May 23, 2017

Wode - Servants of the Countercosmos

By Justin C. I know a lot of people were excited about Wode's self-titled album from just over a year ago, but it took me a little while to warm up to it. It seems strange to me looking back, because as Andy Synn wrote over on No Clean Singing
By Justin C.


I know a lot of people were excited about Wode's self-titled album from just over a year ago, but it took me a little while to warm up to it. It seems strange to me looking back, because as Andy Synn wrote over on No Clean Singing, Wode is "purely and unashamedly 'Black Metal' in nature – unsullied by time or trend, with no prefixes, suffixes, addendums..." If there's one metal subgenre that I'm the most accepting of (and I think we all have that one), it's black metal. Maybe I overlooked it because of its pureness. Maybe at that time I wanted something weird, with 13-minute-long songs with hurdy-gurdies and lyrics sung in a dead language. Who knows? But I've finally been sucked in by their no-nonsense charms.

With their new album, Servants of the Countercosmos, Wode hasn't broken into any new territories. This is still a band that plays straight-up black metal with just a hint of traditional heavy metal sensibility mixed in. The vocals are still a very satisfying rasp--satisfying in the same way that scratching an itch that you've been trying to ignore for two hours. The riffs are plentiful and memorable--the raging rumble punctuated with doomy melodicism that opens "Temple Internent" is a personal favorite, and there are plenty more where that came from.

What Wode has done with this new album is a slight refinement, and I think it's for the better. Most of the tracks on their new album run in the four-to-six-minute range, which I think suits their sound much better than the eight- and nine-minute tracks from their self-titled. I know that, even though I enjoyed the riffs in the last two tracks of the album, the album suffered a bit from being drawn out at the end. Even in the one case where they do go long on the new album, "Chaosspell," they've gone for a more refined structure that holds your interest over the track's length, leading very nicely into the acoustic "decompression" track that closes the album. Sometimes that kind of track can end up being an annoying non-entity, but this is one is subtle, delicate piece I'd feel comfortable playing in front of a classical guitar crowd.

Trying to find the balance between pushing forward while retaining what made you good in the first place is difficult at best, but I think Wode has done it here. If you liked their last one, they've given more of what they did so well, but at the same time they've tweaked the formula ever-so-slightly, but still to great effect.


[Strangely enough the album has been released, ie: you can purchase it, but there's not any tracks streaming.]
Tagged with 2017, Avantgarde Music, black metal, Justin C, Wode

May 21, 2017

Wende - Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft

By Natalie Zina Walschots. The sense of isolation and mystery that pervades Wende, the solo project from multi-instrumentalist and compose Zamiel (who is also a member of the Chicago three-piece black metal project Skinwalker)
By Natalie Zina Walschots. Originally published here by Exclaim.


The sense of isolation and mystery that pervades Wende, the solo project from multi-instrumentalist and compose Zamiel (who is also a member of the Chicago three-piece black metal project Skinwalker), would situate it perfectly within windswept, much-mythologized Scandinavian landscape. But instead of Norway, this deeply philosophical (but no less frostbitten) project is based deep in the woods of the Okanagan, in Washington.

Originally released in an extremely limited and hard-to-acquire format in 2011, the first full-length from Wende, Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft ("a prelude to the philosophy of the future") has finally been given a wider release, and deservedly so. The record is a strange construction, alternating between tracks of blisteringly acerbic, Burzum-like black metal and much more introspective, instrumental ambience. The effect is profoundly unsettling, but the sense of ebb and flow, construction and dissolution, suits the intellectual framework of the project well.

The one unifying aspect of the record is how cold it is; every riff is as merciless as flesh sticking to frozen metal. But the way the cold manifests can be profoundly different, from the deep cold vacuum of space evoked by the ambient tracks to the violent icy blasts of the more aggressive parts of the record. The environment conjured by Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft is unremittingly hostile, but also unquestioningly beautiful, if you can handle the threat of frostbite.

Tagged with 2011, atmospheric black metal, Moribund Records, Natalie Zina Walschots, Wende

May 20, 2017

Necromantia - Scarlet Evil Witching Black

An Autothrall Classic. Necromantia's use of the 8-string bass in place of the traditional 6-string guitar has made them a unique force in the black metal genre, especially when you consider how long they've stuck to the technique.
An Autothrall Classic. Originally published here.

Cover art by Panos Sounas

Necromantia's use of the 8-string bass in place of the traditional 6-string guitar has made them a unique force in the black metal genre, especially when you consider how long they've stuck to the technique. That is not to say Scarlet Evil Witching Black is entirely void of the traditional guitars; they are used here for acoustic moments as well as leads.

It stuns me how little this has any effect on the band's hell-spawning vitriol, because these are some of the most savage guitars ever committed to disc. Scarlet Evil Witching Black is the crowning moment for a band who receives far too little credit, and it's arguably the crowning achievement of the Greek scene. The 8-string bass is not the band's only forte, as pianos and saxophones also exist in this negative plane, and a subtle and beautiful orchestration provides a brilliant counterpoint the rugged, raw thrust of the two basses. Magus Wampyr Daoloth has a sinister edge to his vocals, like the frolicking of imps and homonculi about the burning palaces of Hell.

I'll weave an invocation
To insanity and rebirth
Fiery lightning hold my hand
Show me your face in black waters
My worst, declared enemies
Are my most devoted slaves
They inspire me a wolf idolatry
I'll burn them in my witch-pyre

All the material is enormous and evil. "Devilskin" enters with distant whipping winds, and the cordial sounds of a music box-like lullaby, before the raging basses erupt like an abandoned palace of heaven crashing into a volcanic, abyssal maw. "Black Mirror" begins with a doomed gait, glorious sunken memories evoked through the dingy, dual bass. "Pretender to the Throne (Opus I: The Usurper's Spawn)" uses some interesting, shouting vocals along with the incredible basswork and synths. At :43, one of the greatest riffs ever kicks in, a vile march towards the jaws of Leviathan. "The Arcane Light of Hecate" is a ritual, orchestral piece without the metal elements...and yes, a creepy fucking saxophone solo! Unbelievable.

Oh powerful queen, thy the knowledge of fear
Dangerous when crossed, the art of sorcery
The bringers of joy and misery
Thy children never tell thy mystery

The metal continues with the downward spiral of leadwork and driving bass of "Scarlet Witching Dreams", and the hellish, bludgeoning of "The Serpent and the Pentagram". Then you are treated to a familiar classical sample that leads into "Pretender to the Throne (Opus II: Battle at the Netherworld)". While a great song, this is perhaps the one piece on the album that was not entirely compelling. But the scintillating monument to sorrow, "Spiritdance", makes up for this with its ever-weaving orchestrations acrest the tumult of the clean and harsh vocals, and the bass wasteland.

Scarlet Evil Witching Black is a sick album. It's the best of Necromantia, and one of the most unique creations in the underworld magmasphere of occult black. Inspired by its rituals and imagination, it made an amazing companion piece to Therion's masterpiece Lepaca Kliffoth (which also released this year). A true masterwork of Greek misanthropy.

Tagged with 1995, Autothrall, black metal, Necromantia, Osmose Productions