Enigmatic Ukrainian kvlt black metal band Windswept, founded by Drudkh mastermind Roman Sayenko are streaming their entire new album The Onlooker. The stream is live now at Season of Mist’s YouTube Channel and out tomorrow, February 8th! Continue reading
Never giving interviews and never playing live shows is certainly a good way to give your band a certain mystique. It may seem pretentious and it does mean the art you create loses another dimension by never gracing the ears of a live audience, but there is something to be admired in letting the music quite literally speak for itself, especially when the scene is over saturated. Continue reading
Ukraine based black metal wizards Drudkh has released a brand new song ‘U Dakhiv Irzhavim Kolossyu’. This track comes from their upcoming album due from Season of Mist on March 9th, dubbed Їм часто сниться капіж (They Often See Dreams About the Spring). Jam out to the bleak track below. Continue reading
Part three of the Ghost Cult Magazine countdown to our Album of 2015.
And now the end is near, and so we face 2015’s final curtain, and once more the Ghost Cult army got together to vote for their favourites. The results? Over 20 writers pitched and voted on over 220 albums ranging from indie pop to the most horrific savage tentacle laden death metal showing the depth, breadth and class of the official Ghost Cult Album of the Year for 2015.
The countdown (to extinction) continues…
“The Children of the Night, save for snarled vocals and horror themed lyrics, is a classic heavy metal record, far more interested in melody and catchy songs than aggression and violence; a brave record from an exceedingly talented set of musicians who are just that more subtle when it comes to what style of darkness works best.”
“…something has happened here; an unsettling event or rite of passage, propelling this captivating outfit to the stars without drastically changing their identity. In doing so it has enabled the band to create its most sombre, hypnotic, emotive and supreme piece of work.”
“Where The Raven… was mysterious and downright grave emotionally, the new album is poignant and uplifting almost all the way through. Even in somber moments, the songs have an underlying feeling of hopefulness that defies the melancholy. Wilson is a master delivering the unbridled beast of a song in a beautiful package.”
“Seething with a fulminating ire, yet showing unexpected versatility; if you’re pissed off with parents and / or bullies, but don’t want an ignominious revenge to stick you on the front pages, exercise your frustration with these guys instead.”
“Like all great Drudkh releases, this is an album that reveals more with every listen, a rousing yell of defiance backed by a passionate beating heart. Tenth full-length release A Furrow Cut Short is one of their finest efforts to date.”
“Writing this review is a bit like trying to make conversation with a devastatingly attractive woman – all I could initially think of to write about each song was “Fucking Brilliant”. In summary, Deliverance is a stunning piece of work that can only be criticised for coming to an end. More of this please lads.”
“Death jams like ‘In the Name of Amun’ and ‘Age of Famine’ give way to breadth and dizzying tempo changes, the kind of searing death metal that recalls prime Morbid Angel. If the prog fans and metal elitists can get past the death grunts and learn to love the blast beat they may just find a band fawn over other than Dream Theater.”
“A sprawling mini-opus, one that tells us much of where this band can really go musically in the future. While not as groundbreaking or original as Sunbather, which any band would be challenged to follow, New Bermuda hits you in all the right G-spots musically and emotionally for one of 2015’s undoubtedly finest releases.”
“Despite the overwhelming misanthropy that is conveyed, the seamless flow and rousing melodies are emotive and enriching. It’s an album crafted with passion and dedication, which is overtly evident in their music. Mgła have honed a pioneering sound that is now getting the recognition it so very much deserves.”
Ghost Cult Album of the Month – June “The boys have put out one monster of a record. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, get yourself a gallon of Pike Juice instead and keep an eye out for an upcoming tour date near you.”
In an age where all the mystique has vanished from the extreme music scene, Drudkh’s uncompromising no live shows/interviews/promo pictures/music videos approach is to be cherished, for it is the music they produce that is the only thing that matters. Of course the flipside to this is that the band are open to unsavoury accusations from those who seek to project their own agendas; despite no association with extremist ideology, Drudkh have been branded a far-right band primarily due to their lyrical references to nationalist Ukrainian poets.
While the four members may still draw inspiration from the glories and failings of their country’s past, it’s likely that the present is currently a far more pressing concern. The conflict in Ukraine shows no sign of abating, and with death and destruction a daily concern, it’s a wonder that they have been able to record a new album. But we should be thankful they have, for tenth full-length release A Furrow Cut Short (all Drudkh releases are Season of Mist) is one of their finest efforts to date.
The first thing one notices after pressing play is just how much passion Drudkh have captured here. The dry post-rock flavours of 2010’s Handful of Stars and the somewhat formulaic approach of 2012’s Eternal Turn of the Wheel have been consigned to the dustbin, with a much-needed injection of self-belief and renewed vigour the order of the day. Opening track ‘Cursed Sons’ follows the traditional Drudkh pattern of rapid, windswept riffing, energised percussion and sorrowful melodies, but is just that much more alive and urgent than on recent efforts, with vocalist Thurios in particular sounding mightily pissed off. The second part of the track slows down towards the end before racing off into an utterly triumphant finish complete with a fantastic guitar melody.
The influence Drudkh have had on current UK darlings Winterfylleth is evident in the magnificent driving riffs and subtle soaring keyboards of ‘To the Epoch of Unbowed Poets’, a stirring call-to-arms that harks back to the glory days of 2004’s Autumn Aurora, conjuring images of soldiers marching to war under a glaring sunset. Elsewhere, ‘Embers’ slows the pace slightly for a thoroughly melodic and more introspective six-odd minutes before the aggression returns with a vengeance on the first part of eighteen minute two-part epic ‘Dishonour’, with part two giving off a strong Burzum feel with its gloomy refrains and vicious, snarled vocals.
This is still main man Roman Saenko’s baby of course. As the main songwriter and guitarist, the man appears to be a bottomless well of creativity, and his guitar playing is capable of evoking emotion like few others. Well versed in black metal lore yet resolute in his vision, Saenko is a true artist who has made a fiercely private band from Eastern Europe into one of the most respected and revered acts in the annals of underground music. The music he and his comrades have captured on A Furrow Cut Short may not quite hit the heights of 2006’s magnificent Blood in Our Wells but it has come pretty damn close. Like all great Drudkh releases, this is an album that reveals more with every listen, a rousing yell of defiance backed by a passionate beating heart.
The influence of nature and earth on black metal has become somewhat more of a recurrent theme in recent times. Some of black metal’s current champions such as Drudkh, Wodensthrone and Winterfylleth have embraced inspiration from such landscapes, in some degrees from their own locales rather than necessarily the stereotypical Satanic lyrical content of the genre’s forebears; also offering a more atmospheric approach. On this split, From Moonrise To Moonset (Blackwood), we see the contributions from two upcoming UK bands of such an ilk, with some variation in style and result.
The first half sees contributions from Torver, beginning with an ominous, gradually building introduction track, complete with wolf howling and strings, setting the tone and expectations quite high. The following tracks ‘Naked Moonrise’ and ‘Lunar Ritual’ are both bold examples of forward thinking Black Metal, alternating in pace between a slow crawl to more uptempo, and combining typical shrills with an eerie chant like drawl. A lot of positives to take but sadly it becomes unstuck by a thin production which buries the vocals far into the mix and kills some of its atmospheric air.
In the production stakes Arcane North’s half fairs a whole lot better and thus has a much more encapsulating tone to it. Vocally this is on much more familiar territory but elsewhere it still holds an ambitious streak, but is simultaneously familiar for the less au fait with the genre. As a result it is much more immediate and is certainly the more recommended part.
Neither band gives a complete or perfect offering, but both bands show a lot of potential, if not very much to differentiate in an arena that is starting to get a lot more crowded.
Torver on Facebook
There are two things I want to get out of the way before I get into this. The first is that I’ve never really seen the appeal of the whole Atmospheric Pine Forest BM thing – even ignoring the uncomfortable nationalist overtones, Winterfylleth, Wodensthrone and Drudkh et al leave me cold, and A Forest Of Stars seem like a band who had a great idea for an image, but rushed into the studio before they’d written any songs. It’s not a style I’m inclined towards, despite its current popularity, so when an album in that style does click with me it’s something to pay attention to.
The second thing is that Fen have made me rewrite my End Of Year List just over a week before the deadline, and for that I am not happy with them.
On paper Fen are very much part of the aforementioned Black Metal subgenre, and their previous albums have all passed me by much like their peers, but despite no obvious shifts in style Carrion Skies (Code 666) manages to transcend the limitations of its chosen style. A big part of the problem with this music for me is that “atmospheric” is frequently an excuse for nothing to happen – big, heart-rending riffs take their own sweet time to float majestically past, and everything is filled with a sense of mounting tension that never goes anywhere – but Carrion Skies is dynamic. Songs are long but eventful, striding purposefully from huge riffs and tormented shrieks to more contemplative passages as if THERE’S ACTUALLY A GOOD REASON FOR THEM TO DO THAT, rather than it simply being lazy musical short-hand for “we are interesting”. There are suggestions of latter-day Enslaved at several points, but without the sense of lazy back-slapping and tedious “maturity” that plagues their recent albums.
Another thing that’s frequently absent from the more “atmospheric” or “progressive” Black Metal bands is passion. Indeed, it’s a concept that Black Metal bands frequently struggle with balancing effectively, either overloading on it to the point that they’re constantly spitting fury anger and nothing else, or they’ve traded in all their feeling for vague “atmosphere” and ripping off a bunch of second-hand Pink Floyd references (hello again, Enslaved). Carrion Skies is a passionate album, charged with fist-waving bravado, teary-eyed loss, bits that go Duh-Nuh! Duh-duh-nuh! and all the other ridiculous stuff that makes Metal great, but it balances that passion with a thoughtful, contemplative approach to song-writing which strengthens rather than detracts from it.
What really makes Carrion Skies stand out not just in its own subgenre but in Extreme Metal in genre is the depth and range of expression. Extreme Metal is by nature monolithic – that’s frequently one of its selling points – and it’s rare to hear an album that spends much time exploring more than one mood. We can have Angry, Sad, Majestic or Bat-shit Insane, but having more than one of them across an album is ambitious, and blending several together in a rich, unfolding tapestry of more than one feeling? Is that even legal?
Carrion Skies is certainly one of the Metal albums of the year in any sub-genre, and a genuinely impressive achievement for a band who until now have usually been mentioned in reference to other, similar bands. It ranks alongside new releases by Pyrrhon and Tombs (with whom they share some similarities, but Fen are the rawer, rockier, more achingly human cousin to Tombs’ Neurosis-driven thunder) as the richest and most emotionally expressive Metal albums of 2014, and should have something to offer even to people who haven’t previously found Fen and their peers terribly interesting.
In answering the question “What types of music do you like?” one suspects that one is not alone in having answered, from time to time, thus: “ I like two types of music: “heavy” and “metal””. Nurse! Nurse! My sides, they are splitting. For all its supposed open-mindedness and sense of camaraderie, the world of heavy metal can be something of a closed shop with an equally closed mind. It can be a bit of a sense of; you’re either “with us or agin us”. This is fine and understandable to a point but it also can lead to a lack of imagination, a narrow mindedness of view and a dearth of creativity.
I was thinking about this odd paradox when reviewing this beautifully composed and arranged compilation album from the lovely folk at Seasons of Mist. One and All, Together, For Home is a compilation of folk tunes, brilliantly and expertly curated by Roman Saenko of Ukranian black/pagan metal outfit Drukdh and delivered with insight, passion and inventiveness from some of the more interesting bands around at the moment – Primordial, Winterfylleth, Kampfar, Himinbjorg to name but a few.
One and All… is one of those records that has so self-evidently been put together with love and insight, head and heart that one cannot fail but to be utterly captivated and enthralled by the resulting product. Saenko’s aim with this project has been to take a piece of historical folk music from the country of each of the bands represented here and to see what interpretation they would bring and, more, how the folk music of their heritage and hinterland had shaped and influenced their own creative and artistic impulses. The results are surprising, inventive and never anything less than beguiling.
Let’s take Ireland’s Primordial and the UK’s Winterfylleth as two examples of what I am referring to. Primordial’s connection to with Ireland – in the musical and metaphysical senses of the word – has never been in doubt. Here, that connection is amplified and deepened through their contributions; a brooding, contemplative ‘Dark Horse on the Wind’ and a startling rework of ‘The Foggy Dew’, the classic Irish lament, rich in alienation and discord is perfect for vocalist Alan Averill who brings a solemnity and melancholy that is both apposite and baleful.
There’s always been an intelligence and sense of history running through Winterfylleth’s work and their interpretation of ‘John Barleycorn’ only serves to underscore this. Ostensibly a song about drinking, Barleycorn is part of a much deeper English tradition that drives back to medieval times and is part of a broader pastoral heritage examining man’s changing yet enduring relationship with the land. If this is not the sort of thing you would expect to read about when reading a review of a standard heavy metal record, then you would be correct because this is not a standard heavy metal record.
Elsewhere on this exemplary compilation, we travel through Norwegian forests – literal and of the imagination – courtesy of Kampfar, swirl through the historical imagination of Finnish black metal stalwarts Haive, burn across the Gallic countryside and have evocations of Portugese fantasy courtesy of Himinbjorg and Ave Inferi respectively.
There are two aspects of One for All… that linger. First, despite the diversity of the artists involved, geographically and artistically, this is a cohesive body of work underpinned by the traditional folk architecture. Second, you get a very real sense of how heavy metal artists form part of a broader and much richer musical narrative that reaches back much further and deeper than the now familiar story of heavy metal’s genesis in late 1960’s England would seem to suggest.
More, One for All… places folk and metal as unlikely but compelling bedfellows, giving voice and presence to the lonely, the outsider and the dispossessed. When seen in that context, this compilation not only makes complete sense but feels curiously overdue.
While British Black Metal has never been regarded as the crème de la crème of the genre (despite inventing the bloody thing), the tide has turned in recent years with the likes of Anaal Nathrakh, The Axis of Perdition and Fen doing Albion proud. One band it has been impossible to ignore from these fair shores has been Manchester quartet Winterfylleth, whose odes to Blighty’s ancient past have struck a chord with those searching for a bit more meaning in their homegrown talent. After three albums of high quality “English Heritage Black Metal”, Winterfylleth are sitting pretty and new album The Divination of Antiquity (Candlelight) looks set to continue their ever-so glorious reign.
With a concept referencing the lessons we learn from history, The Divination of Antiquity shows a band looking back at past glories for inspiration, but also addressing old mistakes. While the influences remain obvious for those with a keen ear; early Borknagar, Ulver and Drudkh being key reference points, Winterfylleth’s sound is entirely their own, with the soaring riffs and epic melodies of Chris Naughton and Mark Wood flowing thick and fast, while the ceaseless battery of Simon Lucas behind the kit ensures proceedings are urgent and alive. While previous full-length The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight) had a tendency to fall back on repetition and too-familiar song structures, the nine tracks on offer here each present something different and wholly engaging.
The title track kicks things off with a flurry of violent riffs and aggressive motifs with Naughton’s trademark howling vocals sounding utterly assured while ‘Whisper of the Elements’ wraps a variety of mournful melodies around a steamroller of a riff, employing the mix of aggression and calm that comes so naturally to the band. ‘Warrior Herd’ harks back to the blurry black metal of debut album The Ghost of Heritage (Profound Lore) while ‘A Careworn Heart’ sees the first appearance of the solemn acoustics and choral vocals that fans have come to love and expect before the mid-paced riffs that follow allow the band to branch out slightly and experiment with unfamiliar themes. We only get one instrumental this time with the gorgeous acoustic strains of ‘The World Ahead’ showing how folk should be done while the measured yet crushing guitars of closing track ‘Forsaken in Stone’ carry us off over the peaks to reveal the glory below.
With each band member contributing more and improving in skill with each release, Winterfylleth are a joy to behold. In a scene renowned for gimmicks and plagiarism, their brand of sweeping, epic black metal just keeps revealing more with each release, and while the concepts explored in their lyrics won’t have you running out to join UKIP, they may just make you think a bit about your heritage and your connection to the landscape. And while they may sing about the past, with songs as strong as these, the future of British Black Metal is safe in the hands of Winterfylleth.
Ukrainian Black metallers Blood of Kingu are back with a new album, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon (Season of Mist). It’s the third full length from the Babylonian-themed quintet, and continues in a similar vein to their previous efforts; black, bleak and unrelenting.
Led by Drudkh’s Roman Saenko, Blood of Kingu follow all the expectations of a proper black metal band; long song titles, blast beat, indecipherable lyrics and buzzsaw riffing. It’s pretty relentless stuff, full of dark atmosphere. And, unlike many records in the genre, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon boasts some decent production values.
Opening with ‘Crowned Scarlet Moon Is Waiting for Eclipse,’ we’re given five minutes of pure blast beat fury, demonic vocals and endless abrasive riffing. It’s a good opening, managing to summon some really bleak and grim sounds. However, despite the promising opening, the album never really goes anywhere interesting. All the songs are samey and repetitive and there’s never any deviation from tried and tested formulas. The two ambient interludes really add to the eeriness of it all, before it returns to the standard blast beating fare.
For those who like their metal as Kvlt as possible, Blood of Kingu offer all the right genre tropes. For anyone who likes to see Black metal pushing the boundaries however, Dark Star on the Right Horn of the Crescent Moon offers little fresh or interesting.