, we have the debut of another Soroka project, Tchornobog. On its face, the self-titled Tchornobog album seems like something more tangible to sink our ear-teeth into. The first track, "The Vomiting Tchornobog," starts immediately with a blackened death fury, with mysterious-sounding roars and frantic guitars and rhythm--solid meat and potatoes stuff. But before we're done with this nearly 20-minute-long track, tempos slow to doomier sounds, harsh brass sounds you might expect from hell's own marching band blare through, and at some points, the music almost slows to a crawl.

The question, of course, is this the hallmark of an incoherent mess or some larger plan? Although at some points I thought a little could have been trimmed from the longer tracks on this album (the four tracks clock in at over an hour), I've finally landed firmly into the "larger plan" camp. The fascinating thing about Tchornobog is that, in spite of being generally heavier than Aureole, it also possesses an elusive quality to it, some slippery bit that's hard to put your finger on, but makes you want to listen more. I've given it many listens since I got my grubby hands on the promo, and it still both fascinates me and, at times, eludes my attempts to pin it down in words.

Artwork by Adam Burke.

About that title: Tchornobog refers to a Slavic "black god" with many spellings and seemingly only speculation about how this particular god was viewed or understood. Reading the lyrics at a surface level, one might be convinced that Soroka just wanted to take a break from metal's Cthulhu worship and do something a little different, but his stated intentions describe the use of Tchornobog in more of a metaphorical context, including "a testament to those with severe illness and a nod to those of a religious related coping mechanism for the fear of death"

That said, I'm always hesitant to try to impose my own understandings on other people's lyrics, so I'll shift focus to the music itself. "The Vomiting Tchornobog" will give you a general idea of what's to come in the album (although the vomiting sound effects at the end of the track don't seem to recur), but I think the crown jewel of this album is the third track, "Non-existence's Warmth." The track opens with buzzing cellos and minimal percussion opening up to a descending guitar riff that's both eerie and melancholy at the same time. More quiet, clean guitars add to the song's strong melodic sense, and before the whole thing's done, we're treated to some saxophone playing (tenor, unless my ear betrays me), heavy riffs that manage to be both majestic and meditative at the same time. There's even more to unpack before the heavier fare kicks back in much later in the song. It's a monument.

I've known about this album for a while, impatiently waiting as it's struggled to make its way to the light of day, so there was certainly a danger of the album failing to live up to extended anticipation built up in my own head. I'm happy to say that it exceeded my hopes anyway.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, death metal, doom metal, Fallen Empire Records, free download, Justin C, Tchornobog

July 21, 2017

Heresiarch - Death Ordinance

By Bryan Camphire. Dark Descent Records does it again, delivering another dose of uncompromising apoplectic death metal. Death Ordinance, the debut full length by Heresiarch, is a a forty-one minute set of nine tracks
By Bryan Camphire.

Artwork by Mistanthropic-Art

Dark Descent Records does it again, delivering another dose of uncompromising apoplectic death metal. Death Ordinance, the debut full length by Heresiarch, is a a forty-one minute set of nine tracks with zero clean parts and zero concessions made. The result is unrelenting evil ripping through your speakers.

Heresiarch play chaotic blackened death metal full of aggression and hate. The band hails from New Zealand, home to some of the most terrifying acts working in metal today; bands like Vesicant, Sinistrous Diabolous, Vassafor, Diocletian and Solar Mass. Heresiarch seem to be quite at home among this cantankerous lot. Don't let the tank treads on the cover fool you, though: this is music for sensitive souls. I am being facetious there. This music sounds like getting run over by that tank.

At the risk of sounding reductive, it should be said that this music is indebted to some fearsome Canadian bands like Revenge and Conqueror. To this hellish mix, Heresiarch add extra heaps of filth and dissonance, following along the darkened path laid before them by such devilish bands from down under like Bestial Warlust, Sadistik Exekution and, more recently, acts like Impetuous Ritual. That is a lot of name-dropping. Suffice to say, Heresiarch exist within a tradition of some of the most punishing acts in extreme metal. What they may lack in originality, they make up for in entropy.

For me what shines most about this recording is the production. Death Ordinance sounds humongous. Every instrument is given ample space. This is no easy feat with music that is as suffocating as this. A lot of great bands simply do not manage to sound their best on record. The fact that each amp sounds like it's been turned up to eleven, the drummer is playing his guts out throughout, and the screams still manage to be harrowing on top of all of this... it's impressive. It makes you marvel at what a vicious beast this band must be to behold in the flesh.

The third cut, "Harbinger" is a highlight for me. I am a total sucker for half-time hardcore-style breakdowns in death metal. All the better if these mosh-worthy moments are sandwiched between breakneck blastbeats, as happens to be the case here. The deviations from a straight up 4/4 approach really sweeten the deal here, as well as on several other cuts throughout the LP.

There is a nice variety of tempo over the course of the record, and this keeps the songs from blending together. The song lengths range from as short as two minutes to as long as over seven minutes, and it's precisely this type of variety that makes this set unpredictable and engrossing. All in all, Death Ordinance marks another solid entry in the Dark Descent catalog by a true force to be reckoned with. All hail Heresiarch.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Bryan Camphire, Dark Descent Records, death metal, Heresiarch

July 19, 2017

Solbrud - Vemod

By Karen A. Mann. Solbrud is not a band to be hurried. On their latest release, Vemod, the Copenhagen quartet builds solemnly elegant atmospheric black metal slowly and precisely, layering sounds that are furious and dramatic with those that are softer and reflective.
By Karen A. Mann.


Solbrud is not a band to be hurried. On their latest release, Vemod, the Copenhagen quartet builds solemnly elegant atmospheric black metal slowly and precisely, layering sounds that are furious and dramatic with those that are softer and reflective. There are only four songs on the album, but they are long (the shortest is almost nine minutes), and each takes the listener on a beautifully gloomy journey through a variety of soundscapes.

The opening track, “Det Sidste Lys” (The Last Light) opens slowly with a full 10 seconds of atmospheric noise before the first tentative notes are played. With the sound of a thunderstorm in the background, the sparse melody evokes a sense of withering loneliness. More than two minutes go by before the song explodes in a burst of tremolo picking. Singer Ole Łuk’s gnawing screech comes in at around the five-minute mark. The ambient thunderstorm sound appears again under a short passage where the instruments drop out except for the bass, which repeats the central melody of the first half of the song. “Det Sidste Lys” finishes with a return to metallic fury.

Photos by Morten Jensen.

The band is at its best on the middle two songs. “Forfald” (Decay) blasts full-throttle for more than seven punishing minutes, before twisting into a slow, beautiful passage, and finally ending with a pastoral organ melody. “Menneskeværk” (The Work of Man) floats in with ambient guitar and bass tones, then sharp, dramatic bursts of sound that evolve into pummeling black metal.

Solbrud swerves into blackgaze territory with the final song, “Besat af Mørke” (Obsessed with Darkness), which offers a myriad of soundscapes in which listeners can lose themselves. A surprisingly traditional guitar solo brings Vemod to a soaring, mournful, unhurried end.

Solbrud is currently on tour through Europe supporting like-minded South African group Wildernessking. Aficionados of nature-worshiping atmospheric black metal should definitely check out this tour.

Tagged with 2017, black metal, Karen A. Mann, Solbrud