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.
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.
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.
Black metal is getting weirder. From Aluk Todolo’s blackened krautrock to Oranssi Pazuzu’s astral psych attack and beyond, the genre has decidedly taken a turn towards the freaky and far-out, and even though it’s only January, it’s hard to imagine another BM band in 2014 getting freakier or more far-out than Murmur have with their self-titled second album. The Chicago band’s debut for the resurgent Season of Mist label appears poised to kick black metal into interstellar overdrive with a singularly intricate yet highly atmospheric sound that must be heard to be believed.
In recent months, I have come to know Los Angeles, California’s Lord Time as one of the most challenging and idiosyncratic artists in American black metal. Sole member Andorkappen has crafted a distinctive, enthralling vision that’s thoroughly black, yet at times is only tethered to black metal by the thinnest of threads, incorporating elements of drone, ambient and noise to create dense musical tapestries that are nightmarish, surreal and at times abstract to the point where music transforms into pure, free-form sound exploration. Lord Time’s second album, Black Hole at the End of the Tunnel (henceforth referred to as BHATEOTT) was originally issued on cassette back in 2011, but now sees a vinyl re-release via Andorkappen’s own Universal Consciousness label.
Chicago’s Avichi impressed the hell out of me with their 2011 release, The Devil’s Fractal, so much so that I interrogated guitarist/vocalist/mastermind Andrew Markuszewski at length about the album, and it came in just shy of making my top ten metal albums list for the year (which says more about what a strong year 2011 was for metal than it does about any short-comings on the album’s part). After three years of silence, Avichi is back with Catharsis Absolute, which sees Markuszewski continuing to refine his compelling approach to black metal.
Getting a package in the mail from Forever Plagued Records is always a pleasant surprise. Over the past few years, they’ve quietly become a force to be reckoned with, releasing albums by some of the finest bands the US black metal underground has to offer, such as Demoncy, Darkest Grove and Incursus. Their latest offering is Aseity, the debut album from Philadelphia, PA’s Esoterica, a recording that not only continues Forever Plagued’s hot streak of killer USBM releases, but also raises the bar.
Normally, this is the part where I get all reflective regarding the year in metal. I had a scathing year-end rant all ready to go, an ice cold glass of haterade to throw in the faces of the all the people and things that annoyed, dismayed and pissed me off in 2013… and then I read what I’d written and realized that I sounded like a complete dick. What’s the point in dwelling on the negative when there was so much good this year? I had one hell of a hard time whittling down my list to just fifteen albums, and there’s still a lot out there that I’ve either yet to hear or yet to fully digest. It’s pretty darn easy to ignore the mountain of crap when there’s an equally tall mountain of greatness staring you in the face, and yet sometimes I forget that… I guess that’s what my anti-depressants are for.
Inflicting wound upon wound on the bloated, festering corpse of print.
BACKLIT / 2
Now available at backlitzine.com
Cover Art by Brian Smith
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Raping Angels in America #3 / Joshua Haun
Fear and Loathing…In Hollywood / Dave Schalek
That’s When I Became A Metalhead – Gene Hoglan / Kyle Harcott
The Rise and Call of the Mastodon / Dean Brown
The Rains of Resurrection / Ian Chainey
Live (Before) Death / Craig Hayes
Red, The Bleeding. The Blood Streams…Von / Dave Schalek
(R)aging Gracefully: Sunbathing in Filth / Jordan Campbell
Doomsday Device #3 / Joshua Haun
Directeur / D. Harlan Wilson
Unearthed: A Conversation With Brian Smith / Brandon Duncan