Ah, black metal. To some people's dismay and surprise, it may just be metal's cross-over genre. It can be horrific, terrifying, and unsettling, but it connects with people in ways you would never expect. Aimee Mann's keyboardist told me last week he's a fan. I must admit that I'm somewhat of a neophyte. Definitely late to the party. But so is America as a whole. After Nordic sports, black metal could be Norway's greatest contribution to modern culture. This decade, however, has seen the emergence of an American blak metal scene. Today, I received an email from the good people at FSS. They stumbled across this site because I had listed one of their releases, WRNRLD's Oneiromantical War, as one of my favorites of 2008. It's a brutal yet beautiful album, undoubtedly able to stand the test of the time. Listening to the grinding buzz of the layered guitars, I'm reminded of a bee attack that I suffered in my childhood in the northeastern woods, and the odd combination of terror, calm, and paralysis I felt as the venom took hold. The album captures the disturbing tranquility I felt that day in "Hexanic Stairway," before culminating magnificently in the 20 minutes of evil that is "War." Why would I voluntarily seek to aurally relive that experience? I cannot explain. But that is black metal. It is able to cut to the core of human existence. It makes you feel alive as it explores your fear of death. WRNLRD is just one person, raised on bluegrass in Virginia, who decided one day that his banjo could be used to for a different purpose. But being on his own, the output has been prolific, with 6 full-lengths and one EP since 2005. Now, as we await the release of yet another LP, Myrmidon, this year, a new digital EP called Aenmity Shining can be found here. Please give it a listen.
Southern Lord has recently issued two black metal releases. The elusive Norwegian group ORCUSTUS has been just a bit less prolific than WRNLRD, but the wait has been worthwhile. After 7 years in existence, this two-man band has released their eponymous and only full-length album, and as I understand it, they have now ceased to exist. That sounds about right. I took an advance copy with me back east a few weeks and it became the soundtrack for my journey to legendary drummer Levon Helm's house in Woodstock, NY. I'm pretty sure no one else will ever say that. Deep in the pines of the Catskills, surrounded by mounds of snow, and a bottle of Wild Turkey later, I convinced myself that the 4th track, "Jesus Christ Patricide," needed to be heard by all. I'm not sure they agreed.
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM has just put out their first record on Southern Lord, Malevolent Grain, a 12" vinyl EP called that introduces us to new guitarist, Will Lindsey (formerly of the now defunct Middian - the doom band from Oregon, not those talentless fucks from Wisconsin), and prepares us for the release of Black Cascade at the end of March. The two tracks are wonderfully different, with the first, "A Looming Resonance," sounding like Justin Broadrick might have been there in the studio.
Finally, Hydra Head has announced that XASTHUR's double vinyl LP, All Reflections Drained, is tantalizingly close to being ready. It looks like they plan to reward us for our patience with this pretty killer slipmat:
When does Alhambra give him a key to the city? Or at least a key to one of the many cars sititing in the 20 or so dealerships down there. He seems like a Scion kind of guy.