The year 2011 was the year when most of my old favourites kept their level well (Ulver: Wars of the Roses, Primordial: Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand, Tenhi: Saivo and Autopsy: Macabre Eternal) – progression was happening but the original flame was also present. There were also new (or not so new) bands that kept crystallizing their vision like The Devil’s Blood (The Thousandfold Epicentre), Necros Christos (Doom of the Occult), Virus (The Agent that Shapes the Desert), Charnel Winds (Der Teufelsbund) and Peste Noire (L’Ordure á L’état Pur).
But my actual list is something different: five bands and albums that aren’t the most familiar ones and don’t shine in every year-end list in music magazines. Here you go:
SINK: The Holy Testament
This is nonmusic: screeching noise that doesn’t open itself or please you in a blink of an eye. Still you come back for more, and little by little these cacophonous and buzzing soundscapes start to reveal their treasures. After the already glorious The Process (2008) The Holy Testament is more organic and even close to black metal, but you can’t say that this album has actual songs. Instead of structural music, you find yourself in a maze of cracked and oppressive waves – which is good.
I guess every doom fanatic knows and praises Warning. I also guess that despite this glorification not that many of these fanatics actually own The Inside Room. That’s a shame – although 40 Watt Sun is approaching lighter and more wistful feelings, the depths of melancholy and Patrick Walker’s deep and heart-breaking voice are still there. The Inside Room is full of ethereal moments, tenderness, strong pathos and certain alternative attitude. This is an album that forces you to stop and woe.
First I thought that this ex-Dodheimsgard-singer Mat ’Kvohst’ McNerney’s Hexvessel is just a trendy project which is trying to make a quick buck in the euphoria of retro occult. Fortunately I was wrong. Nowadays when The Devil’s Blood is giving birth to thousands and thousands of faceless followers, it’s great to have an album that leaves electric guitars behind and travels to the source of occult folk. This flow of music sways the listener so easily to the left hand path that you can’t even notice it. Rich and soft sounds, clever nuances and McNerney’s angelic voice are the last jewels to this crown, and so Dawnbearer is this year’s best debut album in my books.
HATEFUL ABANDON: Move
Another British band, hmm. When an artist leaves black metal behind and transforms to a postpunk-spirited group, the whole story sounds rather cheesy and pretentious. Luckily Hateful Abandon is miles away from being pretentious. There are shades of black metal present in the form of occasional guitar buzz and the general hollow atmosphere, but otherwise Move is like a ghost from the 80ies, preaching like Killing Joke and stomping like Bauhaus. Hypnotic drums, effective bass lines and humming synth waves make this album an original piece of austerity, which can grunt critically to this society or throw a pop song for the Apocalypse.
And then some real black metal. Acherontas has wandered this earth for 15 years, and now the silence is broken with Vamachara. At the same time all of you should quiet down and take notes. Although this album is very traditional, its musical flow – full of magick, liturgies and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas – is so natural and real, that it’s easy to just surrender to it. Acherontas is like Watain but more honest and – dare I say it? – more true.
And if we dive into the deep end of underground black metal, some albums reveal their majestic figures: Ride For Revenge: Under the Eye, Vemod: Vinterilden demo (and a split EP with Klage), Venus Star: The Dark Victor, Atra: In Reverence and Decay, Lik: The Second Wind, Nightside Temple: Prophecies of Malevolence and tons of more… A good year.