[mp3s above & below the fold]
Pop rock, electronica and even so-called experimental music have swallowed their own tails to the point where endless repetition, imitation and a generally uninspiring postmodernism rule the day, i.e., every new artist is a clone of a clone of a clone, with easily cited and often unfortunately chosen "influences." Black Metal, on the other hand, is perhaps young enough that exciting new mutations and enthralling new sub-subgenres continue to emerge weekly. This is not to say that there aren't hundreds, perhaps thousands of Black Metal acts who willfully describe their sound as "hateful, old-school Black Metal," or "similar to early Darkthrone"—just take a browse sometime on blackmetal.com. The point is there are still a great many bands expanding and challenging the boundaries of what has often been a sound with rigidly defined parameters.
More than any other band, Belgium's mighty Lugubrum exemplify this rabid creativity, while still keeping one foot in the shrieks and exaggerated vigor that earned Black Metal its global notoriety (incinerating houses of worship notwithstanding.) To the uninitiated or curious (or those put off by fire-and-frost breathing, corpsepaint-sporting blast-beater legends like Norway's Immortal), Lugubrum may be a way in to this most fertile and creative contemporary music. In many ways, the band break away from the tried-and-true BM aesthetic: their sleeve paintings (rendered by the band's guitarist, lyricist and assorted string player Midgaars) blend the surreal with a European folk art quality, abandoning the standard b&w band shot accompanied by an unreadable logo (the latter also usually set in a dark forest, castle or graveyard.) Their CD inserts are filled with bizarre and curious imagery, found photographs and the like, a thought-provoking aesthetic that's both arresting and haunting, and not necessarily promoting of an agenda of never-ending Blackness and anti-Christian fanaticism (in fact, they're definitely more about "Brown" than "Black".)
Lugubrum's Music is no less uncompromising to the BM standard, incorporating elements of rock, progressive rock, poetry, drones, free jazz, noise and European folk music. Several of their discs, including their most-recent full-length CD De Ware Hond (2007), feature alto sax, banjo and accordion among other decidedly non-metal instruments, and somehow it all works to the point where the listener doesn't even muse, "Am I listening to Black Metal? Do I care?"—one simply accepts the presentation in earnest. Below are a few of my favorite Lugubrum tracks on mp3:
For more on Lugubrum, and lots of entertaining reading, see the band's Web site; the News updates alone should make it clear to anyone that these clever lads are thriving off Black Metal, while pushing its boundaries, and poking more than a little fun (gasp!) at it, too. Their page on Encyclopedia Metallum refers to their lyrical themes as "Alcohol, Filth, Totems, Decay." Also see: Lugubrum on YouTube!
Another more recent discovery for me in the Flemish arena is the Flanders-based Funeral Folk label, especially the artists Hellvete and Silvester Anfang.
Though the Funeral Folk label aesthetic is decidedly Black Metal in terms of both packaging and song titling (though they too seem to be having a bit of a laugh), the sonic attack of what I've heard from their stable has a lot more to do with a Krautrock-by-way-of-Xpressway label approach, and the work of artists like Clark Hutchinson, International Harvester, Roy Montgomery and The Tower Recordings is brought to mind.
The inspiring and truly refreshing aspect of what I've heard from the Funeral Folk catalogue is that the best pieces actually go somewhere; they weave and crescendo with a purpose—in sharp contrast to the deluge of lo-fidelity basement-jam-improv acts currently cluttering up hipper record shops and mail-order catalogues. I highly recommend Silvester Anfang's Kosmies Slachtafval (2007) and Satanische Vrede ((K-RAA-K)3, 2006), both masterpieces of "non-musical offertories" and "Pagan Belgopsych." See Julian Cope's endorsement of the band here (with free mp3!)
Hellvete is Glen Steenkiste, also a member of Silvester Anfang. The Hellvete cassette Een Duvelse Zak Is Nooit Gevuld is a masterpiece of slow-burn, meditative guitar music, employing electric and acoustic guitars with light percussion in a thoughtfully layered hypnotic style.
There are a few choice free mp3s available at the Funeral Folk site, but here are a few more to whet your appetite:
Hellvete - t'Kapelleke (from Een Duvelse Zak Is Nooit Gevuld, Sloow Tapes, 2007)
Silvester Anfang - Konfituur Voor De Satanjeugd  (from Kosmies Slachtafval, Aurora Borealis, 2007)
[Please note: The author's sole intention is to celebrate these artists, and promote the legitimate sale of their CDs, LPs and tapes. Any bona-fide objections can be directed to the author or to the blog administrator.]