Nowadays it’s almost impossible to keep up with the seemingly endless barrage of releases of any genre. It’s already hard enough with the bands you’ve grown to know and love, let alone with new acts who don’t debut in known labels. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of six first records which came out this year. We’ve left out bands we reviewed or with whom we’ve talked, such as Vaee Solis (here). Moreover, when we say “first release” we mean it, if there’s a demo out before 2015, the band’s not considered. Having said that, time to get through some filthy stuff.
Misþyrming – “Söngvar Elds Og Óreiðu”
When it comes to black metal debuts in 2015, the most talked about one has probably been “Söngvar Elds Og Óreiðu” – and rightfully so if you ask us. The truth is that it’s not only one of the best debuts in recent memory, but also one of the best recent releases within the genre. Released by Terratur Possessions, Fallen Empire Records and Vánagandr back in February, by this time, there’s not a lot that hasn’t been said about Misþyrming‘s debut, thus is the nature of the times we leave in. Let us then just briefly add that the initial hype surrounding it is more than justified, this is not some derivative flavor of the week release that more often than not grab most of the headlines, instead being another installment of excellence in the ongoing series of Icelandic black metal that has featured heavyweights Svartidauði, last year’s debut of Sinmara and will soon see another chapter with Naðra‘s upcoming first full length (we’ll have news on this one soon) and Misþyrming‘s upcoming sophomore release, which will take the stage in during the band’s residence in next year’s Roadburn.
The Spirit Cabinet – “Hystero Epileptic Possessed”
The Spirit Cabinet. Or: what happens when Urfaust‘s singer IX (here signing as Snake McRuffkin) gets together with his old mates from Grimm, Cirith Gorgor and Hooded Priest. The result is this “Hystero Epileptic Possessed” released by Ván Records this summer, a drunken bastard child of Urfaust and Mercyful Fate that will leach unto your hearing system and not let go anytime soon. While tracks like “The Spirit Cabinet” are perhaps too close to the merrier offerings of McRuffkin‘s main band (and therefore very different from this year’s “Apparitions” or “Het Aalschuim Der Natie”), there’s space for a heavy metal anthem in “Hexenhaus” or the deliciously infectious “Ramakrishna”. While the vocals shine brighter and are without a doubt the main highlight of the reocrd, the instrumental section is generally solid, coming up with some really good hooks, catchy riffs and more-than-welcome bits of galloping bass. Another Dutch band to keep in our radars (as if there weren’t enough already) and another great release by Ván Records – if only “business as usual” would always mean something this good.
Infra – “Initiation On The Ordeals Of Lower Vibrations”
While “Initiation On The Ordeals Of Lower Vibrations” is Infra‘s first record, listing the number of acts in which its members are currently involved (not to mention past bands) would get tiresome rather quickly (and you can check that here). Point being: this ain’t exactly a project by newcomers or untried musicians within the Portuguese scene. So, what is it that Effrenus, J. Goat and Filipe F. offer in “Initiation (…)”? A bit more than ten minutes of well crafted, slow and filthy black/death (yeah, you can stick “ritual” as a genre defining word where the sun don’t shine). This 7” debut was released back in April through Nuclear War Now! Productions and showcases the type of attention to detail that can serve the trio rather well in the future as they don’t limit themselves to plunge the listener in some deep dark pit, there’s groove amidst the darkness (Hellhammer/Celtic Frost surely being well studied) and the first side “Communion” not only takes its time to build its atmosphere through a series of bells but also features an unexpectedly well fitting melodic lead. Definitely looking forward to hear what they can do in a longer release.
Antlers – “A Gaze Into The Abyss”
Atmospheric black metal from Germany featuring Galician guitarrist Pablo C. from the great Sangre De Muérdago and formerly from Ekkaia. What could go wrong? In fact, if you’ve had the feeling that the aforementioned Sangre De Muérdago had a lot of the vibe characterizing Ulver‘s “Kveldssanger”, then you won’t be that surprised to find a lot of folk inspired melodies in Antlers‘s “A Gaze Into The Abyss”. However, to limit ourselves to the connection with nature when describing the music of Antlers would be a disservice – it’s not that the connection is not there, but it is a mean rather than an end. A mean to what? Transcendence, a yearning for a new world to rise from the flames of our own corrupted one. They’re not the first nor will they be the last to evoke these feelings, but they do so with urgency and creativity in the songwriting and interpretation thereof. One should never complain when that’s the case.
Taphos Nomos – “West Of Everything Lies Death”
There are styles where one should not overthink shit. Death doom is, generally speaking, one of them. Sinister howls, ominous riffs a la Autopsy and a good balance between the faster death metal blasts and slowly dragging your listener to hell and back. In other words, it’s all a matter of being able to write a good fucking song or two within the confines of a genre, nothing new or specific to this style in particular. In that regard, Taphos Nomos‘s “West Of Everything Lies Death” passes with distinction. Its filthy sounding but produced enough not to fall in that “look at us playing in the middle of a cave” type of gimmick, and has that overall skull crushing nastiness that one should always strive for in this type of music. Not content with that first EP, the Pittsburgh based quintet released “The Cottonwoods Grim” demo a month later, a single song inspired by Owen Wister‘s “The Virginian” that is bound to feature in their first full length. Besides that, there’s the split “Rigorously Intensified Putrefaction” with the Icelandic death metal outfit Urðun, whose first demo also came out this year. Interestingly, Urðun‘s vocalist is Skaðvaldur, author of the artwork of both Misþyrming‘s debut and Naðra‘s upcoming full length.
Everything on Vrasubatlat
By now you’ve probably heard Vanum, the new project of Ash Borer‘s K and Fell Voices‘ Mike, whose debut “Realm Of Sacrifice” was released by Profound Lore during this summer. Here’s the thing though: as good as that album is, it’s a distant second to what the rhythmic section of Ash Borer (M and R) unleashed upon the world via their new label Vrasubatlat. So far, they’ve released three demos and a split and only the fourth of them doesn’t count as a debut. Let’s get to the bands (or entities, as they call them) then: there’s Uškumgallu and Serum Dreg, both of which are formed solely by M and R, and there’s Utzalu with drums by C and everything else by R – a self professed extension of what lead to Urzeit, another recommendable project that sees M and R join forces with מזמור’s (Mizmor) sole member A.L.N.
If it all sounds a bit confusing, just let the following walkthrough clear shit out.
Uškumgallu – “VT-I || Uškumgallu”
Described by the label as “a black metal manifestation of one’s fears, disgust, and shame in the form of affirmation and surrender”, Uškumgallu could very well become that band whose short and sweet debut you show your mates when they ask you what’s so good about raw and unrelenting black metal. Harrowing screams, mesmerizing riffs and dynamic drumming, filled with good d-beat nastiness and a rather good cymbal work. So far, the only band with two releases in Vrasubatlat (their second demo lies at the end of this article).
Serum Dreg – “VT-II || Impure Blood”
Serum Dreg is the death/black offspring of this unholy entity and its debut “Impure Blood” is self-described as showcasing “the worship of hedonism and self-destruction through a primitive death metal vehicle”. Yeah, this is some filthy stuff, no doubt about it. Get your ears ready for close to a quarter of an hour of an onslaught of raw black and death metal. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
Mróz & Utzalu – “VT-III || Mróz / Utzalu”
Speaking of stuff which isn’t suitable for the faint of heart, how unsettling is the Mróz track on this beast of a split? Uncomfortable industrial noises on the background and some of the most disturbing screaming you’ll hear all year – and that boys and girls, is how you make a lasting impact in less than five minutes. Not only is “Saranam” great but one could hardly picture a better introduction to the two Utzalu tracks that rise from the lingering noise at the end of the Mróz song. As nasty as any of the other offerings on VT but in a completely different fashion – way more minimal and “in your face”, resulting in some mouth-watering five minutes of d-beat infused black metal. Their first record by themselves is called “Germinal”, is inspired by the works of French writer Émile Zola and will be out through Psychic Violence later this year.
If you already got this far, might as well treat yourself to the complete thing and listen to the aforementioned “Mortifying The Flesh”, the second demo by Uškumgallu.