The world may have taken a full trip around the sun, but there Within The Abyss remains in frost-bitten shadows. The howling of wolves and hooting of owls on these frigid nights bring in 2022 with our first Within The Abyss column of the year. In this first installment, I look at new albums from Grieve, Hegeroth, The Mist From the Mountains, Oar, Spectral Dance, Tyhjä and Wiegedood.
Grieve – Funeral (Werewolf)
Werewolf Records once again issue another quality Finnish black metal release in Grieve’s Funeral album. This recording follows their 2020 self-titled EP. While Funeral is their debut full-length, it is also their final recording. Grieve consists of the duo of V-Khaoz and label mastermind Werewolf. The album harkens back to classic ‘90s black metal, and should gain favor to fans of Finnish bands such as Satanic Warmaster, Horna and timeless Norwegian black metal albums.
“Lethal Wind of Destruction” opens the album with cold, tremolo manipulations and nefarious slides. The guitar tones are bleak in atmosphere. Blast beats and swift picking are the norm, but the duo also slows down to mid-paced dirges on “Nocturnal Cries” and the morbid “Funeral Path.” While war and winter seem like lyrical themes, the devil is also present as heard on “Possessed,” which is perfectly represented in Werewolf’s evil voice. There is no sunlight here!
Hegeroth – Sacra Doctrina (Self)
Poland’s Hegeroth formed over a decade ago. Sacra Doctrina is their fourth album, all self-released. Hegeroth’s sound doesn’t seem influenced by black metal from the ’90s. Instead, it has more of 2000s sound. While they utilize tried and true black metal conventions such as tremolo picking, raspy vocals and blast beats, they are more technical and experimental than the average ‘90s-worship bands.
Guitar harmonics stand out on Sacra Doctrina. “In Torment 1” includes harmonics similar to what Emperor did on Prometheus – The Discipline Of Fire And Demise. These harmonics appear throughout the album, especially on the ensuing parts of the “In Torment” series of songs. Solos also come into the mix quite frequently. Keyboards are present, but used sparingly. Bass solos also stand out, as heard on “Out of Habit.” “With Adoration” and “In Torment 2” have experimental sections reminiscent of Arcturus. Their wiliness to experiment and layer their sound make this an underground gem worth excavating.
The Mist From The Mountains – Monumental – The Temple Of Twilight (Primitive Reaction)
The Mist From The Mountains is a telling name for a black metal band. The title is very descriptive. It instills imagery that tantalizes the senses. The Finnish group’s debut full-length Monumental – The Temple Of Twilight does not betray the band’s nature-inspired moniker. The six-song LP harkens back to the pagan beauty displayed by such ‘90s black metal artists as Borknagar and Vintersorg, and the atmosphere of Old Man’s Child and early Dimmu Borgir.
“Empyrean Fields” opens the album with harsh sounds of nature and melancholy with medieval instrumentation such as mouth harps and acoustic guitar. Acoustic guitar appears throughout the album. Also, a mix of clean and harsh, male and female vocals collide in harmonious unity. Willowy female vocals materialize on “Thus Spake The Tongueless Serpent.” Although melodic in nature, this album does have blast beats, tremolo picking and harsh vocals that rage like white rapids. Monumental – The Temple Of Twilight is epic, forlorn, and echoes forgotten lore from ancient, primordial forests.
Oar – The Blood You Crave (Blighttown)
Following their Sect Burner EP in 2017, Aussie post-black metal group Oar present their debut album The Blood You Crave. This first LP effort is quite bleak and atmospheric. While the group traverses through mid-paced blackened sections, especially calling attention to the throaty, tortured vocals, there are plenty of down-tempo sections. In this regard, the group are akin to a doomed-out Agalloch.
The opening title track starts as a mid-paced black metal song, but deconstructs into blackened doom. This dense wall of sound is quite mournful and depressive. “What Once Used to Bloom” closes the album with ringing doom notes and harmonies played over a wall of sound. These layers are one aspect of the album that really stands out and makes this an enjoyable listen, relishing in the group’s misery. The Blood You Crave is a strong first full-length in its depressive atmosphere and blending of genres.
Spectral Dance – Crusaders Of The Void (Hellprod)
Spectral Dance consist of lone member Jo Steel. Mr. Steel is known for being in Bastardator, Iron Dogs, Ice War, Expunged and several other former bands. He stays busy making music, Crusaders Of The Void is his fourth album under the Spectral Dance banner in its brief existence of two years. Although he’s Canadian, the album reflects a European black metal sound. He mixes grim, winter-worn black metal wrapped in chain mail vengeance.
The title track initiates the album with triumphant medieval harmonies. “Battle Ruins And Scars of Anguish” and “A Taste of Spikes” contain the type of medieval-style rhythms heard from Germany’s Desaster. “Black Metal Invasion” recalls the early black/speed of Bathory, especially Steel’s delay-driven voice echo. “Necromancer in Flight” has a dark, psychedelic magic, especially in the vocals. The bass sounds patricianly good. Canada is exactly known for black metal, bar Blasphemy. Crusaders Of The Void is a premiere black metal album from North America’s frozen north.
Tyhjä – Valtakunta (Void Wanderer)
Tyhjä started in 2016 as a black metal crust band, but then transitioned into a pure black metal band. They were the first band to sign to Void Wanderer Productions. Now, the group are releasing their second full-length album Valtakunta. Yet another Finnish release, the group has a sound that is Nordic-based with nods to their homeland, Sweden and Norway.
Valtakunta is mostly a Scandinavian black metal album, but there are still fragments of their black/punk origin. In addition to melody-driven riffs, there are thrashing, chugging sections as heard on “Kaiken takana ammotavva tyhjyys” and “Pimeä aika.” They use chugging to deconstruct the tempo in a down-tempo section on “Kaiken takana ammotavva tyhjyys” and use this heavy riff style to build intensity on “Pimeä aika.” Valtakunta is a bitter, aggressive album with a misanthropic lyrical theme. It sounds familiar, but the riffs are catchy and head banging accessible.
Wiegedood – There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road (Century Media)
Wiegedood return with their fourth album, There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road. The Belgian trio can be straight forward with seething speed and white-knuckle intensity or experimental and cerebral. Some tracks are dissonant and angular. The trio know how to build intensity using pause points and unconventional recording techniques. Black metal is their forte, but the group inserts jazz, samples, synth and tape recorders.
Levy Seynaeve takes a gasping breath before belting out a ferocious scream on opener, “FN Scar 16.” Swirling with jagged curves, the music follows the intensity of his scream. “And in Old Salamanos Room The Dog Whimpered Softly” follows with similar velocity before taking a chunky, trudging turn. “Noblesse Oblige Richesse Oblige” mixes these fast tempos with dissonance and ends in incendiary ambiance. “Wade” ends with diabolic, cartoony jazz. There’s Always Blood At The End Of The Road requires numerous listens to appreciate and understand its numerous, brilliant idiosyncrasies.