…A band quietly releases an album that sonically sits somewhere between the influences of Bathory, Nifelheim, Tormentor, Dissection, and Mercyful Fate, which successfully conjures the evil atmosphere of spending a night in an abandoned castle in Transylvania where shadows play mind games to trick you that you will never see the sunrise again while wolves are howling outside. And the album goes completely unnoticed, standing against all modern fads and trends, waiting to be discovered.
Something that people in underground metal circles love to do is to trace back the sound of a new band to find the origins of influences. What lies at the root is Black Sabbath if you go back enough but the trace lines at this point have branched out so wide that the full map of modern underground metal would be represented with no less than a forest. A particular branch that we are interested in here is the one that goes from ‘80s metal to Mortuary Drape, then to more extreme acts such as Cultes des Ghoules, Spite, or in today’s case, Ljosazabojstwa.
Hell Symphony: The Czech Black Metal Sound (Ft. Interviews with Master’s Hammer, Root, and Blackosh)
As black metal began to arise as a global movement in the early 1990s, regional scenes began taking hold. Beyond the infamous Norweigan one, many small regional scenes emerged in Sweden, Finland, Greece, Brazil and perhaps most curiously, the Czech Republic. The scene in this country had its origins in the 1980s as underground tape trading managed to expose a handful to the occult sounds of Venom, Bathory, and Mercyful Fate among others in spite of the restrictions under the iron curtain.
From the ashes of several previous bands and the eerie corners of Sweden came Head of the Demon. In the eighth year of their existence, they are about to release their third album, aptly named as Deadly Black Doom, on Walpurgis Night, the 30th of April.
Northern Spain is home to a wide variety of legends and folklore tales. One of them is “La Santa Compaña”, a myth that revolves around a procession. The procession is leaded at midnight by a living person carrying a cross and holy water. This is not the bizarre part. The person is then followed by a flock of grieving souls in white robes with candles. While very few people are capable of seeing the dead, they leave behind the scent of wax in the air. Those who claim to have seen or felt their presence say they hear prayers or funerary songs. While no one knows precisely the meaning of their march, many suspect it is a way of announcing an impending death – another soul to join the ghastly congregation.
Opening the album with paying due respect to Hammerheart-era Bathory, Malokarpatan take their time to tell you their stories – and such dark and grimy stories, they are. The longer-form songs build up to smooth, galloping leads or choruses; they keep taking twists and turns as the story unfolds with the use of interludes varying from synths to acoustic passages. But at the heart of it all lies the signature “dark heavy metal” riffage of the band.
Necromantia are one of the more curious and immediately striking bands in black metal. The Hellenic BM scene was, outside of a couple outliers in the Scandinavian countries (eg Dissection, Immortal etc), the most traditional heavy metal of the bunch – after all, it is why RiG has a big ‘ol primer on the scene. Of the big bands, Necromantia is perhaps the most musically “traditional metal” of the bunch, while also being musically one of the more radical bands of their brood.
From time to time we see a new band emerging from the dark, ancient corridors of the past, through the cobwebs and mildew, carrying a torch enkindled by the flames of bygone times. Disregarding the evolution of trends and habits over time, these bands go all the way back to the origins for inspiration. Interested more in the roots of the black metal tree than young branches, Hellehond, a new band from the Netherlands, are here to pay their tribute to the spirit of old school.
Flamekeeper is the natural result of the journey from Italy to Sweden for Marco S., the main person behind occult black/death metal band Demonomancy and also The Devil’s Mark Studio. Carrying Mediterranean influences like Necromantia with him, he arrived at the epic metal masterpiece, Hammerheart by Bathory. The debut effort of Flamekeeper is an approach to that Hammerheart sound that is rooted more in black metal in spirit, yet with plenty of clean heavy metal sounding sections.
There is virtue in simplicity. While some modern extreme metal acts try to push the boundaries of the sub-genres (which mostly results in unimpressive ways for me); Avenger, the sole member of Front Beast, pursues the simplicity of the old. Active in many different projects ranging from traditional occult doom to black/thrash to grind or death metal, Avenger focuses his efforts for Front Beast on paying tributes to the forefathers of black metal like Bathory, Venom, or Hellhammer. Shadows is the latest output of this black/thrash/heavy metal act and it stays on the path Front Beast has always consistently been walking on for the past 20 years.