A very varied start to the year for bands from the extreme cosmos.
Ahab – The Coral Tombs (Napalm Records)
After prodigious concept albums centered on the marine writings of Herman Melville (the debut “The Call Of The Wretched Sea” and its sequel “The Divinity Of Oceans”), Edgar Allan Poe (“The Giant”) and William Hope Hodgson (“The Boats Of The Glen Carrig”), it was perhaps inevitable that the Ahabs would choose one of Jules Verne’s most celebrated books for the lyrical material of their fifth studio effort. The Germans, in fact, follow the events of the protagonists aboard the Nautilus submarine narrated in the pages of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas”, transforming the growing sense of terror that characterizes the novel into a slow-motion nightmare, capable of plumbing the aquatic depths as those of the human soul. The “nautik” doom funeral of “The Coral Tombs” flows, ebbs, moves and branches out with all the power of the oceans in continuous movement, between images of giant killer squids and unstoppable vortexes, with prog, psychedelia and black metal to act as a cortege to a songwriting that is both liquid and compact, the result of the expert and talented pen of Daniel Droste and Chris Hector. Chris Noir of blacksters Ultha and Greg Chandler of esoteric provide their sinister vocal contributions to an extraordinary record, which Captain Nemo himself would take with him if he wanted to embark on a new adventure into the depths of revenge.
Recommended tracks: “Prof. Arronax’ Descent Into The Vast Oceans”, “Colossus Of The Liquid Grave”, “Ægri Somnia”
Ashen – Ritual Of Ashes (Bitter Loss Records)
Outside of the classics and a few modern upstarts, bands that use the HM-2 guitar tone for their death metal often come up with a set of musical tropes that make a lot of platters based on this style totally forgettable. The debutants Ashen, composed of three quarters of the abandoned Vespers Descent and authors of the EP “Godless Oath” in 2021, represent in some ways an anomaly in the endless world of Swedish death metal, since they prefer to focus on moderation and not on emphasis, managing to pack a really smooth and amusing “Ritual Of Ashes”. An essential battery, a full-bodied bass, gritty and catchy riffs, a voice that is both nauseating and understandable, for an LP with concise and no-nonsense writing, served by a production capable of bringing warmth and depth to the whole. The compositions draw from a wide range of influences, equally distributed between the usual suspects of the sector (Entombed and Dismember) and some more recent entities (Carnation, Helslave and Wombbath), without neglecting the attention towards a dense groove son of the legendary Repulsion and a restlessness charged with doom that recalls the supernatural slime of the first Slugdge. The Australians of Perth are therefore serious, showing a personality heralding future extreme feats.
Recommended Tracks: “Ritual”, “Harbinger”, “Cursed Rebirth”
Eisregen–Grenzgänger (Massacre Records)
More than a few years ago, the German public broadcaster ZDF became interested in the events of an evil formation from Thuringia, causing a half-uproar in the aforementioned region and the subsequent intervention of the Federal Office of Inspection for the Media. Even today Eisregen are paying the consequences of that investigation, given that the albums “Krebskolonie”, “Farbenfinsternis” and “Wundwasser” have long since ended up, with the EP “Fleschfestival”, in the proscription lists of respectable Germany. An Index of Forbidden Books move which, despite its anachronistic nature, has allowed the group to obtain superior visibility compared to the merits acquired in the field, considered a fluctuating discography in terms of overall quality. In any case, for a project that in the intentions of the founders should have kicked the bucket after the sixth album, reaching the full-length number fifteen means still enjoying moderate health, although the new “Grenzgänger”, despite the uncomfortable themes, will hardly fall in the hands of the Teutonic Inquisition. Blutkehle and Yanit, also together in the occult Goat Funeral, therefore pack an extremely solid work which, while juggling, as usual, between black, death and gothic, reveals an evocative facies much less folkloristic than in the past. Nothing transcendental and to peel your ears for, but welcome back to a duo who certainly don’t send them to say when you need to dig into the turbidity of humanity.
Recommended tracks: “Grenzgänger”, “Für Den Kaiser”, “Als Ich Noch Kinder Fraß”
Høstsol – Länge Leve Döden (Avantgarde Music)
Høstsol’s line-up, put together during the pandemic, comes from well-tested musical creatures known in Scandinavian and neighboring black metal circles; now they make their long-distance debut with a “Länge Leve Döden” which is not the classic impromptu product of a low quality side project. A collective work, the work of the minds of a couple of Finns, a Norwegian and a Swede, which manifests itself as highly professional from any angle it is examined, with a certain Andy LaRoque in the control room, capable of instilling the violence perpetrated in excerpts a sense of macabre and icy darkness. The most directly identifiable compositional hand is certainly that of Cernunnus, whose talent for writing, centered on a buzzing and diabolical guitar enriched by folk phrasing, cannot fail to recall the sublime atmospheres of his Manes. To give him ancestral and tormenting support are provided by the two Ajattaras, the drummer Malakias 6,8, here as Rainer Tuomikanto, and Kalmos – the former Barathrum in this round busy with the bass –, but above all the vocalist of the Shining Niklas Kvarforth, author of a superb performance, full of anguish and desperation A supergroup that lives up to expectations should be scored in cap lock wherever the slightest space is left over.
Recommended Tracks: “As Seen Through The Eyes Of The Prophet”, “Länge Leve Den Ansiktslöse Mördaren”, “Din Skördetid Är Nu Kommen”
Moonlight Sorcery – Nightwind: The Conqueror From the Stars (Avantgarde Music)
After releasing the EP “Piercing Through The Frozen Eternity” in February 2022, Moonlight Sorcery are back with the same format by virtue of this “Nightwind: The Conqueror From the Stars”, mini which confirms the good vibes of the debut. Last year the Tampere trio, following the example of the Americans Stormkeep, authors of the splendid “Tales Of Othertime” (2021), became the creator of a melodic black metal with symphonic nuances, modeled around the proposal of Emperor and early Satyricon, without, however, slavishly replicating its sound. The new opus, still characterized by a dizzying use of keyboards, certainly does not represent a complete reversal of the trend compared to the debut, yet it gives us some surprising stylistic digressions that look so much at the guitar constructions of the Children Of Bodom as for the dark folk gods finntroll. If we add to this a hint of neoclassical power of clear Finnish origin, one can conjecture how the combo formed by Ruttomieli, Loitsumestari Taikakallo and Haska seems oriented towards weaving, in the future and more completely, the genres that were and are still the most popular in the Land Of the Thousand Lakes. They are expected at the gate of the full-length, always and in any case in the name of black metal.
Recommended Tracks: “Ancient Sword Of Hate”, “Yötuulten Kutsu”