The last edition of this series was way back in December of last year. It seems like a million light years (to call forth distance too) away now, what with the pandemic still ravaging and culling humanity by the thousands. I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of desensitization to death we’ve all experienced. Remember Tool’s song “Vicarious?” Where Maynard opines “Eye on the TV, ‘Cause tragedy thrills me, Whatever flavor it happens to be like”. Bah! Beyond all that now!
Why not turn to our familiar anodyne? Here are four releases that I believe you must check.
As Deckard Cain would ever lovingly mutter… “Stay awhile and listen”.
1. Kanonenfieber – “Menschenmühle” (Noisebringer Records)
Ah yes! the horrors of war… coupled with Death Metal is often a well-worn boot in most of metaldom. Kanonenfieber (translated as ‘Cannon fever’ of course) recounts through their debut release the larger social destruction of war and not some mere glorification, bereft of its devastation. In fact, as this interview attests, the sole band member ‘Noise’ went to great extents to dig up lost archives of war letters between soldiers and their loved ones, with death an often hovering presence. Their emotional weight, lent by loss and the passage of time, come alive in each of these tracks. Musically, perhaps an easy reference point to the band’s sound is the Ukranian band 1914 (who most of us at TMW are big fans of).
That said one must listen to the album in conjunction with Noise’s other effort, Leiþa, which is more of a personal journey. Garbed in a despondency birthed from self-doubt, its some harrowing Black Metal that serves to be a bridge between the worldly (as in war in Kanonenfeiber) and the personal.
2. Dvne – “Etemen Ænka” (Metal Blade Records)
While the new Cult of Luna was solid indeed, Dvne’s sophomore effort takes the post metal podium by storm. Their sound is very reminiscent of a wily Intronaut or the expansive soundscapes of say an Ocean Collective but they are not necessarily delimited by a certain auditory focus. Both “Asheran” (their previous release) and “Etemen Ænka” are grandiose in theme and song. Lyrically the band dabbles in sociology, history and sci-fi (check this wonderful interview) and such themes need a palette of sound that is expansive, yet cogent and compelling in execution. That it provides with much aplomb. “Etemen” mixes in Babylonian, Grecian and Sanskrit, to Zoroastrian myths, suffusing them with a vibrant musical structure.
P.S. What struck me was a word like ‘Mleccha’ which hit closer to home I must admit. Mleccha is a word used to describe barbarians or people not native to India. It is often used in the pejorative sense (to denigrate indigenous folk and people outside the caste system in India) even today to signal uncouthness or the like, even in my own local language. But the lyric of the song reinterprets it as a key to some sense of self-understanding to the future, within the band’s mythological landscape. This seems super interesting at the least. Also, it’s kinda my favorite song.
3. Violet Cold – “The Empire of Love” (Independent Release)
Purists be damned….. Violet Cold is a band that has constantly moved away from this trite sense of conformity that pervades most of Black Metal with each passing release. In this sense they are more of an outlier in metaldom, but all the more better for the same. “Empire of Love” represents to me a yearning. A yearning for something better, however naïve, expressed through a conduit of passion that exudes genuineness and a strange anodyne quality. Its shoegazy, and filled with a sense of pop aesthetic in a way that does not mirror or retrace its inadequacies. There is a sense of grandeur around its edges. A much needed respite from the world burning outside, just beyond our window panes. May this break your ever-present grief into two or as many unassuming shards as it can. Azerbaijan sends love our way: love we could all do with a bit right now….
4. Рожь – “Вечное” (Independent Release)
While Violet Cold exuded all things uplifting, Рожь’s (from here-on ‘Rye’ as is translated from Cyrillic) debut album is a tale that is both sombre and contemplative. Rye is more tellurian, deeply rooted in the aesthetics of a musical movement that is indebted to nature, as is common in the output of bands like Wolves in the Throne Room and Panopticon. But Rye’s music is far from a stone’s throw to those styles and instead drips with melancholia that is more common with doomier variants of Black Metal. I’d in fact wager that it is more akin to a Doom/Funeral Doom release with Black Metal elements. It had me exploring (albeit online) the Republic of Karelia, the landscape of which feeds into the music and perhaps lends it a certain sense of vastness and maybe even grandeur. The melodies…oh the melodies… It is where the album thoroughly shines or raises a pall of gloom depending on your take.