It’s a testament to the amount of great metal released last year that I’m still playing catch-up three months deep into the new year. One of the “ones that got away” in 2013 is Hercyn, a quartet hailing from Jersey City, New Jersey who are off to a most impressive start with Magda, their self-released debut demo. Consisting of a single track that clocks in just shy of twenty-four minutes, Magda is proof positive that even at this early stage in the game, Hercyn are already aspiring to be much more than your run-of-the-mill black metal outfit.
Try as I might to seek out and cover as much worthy US black metal as humanly possible at THKD (and Backlit), it’s inevitable that some bands slip though the cracks. I’m just one man and as such it’s physically impossible for me to listen to everything that gets released over the course of a year. Fortunately, a few bands have the stones to be proactive and put their music in front of my face rather than wait around for me to stumble upon them. One such band is Nihilistinen Barbaarisuus, who put out two stellar releases last year in the form of Synkkä Tuuli and Väinämöinen.
There are brutal death metal bands, and then there’s Benighted. The French five-piece do everything they possibly can to shit all over the subgenre’s rule book by crafting catchy songs that you can actually tell apart, utilizing highly eclectic vocals and injecting their music with a classiness that other bands just flat-out lack, and yet somehow they come out the other end sounding even more devastating because of it. What’s more brutal, a beating that you can recall nearly every bone-snapping minute of, or one that goes by in an unmemorable blur?
Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Ritual Decay are a power trio plying a particularly nasty-ass brand of blackened death metal. On The Conquering Darkness, their debut demo from the seemingly unstoppable Caligari Records, the band aren’t likely to be accused of being innovators anytime soon, but their patently ugly, primitive assault more than makes up for their staunch traditionalism. It’s a ripping opening salvo from a trio of musicians who are obviously dedicated to their craft.
Hellébore’s Anouof thwo is the second of two cassettes recently unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses by the great Sol y Nieve. Whereas the other release, Nemorensis’ The Lady in the Lake is an exploration of black metal’s earthy, elemental qualities, Hellébore’s take on the genre reaches for the deepest, darkest corners of the universe. Indeed, the giant telescope gracing Anouof thwo‘s cover art is telling, as this solitary project delivers just over forty minutes of raw yet infinitely astral black metal.
Leave it to Caligari Records to make waves with their first foray into full-on death metal by unearthing not one but two of the gnarliest demos out there and cramming them both onto one cassette. The label has already proven with just a few releases under its belt that it has a knack for digging up killer black metal, but this nasty little bastard of a tape proves they’re no one trick pony. In one corner, we have French horde Skelethal and in the other Swedish psychos Inisans; it’s an old school DM battle royal that sees them serving up four tracks each of blood, guts and buzzsaw riffs.
Nemorensis is about as obscure an entity as it gets these days; the band isn’t on Metal Archives and their Bandcamp page offers no biographical information whatsoever, with only a “USA” tag betraying their country of origin. As far as I can tell, said page is their only internet presence, making them truly inscrutable in an era where every band no matter how big or small seems to be waging full-on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/etc war in order to gain listeners. Their music is an equally enigmatic brew of baleful ambience and lo-fi black metal, making The Lady in the Lake, their debut for up-and-coming cassette label Sol y Nieve that much more intriguing.
Kult of Taurus are a Greek five-piece who released their debut full-length, Divination Labyrinths, late last year via the always-reliable Forever Plagued Records. While their home country has an incredibly rich black metal tradition, the band largely eschews the tried ‘n’ true genre tropes in favor of a more dynamic, somewhat experimental approach that’s much closer to latter-day Deathspell Omega than to say, Rotting Christ. Indeed, the quintet’s debut album is a breath of fresh air, but it seems to have flown under most listeners’ metal radars.
I first made mention of the one-man experimental metal madness that is The Sun Through a Telescope as a band to look out for back in 2011, when Bandcamp was just beginning to worm its way into the hearts and minds of metalheads. While those early TSTAT releases skewed toward corrosive, feedback-drenched drone, the project took a drastic step forward later on that year with the release of the Summer Darkyard EP, which saw mainman Lee Neutron beginning to incorporate elements of black metal and electronic/industrial music into its apocalyptic framework. But even that massive evolutionary leap couldn’t prepare me for the all-out insanity of I Die Smiling, which is not only TSTAT’s first full length release but also Herr Neutron’s most compelling and cohesive work to date.
I’ll be the first to admit, I know Jack and shit (and Jack left town) about death industrial, power electronics and noise (aside from the most obvious/popular noise artists such as Merzbow, Prurient and Wolf Eyes), so Sewer Goddess’ Mutilation Process was something of a revelation for me when I received it in the mail from the fine folks at Graceless Recordings. This twenty-three minute live recording is seriously filthy and fucked up, uglier and more unsettling than approximately 99.9% of the metal albums I’ve heard in the past year or so. Evidently there’s a whole wealth of nastiness and depravity out there waiting for me to explore, but for now let’s focus on this, my first foray into a world of shit.