Apologies for the delay this time around. Traveling and other obligations have strayed me from the path. Agatized is back on track (for now).
Wallachia – Monumental Heresy
Wallachia return from the abyss to re-cement themselves as skilled veterans of the old Norwegian scene. They have always been recognized for the symphonic elements in their sound, and the album begins in this forged grandiose fashion. Blast beats and keyboards meld with intelligent riffs, constantly transforming the atmosphere. The most noteworthy characteristic about the album is the way that the vocals, drums, and riffs team up for an audial meltdown of the most devastating proportions. Its is firstly noted on the opening track “Heathen Shores”. I have a never heard another band that pulls this off to the epic extent that Wallachia does. By the 4:11 mark of the song, the main riff has been building and then the moment is unleashed where the drums sort of descend with the vocals, creating a moment of ultimate unity within Wallachia’s sound. It is a powerful statement of professionalism and synchronization on an album where the band is obviously pushing themselves further than ever before.
In a subgenre where the label “symphonic black metal” is so divisive, Wallachia transcend any and all stereotypes of the sound by making their black metal moments stand out on their own, and using symphonic and choir elements as a tasteful companion rather than a crutch. The choir-like elements are definitely present in the second track “So We Walk Alone” while not overpowering any of the brutality of the main focus of the song. Especially in the final two minutes, both planes work together to form a cathartic union. It’s a bold move on Wallachia’s part to begin an album with such a triumphant track as “Heathen Shores”, as the album could easily lose steam afterwards. Instead, the momentum is kept throughout the duration, and there are many memorable moments to enjoy. This will be an album that is worth revisiting over the years, as I feel that new secrets could be unlocked after every listen; a real treasure.
Mystik – Skalder Frän Urskogens Dunkla Mystik
I have long struggled with the words to use to put this album into context. I received it in the mail sometime in March or April and it has not left my car since. This is a colossal album filled with long songs of mid-paced to slow black metal with a heavy inclusion of different atmospheres of the natural world. Sure, playing lightning fast black metal is definitely physically challenging, but I feel that creating slower black metal passages is an entirely different beast, especially if you want those compositions to be compelling. Leave it to Ancient Records to deliver a quality release in any style that he desires.
The songs are long, but they are endlessly compelling. One can easily lose any sense of the real world in these hypnotic spells. The melodic guitar tone is a transcendent sound, and the drumming style lurches these songs forward with a calm discipline, as if they could just keep going until the end of time. The second track is where we are given our first glimpse of the natural world in this atmosphere, with this feeling multiplied in the acoustic interludes filled with bird noises. While the nature samples are sparse, they are extremely powerful in purveying the timelessness of this album. It feels as if this recording is one with the earth. The formula seems simple, but not many could create a black metal release such as this one. This stands out among all other releases, and is a landmark transformative experience. The variation between the riffs and the drum fills is the product of intelligent songwriting, as the songs can find themselves meandering, but never too far from the main theme. This release has caused a lack of intelligent words to describe it, and all are urged to seek out this monument.
Nachash – Phantasmal Triunity
Nachash begin their awaited full album with a decompression of the immensity that was their previous EP, providing an entertaining introduction of the suffering to come. Second track “Apex Illuminous” continues the perpetuation of their trademark sound, a black/doom/black’n’roll hybrid of monstrous proportions that is nonstop throughout the rest of the album. New listeners will be stunned at not only the power that this band performs with, but the relative uniqueness to their sound. Not many things being released today are in this vein of unabashed metal glory. “Vortex Spectre” is one of the highlights of the album. Midway through the song, the listener is launched into a crunchy psychedelic droolfest before being violently pulled back into reality around the five minute mark. It really is a profound sonic shift, and encapsulates every quality to be loved about this great band.
This time around, the songs seem a little bit tighter in composition and performance, with the tracks here not quite reaching the lengths of the ones on the EP (save for the final track). The newfound immediacy really works in the band’s favor, as the variation in the riffs becomes more jarring, showcasing a tightly knit band navigating all these changes masterfully. Everyone puts on a great performance, and the vocal style is something that really takes Nachash to the next level, not to discount any other part of this band’s formula. The echoed effect on the vocals, which is also the same on the EP, combines with the spacey abyss artwork and lyrics to propel the listener’s imagination to various planes throughout the universe. Nachash had this particular listener in high anticipation after releasing that flawless EP, and they delivered everything to be desired on their first album. The production is simply fantastic and organic, with every element perfectly melded together in this unholy concoction. If you’re not driving over the speed limit to this album this summer, then you are making a huge mistake.
Ifernach – Gaqtaqaiaq
Ifernach emerge from the woodlands of eastern Canada to submit an inspired, melodic assault against the cultural devastation of the modern world. The sounds and overall vibe of this album hearken back to the glory days before the ruination of America, and Ifernach treats this theme with great respect. Right out of the gate, we are gifted with the track “Extinction”, which is easily the strongest on the album. The vocal style transports the listener towards the early Finnish black metal days, while the melodic guitar tones follow perfectly with the Metal Noir Quebecois scene, and these melodic leads deliver on all fronts. This track alternates between two supremely majestic riffs, and somehow they seem to gain power and urgency as the song trudges along. Starting off the album with a track as strong as this is a bold move, as not only is this one of the most moving tracks you are bound to hear this year, but it sets the expectations high for the rest of the album.
Atmosphere is at the forefront of this album, and it is not always portrayed within metallic means. A soft classical interlude breaks up the first third of the album for a serene vacation from the raw reverb. The track “Naufragés” contains minutes of sounds that feel as if you are in a cave and water is slowly dripping down from everywhere, allowing time to slow down and appreciate your surroundings. Ifernach has created a complete atmospheric experience, and just as the cave is dripping with water, this album is dripping with total passion and devotion. Not at all related to the music, but the album art is one of my favorite pieces in recent memory. Having the band logo blurred to create a look as if it is up in flames or being used as a signal fire… that is inspired. Ifernach has spared nothing to gift us this work from the heart.
Knokkelklang – Jeg Bergraver
A choir of bones clashing with each other, emanating from the underworld. The sounds slowly evolve into a melancholic funeral procession that drives ever onward. Knokkelklang is a mysterious entity that releases obscure, haunting music beyond any stereotype or allegiance to any “scene”. This is pure hellish black art, and you will not hear another album like this for quite some time. The title track is over 20 minutes long, and the forces that somehow propel this song forward in an inspired manner are not of this living world. This album feels as though it is a romantic hymn to the dead and all things rotting and decaying, a feeling perfectly encapsulated by the hanging bodies on the album cover. Were they skinned, or were they left to rot for a long time?
The style of the two tracks here is definitely brooding, ultimately moving towards more unsettling territory as time ever passes. The final track is a world class ambient piece with the same bone clanging sounds as in the first track, bringing this entire movement full circle. This last track has a breathing quality to it, as if the music contained within is indeed living. Each breath is never the same, as different sounds shift in an out of focus, creating a growling beast full of surprises. This album is an absolute masterpiece, and would have qualified for last month’s feature had it been unleashed at that time. This should not be ignored by anyone.
Oksennus – Kolme Toista
Oksennus has always been a supremely weird and dense band of the most inaccessible order, and while it is hard to notice through the murk, they are improving on every release. The task of executing three songs at thirteen minutes each is no easy ones, yet the members of Oksennus are armed with the right amount of experimentation to create something extraordinarily unique. On this album more than any of their other material, it feels like the experimental tones are creating a perverted unity to the tracks, rather than distorting any sort of overarching theme that may have been present. The satisfying drum breakdown around six minutes in on the first song feels like an organic shift towards something more powerful, and it provides a relief from the opening movement while not entirely abandoning the theme of the song or album.
The beginning of the second track continues this frenzied drumming movement, and it has a weirdly hypnotic effect when combines with the crazed, insect-like swarming of the guitar tone. It’s a genius passage; of the weirdest headbanging moments I have had. This band is clearly stuck in the yawning abyss, and this album of 39 minutes of pure recorded anguish as they try to escape from the powerful grasp of the human mind. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you decide to enter the gauntlet, fruits of a strange voyage will be reaped.