Óreiða – “Óreiða” (2019)

There’s a surprising amount of black metal coming out of Iceland these days, and perhaps even more surprising is the range of different sonic experiences they provide, from the guttural growlers with their machine gun drumming to the the atmospheric hellscapes, there’s a lot of breadth.

oreida

Óreiða has taken it’s own path to darkness on its self-titled debut, a cacophonous and unrelenting irresistible force of sound, like a moving sonic wall pushing everything before it, never slowing, never stopping.  In fact, I’m not so sure that black metal is even the right descriptor for this.  I’m not even sure the English language has the right word or combination of words to describe it.  Is that a flute I hear on “Daudi”?  I’m not sure, but whatever it is gives the song a strange folk flavor despite the guitar that burrows into your skull.  The most classically metal song on the album is the closer, “Draugar”, with its repetitive underlying riff and lightning-fast-if-understated drums.

The good news is you can listen to Óreiða on Bandcamp HERE.  The bad news is that the limited edition vinyl (100 copies in splatter, 150 copies in black) are sold out, so you’ll have to get them on the secondary market.

Utzalu – “The Loins of Repentance” (2017)

utzaluloinsMost of the black metal I’ve heard over the last few years has been from Europe, but Utzalu are just a three hour drive down I-5 from me, based out of Portland, Oregon.  Their sound is more traditionally metal than that of many of their contemporaries – the pace never stops, the double-bass drumming incessant, the songs taking on an almost thrash velocity.  There’s nothing gloomy or atmospheric here, just straight in-your-face blackness.

Give these guys a listen at Bandcamp HERE.  Looks like the vinyl is limited to 300 copies, with another 200 on cassette.  I recommend checking out the title track, “The Loins of Repentance”, a slower, stomping piece that will crush your soul just a little more with each plodding step, grinding it into dust to be blown away by the hot winds of hell.

Örmagna – “Örmagna” (2019)

For someone who doesn’t listen to a lot of black metal, I sure seem to buy a lot of the black metal coming out of Iceland.

One of the newest entrants to the scene is Örmagna, a five-piece that has connections to some of the recent greats in Icelandic black metal, including Naðra vocalist Ö handling the vocals and Misþyrming‘s D.G. helping with the mastering.  Similarities, however, pretty much end there.

ormagna

Örmagna opens with a brief, distant-sounding and slow instrumental, which initially made me nervous about the sound quality.  Those fears were immediately put to rest when “Háskinn í Seljunum” kicked in and it started to become clear what Örmagna had in store for my ears and my soul, the weight and density taking on an oppressive character and suffocating all hope.  The disconnect between the super-fast black metal drumming and the doom-ish guitars and bass on “Náladoði” offer striking contrasts in both speed and mass, with each side battling for supremacy within the confines of the song, a contrast that shouldn’t work but yet does.

Örmagna is available for listening on Bandcamp HERE.  For the vinyl you’ll need to go to the Signal Rex website to order.  The good news is it’s only €15.  The bad news is they only pressed 250 copies of this bad boy, so you’d better get it while you can.

Nexion – “Nexion” (2017)

nexionIceland continues to churn out talented black metal bands in a variety of evil styles.  The latest to come to my attention is Nexion, a five-piece who bring it as straight up death metal overlaid with black metal vocals and lyrics.  The musical hallmarks are here – double bass drums, machine gun snares, rising and falling riffs, and singing that alternates between growling and screeching.  The songs show considerable structure and, quite unusually for an Icelandic black metal band, lyrics in English – which makes sense given that lead singer Josh Rood is an American (and also a grad student at the University of Iceland).

The lyrical narrative falls outside the standard Judeo-Christian narrative, leaning more towards older cultural traditions.  Certainly some of the words and imagery are familiar – genesis and the serpent are prominent in the Bible.  But this is an older story, more primal. The rape and slaughter of the cosmic mother with a spear made of stars.  The black firmament spilling forth from her womb, with her bowels infested with creation’s seed.  Here the starting point, the genesis, is the murder of the cosmic mother.  This isn’t a story of rebirth and salvation.  It’s a story about death and corruption.  Cosmic storms and torrents of chaos spilling from the entrails of gods and drowning the world in celestial filth as the universe impales itself.  This isn’t the story you know; it’s the other story.

The packaging is fantastic – gatefold sleeve, colored vinyl (♠), and a large-format booklet with drawings and lyrics related to the songs.  It’s quality from top to bottom.  You can listen to Nexion HERE as well as purchase downloads and/or CDs, though it appears the red splatter vinyl is sold out.

(♠)  125 copies in red/black splatter and 125 copies on clear/black splatter

Endalok – “Englaryk” Cassette (2016)

endalokenglarykIt seems that the older I get, the more frequently I have weeks that feel both impossibly long but yet seem to pass by in no time at all.  The cycle of commute, work, commute, eat, and sleep can turn you into a five-day automaton, a zombie who, unlike those portrayed in the movies, is going a hundred miles per hour non-stop.  That’s why I sometimes like to get up early on the weekend and enjoy a nice cup of coffee while listening to some music, a slowed down part of the day before the world wakes up and daily responsibilities take hold.

This morning I decided that the recent snowpocalypse we’ve been dealing with here in Seattle, which is now in that “everything is melting and there are huge piles of ever-dirtier slush piled everywhere” phase, warrants some atmospheric black metal.  I picked up this cassette copy (numbered edition of 100) of Englaryk on eBay the other day for less than ten bucks.  I tend to prefer my black metal more on the chiller side, and Endalok fit the bill.  At times moodily ambient, at others orchestrally metallic, the band has found the black metal sweet spot (and if Black Metal Sweet Spot isn’t a great album name, I don’t know what is).  Tortuously dark with electric edges that crackle like ball lightning, Englaryk is equally effective at both low and high volumes, more somber when turned down, more electric when cranked to 11.

You can listen to Englaryk on Bandcamp HERE, though it appears the cassettes are sold out.