I am usually used to writing a certain intro piece to this particular segment called “Deckard Cain’s Maladies of the Ear.” Often, it is a pretentious exercise to root the phantasmagorical in reality. For instance, like descriptively recounting the pandemic as “virus and vermin swings their scythes, ever so swiftly” instead of saying “the pandemic claimed a thousand lives today.” But in 2020, glossing over or rather painting reality as something that needs powerful emotive descriptors is nothing short of trite. Maybe the word trite needs a definitive replacement. Suffering is lived… loss is no longer vicarious enough and the image of a grave or a burning pyre ain’t no longer just Metal ‘album art’ worthy. It is real. It is dread. It is dread surfeit. Defeat….
What can be solace in such a time? Can Metal be that? Perhaps it can. Perhaps for some of us it always will.
Onwards to some maladies of the ear.
Pull Down the Sun – “Of Valleys and Mountains”
Post-Metal often tries way too hard and ends up being a rigmarole in attempting to live up to its name. Most often than not, barring a few giants within the genre, its practitioners often fall short to live up to the genre and become a rather tepid affair of just long songs and atmosphere for the sake of it. Pull Down the Sun (from New Zealand) is maybe that little glint of light we all needed. Theirs is a brand of Post-Metal that is reminiscent of all things benthic (oh I meant The Ocean here), a bit of Intronaut-y flair and perhaps in some particular sections definitely influenced by their Kiwi forefathers in Jakob. It does not cut any new territory like a Neurosis does but it does scale those intricate Post-Metal heights while also having an ear for a much more earthy (and perhaps mundane) groove that gets me in my bones. This is a really great debut. Nothing short of it.
Selbst – “Relatos De Augustia”
I’m always pulled in the direction of music that comes from places that often have a less pronounced presence in the global Metal scene. And yet, one must explore whether that its music that can hold on its own, lest we glorify mere mediocrity. Venezuelan Black Metal band Selbst’s latest, is equal parts acerbic and equal parts melodic, and yet is atmospherically sublime. Very similar to perhaps Mgla/later era Blut Aus Nord and even the recent spate of Panzerfaust records. It has this strange emotive quality that sort of lulls the listener into a peaceful meditative state, where one is able to parse over the tragedy that is life. Here I must also endear you to check the band’s previous self-titled album. There’d you see a more direct execution of ‘in your face’ modern Black Metal, powerful but tiringly familiar. This is not that. Perhaps the many drawn out melodic refrains here invites you to contemplate one’s personal pain (the album title translates to “Tales of Anguish” after all) rather than hunger for power or wallow in some cold existential plane like most Black Metal is often these days.
Havukruunu – “Uinu Syömein Sota”
Unlike the aforementioned Selbst record this one is all about power/glory. Unabashedly vainglorious, in a good way, I’d say! You could almost see yourself riding one of those beasts of burden in some indistinguishable warring horde. Scaling mountains. Descending on foes. It’s all there. A warning though its not the chirpy, happy go lucky, swashbuckling of say early Ensiferum, but the bolder, colder, fighting against the frost order. Havukruunu has been one of my favourite bands in what has become this Pagan Black Metal niche that draw their lineage from say, Bathory’s “Hammerheart.” The focus of the entire album is on riffcraft! Its those invigorating melodies that might stand in for war cries. But they do mix it up a lot – sometimes even going moderately Punkish at places. But oh, the gang vocals! My ears prick up every time they do come on, like towards the end of “Vähiin Päivät Käy.” Fire!