EMV JOURNAL #5 – VESSELS OF BLACK

Like an overflowing stream, the metal flows through conduits all over this deplorable planet. Nothing like a primitive yet effective pun, that’s Dismember for all the uninitiated by the way. Yes, I complain too much, I know. A lot of music has just sounded very “samey” to my ears these past couple of years. Of course there have been gems here and there, if you bother to look past the Nuclear Blast and Napalm Records mainstays, yet consuming too much music can result in the collapse of genuine enjoyment, and that’s what this whole “instant gratification” stimulus in cursed streaming services ultimately has accomplished. As a result, I’m trying to be more selective in which albums are worthy of my esteemed attention, because in truth, there’s plenty of uninteresting music as well, although Dismember always delivered!

Things are stirring back in the ol’ home country, The Faroe Islands. It’s been approximately a month since doom metal luminaries Hamferð released “Támsins likam”, which is reaping solid reviews everywhere, and now the concealed music summoners in Svartmálm have delivered something that’s equally thrilling and morose. Their profile preserves elements of Faroese culture, old, contemporary and avant-garde, something fairly uncommon within Faroese metal. The band’s mystic approach might be difficult to preserve in a small scale society where anonymity is more or less unthinkable, but the outside world on the other hand, doesn’t know the slightest thing about the hidden presence of this band. Not yet. Be ready to take notice!

Svartmálm’s debut release contains some crafty and well executed black metal, that sounds refreshing and has a unique sound, drawing inspiration from all sorts of musical sources. I was surprised by just how diverse this album sounds. While rooted in black metal ambiences and doom metal partially due to the many slow passages, there are still quite a few surprises to be found throughout the three tracks and the three part suite titled “Svartideyði” which follows. There are moments of avantgarde segues, aggressive parts that come close to blackened grindcore, infectious, industrial sounding stomps, progressive structures and small doses of psychedelia, all carefully weaved together into a journeyed atmosphere.

The vocals take cues from the Abbath school of croaking, but have a darker edge to them, conjuring up images of a lonely robed figure howling all conceivable earthly torments from the subterranean void. However, the album’s true strength, in my opinion, lies in the mix and production, as they’ve captured the primal aggression of the early Norwegian sound and the philosophical, explorative, earthy moods of the “cascadian” wave of black metal.


Another release, which has totally absorbed my being lately, is “ION” by the inimitable Australian death metal band Portal. I like me some experimental death metal, but I have to be in a certain mood for it, and when that mood strikes, no one comes close to nurturing my need than Portal.

At first, “ION” sounds like an unapologetic improvised rehearsal topped by vocals that sound like daunting spectral whisperings of ring-wraiths. After ten spins or so, it still sounds like the description I just gave, but more tangible, conceivable and interesting. These otherworldly vibrations are labyrinthine, spastic (in a terrifying way) and challenging to the ear, a solid clenched fist to all things general and lazy.

The nightmarish guitar assaults by necromancers Horror Illogium and Aphotic Mote (yikes!) translate into deconstructed whirlwinds with subtle hints of what appears to be melody and a fuckload of tremolo-picked dissonance. I wonder how this is played live? I imagine there’s a lot of crippled positioning on the instruments. An “accessible” example of this musical pandemonium is the track “Phathom”, the frantic and seemingly amorphous nature of the arrangements leave a lot open for interpretation, maniacal or rational, listen for yourself and judge. Another exhibit is the track “Phreqs”, which has some truly creeping, spiraling guitar arrangements, that makes much of supposedly evil black metal sound like bullshit! Really, if you want something that’s extraordinary, Portal is your fix!

 

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