April 30, 2017

Tints of Obsidian

By Justin C. And before anyone asks, no, of course I didn't steal the idea for the title of this post from No Clean Singing's "Shades of Black" feature. Just look--they're completely different words! I was introduced to Noltem
By Justin C.

And before anyone asks, no, of course I didn't steal the idea for the title of this post from No Clean Singing's "Shades of Black" feature. Just look--they're completely different words!


I was introduced to Noltem via a Facebook post by John Kerr, whose Marsh Dweller project got a lot of attention last year. The post simply said, "In case you missed it, here's a Tree Album we put out in early 2016." The "we" includes Mr. Kerr on drums and vocals and Max Johnson on keyboards and stringed instruments of various kinds, and the Tree Album in question is an EP called Mannaz, released in the summer of 2015.

"Tree Metal" turns out to be pretty apt, especially considering that Panopticon's Austin Lunn helped record the drums out in the woods of Minnesota. The intro to the EP's second track, "Windhall," shows off some particularly cool folk-ish/tribal drumming. Beyond that, this is a particularly well-done chunk of atmospheric USBM with satisfying mid-range roars and plenty of acoustic guitar accents. I don't usually do "recommended if you like"-type statements, but it's hard to imagine anyone who likes Marsh Dweller, Panopticon, or Falls of Rauros not also digging this.



Varaha's self-titled EP is a bit trickier to pin down in terms of genre. Definitely post/black/dark metal, but to my ear, the opener, "Cubicle," definitely has some gothy undertones. Here's the point I'm going to fail you as a reviewer, because I just don't know goth well enough to pick out influences. The clean vocals that the song opens with, the melancholy lyrics, and the melodies put me in mind of something with an 80s goth feel, though. Not that the song stays there--some serious growls break out before the track is done.

"La Mela" is an instrumental interlude, and although this is a somewhat strange statement, I'm going to go ahead and nominate it for "Interlude of the Year." This is how you make an interesting breather. It has waves of saxophone intertwining and crashing into each other in waves and echoes.

The EP closer, "It Takes a Ghost to Kill a Ghost," is a different animal from "Cubicle." There's still some soaring clean vocals, but the high rasps that come in after the two-minute mark are particularly vicious, and the song breathes into fiery life. There's still a hint of goth here, but this song is an insanely catchy bit of black metal. It makes for a slightly schizophrenic EP overall, but I think this is a band that's still refining and distilling their sound. if they keep writing songs like "It Takes a Ghost," though, I'm more than happy to let them grow.



The look on Laurie Shanaman's face in the art for "Dead Metaphors" is a lot like the face I made when I found out about Ails. If you don't recognize Shanaman's name, then shame on you: She was the vocalist of the late, great Ludicra. In Ails, Shanaman is joined by guitarist and fellow Ludicra alum Christy Cather. The regard Ludicra has in the history of USBM is well earned, so a new project by two of its members is worthy of celebration. There's a warm glow of familiarity when you hear their clean, harmonized vocals at the beginning of "Dead Metaphors," and as the song ramps up, it's time to start running around like a maniac. The first variation of many riffs to come pairs a tremolo with a sludgy/thrash riff that should somehow be made solid and turned into one of those stress-reliever balls. And of course Shanaman's vocals are as powerful as ever. Check out her scream at 6:35. When I first played it in my car, it tore a hole in space and time and I traveled to worlds as-yet unexplored.

The other track they've released so far, "The Seven," is a lo-fi demo, but the rougher sound makes it feel even more feral than "Dead Metaphors." Sure, there's a "gentler," eastern-tinged intro, there are some sweet guitarmonies, and the guys in the band add some clean background vocals for texture here and there, but this song as a whole is as intense as any BM you're likely to find this year. I can't say enough good things about this quick taste of new material, and I can only wait on pins and needles for what's (hopefully) to come.

Tagged with 2015, 2016, 2017, Ails, black metal, free download, Justin C, Noltem, pagan metal, post-metal, Varaha
Post a Comment: