We have come to the end our shadowy journey for 2021. This is the last column for the year with December’s edition featuring my top picks for the albums covered this year on Within The Abyss. Here we have another strong batch of releases from all around the globe, relating various styles of black metal: Belore, Darkwoods My Betrothed, Destructo, Dolde Vorde Ens Navn, Fornhem, Krvna, and Lithik.
Belore – Artefacts (Northern Silence)
France’s Belore return to enchanted realms with their sophomore album, Artefacts. Consisting of Aleevok (all instruments, lyrics) and Charlie Videau (drums), the duo create epic, atmospheric black metal. An assortment of instrumentation such as tin whistles, horns, and choir keys bring to mind the glorious compositions of Summoning, as do the fantasy-based lyrics.
Six long songs take the listener down awe-inspiring pathways. The keys and symphonic instrumentation carry each track, but not without the infusion of mid-paced black metal. Tremolo-picked guitars appear throughout tracks add an icy sheen to each track. Vocals are a cross between distant shrieks and heroic clean voices. “Moonstone” is a standout track with mystical keys and medieval acoustic guitar section near the mid-way point. “The Fall of Endeor” contains an interesting use of percussion. Artefacts is a monumental record with grandiose arrangements and magical atmosphere.
Darkwoods My Betrothed – Angel Of Carnage Unleashed (Napalm)
Darkwoods My Betrothed are a Finnish band that recorded all their studio albums in the ‘90s. Angel Of Carnage Unleashed is their first album release in 23 years. It is a conceptual album based on story of the battle and occupation of Finland by Russia in the Great Northern War of 1700-1721. Plague, plunder, rape, and mass casualties ensued as a punishment from God for sins of Finland. “You Bitter Source of Sorrow,” a song about the torture wheel, arguably contains their most brutal subject matter.
“Name of the Dead” opens the album with monastic organ and vocal sections, thus cementing the vengeance-of-God theme. Tortured cries, demented shrieks, demonic growls, and heroic cleans provide vocal diversity and appear as dialogue. “Massacre” plays out exactly as the title suggests, fast and chaotic. “In Thrall to Ironskull’s Heart” resounds the heroic triumph of Viking-era Bathory. Imperialistic, majestic and gruesome — Angel Of Carnage Unleashed is a mighty return to form from one of Finland’s pioneering acts.
Destructo – Demonic Possession (Dying Victims)
Destructo were named as a tribute to Brazilian bands such as Sarcofago, Holocausto and Vulcano. With that fact known, one can gather this Dutch band’s sound. They play black/thrash metal owing to black metal’s thrashing roots. Along with the noted Brazilian bands, others come to mind like early albums from Slayer, Sodom, Bathory and Hellhammer.
Demonic Possession kicks off with “Succubus.” This track gives a preview of what is to come. Dark harmonies gradually build a gradually build into full-on speed assault. “Total Death” is perhaps the most aggressive and vicious track with brain-hammering drums. “I, Witchfukker” is initiated with a riff recalling Venom “Countess Bathory,” and takes off with furious speed picking. “Satan’s Hammer” moves with a plodding cadence in the tradition of Darkthrone and Hellhammer. “In Service of No One” is a crossover banger replete with a brief bass solo and D-beats. No neck is safe while listening to Demonic Possession!
Dolde Vorde Ens Navn – Mørkere (Lupus Lounge)
Dolde Vorde Ens Navn are a Norwegian black metal collective. The group features current and former members of Dodheismsgard, Ved Buens Ende, Satyricon and Ulver. Their debut full-length album Mørkere reveals sounds similar to the bands mentioned above. It’s a Norse black metal album through and through, with nods to early Satyricon and Ulver. In other instances, it’s avant-garde and unconventional in the same fashion as Ved Buens Ende and Dodheismsgarde.
“Jeg vil ha det mørkere” and “Løgnens abstinenser,” are fairly standard Norwegian black metal songs with icy guitar tones, blasts, mid-paced grooves and overbearing vocals. Stout, Nordic-style vocals sung in Norwegian tongues come into the foray that aren’t too out of the ordinary, but as the album goes along, they combine vocal harmonies in odd ways. The album has nature-worshipping, campfire instrumentation with serene violins, viola, cello and acoustic guitar. With Mørkere, Dolde Vorde Ens Navn find the right balance between harsh and mellow, and conventional and unconventional.
Fornhem – Stämman från Berget (Trollmusic)
The flame of Scandinavian black metal burns bright on Fornhem’s sophomore album Stämman från Berget. Entirely sung in Scandinavian, English speakers will not know this is not a satanic album. It’s a tale inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche’s Also sprach Zarathustra involving a hermit enlightened by living on a mountain for ten years. The loneliness of a world without God is questioned and answered with the freedom of knowing “God is dead!”
A sense of longing permeates through the five tracks on the album. Much of the phrasing is repetitive, resulting in enthralling sections. “Uþarba Spa” and “Förlist” include some of the album’s catchiest tremolo licks. The repeated phrasing brings to mind familiar names such as early Ulver, Burzum, Mayhem and Emperor. The bass follows the drums tightly, and often introduces a new theme. The drums sound boxy, but the ritualistic beats of “Untergang” are enjoyable. Stämman från Berget offers little in terms of innovation, but is still liable to mesmerize its listeners.
Krvna – Sempinfernus (Seance)
Australian creatures of the night Krvna offer their debut album, Sempinfernus. The album focuses on the myth of the vampire throughout world history. Sole member Krvna Vatra was inspired by folk stories and legends passed down through generations of his family. The premise of the story is with the advent of technology, the concept of vampires was disproved and eliminated.
The music on Sempinfernus is as barbaric as the atrocities committed in the town of Targoviste, Vlad Dracula’s famous “forest of the impaled,” which Krvna represent on “…To The Targovistean Night.” This track’s melodies are as cold of Dracula’s heart and the beats mimic Vlad’s infamous penchant for violence. Instrumental “The Triumph Of The Flesh Over The Spirit” conjures feelings of immortal isolation, wandering forlorn around the fringes of humanity. It has a similar vibe to Emperor’s “The Wanderer.” Nefarious and gruesome, Sempinfernus channels the eternally cursed spirit of ‘90s black metal.
Australian one-man blackened doom project Lithik present their debut full-length Weather The Storm. The album mostly hinges on the side of gothic doom, although there are black metal sections on “No End For An End To Meet” and the title track. Black metal’s influence is mostly felt in Ray McGill’s vocals. McGill’s voice crosses Venom’s Cronos and a less drawn-out Attila from Mayhem. Female vocals contrast his blackened tongue.
Brief instrumentals “Mountain Air” and “Calm Waters” relate the album’s nature-loving themes through lush acoustic guitar and keys. Weather The Storm is a mellow album. However, it can be quite dynamic. Ten-minute closer, “No End For An End to Meet” builds gradually with doomy ring outs into hammering drums and tremolo picking. This section comes across in the same epic fashion as a Primordial song. Lithik’s ability to complement their doom sound with black metal and its melodies makes Weather The Storm an enjoyable listen.
Other 2021 Within The Abyss’
January 2021 Within The Abyss
February 2021 Within The Abyss
March 2021 Within The Abyss
April 2021 Within The Abyss
May 2021 Within The Abyss
June 2021 Within The Abyss
July 2021 Within The Abyss
August 2021 Within The Abyss
September 2021 Within The Abyss
October 2021 Within The Abyss