Within The Abyss is a monthly black metal column meant to shed light (or darkness) on black metal albums featuring groups of varying styles from around the world. This month we review albums from Arna, Bizarrekult, Craven Idol, Felled, Ghost Horizon, Hinsides and Karloff.
Arna – Dragged To A Lunar Grave (Signal Rex)
Arna are a new band from Barcelona, Spain. Dragged To A Lunar Grave, their debut album, is a cold, sordid affair. Their guitars are raw and filled with dark emotion. Lyrically, the album walks a morbid path. Death is a major motif in the form of personal despair (“Gallows Tree,” “Aunra”) or in an existential manner such as the immortal rites of “Moonknife.”
“Gallows Tree” opens the album with a spacey ambience of keyboards, and then transitions into hammering, metallic sections. The crash of the cymbals heard here and through the album really add heft to the album. While the album is fairly straightforward, there are some guitar harmonies on this song and more ambient sections along the way. Dragged To A Lunar Grave is familiar-sounding black metal, but without being a carbon copy of any other band. The brief use of keys and melodic sections add another layer of atmosphere to the album’s bleakness.
Bizarrekult – Vi Overlevde (Petrichor)
Bizarrekult’s debut album Vi Overlevde is 15 years in the making. Early in their career they were based in Siberia. Now, they are located in Norway. Vi Overlevde bridges the two locations, meshing together frozen Siberian steppes with the beauty of Norway. All songs are titled and sung (I believe, it’s hard to make out the words) in Norse. The album has a Norwegian black metal sound and feel combined with post black metal elements.
Bizarrekult’s compositions are varied in scope. They consist of tempo changes from slow, Satyricon-like groove to the hammering speed. Clean, Nordic-style vocals are scantily dispersed through out the album in such places as “For 1000 år siden” and “Skrik i tomhet.” This track also exemplifies the group’s melodic side that recalls Enslaved’s work. Also, there are ambient tracks such as the intro, outro and “Fremmede kyster.” Fans of Enslaved, Ulver and Wolves in the Throne Room should enjoy Vi Overlevde.
Craven Idol – Forked Tongues (Dark Descent)
Black metal blasphemers Craven Idol return with Forked Tongues, their third album under the Dark Descent banner. As laid out on the title “The Wrath of Typhon,” the Londoners look to dark tales of Greek mythology for lyrical inspiration. Loud and raucous, Forked Tongues presents a variety of influences from the old school thrash of Sodom to second wave black metal in the vein of Immortal, Mayhem, Destroyer 666 and Absu.
While the pace varies, their speed is undeniable. Much like Destroyer 666, they often place careening guitar solos over the speed to give the album an unhinged feel. Shrieks, growls, ancient choirs and high-pitched wails denote a variety of voices. Weighing in at over nine minutes, “Deify the Stormgod” and “The Gods Have Left Us for Dead” exemplify the band’s compositional and story telling chops. Like catching the eyes of Medusa, Forked Tongues is a hard album to turn away from.
Felled – The Intimate Earth (Transcending Obscurity)
Oregon’s Felled started under the name Moss Moonlight in 2010, but changed to Felled in 2014. Their first full-length The Intimate Earth presents a style of Cascadian black metal with neo-folk elements produced by violin and viola. Dark and mournful, the folk aspects are not upbeat and festive like many pagan bands. There is almost a Victorian quality to their violin and viola.
The Intimate Earth is an album of contrasts. Sections beautifully lull with violin, guitar harmonies and scant female vocals. The metallic side, led by deep, growly black metal vocals comes across so much heavier when paired with the melodic sections. At nearly eleven minutes, “Sphagnum in the Hinterlands” begins with chiming guitars that transition into rough-hewn guitars and rolling drums. Bass and guitar harmonies instill “The Rite of Passage” with deep layers. The Intimate Earth’s intimate style allows them to stand apart from most folk black metal artists.
Following two well-received EPs, Arizona-based atmospheric black metal act Ghost Horizon present their debut full-length The Punishment Of Life. Ghost Horizon are mostly the product of Dan Stollings, but he enlisted the help of Frog Magus for this album only. The Punishment Of Life has a sound built on sweeping atmospheric guitars. The duo create unconventional black metal with post black metal and more traditional themes as well.
“Sunrise-Sorrow (Morning Air)” initiates the album with an ominous beginning and dark harmonies. This track and the next two express desolation and sorrow in a post black metal manner. “The Punishment of Life” has a similar feel to the first Agalloch album. “Unholy Conjuration” and “Wretched Fiend (The Haunting)” are faster tracks built on malevolent, satanic themes. The Punishment Of Life is an intriguing album in its mix of unconventional, rich melody and fiendish, evil aggression. It certainly stands apart from the (black) masses of unoriginal retreads.
Hinsides – Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna (Shadow/Regain)
Following a split with Monstraat last year, Hinsides offer their debut album Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna. Expect nothing less than the most callous sounds. Hailing from Sweden, Hinsides present a Scandinavian sound in only the rawest, most necro form. Guitars are severely distorted, which along with their style recalls Gorgoroth’s raw classic album Under The Sign of Hell.
While Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna functions on piercing, primitive tones, there are hints of melody. Church bells add a satanic layer on the title track, and are fitting on their cover of Samhain’s “Macabre.” Organ on instrumental track “Frälst i dödsstöten” adds a tinge of gothic horror. While the album’s riffing is fairly straightforward, there are brief solos as heard on “Skymningsfärd.” Some may immediately latch on the harshness of Under Betlehems brinnande stjärna, while others may require a couple of listens to appreciate this brief, aural onslaught.
Karloff – The Appearing (Dying Victims)
German punk rockers Karloff have a blackened edge to their debut album The Appearing. They sound like a less-doom inclined Celtic Frost/Hellhammer. Their blend of punk and black metal also brings to mind Darkthrone. The vocals are more of a shouted, Tom G. Warrior variety than a black metal goblin shriek. Darkness pervades throughout the album, though, especially in the lyrics.
The Appearing is a riff-mongering, down-picking frenzy of an album. Opener “My Misanthropic Kingdom” exemplifies their ability to turn a catchy riff. Their sound relates the early days of energetic hardcore. Hardcore bounce meets ghoulish chords on “Hate Consumer, which along with Superior Presence of Cruelty” contains refrains that burrow in the mind and won’t leave like an earwig. Bass is noticeable with some standalone parts as heard on “Superior Presence of Cruelty.” Unbridled raw energy, evil-possessed unforgettable vocal lines and riffs make The Appearing razor-bladed ear candy.