Welcome back to ‘The Gathering’, a weekly segment focusing on new release material from a chosen extreme metal subgenre. This week all featured releases are black metal debuts (either debut EPs or debut full-length albums).
Over the decades black metal has become a massive beast with many arms, stretching from old school traditional black metal styles all the way to ambient, avant-garde, experimental, and contemporary styles. For this article, I’ve tried not to swing too wildly from the traditional or raw styles. So please enjoy the following mini-reviews and preview tracks from a selection of hand-picked recently released debut black metal material.
Title: Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna
Label: Shadow Records
Released: 09 July 2021
Do you like your black metal so raw that it’s still bleeding? Well, Hinsides may be the slab of under-cooked extreme metal that you’ve been craving. “Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna” is the stunningly stark, twenty-eight minute debut album for the Swedish one-man project.
Among the oppressive static fuzz, grim vocals and rabid drums you’ll find epic riffs and delightful hooks. Their are cheeky little melodies hiding amongst the bold aggression and thick atmospheres. There’s something really special about this album, in both it’s composition and the way that it’s so well crafted. I know that seems like a strange statement when referring to one of the most inaccessible subgenres of music on the planet but if you’re a black metal fan I know you’ll understand. “Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna” is beyond just an impressive debut, this feels momentous and worthy of attention.
Band: Velo Misere
Title: Monomanía del inexorable vacío
Label: Lunar Apparitions
Released: 15 September 2021
Formed in 2016, Spanish black metal quintet Velo Misere already have a demo and an EP under their belts but this month they have finally thrust forth a debut full length album. The album, titled “Monomanía del inexorable vacío”, will be available in both LP and digipak CD formats via Lunar Apparitions (a division of Nebula Carcoma).
This was my first exposure to the band and I’ll admit that I was floored by this album even on my first play through. This is a finely sculptured chunk of icy raw black metal mayhem. Everything about this bleak album spews a classic 90s-style filled with cold, despair, and suffering. Melodious guitars dance around in frigid atmospheres while anguished screams twist atop rabid raw drums. This is raw black metal of old and should satisfy those whose blood runs cold with a passion for the second-wave.
Band: Feral Lord
Title: Purity of Corruption
Label: Vargheist Records
Released: 28 August 2021
Country: United States
“Purity of Corruption” is the debut album for Los Angeles extreme metallers Feral Lord, and a follow up to last year’s EP “Victorious Hellfire”. The album delivers frenzied, feedback-laden, lo-fi black metal that is so manic and turbulent that at times it feels deranged. Each track, at some point, takes an interesting and unpredictable turn which keeps this album quite exciting. Kind of like taking a thrill ride through a wild field at night with a madman behind the wheel. Although quite muted and raw, the drum work is impressive and prominent throughout. On investigation I found that drummer ‘Plaguehammer’ has quite the resume, with connections to some 60+ (I stopped counting at sixty) current and former acts. Overall, Feral Lord’s debut feels wild, contemporary and is a satisfying thirty-six minute adventure into extreme metal madness.
Title: Catacomb Cult
Label: The Sinister Flame
Released: 06 August 2021
OK, let’s switch things up a bit. Next we have the long awaited debut full-length album from German black metal veterans Baxaxaxa. The band initially formed some twenty-nine years ago, back in 1992. They gained some acclaim in the underground with their first demo but then the members concentrated on other projects and Baxaxaxa fell silent. Well, until a few years ago, when out of the blue they released a demo and then EP. Now finally they’ve put forth their new album “Catacomb Cult”.
I listened to this and the above album back to back and they could not be more different. “Catacomb Cult” feels timeless, as genuine as if it had been unsealed from a buried time capsule. The old school sound is authentic and the delivery is tight, cohesive, quite well thought out and executed. The traditional black metal sound on the album is built on a strong foundation of classic doom, made evident in opening 50 seconds of track one which features the familiar chime of a church bell, ominous wailing guitar, and sporadic, dramatically placed drums. The album is mostly mid-tempo which brings out the evil darkness just perfectly. The vocals are exquisitely sinister and the atmosphere is always thick and menacing. Baxaxaxa have delivered an absolutely magnificent offering and I can safely confess that as a new devotee I now worship at the altar of the Catacomb Cult.
Title: Aurea Aetas
Label: Personal Records
Released: 03 September 2021
Grandeur is a newly formed project from Austria that have released their debut effort in the form of the EP “Aurea Aetas”. Although originally released in June, the EP has also received a CD release through Personal Records earlier this month.
“Aurea Aetas” showcases an engaging and unique style of melodious yet crusty black metal. The five tracks are generally fast, no frills, and raw, with an old school feel. However, the production is clean enough to let all the frenzied independent elements pierce through. The guitars are rich and masterful and complimented by the agonised vocals which add a cold bleakness to the overall atmosphere. Grandeur has unleashed a robust debut effort and one that you should get into your ear holes now.
Title: Teyacanilitztli Nahualli
Label: Nuclear War Now! Productions
Released: 01 August 2021
Country: US/ Colombia
I thought this little-known gem would be a fitting end to this week’s debut black metal feature. So for those of you who stuck around to the end, here’s something a little unique.
Ixtlahuac is a fascinating international duo who formed in 2018 and has members in Colombia and the United States. The debut “Teyacanilitztli Nahualli” is a grim, raw, old school black metal delight. “Teyacanilitztli Nahualli” is brimming with thick, muddy sound, blasting raw drums, delicious tremolo work, wild runs, killer riffs and gruff, roaring vocals. There’s the occasional injection of indigenous/ pre-hispanic folk elements or animal calls which really adds something special in the mix. Although I was unable to translate many of the song titles (which appear to be Mesoamerican in origin), I found this debut work fascinating and fully engrossing. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Ixtlahuac as this was a truly exciting discovery for me. I highly recommend you check them out!
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