Mørkt Tre – To the Graves of the Smoldering Time

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What is there to say about the debut album spawned from the elusive Ukrainian black metal outfit, Morkt Tre?  Its haunting sound emanates in obscurity, as Morkt Tre’s identity in unknown.  Somewhat of a masterpiece, To the Graves of Smoldering Time consists of six meaty tracks, entitled Opus I-VI, ranging from ambient to atmospheric.  What I really like about this album is its ability to bend the defining black metal norms with an avant-garde approach while never losing the coldness that marks the black metal sound.

The album demands more of the listener with its opening track, a beautiful ambient song, with parts reminiscent of depressive breaks found on Drudhk or Old Forest albums, and other parts purely meditative.  Slow and captivating, Opus I sets the tone for the rest of the album.  The album has the characteristics of a true opus with the band’s fluid progression into the a more orthodox black metal feel in track two.  The progressions on this album are truly remarkable.  Everything from blasting intensity, to emotive melody, to ambient dreamscapes is featured on this album.  All elements interact in perfect harmony with each other.

The notably lo-fi production creates a cold atmosphere that draws the listener in.  If you’re a fan of kvlt black metal production done well, To the Graves of Smoldering Time is the album for you.  The ambient tracks, Opus I and IV, help to further grab the listener and set a pace for the remainder of the album.  While, at times, I found some of the keyboard parts on the ambient tracks to be a bit extravagant, they did not detract from the emotional experience rendered from listening to the LP.  As I said earlier, To the Graves of Smoldering Time demands more of the listener.  You have to have patience to build up to the climax.  This album really comes to a head in tracks V and VI.

An ambient interlude leads up to the most aggressive yet digestible riff on the album in Opus V and continues on this path, with emotion inducing, hypnotic melody driving the remainder of the track.  Opus VI is a prelude to the band’s earlier work, which was largely unknown, as this album still is.  The progressions of Opus VI are effortless in their ability to keep listeners chilled to the bone.  The song ends with a really cool bagpipe solo.  Even folk elements are found on this album!  I highly recommend checking To the Graves of Smoldering Time.  Aside from having the coolest album art I’ve seen in a while (it kind of makes me think of that Bathory song, The Lake, and the one-eyed old man), this album delivers in all ways.  A beautiful blend of ambience and aggression that delves into new territory while continuing to pay homage to the kvlt elite, To the Graves of Smoldering Time is a true work of art.

 9/10

You can purchase the album easily on Bandcamp when it releases on February 11.  Seriously, give these guys money.

https://mrkttre.bandcamp.com/album/to-the-graves-of-the-smoldering-time

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Underworld Zine’s Top 6 Black Metal Documentaries

Black metal has a rich and fascinating history, rife with scandal, infamy, and philosophy.  Because of the sensationalism of it all, black metal documentaries are among the most interesting music documentaries to watch.  In the precursory years before the alleged release of the Lords of Chaos movie, which will either be an abomination or a masterpiece with literally no in-between, I found myself glued to Youtube, binge watching a copious amounts of music documentaries, specifically covering black metal.  These are my top six picks.

6. Murder Music- The History of Black Metal

murderMurder Music takes the number six position on the list.  Narrated by the beautiful Candy René Ackermann, Murder Music- A History of Black Metal explores the depths of the world’s most controversial style of music chronologically and thoroughly. Featuring interviews from Venom’s Mantas, Abbath, Dani Filth, Satyricon’s Satyr, Hellhammer, journalist Didrik Søderlind, and even Mayhem vocalist Attila, this documentary covers all bases.  What I like about the documentary is that the focus is clear.  It’s about the music and the history of the genre.  Director’s even go so far as to cover the origins of occult music by including an interview with 60’s satanic icons, Black Widow.  This is a good one.

5. True Norwegian Black Metal

truenorwegianblackmetalThis documentary series was a particularly interesting one given that the main focus is on infamous Gorgoroth frontman, Gaahl.  VICE journalist, Peter Best interviews the enigmatic Norwegian vocalist at his home and viewers get an inside look at the man behind the corpse paint.  We get a look at his artwork, his grandfather’s house, and an eye-opening look into his ideology.  The ending, which features a frustrated Gaahl refusing to answer the journalist’s question or even acknowledge him, captures the essence of the man coined by tabloids as the most evil man alive.  Definitely worth the time.

4. Black Metal Satanica

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This documentary is fascinating, as it explores the philosophy, ideology, and history of black metal in Scandinavia.  Focusing primarily on the second wave, with only brief, compulsory introduction on early black metal, director Mats Lundberg gives us an in-depth look at the meaning behind black metal, covering everything from Nordic legend, race relations, down to Scandinavian tradition.  Interviews with members of Watain, Enslaved, and others are complex and visceral.  Mats Lundberg’s foreboding narration adds a nice touch to a documentary that will have you hooked immediately.

3. Black Metal- The Music of Satan

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Ignore the intro on this documentary.  Seriously, skip it if you have to, because once you get into the meat of this documentary, you won’t be disappointed.  This film is directed unlike any other black metal documentary, in that it focuses not on the predictable, sensationalist jargon typical of other documentaries, but on the men behind the music.  Huge names like Fenriz, King Diamond, Cronos, Abbath, Dani Filth, and more are interviewed backstage, in their element and stripped of the corpse paint and image.  Beer is present and there are a lot of hilarious moments.  While the journalists ask prying questions about Christianity, racism in metal, and church burnings, it’s all done in a fun, lighthearted manner.  This is a limited edition DVD.  While you can stream most of it on Youtube and DailyMotion, it’s worth dropping the ten bucks to watch the full version along with the bonus video.  Simply stellar.

2. Metal’s Unexplored Fringes- One Man Metal

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Back in 2012, Noisy of all publications, released the only documentary, to my knowledge, to cover the murky caverns of one man, depressive black metal.  The documentary features interviews with three defining one man bands, Leviathan, Xasthur, and Striborg.  The fact that the interviewer only focuses on the men behind these three bands, means the interviews get extremely deep and personal.  Jeff Whitehead (Leviathan) talks about his trouble past as a foster child, Scott Conner (Xasthur) disscusses his deeply misanthropic worldview, and Sin Nanna (Striborg) discusses overcoming drug abuse and the impact isolation has had on his music.  The questions are invasive but never prying and the direction of this documentary flows seemlessly, leaving viewers glued to the screen.  This is a documentary you can watch over and and over and never get bored.  If you haven’t seen it, watch it now, you poser.

  1. Until the Light Takes Us   

This is a no brainer, Until the Light Takes Us is the best documentary on black metal, hands down.  This documentary features the biggest names in the genre, Fenriz, Varg Vikernes, Frost, and more up close and personal, giving the viewers an inside look into their lives.  We get to see sides of Fenriz we’ve never seen before as he discusses his interest in art and electronica.  Varg is interviewed from jail and gets personal about his feelings toward Fenriz, talks about his checkered past, and his opinions on American and Norwegian culture.  Frost performs in a local art show.  The lack of structure and focus on regular conversation make this documentary fantastic for true fans of black metal, interested in getting to know their favorite artists better. It’s truly a masterpiece.

Honorable Mentions:

Once Upon A Time in Norway: This probably could have made the list but I am American and don’t want to read subtitles.  Don’t beat me up for being honest.

Per “Dead” Ohlin- Documentary: This is a really cool documentary that focuses on the life of the deeply troubled Per Ohlin of Mayhem.  Really well done documentary.

What are you favorite black metal documentaries?  List them in the comments.

Epidemia- Leprocomio

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From the bowels of Ecuador comes death metal outfit Epidemia.  The band released their second full length LP, Lepricomio, on Russian extreme metal label Satanath Records back in May of 2016 and has received little exposure.  This is unfair, I believe, since Lepricomio is a solidly brutal effort that melts faces upon impact.

Considering the band has been brutalizing audiences for over a decade and has only released two full length albums to date, one can only assume the band suffers from underground band syndrome, which is unsettling from such a promising band. Pulverizing riffs and bone crushing, true metal breakdowns are the meat of Leprocomio.

The more aggressive parts of the album are defined by the cohesive tangibility which induces immediate head banging.  The sound is reminscent of bands like Revel in Flesh or even Dismember.  Solos on the album are eerily Death inspired, the drums are face melting, and Adrian Salazar’s vocals are a clear and classic low growl.  What I found most appealing about this album was the fluidity in the progressions.  Changes in progression flowed nicely which made for an enjoyable listening experience.

Stand out tracks on the album were Retribución homicida (that fucking opening riff) and Agonistes en el inframundo.  This is a band that deserves much more exposure. Fans of old school, gripping death metal with bone crushing blasts, blistering solos, and breakdowns played the way they were meant to be played, take note.  Ecuador’s Epidemia is definitely worth your time.

8.5/10

Curse of Denial- The Thirteenth Sign

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Born from the ashes of the instrumental trio, Pawns in Chess, Curse of Denial are yet another super group to come out of the infamous Cleveland metal scene.  Curse of Denial features former members of Descend as well as famed Decrepit vocalist, Rob Molzen.  Their debut, The Thirteenth Sign, which is due for release on February 3, is a thrashy and epic call to the old school death metal sound Cleveland is known for.

The album begins ominously with an intro entitled Ophiuchus the Winding Serpent, effortlessly setting the pace for the remainder of the album.  The whispering chant in the intro is a bit cheesy but in an endearing way.  Curse of Denial’s sound is an interesting mix of old school death metal, with hints of blackened melody, and even an injection of Iron Maiden like epic-ness.  Tracks like Curse of Izebel, Premonition, and the aptly named Pawns in Chess, really set the tone for the overall feel of this release.

I was a bit disappointed in the lack of blast beats on this album, which I felt, took away from the aggression on this album.  I think the band was attempting to produce a more mature, old school sound but it was somewhat lacking the violent ambiance signature of the old school death metal sound.  Jeremy McLellon’s blistering solos scattered neatly throughout the album make up for any lack in brutality, however.  Overall, I think this is a solid release from a promising band emerging from the Cleveland scene.  I look forward to hearing more from Curse of Denial.  Pre-order their CD on Redefining Darkness Records website.

7/10

Forteresse-Thèmes pour la rébellion

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The negativity of 2016 led to an outpouring of great metal releases including the fifth effort from French Canadian black metal foursome Forteresse (which translates rather easily to Fortress).   Forteresse doesn’t have the same muted, agressive feel of other Canadian metal bands well known in America,  like Mitochondrian or Adversarial.  Instead, the band relies heavily melodic, pretty riffs and a larger than life, bombastic sound that hooks listeners upon impact.  From the first notes of Spectre de la rébellion, Thèmes pour la rébellion assaults listeners, swooping them into an epic battle scene, triumphant and wild.

Forteresse uses tri notes and dissonance in predictable but captivating ways, creating an ethereal atmosphere that’s both mesmerizing and highly memorable, leaving you wanting more.  They even inject clean and epic chanting into tracks like  Là où nous allons similar to that of Old Forest or even Summoning.  The ambiance of the final instrumental track, Le dernier voyage, is eerily reminiscent of Burzum’s more ambiant tracks like Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte

The naturalistic sound effects scattered throughout the album are nice touch and add to the underlying atmosphere found on this album.  Thèmes pour la rébellion had me lost in its hooks throughout the entire album.  The spellbinding release is meant to be taken in as whole as every song bleeds beautifully into the next with no boring filler.

Forteresse has me feeling even more hopeful about the diversity of the budding metal scene coming out of Quebec.  The feel of the album is victorious throughout which adds a nice touch.  Thèmes pour la rébellion could easily become a classic in the black metal archives with its focus on treble-y spellbinding melody, dreamy ambiance, and epic atmosphere.  This album is truly a gem.

9/10

UADA- Devoid of Light

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As much as I’d like to herald US black metal band, UADA’s debut, “Devoid of Light” as in the running for 2016’s album of the year, to do so goes against my better judgement as this album is an obvious copy of MGLA’s “Exercises in Futillity”. Following the footsteps of so many Dissection copy cats, however, UADA delivers, despite their plagiarism.

There are moments on “Devoid of Light” that are absolutely hypnotizing.  UADA immediately assaults listeners with repetitive tri-notes and dissonant atmosphere in the first riffs of the album.  It’s black metal 101, sure to be a crowd pleaser.  Still, I’ve noticed black metal is moving in a strangely palatable direction, where intensity is anticipated at certain intervals. Slow melodic breaks, and even rock and roll riffs  are peppered throughout the mix as if to ease one into the intensity to come.  It’s a far cry from the panzer attack of the earlier, genre defining, Norwegian bands.  Still, Norway’s been a sad old hat as of late, and I have come to enjoy the recent spectral aura of some modern black metal bands, despite the palatability.

“Devoid of Light” is a five song journey through the subconscious.  Emotion inducing dissonant repetitiveness is the highlight of this album still, UADA throws in surprising progressions, leaving listeners excited throughout the album.  Initially, it was the title track that caught my attention.  Alternating between piercing melody, crude slow licks, and utter blitzkrieg, Deviod of Light’s title track, is highly memorable.  After listening to the album in its entirety, however, I’d have to say track three, entitled S.N.M. is my favorite.  The shrill, tortured howls, cyclical guitar tracks, and primitive breaks bring me back to Filosofem era Burzum.

The final track on “Devoid of Light”, “Black Autumn White Spring”, is one of those songs you need to be patient for.  The song’s intro is intense initially, only to be followed by four minutes of slow and boring filler until an Iron Maiden like break once again leads you into intensity.  The solo at the end is probably the best on the album; utterly captivating. So while this album is somewhat unoriginal, it delivers a hearty dose of the same old same old played to near perfection.

7.5/10