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.

Revolter – “Demo #1” and “Enshrouded In Deception” Cassettes (2006 / 2018)

The other day I got an email containing a tracking number on an order I’d placed.  I was a but surprised to see a “.ru” as part of it an wondered for a minute if this wasn’t a phishing email since I can’t remember ever ordering anything from Russia.  I went back through my saved order confirmation emails and eventually figured it out – I ordered some Icelandic black metal tapes and knew they were coming from Europe, but never bothered to see from where.  Turns out they were being shipped from Ukraine.  Because why wouldn’t they be.

revoltertapes

I don’t know anything at all about Revolter.  They recorded the five songs that make up these two tapes back in 2006, and Lánd-Væt-Turr Records re-released them this year on some homemade cassettes in a limited edition of 66.  Which is 2/3 as evil as an edition of 666.  One of the cool things about this order, which included a few other black metal tapes I may write about later, is that the label included a CDr recording of each album for an extra couple of Euro, making it way easier to get these forlorn apocalyptic songs onto my iPod.

I don’t find Revolter to be your typical black metal.  The drum strikes are snappy and rapid, but flat – not that double bass assault that seems to be all the rage today.  There are also occasional soaring sonic interludes that harken back to NWOBHM.  It’s not pure doom and gloom and smoldering hellfire… though there’s plenty of that on songs like “Subhuman Triumph”.  Plus enough growled vocals to quench the thirst of a pack of demons at the end of a long day of tormenting.  For my money I’ll take the marathon 9+ minute “Malignant Guardian” off of Enshrouded In Deception,

If you’re interested in these, you can get them from Depressive Illusions HERE.