More and more, Black Metal (and its many assorted sub-sub-genres) pushes my other musical interests out to the periphery—aggressive little fucker that it is. As I get older, I get narrower, rather than more open-minded; you figure out what you like and you roll with it, I guess. Will I be the oldest, grayest, most-droopy-eyed geezer at the Metal show? Maybe. Probably. Still, a good, brisk run in the freezing cold, listening to Bone Awl, can be pretty life affirming.
Bone Awl/Meaningless Leaning Mess - Black Metal meets The Hospitals in your cluttered garage. Every song is a short, deconstructivist burst of distorted Black-a-billy. These Californians will most likely not be touring with slicked-up acts like Blut Aus Nord any time soon. One guitar (He Who Gnashes Teeth) and one drummer (He Who Crushes Teeth) are all you need. If you've heard one Bone Awl record, you've heard them all, though this one is particularly good.
Paysage d'Hiver/Paysage d'Hiver - Paysage d'Hiver means Landscape of Winter, and it's the perfect soundtrack for this decrepit time of year. Though this Swiss mystery man declined my offer of a blog interview, I'll still praise the work, as it's incredibly layered and artfully done (especially considering its home-studio fidelity.) Dense atmospheres that range from pure blast-beat Black (though the drums could be cardboard boxes and couch cushions) to ambient scapes worthy of the Klaus Schulze "Berlin school." Every Pd'H record (or "Demo" as per their page on Metal Archives) is an epic, and many are packaged as A5 digibooks with grim b&w artwork, sealed in black envelopes with black-on-black Gothic titles printed on the outside—the ultimate Black Metal fetish item. Some titles available in the US from Aquarius and Mercenary Musik.
Welt aus Eis
Defuntos/A Negra Vastidão das Nossas Almas - This doomy Portuguese band sound like a two-man Beefheart's Magic Band at 16RPM, and The Captain, he's been squashed down to the size of an angry troll. They must have recorded this bleak, scrappy record in a moldy concrete basement.
O Silêncio Das Cigarras, Um Adeus Distante
Corrupted/Vasana - Not a Black Metal band, but I snuck them in anyway, 'cause I'm such a rule breaker. This ferocious Japanese outfit have been making monumental Doom sludge since 1994, and they just seem to get better and better. Corrupted have a true sense of build and anticipation in their work, such that when the "hit" finally does come, it's devastating. Many of their best pieces last the length of an entire CD; this shorter track is from a recent vinyl EP.
Vasana, Part 1
Krallice/Krallice - This adept NY quartet present a fresh take on the melodic, old-school, art-Black of bands like Emperor and Ulver, throwing in a little thrash as well. Krallice also have plenty of intricate guitar squeedle for Dethklok fans and readers of guitar tech magazines. Destined for greatness.
Mordheim/Depressive Tears ov Dementia - Similar in sound to Defuntos, but even bleaker and more twisted. The singer makes a wail like he's throwing up at the beginning of almost every song. It sounds as if the guitarist/singer dragged a drunk in off the street to play drums. I knew I was going to love this record when I saw the cover: a pencil-and-ink drawing of an imprisoned man with his face in the cell toilet. Can't miss.
L'agonie du Dément
Satyricon/The Age of Nero - Satyr Wongraven (along with drummer Frost) is still making vital music, which is more than I can say for most of his contemporaries from the original Norwegian BM scene. Starting with 2006's Now, Diabolical, Satyricon settled into a churning, mid-tempo form of Black Metal, with blast-beat excursions being gradually replaced by progressive riffing and tempered arrangements.
Urfaust/Geist ist Teufel - Urfaust from the Netherlands are a Black Metal wildcard that don't quite fit in anywhere. The guitar/drums duo break up their anthemic, swooning songs (many of them in 3/4 time) with sparse instrumental passages and ambient synth washes.
Auszug aller Tödlich Seinen Krafte
Whisper/split with Turán - I've praised Whisper before on this blog, and I still can't stop listening to their 2007 self-released "Demo" Circle of the Moon. This one-man project from Hungary continues to dazzle me with its passionate, horror-movie weirdness. There's a new disc out, Death Meditation, that I haven't yet been able to get my hands on. This track was downloaded for free from the official Whisper Web site, which for whatever reason was recently taken down.
Gravestone on a Rotting Planet
Woods of Infinity - Sweden's Woods of Infinity are the H.N.A.S. of Black Metal. They're silly and seem hell-bent on satirizing genre stereotypes, while making some earnestly good music at the same time, employing lots of tape drop-ins from vintage Swedish TV and pop radio. The term "pushing the boundaries" doesn't even apply to WoI, as every record is its own ballgame.