January 20, 2020

From The Metal Archives Vol. 10 - Black Lion Records

[Welcome to another special edition of From The Metal Archives. This one is meant to showcase that January is name-your-price month on Black Lion Records' Bandcamp page. Here's three epic black metal (somewhat of a Black Lion specialty) releases for you to check out.
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

[Welcome to another special edition of From The Metal Archives. This one is meant to showcase that January is name-your-price month on Black Lion Records' Bandcamp page. Here's three epic black metal (somewhat of a Black Lion specialty) releases for you to check out. There's more good stuff over there (also in other genres) and nearly all of it is available as name-of-price downloads.]

Artwork by Alex Tartsus.

[The Metal Archives reviewer Lord_Lexy said]
In 2013 the four instrumentalists of Bal-Sagoth reunited under the name Kull, got reinforced by new vocalist Tarkan Alp and recorded their first, promising demos. There was definitely potential in these new tracks, but it was clear that Alp needed to mature as a singer. And of course Kull needed a label to release its début. Black Lion Records stepped forward.

And this brings us to Exile itself. The musical pedigree is very clear, though the sound has evolved into something more raw than what we heard on The Chthonic Chronicles and with a bigger emphasis on the black metal elements of the music. Alp clearly grew as a singer and can now showcase his own vocal sound.
[read Lord_Lexy's full review here]



[The Metal Archives reviewer Paganbasque said]
The single “Orin Kozh” was a first taste of the (finally) upcoming debut entitled Hanter Savet. The band has decided to play homage to its roots writing the lyrics for the debut in Breton, the ancient language of Brittany. This album opener was the perfect presentation of the album and a confirmation that the core sound of Vindland was still there. The track has the traditional combination of fast tremolo riffs and an excellent taste for the melodies. Anyway, my expectations were absolutely fulfilled with the next single and second track of the album, “Treuswelus”. This song broght back the up beating and incredibly beautiful melodies influenced by Valfar´s unique style. It’s impossible not to headbang with this track which is epic beyond words.
[read Paganbasque's full review here]


Artwork by Simon Bossert.

[The Metal Archives reviewer Edmund Sackbauer said]
The greatest aspect of the album is how the harmonies of the lead guitars and the symphonic samples have been woven into the whole picture and how they work as contrast to the aggressive riff attacks. The band members have a fantastic talent for creating haunting and beautiful melodies that feel melancholic and depressive but also offer a glimmer of hope at the same time. They have worked with the interaction of musky moments and lighter pieces and have melted all those elements into one great piece of sinister and eerie art.
[read Edmund Sackbauer's full review here]

January 17, 2020

Lotus Thief - Oresteia

By Justin C. I’ve seen a lot of talk about Lotus Thief being post-metal or post-rock or post-whatever, but let’s get something straight: Their latest, Oresteia, is a rock opera, and a damn good one. Remember The Who’s Tommy or Husker Du’s Zen Arcade?
By Justin C.


I’ve seen a lot of talk about Lotus Thief being post-metal or post-rock or post-whatever, but let’s get something straight: Their latest, Oresteia, is a rock opera, and a damn good one. Remember The Who’s Tommy or Husker Du’s Zen Arcade? Yeah, I know, they all happened before you were born, but that’s what we’re looking at here. A concept record telling a story over its length. Except instead of a deaf and blind pinball wizard, the source material comes from three linked tragedies by Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and The Eumenides, a 2500-year-old trilogy of plays known collectively as Oresteia.

Lotus Thief’s self-designated genre of “text metal” might still be the best way to think of them. Having grown from a one-off contribution to a Botanist album, the band has put out three striking albums inspired by and devoted to books. Oresteia is probably the most ambitious in scope and sound. The project has grown into a full-fledged five-member band, helmed by frontwoman Bezaelith and her otherworldly vocals.

Given the plays used as inspiration are Greek tragedies, you can probably guess the general themes. In "Agamemnon", the titular King of Mycenae returns from The Trojan War only to be murdered by his wife, Clytemenstra. Revenge is called for, of course, so in "Libation Bearers", Agamemnon’s son comes back, as ordered by Apollo, and commits matricide. His son then flees, pursued by "The Furies", seeking justice for his act of...seeking justice.

The music itself walks right up to an intersection of artful rock and musical theater, of all things. Just a step or two further, and Lotus Thief might have gone over the top for my own tastes, but they walk the line between the nerdy sincerity of musical theater and a more natural expression of feeling that you’d expect from such a skilled rock/metal band. Tension builds and flows with the plot of the plays, but even if you knew nothing about them, the vocal and instrumental performances are top flight. There are no searing displays of technicality, but it’s not that kind of music--this is music based on superior songwriting and flawless execution. The interludes between the songs that represent the plays set the appropriate moods (“Banishment”, “Woe”, and “Reverence”) flawlessly, cementing the show-stopper pieces together seamlessly.

And those vocals. Way back in 2014, I was listening to Rervm while recovering from surgery. I missed the release date of Oresteia. because this time my fuzzy buddy, Marshall the Cat, was having surgery while I simultaneously suffered from a turn-your-body-inside-out stomach virus. It’s bad luck, but it’s hard to think of a voice I’d rather have in my ears at these lower times. Bezaelith croons, soars, and even snarls with a little 70s rock swagger in "Libation Bearers". Some may find the harsh vocals too few and far between, but they act as perfect counterpoint to the rest of the bravura performance.

Will some find this all a little too much? Too dramatic, too literary? Sure, maybe. But it’s their loss. If Lotus Thief decides that their next album will be an ode to the phone book or the source code for Microsoft Windows, I’ll be listening.

January 14, 2020

Hermoðr - Forest Sky

By Master of Muppets. The sound of winter is more than a Bush song. It is a living silence, a sentient storm and a shimmering array of frozen colors; it's far beyond my abilities to properly describe the sounds of the snowiest season, but I know it when I hear it.
By Master of Muppets.


The sound of winter is more than a Bush song. It is a living silence, a sentient storm and a shimmering array of frozen colors; it's far beyond my abilities to properly describe the sounds of the snowiest season, but I know it when I hear it. Simply put, Hermoðr's Forest Sky sounds like winter. It's cold, beautiful and utterly unforgiving, and it's about time you learned to appreciate it.

A solo project created by the one-man Swedish army, Rafn, Hermoðr boasts an impressive discography, something to the tune of 40+ releases. Many of these are longform singles or EP's, but the key takeaway here is that if/when you fall in love with Hermoðr, there's a lot of material available on Bandcamp for further exploration - and it's all dirt cheap. I envy anyone just beginning their love affair with Hermoðr; you've a long and lovely ride ahead of you and it's hardly going to break your bank.

The particular offering being discussed today is a 10 track adventure, fueled by a poignant and potent blend of tender melancholy and raw black fury - or is it perhaps a mixture of violent sadness and gentle rage? "Winter Storm", for example, is as mournful as it is menacing, while "My Reflection in the Ice" feels like an ode to wandering off and dying alone in the snowclad wilderness; With a mix as raw as the flayed heart on its sleeve, Forest Sky is as emotionally evocative as atmoblack gets, and (surprise, surprise) none of it is immediately or overly positive.

Stylistically speaking, Hermoðr haunt a particularly harrowing patch of tonal turf directly adjacent to Woods of Desolation. Fraught with tremolo picking and harsh shrieks, the songs stay true to the rough aesthetic of DSBM, yet by and large Forest Sky is a very melodic ordeal. Delicately dour atmospheres are often brought to life by fragile clean guitar passages, and even the most aggressive moments are soaked in the tears of minor scales. Essentially, Forest Sky is what one might expect to hear if Winterfylleth were perpetually depressed and putting their best, saddest foot forward.

Hermoðr is nothing less than a goldmine of raw black goodness, and Forest Sky is a gem in its own right, one that belongs in the hearts and musical libraries of every fan of melancholic black metal. One could get lost for days in Rafn's woeful wonderland, and listeners are encouraged to do so immediately; tons of top-notch tunes at bottom-dollar prices are what you'll find, and if you're into that sort of thing in general and depressive atmoblack in particular, you're in for a tearfully tasty treat.

January 10, 2020

Big riffs. Big smiles. The Riff Spreader Best of 2019

[Riff Spreader is a Twitter account run by a friend of Metal Bandcamp (he wrote a ew reviews for us years ago). Riff Spreader is "Music recs for the discerning metalhead. No fash trash. Just righteous riffs", which is a purpose we can get behind.
[Riff Spreader is a Twitter account run by a friend of Metal Bandcamp (he wrote a few reviews for us years ago). Riff Spreader is "Music recs for the discerning metalhead. No fash trash. Just righteous riffs", which is a purpose we can get behind. Here's his massive best of 2019 list, look for more Riff Spreader related posts in the future.]

Artwork by Sludgework

2019 was the year of “Caveman Shit,” 20 Buck Spin finally realizing its potential as the best death metal label on the planet, discovering a bunch of artists you loved dearly are Nazis, Mariusz Lewandowski, cosmic death metal, Déhà, and – perhaps most importantly – Riff Spreader.

We made it, y’all. With a whole fucking ass load of incredible music. I tried to make this a small curated list, but 2019 was a year of so many great albums, it almost made it impossible for anything to stand out and break away from the pack. Ignore the rankings and LET'S GO!


50. Hagetisse - De Reis Van Vernielde Zielen
Low key Mories' best black metal endeavor.



49. Misertus - Coil
3 albums in 4 months, but this was my fave. Another prolific force in blackgaze.



48. Green Lung - Woodland Rites
This was the best stoner album of the year, hands down. So much groove. So ear-wormy.



47. Tomb Mold - Planetary Clairvoyance
Listened again and this is probably too low on my list. Tons of killer riffs. I just liked Manor of Infinite Forms way more.



46. Acathexis - Acathexis
Technically released at the end of December 2018, but this is too good not to recognize. Incredible black metal from Déhà and Jacob Buczarski (Mare Cognitum).



45. Haunter - Sacramental Death Qualia
Nobody did weirdo blackened death metal better in 2019. I haven't spinned this one as much as I wanted to, so I suspect this ranking will only go up.



44. Nekroí Theoí - Dead Gods
As a former Evangelical Christian, I relate so hard to JJ Polachek's spiritual journey. It also doesn't hurt that his gutturals bend space/time and the band fucking destroys.



43. Musmahhu - Reign of the Odious
An overlooked death metal gem in the over-crowded sweaty throngs of OSDM bands crawling out of their swampy caves this year. Technically a 2017 release re-issued in December 2018, but I'm counting it. I make the rules.



42. Renounced - Beauty Is A Destructive Angel
My little Poison The Well loving heart couldn't believe what it was hearing. A potent distillation of everything I loved about late 90s/early 00s melodic hardcore/metalcore.



41. Blut Aus Nord - Hallucinogen
Blut Aus Nord is good at everything they do. Full stop.



40. Kaatayra - Nascido Sob o Signo Incivilizatório
Antifascist, atmospheric black metal from Brazil that deftly sidesteps the pit falls of this increasingly dull sub genre. This one never gets boring.



39. Déhà - Cruel Words
Déhà had quite a productive year, but nothing else of his made my head swim like this one. Perhaps that's why he used his namesake and not another pseudonym. A breathtaking combo of funeral doom, DSBM, and ambience.



38. Nucleus - Entity
I've been slow to warm up to Nucleus, but the mind-bending cosmic riffs driving Entity beyond the stratosphere cannot be denied for long. I came around quickly, speakers blasting.



37. Vale of Pnath - Accursed
It's a testament to their immense talent that they were able to convincingly make a hard turn from the pure tech death of their first 2 albums and steer directly into the waters of black metal without losing who they are.



36. Dawn Ray'd - Behold Sedition Plainsong
The darlings of antifascist black metal, and for good reason. They're not the best in the game, but no one is more inspirational to the movement.



35. Marsh Dweller - Wanderer
Quite a surprising change in direction - from melodic death metal to a daring post-metal opus. The craftsmanship on display from the monster riffs to the atmospheric passages to even the guitar tone is evident.



34. Creeping Death - Wretched Illusions
This was the crossover album of the year. No one else except maybe Witch Vomit was able to lift my spirits and get my head banging after a shitty day at work. Big riffs. Big smiles.


Speaking of Witch Vomit...

33. Witch Vomit - Buried Deep In A Bottomless Grave
The award for most fun death metal album of 2019 goes to Witch Vomit. It's nothing new, but it doesn't need to be if you're able to do the old with this much charisma.



32. Zealotry - At The Nexus of All Stillborn Worlds
It took me a long time to "get" this album, but it kept drawing me back with each listen and became part of my routine listening habit without me even realizing it. It's alive.



31. Have A Nice Life - Sea of Worry
Dan Barrett is a genius. I have intensely loved every piece of music he's ever touched. I haven't spent a lot of time with Sea of Worry, but each spin reveals more and more to love.



30. Wishfield - Wishfield
The album starts out as post-black metal and then suddenly evolves into a heavy alt-rock/shoegaze concoction. There's a lot of aggression and beauty to be found here. A truly unique album that I've come back to a lot.



29. Falls of Rauros - Patterns In Mythology
Falls of Rauros just know how to do the damn thing. They get better with each release, though it's hard to imagine topping the atmospheric black metal perfection of Patterns in Mythology.



28. Mystagogue - And The Darkness Was Cast Out Into The Wilderness
Featuring members of Laster and Gnaw Their Tongues, Mystagogue creates visceral, aggressive black metal wrapped in the sheen of blackgaze. A rapturously hammering experience.



27. Beastwars - IV
It is an injustice that Beastwars has not blown up by now. Meaty, sludgy stoner doom that rivals any of the bigger bands today hawking that sound. But alas, they are only headlining in my car.



26. Wounds of Recollection - You Were A Garden of Empyrean Light
I've been following Wounds of Recollection for a few years, but never expected this. Conjuring early Deafheaven but with a songwriting maturity not found in those releases, this is top shelf blackgaze.



25. Ghostwriter - Burial Grounds
This album is so beautiful. It reminds me of the first time I heard Mazzy Star or "Heaven or Las Vegas" by Cocteau Twins. Plus the artwork is stunning.



24. Caїna - Gentle Illness
An album so personal it feels like trespassing at times. Gentle Illness is a post black metal journey through mental anguishes as diverse as the instruments, noises, and soundscapes that bring them to life.



23. Smoulder - Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring
Trad/epic doom that crawled into my brain and lodged itself there like a parasite on horseback. I played the hell out of this album in the shower for some reason.



22. Epectase - Astres
Astres initially presents itself as a jaunty 2nd wave black metal album, but then things get very interesting. Sure, it's black metal. But it's also 70's prog rock. And it fucking works.



21. Hath - Of Rot and Ruin
Another stellar death metal release in the vein of Where Owls Know My Name and Esoteric Malacology, and very much on the same level as those two juggernauts. I'm very much enjoying this trend in tech death.



20. Bull of Apis Bull of Bronze - Offerings of Flesh and Gold
Antifascist, anticapitalist black metal that means fucking business. Relentlessly driving black metal riffs and blast beats that wash away into dark ambient passages. Let this one soak.



19. Organectomy - Existential Disconnect
A masterclass in slamming brutal death metal. This one came out in June and it's still in almost daily rotation. Most of the slam I get into fizzles after a couple of weeks. This one has staying power.



18. None - Damp Chill of Life
There was a noticeable lack of DSBM in my diet this year. Blackgaze sort of took over everything. But None makes the case for quality over quantity. Even if I only listened to one DSBM album all year, this was enough.



17. Vukari - Aevum
Imagine how high this album would be on my list if it wasn't so uneven. Even with its flaws, it remains one of my favorite black metal albums of 2019. When it's on, it's fucking ON.



16. Storm of Sedition - Howl of Dynamite
Crusty anarchist black metal that stomps on the gas and does not let up. This shit gives me life and makes me feel invincible. Anarchy and total fucking destruction!



15. Horror God - Cursed Seeds
No other tech death album in 2019 bent my brain quite like this one. There are so many good things going on here it demands spin after spin after spin, and you will happily oblige.



14. Spirit Adrift - Divided by Darkness
After Curse of Conception, I was slightly disappointed by what I believed to be a sophomore slump for Spirit Adrift. Turns out I was hilariously wrong. Seeing the band play this live was a religious experience.



13. Iapetus - The Body Cosmic
This will surely go down in history as a progressive death metal classic, if only within the small circle of the fortunate few who have discovered and loved them so far. Spread the good news, ye faithful.



12. Superstition - The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation
I think it's perhaps the most underappreciated release among a slew of incredible releases from 20 Buck Spin this year. I love these goddamn riffs.



11. Devourment - Obscene Majesty
These pioneers of brutal death metal have not lost a single step in their 20 years of existence. I hope detailed notes are being taken by the younguns in the back.



10. Fit For An Autopsy - The Sea of Tragic Beasts
If you're surprised that a deathcore album is in my top 10, it's because you haven't listened to this one. But I have. Over and over and over and over again. It's powerful, thrilling, and massive.



9. Violet Cold - Kosmik
Violet Cold just keeps getting better and soaring higher. I feel like I've been strapped to a rocket every time I hit play on this album.



8. Cloud Rat - Kosmik
Cloud Rat are grindcore heroes in that even people who don't like grindcore love Cloud Rat. Pollinator is their best effort yet, and that's saying a whole fucking lot. Just stellar in every way.



7. Cosmic Putrefaction - At The Threshold of the Greatest Chasm
Pure cosmic brutality from an artist who mainly traffics in atmosphere yielded probably the most eerie death metal album of the year. No other death metal I heard this year felt like this.



6. Venom Prison - Samsara
Venom Prison has been honing their craft for 4 years, growing more potent with each release until they finally blew the doors off with Samsara. Pummeling, relentless, dense, hostile, and 100% unfuckwithable death metal.



5. Trespasser - Чому не вийшло?
This is, hands down, the best anarchist black metal - pure black metal - I've ever heard. A new bar has been set for this burgeoning sub genre - one that must be cleared by all comers if the genre hopes to thrive.



4. Blood Incantation - Hidden History of the Human Race
This would've been number 1 if there was more there there. Still, Blood Incantation is one of the great hopes for the future of death metal, and the hype is warranted.



3. Funereal Presence - Achatius
Funereal Presence crafts metal - not just black metal, even if that is the dominant genre expressed here - teeming with creativity and bold songwriting. It's impossible to distill into a tweet. It must be experienced.



2. Vastum - Orificial Purge
Vastum is on another plane right now. Their brutally dark death/doom is at once familiar and horrifyingly strange. Their influence is widely heard but impossible to imitate because the essence of the music is inextricably entwined with its singularly-minded creators. No one else is doing this because no one else CAN do this.



1. Sadness - I Want To Be There

Sadness is impossibly prolific. If you stop keeping up with his Bandcamp page for more than a couple of months you'll likely find you've missed 2 full length albums. Most artists who release music at this speed suffer from a common malady - an inability to edit. The patently false notion that everything they create deserves to be shared with an audience.

Sadness, however, does not fall into that category. Everything this motherfucker puts out is worth listening to, and the majority of it is as good or better than most post-black/DSBM on Bandcamp. With this in mind, imagine how good one of those releases would have to be to rise so far above its stellar companions as to merit a number one ranking on a 50 album list.

These songs ooze an aesthetic quality that starts the listener out on a frighteningly high plane. The songwriting does the rest. The compositions swell and heave their way upward to dizzying heights, take a moment to acknowledge the view, and then launch into an almost disorienting and exhausting crescendo that completely wrings every ounce of beauty and pain out of a song that a mere mortal can bear.

It's good, is what I'm trying to say.


And that's the end! Phew! I hope you discover something here that you love. And, as always, please support the artists.

January 9, 2020

From The Metal Archives Vol. 9 - Transcending Obscurity Records

[Welcome to this special edition of From The Metal Archives, meant to showcase two things that happened on the Transcending Obscurity Records Bandcamp page. One, in January ALL albums are available as name-you-price downloads!
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

[Welcome to this special edition of From The Metal Archives, meant to showcase two things that happened on the Transcending Obscurity Records Bandcamp page. One, in January ALL albums on the page are available as name-your-price downloads! Two, the label released a massive sampler with 52 tracks meant as a "contemporary annual preview of the new music that we're working with and what you can expect in the times to come".

I also found two earlier death metal releases that were well received by The Metal Archives reviewers. One is better known and more progressive than the other, both are great examples of the breath of death metal found on the Transcending Obscurity roster.]

Artwork by Alex Tartsus.

[The Metal Archives reviewer Chris Jennings said]
One of the UK’s leading death metal acts return with album number 5, and De Profundis haven’t sounded this focused and this ferocious in years. Perpetually progressive, subtly melodic and yet as savage as they come, De Profundis sound rejuvenated here and The Blinding Light Of Faith is an eye-opening blast of technical death metal brutality.
[read Chris Jennings's full review here]



[The Metal Archives reviewer TheStormIRide said]
While band’s lyrical themes may be rooted in the realms of human thought and emotional experience, their music is a real it gets. The band describes themselves as old school death metal, but a more apt description would be the steamrolling, oft-militant school of Bolt Thrower or Hail of Bullets. Despite ascribing to that style, the band brings an extremely varied songwriting style to the table. The seventeen minute album spends most its time hammering your skull with a mix of fast paced, chunky riffing and angular chord progressions, but the band slows things up with a few crawling tempos that could sink ships.
[read TheStormIRide's full review here]


Artwork by Turkka Rantanen.

[Taken from the Transcending Obscurity Bandcamp page:] This is our most ambitious and diverse label sampler yet. The bands have been carefully handpicked to represent what we feel is the best expression for that particular genre and as such this sampler is segregated as per the different styles we're specializing in. There's death metal, grind/crust, technical death metal, black metal, sludge metal, doom metal and of course the avant-garde bands. Here's a rough demarcation of the genres where possible:

Tracks 1-23 - death metal/grind/crust
Tracks 24-26 - technical death metal
Tracks 27-31 - sludge/doom metal
Tracks 32-41 - black metal
Tracks 42-48 - doom/death metal
Tracks 49-52 - avant-garde metal

January 5, 2020

Svrm - Занепад

By Justin C. I got hooked on Svrm’s new album, Занепад, from the first song alone, so I had to go and bug the Vigor Deconstruct folks until they gave me the rest of it. The album is actually pretty short by recent black metal standards
By Justin C.


I got hooked on Svrm’s new album, Занепад, from the first song alone, so I had to go and bug the Vigor Deconstruct folks until they gave me the rest of it. The album is actually pretty short by recent black metal standards--just 5 songs coming in at 21 minutes--but it feels much more expansive than the running time suggests.

Other than a second member providing some brief acoustic passages, Svrm is one-man Ukranian black metal. Google translate tells me the title means “Decline,” and the other song titles (at least the ones that Google didn’t hilariously butcher) are things like “In Hell” and “The Road to Death.” So yes, definitely bleak, but Svrm falls into an area of black metal that I’ve been calling, at least in my head, triumphant black metal. A good comparison would be Vanum’s Ageless Fire from earlier this year. That one is one of my personal AOTY, and Svrm pulses with the same kind of energy. Yes, Svrm’s vocal content is probably pretty bleak--it’s described as “rooted in Ukrainian lore,” and that’s a country that’s had a rough time since World War II.

But in spite of the pain and melancholy, there’s a feeling of restless, indomitable energy that comes through. If the last track is “The Road to Death,” then the music fights every step of the way. That track has drawn me in for repeated, end-on-end listens. The distorted, choral-like electronic effects that open the song give way to full-throttle second-wave BM, with that extra kick of defiance underneath, especially in the raspy shrieks right in the front of the mix. Another quieter interlude breaks in later, turning the song into a five-minute mini-epic that I get a little bit more from every time I listen.

I know it’s too early to start my best of album list for 2020, but I don’t care. I just found the first contender.

January 3, 2020

Dawn Ray'd - Behold Sedition Plainsong

By Kim Kelly. “It’s time for new tales of resistance!” is a hell of a way to open an album, but in Dawn Ray’d’s case the bravado is warranted. “Raise the Sails,” the string-speckled opening salvo on the Northern UK trio’s sophomore album, Behold Sedition Plainsong, is more of a warning than anything.
By Kim Kelly.


“It’s time for new tales of resistance!” is a hell of a way to open an album, but in Dawn Ray’d’s case the bravado is warranted. “Raise the Flails,” the string-speckled opening salvo on the Northern UK trio’s sophomore album, Behold Sedition Plainsong, is more of a warning than anything. When vocalist and violinist Simor Barr lets loose his mighty roar and lays out the bones of this latest manifesto, it’s hard not to feel a shiver of excitement (or dread) run up one’s spine.

This is a wild, powerful modern black metal record steeped in the language of revolution, and executed with the deadly precision of a battle-hardened firing squad. Melodic, aggressive, and heavy in all the right places (“Until the Forge Goes Cold” provides a masterclass in dynamic tension), Behold Sedition Plainsong is a brilliant piece of militant propaganda, designed to delight and inflame in equal measure. Its canny blend of epic black metal, winding folk melodies, and even funereal doom (as on “Soon Will Be the Age of Lessons Learnt,” which at certain moments sounds all the world like a cleaned-up Thou) is as refreshing as it is compelling, offering a thoroughly modern take on the genre while at times harkening back to the great old 90s folk black metal bands (but mercifully devoid of any cryptofascist heathen underpinnings).

Dawn Ray’d is a unique property in a genre flush with tired dogma, hokey theatrical bluster, and sly cryptofascist signaling, and the attention they’ve raked in as modern black metal’s premier anarchist standard-bearers is a breath of fresh air amidst cloying clouds of rot. It’s in that way they channel their venerable UK predecessors by exemplifying the Bolt Thrower creed: in a world of compromise, some don’t. This violin-powered, often grandiose black metal trio, with its roots in the industrial North of a politically-fractured island and its black flag flying high, have been on the vanguard of a new kind of metal resistance—and that influence is spreading.

Over the past several years, as the rise of global fascism has emboldened dotted cesspools of fascist scum and energized a new generation of radicals, the world of heavy metal has reacted in two ways—first, in the new wave of antifascist extreme metal has increasingly made its presence known, and secondly, in an upswing in reactionary or outright fascist elements rearing their ugly heads and caterwauling in defense of “keeping metal dangerous” (Never mind that most of the revered Second Wave black metal bands were founded in liberal social democratic Nordic countries and made up of spotty proto-edgelord teenagers practicing in government-subsidized studios).

Dawn Ray’d's contributions here cannot be understated. The very fact that a vocally, proudly antifascist band—let alone with one with an explicitly working class anarchist politic— has been invited to spread their message on some of metal’s biggest stages and been covered positively in all manner of publications (metal-focused and otherwise) continues to be a source of amazement. And, for those of us who came of age during a time when getting many metal fans to care even a little bit about injustice seemed like an insurmountable feat, it feels downright miraculous. It is even more satisfying to note that, politics aside, the quality of their compositions, musicianship, and songwriting have remained utterly top-tier; I cannot fathom why one would want to ignore a message like theirs, but if needs must, there is plenty for the alleged “apolitical” metalhead to appreciate here. One of Dawn Ray’d's greatest strengths has been their ability to write undeniably excellent black metal songs, and this sophomore effort is no exception; I’d challenge any black metal aficionado to stick on “To All, To All, To All!”— a blistering screed against wage slavery—and find fault with its icy melodic core, merciless blasts, or medieval-sounding folk passages torn straight from the Windir playbook, or for that matter, with the feral, melancholic roar of “Salvation Rite.”

Lest one assume that the album is a joyless manifesto punctuated by blastbeats, rest assured that there is still hope to be found among the ashes. Extreme metal has a long history of building power from below, and it’s that exact political strategy that will lead us out of perdition. As Dawn Ray’d ask plainly on “A Time for Courage at the Borderlands,” a smoldering folk-inflected elegiac for the refugees left to die at arbitrary settler-colonial borders,

What if all it took
To help get people through
Was someone else who could resist
What if that was you?

What if it was all of us? Imagine what a better world we could build.