Archive for orthodox black metal

Hagalaz’ Favorite Albums of 2015

Posted in 2015, best of, black metal, doom, doom metal, drone metal, finland, funeral doom, marduk, melechesh, orthodox black metal, sweden, traditional heavy metal, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, I was thinking of catch-up posts I needed to do and I thought, “Oh! I’ll do a post about my favorite albums of 2015!” I didn’t plan on it needing to be ten or eleven like I normally do because… it’s almost six months late, so why do you care? But then, lo, there were that many, so the list is eleven after all.

So without further ado, in mostly random order, my favorites of 2015.

11. Ghost – Meliora

After the huge fanfare for Infestissumam (and there was a lot of it. Remember when Ghost released those sex toys?), there was practically none for its follow-up. Really. I didn’t even know this album was out until about a week after it dropped, and I worked at a metal record store. Meliora feels like a throwback in a way; it’s more stripped down in the way that Opus Eponymous was, and I dare say a little heavier than its predecessors, “Cirice” feels almost doomy.

Favorite Tracks: He Is, Absolution

[Here’s Ghost playing “He Is” with the grandpas guitars.]

 

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon

Sunn O))) near the end of the year released their first full-length album (not with Ulver) since 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions (which is absolutely, stupidly, dumbfoundingly awesome). Clocking in at barely over a half hour, Kannon is over a whole lot faster than you would hope (if you’re me), but that’s literally my only complaint about it. Here’s to Attila doing more crazy things with his throat!

H’s Favorite Track: Kannon, Pt. 3

 

9. Baroness – Purple

I was stupidly happy to hear that Baroness would have a new album out; after their terrible bus crash in 2012, I would not have been surprised if they never put out another album. Purple is a return to a heavier sound, and it simultaneously incorporates a lot of new sounds and styles, like in “Shock Me” and “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain).” J thinks that 2012’s Yellow & Green may prove to be a transitional album if the band continues in this vein, and it will be interesting to see where Baroness goes from here.

Favorite Tracks: Shock Me, Kerosene

 

8. Melechesh – Enki

Melechesh is one of those bands that I think is really cool and innovative and doesn’t get nearly enough attention. 2010’s The Epigenesis was when they got the production budget to really hit their peak, and I wasn’t sure that they would be able to top it, but Enki definitely does. It’s tight, fast, full of fun shifting drum patterns and Eastern-influenced riffing and instrumentation. Now if we can just get them to tour here again… or headline…

Favorite Tracks: Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged, Doorways to Irkala

[And this is just track one.]

 

8. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

I was also very excited to hear that Shape of Despair had a new album coming out. Angels of Distress is one of the most upsetting albums I know- it’s beautiful, but it really is distressing. Monotony Fields (there’s one that came out between them that I didn’t know about! I will have to get on that) is another treatise in funeral doom the way it should be done- it’s bleak and slow-moving with some awesome keyboard parts. It’s also got some surprising turns- “Descending Inner Light” is almost joyful. For funeral doom. Which is really kind of the opposite of joyful. Huh.

Favorite Tracks: The Distant Dreams of Life, In Longing

[Here’s another track, because there are entirely too many high points on this album]

 

6. Saturnalia Temple – To The Other

Speaking of doom- Saturnalia Temple’s To The Other really is like gazing into the Void. Creepy, heavy, and just plain downright daunting (smothering?), this album reminds me of all of the ugliness and sonic twistedness of something like Teitanblood, but slower. Much. Much. Slower. It’s sort of like being slapped with a sledgehammer. But in a good way.

Favorite Tracks: ZazelSorath, To the Other

[Enjoy your nightmares.]

 

5. Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends

Shining released their ninth full-length album last year, called Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends. This new album features an introductory track that is entirely fugue-like classical riffing, and later employs the use of a sitar. Say what you will about their stage antics and the general notoriety of vocalist Niklas Kvarforth, Shining remains, in my opinion, one of the most innovative black metal bands currently out there.

Favorite Tracks: Den påtvingade tvåsamheten, Besök från i(ho)nom

 

4. Mgła – Exercises in Futility

Mgła also returned with an offering every bit as good as everyone expected it to be. While I am still very partial to With Hearts Towards None, Exercises in Futility proves that Mgła is not slacking and is easily one of the best black metal releases of last year, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground. Blending old school style with third-wave melody, Mgła’s albums are consistently solid and enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: IV, VI

 

3. Marduk – Frontschwein

2015 also saw the return of Marduk, and specifically the return of Marduk playing war music. Not to say that their past several albums haven’t been absolutely fantastic in their focus on Biblical/apocalyptic imagery, but let’s face it, war is kind of what they’re known for. Frontschwein does not disappoint, bringing in some of the best reviews that Marduk has seen in years and proving that black metal’s war machine hasn’t sacrificed any of their brutality.

Favorite Tracks: Nebelwerfer, 503

[Yes. That’s a tambourine.]

 

2. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud

This is the weird one on the list. I have never listened to Amorphis before last year. At all. Basically, Shane just played it a lot at the record store and it really grew on me. While not typically the sort of thing that I listen to with any amount of frequency, Amorphis’ Under the Red Cloud is, I think, easily one of my favorite albums of 2015.

Favorite Tracks: Death of a King, Tree of Ages

[Again. There isn’t a bad song on this one either.]

 

1. Clandestine Blaze – New Golgotha Rising

My number one album of 2015 is actually a black metal album this year. If you’re not familiar with Clandestine Blaze, you should be, and if those vocals sound familiar… well, that would probably be because Deathspell Omega also channels their works through Mikko Aspa’s vocal chords. Only here he does everything. New Golgotha Rising is, on the surface, a relatively straightforward raw black metal album, but the more I listen to it, the more I find that it shifts around beneath the surface, like some kind of parasite in a sci-fi horror film. All of Clandestine Blaze’s catalog is seriously good stuff, but this new one is one of my favorites.

Favorite Tracks: (All of it, ya goofs, but if I have to pick,) Evocation Under Starlit Sky, Passage to New Creed

[I wanted to post this track because it does a good job of showing off that slippery riffage that Clandestine Blaze does so well.]

So there is a list of stuff I liked last year. Because dudes, I already had eleven. Which is why Enforcer isn’t on there along with other notable exceptions, and there’s still stuff I need to catch up on (Arcturus). The back catalog on the stuff I need to catch up on is huge. But, here is the stuff I was jamming a bunch last year for you to peruse while I try to stay on top of this year (new Rotting Christ is incredible, and Behexen and Inquisition’s new stuff is sounding really, really good).

Until next time…

-H

 

 

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Concert: Behexen/Kommandant/Akashah (7/5, Beat Kitchen, Chicago)

Posted in black metal, black metal ist krieg, chicago, concerts, finland, orthodox black metal, underground, united states, USBM, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 17, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

When I heard Behexen and Sargeist were playing back to back shows in Chicago, I knew that I had to go regardless of how many hippies I had to fight or goats I had to sacrifice to get there. I’ve loved Behexen ever since I went on a quest a couple of years ago to find out just who these dudes were that I kept seeing everywhere, and J’s love of Sargeist is quite infectious. The fact that the shows coincided perfectly with A’s birthday just added to the multitudinous list of reasons that we absolutely had to go.

The first night was Behexen, and the first opener was a band called Akashah from Illinois. Their name made me think of Queen of the Damned, which I think was one of Anne Rice’s better works, so that made me happy from a nerdy perspective. I enjoyed their set- although it appears on Encyclopedia Metallum that Akashah is a one man project, the live set of course featured a full band. Formerly a member of the N.S.B.M. group the Pagan Front, there was no hint of Akashah’s political leanings anywhere in their set. While I really loved the drums, my only complaint was that the guitars were often not in tune with each other. As a musician, I know that this could be accounted for by any number of variables (the weather, for example, which alternated all weekend between eerily pleasant for July and torrential downpour), but it was simply a minor hiccup in an otherwise excellent performance.

Next up was Kommandant, who I have been anxiously awaiting seeing live again since I saw them play a set plagued by technical difficulties at Maryland Death Fest last year. Just as last time, the music was fantastic; I love the sheer amount of percussion Kommandant uses, and the snare drums are a nice touch to the military-esque presentation. Props to the snare drummer stage left who lost a drumstick in the last song and still managed to make it work without drawing unwanted attention to himself. Also, Kommandant’s vocalist has added a new piece to his stage costume- a crown of thorns that sits right at his eye level. Let me tell you, I have seen many, many black metal shows at this point in my life, and his stage get-up was the creepiest thing I have ever seen. Someone has been watching Hellraiser…

Last but certainly not least was Behexen. I was thrilled to death to note that the young lady who sold me my shirt at the merch table was playing with the band- she absolutely killed on the bass, and finger- picked everything. I ended up right in front of Hoath Torog during this set, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t blink the entire time. It was an intense performance, and I’m really grateful that I got to see it.

Behexen played a number of songs from throughout their career, with a little added focus on the new album, Nightside Emanations, as will happen with tours in support of new albums. Some of the setlist included “Death’s Black Light” and “In the Temple of the Silent Curses,” from the new album, as well as older favorites like “By the Blessing of Satan” and “My Soul for His Glory.” An enthusiastic fan in the crowd demanded to no avail to hear “Circle Me,” a song that I think a lot of us were hoping for as I think it’d be super cool live. I’m not complaining, however; I saw Behexen, and I never thought that would happen. The set clocked in at about 45 minutes of raging hell.

[Some helpful person uploaded the whole set from Martyrdoom to YouTube. Enjoy!]

In terms of souvenirs from the show, I got to take away a t-shirt from the merch table (the last one! In a girlie large, nonetheless) and some more autographs. As I mentioned earlier, the band’s touring bassist was working merch, and she was kind enough to let me try on the shirt over my clothes to make sure it fit before I bought it (never can tell with those girlie sizes). Naturally, then, when it came time for me to try to get my record signed, I went to her to ask if they would sign it.

I have a real knack for grabbing "the last one"

I have a real knack for grabbing “the last one.” Please ignore the cat hair

Hoath Torog signed my record and was really nice- it was a bit awkward that I didn’t have a pen. In the craziness that surrounded the morning that A and I left the Cities, I forgot to grab one of my silver Sharpies. Fortunately, the bartender had a pen I could borrow. Wraath also signed my record, although he seemed much less thrilled about it (two years in Minnesota, and I still haven’t figured out how to read Scandinavians).

Hoath Torog's autograph. Photo taken with help from The Cat

Hoath Torog’s autograph. Photo taken with help from The Cat

Wraath's autograph

Wraath’s autograph

A and I also grabbed some Kommandant merch. A ended up snagging a different shirt than mine (the new one, I believe, with the guns on the back), and even though that had an awesome red shirt, I opted for the old school one. I just love the gas masks. I was a rivet head back in highschool, and old habits die hard.

For the record, gas masks are uncomfortably tight. But I suppose you'd want them to be

For the record, gas masks are uncomfortably tight. But I suppose you’d want them to be

The bullets sold me

The bullets sold me (well. That’s not blurry at all.)

We also picked up Kommandant patches, and I grabbed a Sargeist patch as well. I’m really glad I did, too, as Sargeist didn’t have any merch available the next night.

More patches!

More patches!

It was an incredible evening full of a wide variety of terror. I got to see Kommandant, a Midwestern black metal band that I love, learned of Akashah’s work, and watched Behexen belch forth some brimstone. We retired to the hotel exhausted, and then I promptly started to not sleep well at all. Even more was in store, however, for the next night!

Ave,
Hagalaz

**I plan on making a post with some pics from the shows, but I need to edit them some. I left my flash off so as to not be That Guy, and they’re a little dark.

Review: Teitanblood- Death

Posted in 2014, black metal, blackened death metal, death metal, Reviews, satan, spain, underground with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

It’s no surprise, I’m sure, that I was pretty much bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the new Teitanblood album. I have liked them ever since I stumbled across them… somewhere. I think it may have been the fact that they are on Noevdia, a label that has yet to let me down. I was intrigued to see what this one would sound like, since Seven Chalices is quite unlike anything else I’ve ever heard, and I positively loved Woven Black Arteries (I gave it a spot on my best of list in 2012. And it only has two tracks!).
Needless to say, probably, I wasn’t disappointed. I’m not making any official claims yet because there have been some other stunning albums come out this year already (looking at you, Mr. Warrior), but Death truly might be my favorite album of the year so far. Death is an incredible onslaught of gnarly, blackened, churning noise. It reminds me much more of Teitanblood’s later stuff like Woven Black Arteries and Purging Tongues than Seven Chalices, and I actually like that better (note, I like Seven Chalices, it’s just that it’s one of those I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It is still pretty baffling to me, and I do not think that is a bad thing). The first track, “Anteinfierno,” sets the stage for this blistering masterpiece, providing a near five minutes of thundering chaos.

Although Teitanblood is as chaotic and as noisy as always, Death nevertheless incorporates a substantial amount of structure. For all its unrestrained clamor, it nevertheless periodically shifts back to a riff that you can bang your head to for a bit, allowing for you to become a little grounded before being flung back into the madness. “Sleeping Throats of the Antichrist,” one of my favorite tracks on the album, showcases this really well. The riff at 9:15 is a good example of this returning to some kind of sane footing in an otherwise slippery song. It also provides a good example of one of my favorite parts of Death, which is the mixing.

Teitanblood has done… something… with the mix on this album. I don’t know what it is, entirely, but the low end occasionally drops out and sounds like it was recorded in some kind of chasm. The aforementioned riff is a prime example of this, and it’s always a puzzling and welcome addition when those parts drop in. “Cadaver Synod” also utilizes this type of mixing. Another cool aspect of the production on Death is the ambient noise that constantly permeates the album. While the production on Death is certainly not as low fi as that on Seven Chalices, it retains a noisy, white noise background that makes it feel as though there is constant movement. Between the dull roar in the background and the squeals of the guitars, it’s difficult to tell if Death has as many chanted vocals as I think I hear, or if that’s all just a part of the cacophony. Considering that I love my noisy black metal, I think that is awesome.

Perhaps the only time that the roar ceases is in the final track, appropriately titled “Silence of the Great Martyrs.” In typical bewildering fashion, the track has a lengthy pause halfway through, followed by eerie guitar noise, chimes, and chants that take you through to the records end. This makes for an especially fun experience if you are, say, listening to the album in your car, and you end with chimes and begin again with “Anteinfierno,” which is the equivalent of getting your face smashed with a brick in a good way.

Because I’m a dweeb, I bought Death on both CD and vinyl, and it sounds lovely on both. In regards to the vinyl, the aforementioned low-end parts sound reedier and feel like they almost have a buzz to them. Also, the sound on the vinyl is even fuller than on the CD, inasmuch as that is possible (really, the production on this thing is insane. I love it).

I just included pictures of the vinyl because it's so much bigger.

I just included pictures of the vinyl because it’s so much bigger. The CD has exactly the same stuff.

And it's a double LP, because of course it is. Three of the tracks clock in at well over 10 minutes.

And it’s a double LP, because of course it is. Three of the tracks clock in at well over 10 minutes.

One thing that was a letdown for me as far as Death is concerned is the album art. Having been completely spoiled by all the awesome artwork on Seven Chalices, I was expecting a like amount of creepy, Satanic sketches in the new album. There’s very little to the liner notes at all, however, other than the lyrics and some arcane symbols. That, and the picture of the band, which reminds you that, yes, that is two dudes making all that racket, just in case you forgot.

This is all we get.

This is what we get.

The gentlemen responsible.

The gentlemen responsible.

Unfortunately, none of this stuff this time around.

Unfortunately, none of this stuff this time around.

When I get a new album, I usually leave it in my car stereo for about a week until I switch it up again. Death sat in my car for 2.5 weeks when I first got it, and I still am unable to get enough of it. One of the reasons why I love my Noevdia bands so freaking much is that they are so internally complicated. Every single time I listen to Death I hear something new- it’s a noisy treasure trove of chaos, and just like the esoteric texts Teitanblood emulates, Death is going to require some serious study to truly grasp its secrets. 5/5 Lucifer sigils from me.

Hagalaz’ Favorite Tracks: Oh, I dunno. Pretty much ALL OF IT.

Ave. H.

Review: Funeral Mist- Trisagion Box Set

Posted in black metal, funeral mist, Reviews, sweden, underground with tags , , , , , , , on February 24, 2014 by blackmetallurgy

As I’m sure you all figured, I pre-ordered the Funeral Mist box set the instant I saw that I could. At $80, the price was pretty steep, but I’m happy to report that it was worth every penny. For your bunch of cash, you get all of Funeral Mist’s releases to date on vinyl; Salvation and Maranatha come in double LPs, whereas the Devilry EP only has one record due to its abbreviated length. Unfortunately, as I reported before, the Havok demo does not come attached to the Devilry EP.

The box. My inner five year old really loves the texture of it.

The box. My inner five year old really loves the texture of it.

However, there is more than enough here to make up for that bummer. First of all, the box itself is very nice, with a sleek cover and a track-listing on the back. The set comes with a huge poster (that is a really awkward size; thanks, Sweden) and a patch, along with the three LPs.

Funeral Mist patches. A rare thing.

Funeral Mist patches. A rare thing.

Seriously guys. This poster is really big. Like, REALLY big.

Seriously guys. This poster is really big. Like, REALLY big.

The layout on the LPs is nice too- they’ve all been rendered with black inner panels and very little decoration. It’s simple, but it’s damned classy. And it’s not just the packaging that’s pretty. These records sound glorious, even on my tiny, mediocre turntable. Those of you who own the CDs of Funeral Mist’s albums can sympathize when I say that they are not exactly the best sounding recordings; they’re a little noisy, perhaps a little too low-fi? The records that come with Trisagion, however, have a very warm sound, and I’ve been hearing parts I haven’t really noticed before.

The records. (They didn't come with sleeves. I put them in sleeves because I figured I'd have them out a lot.)

The records. (They didn’t come with sleeves. I put them in sleeves because I figured I’d have them out a lot.)

And the backs.

And the backs.

You can see the theme here, I assume. Lots of black. But it's very sleek-looking, and I like it.

You can see the theme here, I assume. Lots of black. But it’s very sleek-looking, and I like it.

Black vinyl also. The sleeves that the records themselves come in are also really nice, with plastic on the inside to help protect the vinyl.

Black vinyl also. The sleeves that the records themselves come in are also really nice, with plastic on the inside to help protect the vinyl.

The liner notes come in the form of a single booklet. I mused a little about what this booklet could contain back when the announcement was first made about the release, and it is pretty much just the lyrics for the songs. It is a very nice booklet, though, printed on heavy paper and featuring what I assume is more of Arioch’s graphic design work.

III

III.

20131221_234924

Latin practice, anyone?

All and all, I feel like Trisagion was worth every penny I spent on it. I know a couple of people who complained that the $80 Ajna was asking for it was a bit much, but I think for three collector’s editions of really rare albums in gatefold double-LPs that sound excellent it’s not a bad deal at all. Plus, you get all the other cool stuff that comes with it (Funeral Mist doesn’t exactly crank out the patches. That’s why I had to make my own). I’m really, really happy with this boxset, and I’m glad that I can finally listen to Circle of Eyes on vinyl.

$80 of awesome.

$80 worth of awesome.

Review: Aosoth- IV: An Arrow In Heart

Posted in black metal, france, Reviews with tags , , , , , , on June 23, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

I haven’t been doing very many reviews this year (other than the live reports), and this one is way overdue. Aosoths’ newest release IV: An Arrow In Heart, dropped on April 16, and I have little doubt that this one’s going to find itself on my top albums of 2013 list. A review of the album that I read earlier this year described it as “cold,” which I find to be pretty accurate.

The other word that I would use to describe IV is tense. Aosoths’ fourth release is an album that thrums with tension from one end to the other. Right out the gate, the title track begins with a churning guitar riff that forecasts the relentless turmoil that you are about to subject yourself to for the next hour and some. A bit of reprieve occurs in the drum feature, but very little. It’s more of a pause than any kind of relief; the eye of the storm, as it were. This is the first track I heard from the album, as the band posted a shortened version to their Facebook, and I was making bold statements about the thing from that moment forward.

If you were hoping for the tension to slacken a bit, too bad. The next three tracks continue the assault, applying Aosoth’s spin on the taut dissonance indicative of the nation that brought you Deathspell Omega. Chords clash, the melodies churn seemingly haphazardly, and there is no moment to get your bearings before they have shifted again. “Temple of Knowledge” features another crypt-like bass and drum break, followed by an unexpected and enjoyable drum pattern as the song eases back into its blistering pace.

 “Broken Dialogue, Part I and Part II” bring a new atmosphere to the onslaught, featuring samples and minimalist melodic lines. In many ways, it’s pretty, but none less unsettling than the rest of the album. Like the drum break in the title track, with every note you sense that there is more lurking in the darkness.

The album bookends itself with the title track and “Ritual Marks of Penitence,” a nearly 15-minute-long epic that encompasses the same drawn out sense of foreboding as its sister track. Also, this is the track that Aosoth chose to make a video of, which is awesome, as it’s probably the least likely candidate for such a venture. While the tension that comprises the album as a whole absolutely never slackens, this final track has a triumphant feel to it as well. As the video depicts, there is peace in succumbing to the dark.

I really enjoyed the production on this album, and the mixing of the bass especially. For a black metal album, IV is extremely bass heavy. The use of the low end on the drum/bass breaks is also very enjoyable, as you can hear enough of the vibration of the strings to give these passages that cold, hollow feel. Also, the drum patterns throughout are always interesting; there are a lot of blast beats, of course, but the patterns are always shifting, even varying the placement of the high hat in some of the blast beats on “Under Nails and Fingertips.” Aosoth has pulled out all the stops on this one to ensure that the listener can never quite get a handle on where the songs are going next, and it is masterfully done.

I was a little worried about my ability to get a copy of this album when it came out; Agonia Records is a little expensive to get things from when you live in Minnesota. Fortunately for me, I scored big: Shane at Into the Void got in a few copies on CD, and I stumbled upon a special edition double LP at Maryland Deathfest. The packaging is quite simple with no liner notes, but encompasses nicely the more minimalistic moments of the album. Once again, I would agree with whoever said “cold” to describe the feel of the artwork; all in blacks and blues and whites, the artwork certainly compliments the shifting nature of the music with its emphasis on shadow and light. The cover of the thing is also astoundingly beautiful. Both versions are lovely- I am impressed by the bass tone on the vinyl as well.

The CD

The CD

IMAG0991

LP

LP

I didn't include pics of the vinyl, because I didn't get the colored ones.

I didn’t include pics of the vinyl, because I didn’t get the colored ones. I believe they came in blue and white. (Feel free to ignore the cat toys, or not.)

Beautiful artwork.

Beautiful artwork.

When I first heard this album, I declared it my favorite of the year. Of course, that was in April, and we still have much more to go (including new stuff from Watain and Inquisition), but I know this one will still rank high, even in December. IV: An Arrow In Heart is the most unsettling album I have heard since Leviathan’s True Traitor, True Whore. I mean that in the best way possible, too. It is a veritable masterpiece of merciless tension.

I’m not picking favorite tracks for this one, as the album is too cohesive for me to feel like butchering it in order to make a decision. The title track, I will admit, does have a certain effect on me.

I know that you are thinking that this album is expensive and difficult to get a hold of, but I highly encourage you to track it down and buy the thing. If you have a local record store, see if they can get it in. The packaging, while simple, is lovely, and also there are rumors of an Aosoth US tour, so let’s help them foot the bill and get over here sooner rather than later. You want to see Aosoth live, don’t you? (I saw them at Deathfest– trust me, you do.) As someone who owns this thing on two mediums, I can attest that it is well worth the cost and effort to track down.

5/5 horns, pentagrams, ONA sigils, what have you.

“You’re Listening Wrong:” Revisiting Misunderstood Albums (Funeral Mist’s Maranatha)

Posted in black metal, funeral mist, revisits, sweden, underground with tags , , , , , , , on December 9, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

(Thanks to Jamie for the title…)

It occurs to me that there are a number of albums out there that much of the black metal community seems to take offense to for whatever reason: Satyricon’s Now, Diabolical, Mayhem’s Grand Declaration of War, and Dissection’s Reinkaos to name a few. It also occurs to me that I tend to like these albums, for whatever reason. As someone who studies literature and is trained to pick things apart as well as my capacity for being bull-headed and enjoyment of playing devil’s advocate, I think that it would be both fun and enlightening to look at these albums, which Jamie calls the “stray mutts of extreme metal,” and figure out why exactly people have the aversion to them that they do, what merit they have, if any, and why it might be worth it to give them another listen (Note: I’m not going to touch Cold Lake. Even I can’t defend some things).

I figured I would go easy on myself and start this segment by discussing an album that is very near and dear to my heart, and that I feel like I know like the back of my hand: Funeral Mist’s Maranatha. Released in 2009, Arioch made us wait five whole years for the thing and then a lot of people were disappointed by it, which I’m sure was frustrating for everyone involved. So let us delve into the common criticisms, as well as what people are really saying when they make them, and look at the possible merits of the album. Then, maybe you will be inspired to give it another shot, or at the very least, you can throw out some specific reasons why it bugged you.

Funeral Mist- Maranatha (2009)

The Context: Funeral Mist’s Salvation, released circa 2003, is inarguably one of the greatest releases of the first decade of this century. Though a release mostly circulated through and to the black metal underground, Salvation was a milestone in the realm of Orthodox black metal (Arioch claims Ofermod as exact contemporaries and won’t take all the credit for starting the sub-sub-genre, but he certainly spear-headed it), and is considered by many to be proof of the salvation (see what I did there?) of the larger black metal scene. 2009’s Maranatha, by contrast, was lambasted by many of those same people, who, crushed, went home thinking that maybe Arioch wasn’t the savior they’d been hoping for.

last.fm

The cover is as ugly as what’s inside it. (image from last.fm)

The Complaints:

1)      It sounds too much like Marduk. Apparently. This is odd to me. I don’t think it sounds much like Marduk, although I can hear influence from Funeral Mist seeping into Marduk’s newer releases (parts of “Gospel of the Worm” from the new one have that kind of churning feel that Funeral Mist has). However, the reviewer I culled this from claims that Maranatha adopts too much of the blast beats and machine-gun fire from Marduk’s artillery (I’ll stop with the puns. I promise), and I am listing complaints. That’s a valid one. Too much leakage from outside influence.

2)      The experimentation on the album. Other complaints deal with the weirder aspects of Maranatha, mostly either how it was too experimental or not experimental enough. “White Stone” is particularly bizarre, and many people found it, and the rest of the album, to fail in terms of being compelling. I also read somewhere that “Blessed Curse” is 8 minutes too long. It’s a long song. It’s a little repetitive, and that preacher guy is creepy and annoying. Experimental albums are risky; these reviewers complain that the risks didn’t work out.

Another complaint that can be classified under experimentation is consistency. It is said that there is none, that the album is not coherent, that it feels scattered, the screams are too random, the thing is a muddled mess.

3)      It is contrived. This is a complaint I have seen A LOT concerning Maranatha. So it was experimental; many people also believe that the vocals and music just sound disingenuous. It doesn’t have the spontaneous ugliness that Salvation had, it’s too planned, too insincere.

What They Really Mean:

1)      “It sounds too much like Marduk.” Translation: “It’s too linear.” I don’t think Maranatha sounds like Marduk. I do think, however, that what these people are trying to say is that Maranatha is a very linear album. It has A LOT of blast beats. It is very forward-pressing. There are a couple of mid-paced tracks on the album, but most of it is in your face, brutal pummeling. But I don’t think that sounds like Marduk. Musically (atonally) I think it sounds more like Deathspell Omega. Abrasive swirling murk indeed. It is a lot more straightforward than anything on Salvation, however, and I think that this is what these reviewers are trying to get at.

2)      Complaints about experimentation. Translation: “This is weird and I don’t know how to approach it.” Experimentation is always risky. Throwing on a track like “White Stone,” which Arioch even contends is weird, is a big risk, especially when your fans are expecting something big from you. I’m not saying that you should like it just because it’s strange and Arioch worked hard on it, and this complaint really is a matter of opinion. I think that “White Stone” is creepy as hell; ugly and creepy is not always synonymous with fast and brutal. Arioch took a risk. Some people didn’t like it. “But Blessed Curse is 8 minutes too long.” Have you ever sat through one of those hellfire and brimstone sermons? They go on forever too.

Likewise, the consistency argument. The complaint here, I think, is that the experimental bits are throwing people off. How does “Anti-Flesh Nimbus” fit into all this? Is there a theme here? Is it about Armageddon, or the Black Death, or both? What the hell is up with that preacher guy? Assuming that the album was not meant as a concept piece, this complaint feels a little weird to me, but I guess I can see how it could feel scattered with a song like “White Stone” right next to “Jesus Saves” (that weird little bit at the end of that song is one of my favorite parts on the album).

3)      “It is contrived.” Translation: “It’s too clean, and it contains too much that doesn’t feel real.” There are a lot of moments on the album where Arioch is doing things with his vocals that no mortal man can do, regardless of how close he is with the big guy down below. So Arioch meddled a little with the editing on the vocals. There was some of this on Salvation, too, if you were paying attention, although there’s more of it here. I think that this complaint also fits in with the cleaner recording complaint that always comes up in black metal. Maranatha is not all that grungy sounding, and admittedly, a low-fi recording may have helped make it sound less polished and more to these reviewers’ taste.

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, what I hear the most when I hear people complain about Maranatha is “But it’s not Salvation.” And therein, I think, lies the problem.

Why It Has Merit:

1)      The experimentation (yes, groan, I know). Maranatha is a highly experimental album that finds new ways to approach the same kinds of subjects that normally crop up in black metal. “White Stone,” for instance, is very dirge-like, and the vocals sound anguished, which fits the subject matter of being denied nearness to one’s god. “Blessed Curse” (I have sat through those sermons, I know) to me feels like a Burzum-esque atmospheric track that should allow you to get lost in its meanderings. “Anti-Flesh Nimbus” is absolutely lovely, and it’s unlike anything else from Funeral Mist’s catalog. Perhaps these experimentations didn’t go over so well across the board; the fact of the matter is, Arioch is coming up with new ways to represent these things, and is certainly not willing to let the genre stagnate.

2)      I feel that it is a very cohesive album. A lot of the songs, with the exception of the ones above, seem to be connected in terms of musical execution and theme. There’s this kind of madness through the entire thing that makes your heart race and your brain reel. This is the way the world ends… Ultimately, the song that sticks out like a sore thumb is “Anti-Flesh Nimbus,” and it is, I think, the best song on the album, so I don’t understand what all y’all’s problem is.

3)      It is UGLY. Funeral Mist is really good at creating soundscapes that sound like the bowels of Hell have just opened up in your living room. Maranatha is no exception. The title track, “Jesus Saves,” “Sword of Faith…” all of these and more are some of the most hideous cacophony ever. Funeral Mist has lost none of its brutality. “Anti-Flesh Nimbus” is horrific and beautiful simultaneously, and ties the whole thing together nicely.

4)      The vocals are really cool. Okay, so that one guy thought the shrieks and screams were random, but do you honestly think that Arioch would ever put in anything randomly? Sure, not everything could be recreated live, but Funeral Mist doesn’t play live, so I think we can cut him some slack on that front. Also, if you think of the album as a piece of art, I think you can allow the weird editing. Since “A New Light” will likely never be played live, can we not allow for the album to stand as a work of art? Is it really necessary to be able to recreate it in a live setting?

Why You Should Give it Another Chance:

This point I’m going to make in reference to Maranatha as an album but also in reference to the complaints and whingings: MARANATHA IS NOT SALVATION. It’s not. I believe that the number one problem people have with this album, the one that they won’t admit, is that they are upset that it is not Salvation Part II. Arioch did not intend to make Salvation Part II. He wanted to do something different. Try not to listen to Maranatha and always place it in comparison; I encourage you to listen to it and value it for its own merits, which are plenty.

Salvation was a ground-breaking and fantastic album, and it’s going to be very hard for anything that comes after in Funeral Mist’s catalog to compare with it. So perhaps we shouldn’t try to. Maranatha is an ambitious, experimental, ugly, beautiful album, and it should be allowed to stand on its own.

***

Anyway, I hope this was as fun for you as it was for me (I love analyzing things, that’s why I do what I do). I’ll be back Thursday with some other stuff.

In the meantime, give Maranatha another chance. (And then go listen to some Krieg; it’s excellent weather for it).

-Hagalaz