Black Metal Roundup: Norse + Isvind + Cold Cell + Ctulu

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Review by Jason Guest

Many the product of many a stubborn and rebellious bastard hath passed through this darkened chamber concealed beneath Midlands Rocks Towers. And despite their fathers and mothers attempting to lay hold of them and bring them unto the elders for judgement and stoning, the seed of the adversary continues to spew forth unto this god-forsaken plane more of the legion of defiant ones.

First up, from Australia comes All Is Mist And Fog, the second full-length from Norse (it appears the Vikings made it down under too); from the land of the ice and snow – Norway of course – we have Isvind’s third album, Daumyra; from Switzerland, once called Atritas, we have the debut full length from Cold Cell;and finally we have Seelenspiegelsplitter, the third album from Germay’s Lovecraftian devotees, Ctulu. Quite the batch, huh? Once more into the bleak…


Norse – All Is Mist And Fog

Independent Release available through Bandcamp

Norse’s 2010 debut album, Hellstorm, was exactly that; an unrelenting barrage of blackened death metal that was without compromise or remorse. Unapologetically vicious and direct, their approach was ruthless, their murderous intent found form in ice-cold guitar tones and riffs and the rasped vocals of their style. Album number two, All Is Mist And Fog, sees the band take on a more progressive approach to give shape to their nihilistic misanthropy and so sees the duo of Frog (yes, really) and Treelo Herrington make a brave and successful musical move.

While the note-bending, harmonic-squealing opening riff of ‘Neglect’ may appear to be more suited to deathcore, Norse thankfully tear us far from that pit of eternal despair and cast us down into a pit of their own making, one of blastbeats, savage riffs, and accusatory black metal vocals. The track veers rapidly into an elaborate structure that allows the band to explore dynamics and imbue the barrage with the depth that their death metal leanings allow. ‘Worn and Grey’ too is of elaborate design, the blackened death bombardment simultaneously brutal and intricate, but it is from ‘Towards The Shining Sky’ to the album’s close where Norse begin  to carve out their identity more clearly. There are still the occasional trem-picked riffs found in black and/or death metal but as the riffs become more intricate, so do the arrangements.

Laced in as much seething despair and cacophonous ire as it is in progressive depth and development, the album can tend towards the self-indulgent. And with some tracks staggering along (‘Silently Awake’ and ‘Concrete Wastes’ in particular), the album’s momentum is hindered by Norse’s ambition outweighing their ability. But it must be said that Norse’s decision to develop their sound in such a significant manner has produced an album that, while not wholly successful, is an ambitious and impressive piece of work.

Norse - All Is Mist And Fog7 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Neglect
  2. Worn And Grey
  3. Towards The Shining Sky
  4. Black Ocean
  5. Silently Awake
  6. Plaguewhore
  7. Concrete Ashes
  8. Magus
  9. Gravel

 


Isvind – Daumyra

Folter Records

Raw and primitive, cold and vicious, and as sinister and unsettling as a Catholic priest serving lunch in a primary school, Norways Isvind’s third album, Daumyra, is black metal at its grimmest, darkest, and most belligerent. Originally formed in 1992 under the name Ice Wind, the band changed their moniker to the much more Norwegian trve kvlt (before it became cool) black metal Isvind in 1993. Since that time, this duo’s output has seen no compromise and their hellish sound has remained about as genuinely evil as it could be without once falling foul of becoming a caricature of the genre or of themselves.

The melodies are dark and melancholic, an air of the majestic in their menace compounded by the savagery of the riffs that urge them onward. Haunting and atmospheric, Isvind’s strength is their ability to channel their ferocity into each track, to direct and maintain their focus to maximise impact and effect. ‘Burn The Kings’, the album’s shortest track at just under four minutes, is a case in point, its wall-of-fire riffs and blast beat foundation are shaded by percussive flourishes and a vocal delivery that complement each other and add shape to the track’s already mighty depth. ‘Myra’ too, with its down-tempo, dragging persistence and dirty riffs, is vast, its impact augmented by the two rapid slabs of rabidity – ‘Djevelens Lende’ and ‘Specculum’ – that flank it. Cold, callous, caustic, Daumyra is vitriolic throughout. Given that Isvind have been doing this since 1992 (despite a ten-year break, the band re-emerging in 2011 with Intet Lever) that should come as no surprise. Recommended.

Isvind - Daumyra7.5 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Kast Loss
  2. Burn The Kings
  3. Blodstorm
  4. The Dark Traverse
  5. Djevelens Lende
  6. Myra
  7. Specculum
  8. Klabautermann

 


Cold Cell – Generation Abomination

Making symphonic black metal since 1997, in 2012 Switzerland’s Atritas changed their band name to Cold Cell and with it their musical style, cutting down on the “symphonic” elements of their sound and focussing more on the black, the bleak, and the dark. And so Generation Abomination, “the reflection of a degenerated modern world, built on empty values and praising new, false gods,” appears before us, their first commitment to the blank slate that the new name has brought the band. Unlike most other black metal bands whose message is usually adorned in esoteric, eclectic, and mystical aggression, Cold Cell’s approach is more direct. Their aesthetic designed to “represent the Zeitgeist and consciousness of modernity” communicates their mission “against this stupor and against this emptiness” that other bands disguise with language is “artificially diffuse”. So no elitist attitudes here then, huh?

The grandeur of their symphonic past is set aside in favour of a much harder sound, riffs bathed in ferocity, drums that beat with the heart of a thousand blasphemous beasts, and suitably harsh vocals. There are echoes of the symphonic in the tracks but these are present more in the elaborate and intricate riffs and arrangements than in the sonic element of the album. The result is an album that attacks the empty values and false gods that make up existence in as succinct a manner as possible. Hostility abounds and floods the multi-layered, almost progressive, tracks, permeating each with a distinct menace and undeniable strength. Yes, it’s atmospheric, and richly so, and so is it intense. Each track is a call to arms, a battle cry against absurdity, the many facets to the album combining to create a more resonant whole. There are, as expected, more than a few occasions where Cold Cell sound like any number of black metal bands but these are outweighed by those where what Cold Cell mastered under their previous moniker have been re-invented to suit their new identity. An album worth giving time to, and plenty of it.

Cold Cell – Generation Abomination7.5 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Endzeitgeist
  2. Next Stop: Disillusion Centre
  3. Generation Abomination
  4. Shitfaced Existence
  5. Endless Narcotic Fields
  6. Desert Of Thoughts
  7. The Perception Of One In All
  8. Stereotypes Of A Sick Spawn
  9. Depressing / Depressive New World
  10. Neon Fade-Out

 


Ctulu – Seelenspiegelsplitter

Black Blood Records (shop here)

German horde Ctulu – no prizes for guessing what they take as inspiration – have been wreaking havoc upon this world since 2004. Devotees of black metal, their third album, Seelenspiegelsplitter, sees the band sticking it what they’re best at, i.e., producing fairly standard black metal that, while hammered out with as much conviction as can be mustered, is about as ordinary as it comes. Indebted to the Scandinavian progenitors of the genre as they are, Ctulu are as grim as they come, their music bearing a strong melodic sensibility that is balanced well with the rapid-fire assault that the band are clearly adept at.

Despite the wrath and venom that underpins it, the album has a curiously clean and optimistic sound to it that gives it a strangely heroic feel, as if the battle is over and all enemies are slain. This self-assuredness is reflected in the tracks and, though they are well-crafted, they’re not as sharp or as defined as perhaps they could have been. It sounds too measured, too precise, too calculated to bear any real sense of depth to lend the album that wrathful intensity that makes other albums more convincing.

In terms of musicianship, the band can’t be faulted, and there are a number of tracks that are incredible. Both ’Amokkoma’ and ‘Tornasuk’ plot interesting arcs that take in the serene, the abrasive, and the atmospheric; the tranquil acoustic piece ‘Durch Sturmbruch Corridore’ is beautiful (though why they felt the need to include sound effects of footsteps and doors closing is beyond me); and closing track ‘Serenadenhallen’, at nine and a half minutes long, sees the band harnessing every opportunity that its epic structure proffers. At over an hour, Ctulu may have spread themselves a little too thin but the the album still has much to offer.

Ctulu - Seelenspiegelsplitter6 out of 10

Track Listing:

  1. Seelenbrand
  2. Amokkoma
  3. Im Widerlicht
  4. Durch Sturmbruch
  5. Corridor
  6. Insignia Dagonis
  7. Bleichenblass
  8. Tornausk
  9. Flammengestirn
  10. Tränenfinsternis
  11. Tiara Aus Phobein
  12. Serenadenhallen