Finding new music to explore has become many people's escape since the world of 2020 changed for the worse. In times of struggle music has often become a guiding light and a saviour and in regards to Bandcamp itself, a place where people can effect change just by supporting artists. Music is life-changing.
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Dumal - The Confessor (Vigor Deconstruct/Fólkvangr Records)
Philadelphia’s Dumal lead their black metal through a multitude of melodic paths on The Confessor, their second full-length, and as they journey through introspection and the complexities it brings they also seek the light that comes with reaching that final level of understanding the self. The trio bring a delicious sense of melody to their music that balances the harsher elements of Adam Siatkowski’s rambunctious vocals with a sense of bittersweet hope, giving The Confessor a soaring narrative arc -- and pace -- that never lets up.
“Devour The Child” begins the record with devastatingly fast drum work from Evan Williams that drives the song forward and gives a feeling of being pushed to the brink, to the edge of what the song can take and controlling the motion in such a way as to build tension but never losing grip. It’s a tactic that Dumal uses throughout the record and it tests the listeners nerves to no end. “Some Ritual” roars from the outset and “Black Tendrils of Christ” does pushes the formula even harder as Siatkowski’s voice gets hoarser by the second and the guitars maximise the sense of melody that forms the foundation of the song.
The mood is brought into doomier pastures by the gloom-ridden beginnings of “Through Fields of Peasant Graves,” a brief respite from the full-throttle energy on display, yet such moments are small and the song soon ramps up the drama once again. Dumal keep the suspense high until “Amalgamation: Time, Space, And Circumstance” brings The Confessor to a close on self-reflective prose and sorrowful guitar passages.
FFO: Slaegt, Havukruunu, Ungfell
Imha Tarikat - Sternenberster (Independent/Self-Released)
Imha Tarikat are ostensibly a project born from one person -- Kerem Yilmaz (credited here as Ruhsuz Cellât) –- who hails from Germany and is of Turkish descent. The band are on their second full-length with the explosive Sternenberster (sung entirely in German -- which differs from their English language debut Kara Ihlas and feels all the more powerful for it, being able to describe something in your native language will always be more dynamic) and their take on black metal is one that is infused with punk and hardcore sensibilities. There’s a distinct attitude that runs throughout Sternenberster that echoes in the gang-style vocals and abrupt drum patterns, or the super bassy intro of “Klimax Downpour” which builds on that punk approach in spades. These traits add dimension to a record already brimming with anger in lyrical choices which speak of destruction and pain and the search for a higher level of existence -- in this world or another.
“Ekstase ohne Ende” begins Sternenberster on frantic guitars that soon coalesce into glittering movements which feed into Yilmaz’s agonising shouts and howls, adding a sense of beauty to the aggression that runs in the foreground of the song. These opposing forces construct the greater narrative at play during Sternenberster, that humankind will destroy itself and the explosive energy that is launched into the cosmos as out star implodes is all but a moment away. It’s only a matter of time before we discover that darkness within ourselves. For some, the darkness is already a very real facet of our personalities and with Imha Tarikat, Yilmaz is on the path to understanding his own personal annihilation.
FFO: Der Weg einer Freiheit, Sinmara, Woe
Mesarthim – The Degenerate Era (Independent/Self Released)
Australia’s Mesarthim are curiously unknown but wonderfully prolific. Their cosmic black metal has been entrancing many for almost five years. Not much information is available as to who Mesarthim is: the credits list two people but both are known as . so difficulties arise when trying to pin down who is responsible for what. Does it matter, though, when the music is so good? Probably not, in all honesty, as The Degenerate Era amazes with almost every second. This comes as a surprise as Mesarthim released the album with no warning (and did the same with an EP one week later -- the excellent Planet Nine), the band are taking an extremely personal approach with their music -– releasing it when it’s ready and on their terms only –- and their love for the stars shines through in the subject matter and the touches of synthesised trance that echo cybernetic patterns and gives the sound a celestial feel.
Where some songs reach for the highest heavens in their euphoric keyboard lines, some, such as “Time Domain,” beat with both the zenith and nadir of emotion with sections pushing you ever upward towards enlightenment before pulling you back down to earth with a crushing, despairing blow via vocals that scream with anguish. Through the artwork, Mesarthim transmit a more organic atmosphere than has previously been found on their output –- usually they opt for a photograph of a star or galaxy and so it could be said that The Degenerate Era finds them moving to a new outlook - although one hopes it does not signal the end, but rather, a new beginning.
FFO: Darkspace, Mare Cognitum, Perturbator
Shadow Figure - Accept & Kneel (Independent/Self Released)
Do you ever find yourself clicking through the tags on Bandcamp, waiting for something to grab your attention? And, when a record finally fulfills your desires (ones that you could never fully express but you know it when you find it) you wonder how you had no idea that it existed until that very moment? Cue, Shadow Figure, a solo project of New York’s Jeff Harrell that is creating post-punk influenced, synth-driven coldwave. Accept & Kneel is short at only a handful of sub-four minute tracks, but it’s fascinating and dark in equal measure.
Accept & Kneel is a huge step-up from a demo that was released earlier in the year and there is already the promise of new music –- if Bandcamp’s messaging feature is to be believed. Shadow Figure’s strength lies in the voice of Harrell and their rich baritone that echoes with emotion as synthesised beats pound behind it. A tangible world of loss and gloom is created in its low registers which drives the sense of isolation forward in the music. “empty, free” pulses with a dark energy that seeps from every anguished word while “into the world” belies its hopelessness with a devilishly upbeat rhythm that follows into final track “come down (yeah)” and leaves you feeling hollow, spent and alone.
FFO: Joy Division, Solor Dolorosa, Grave Pleasures
Silver Knife – Unyielding / Unseeing (Amor Fati Productions/Entropic Recordings)
Silver Knife are, for want of a better term, an (underground) super-group of sorts, a band who came together across borders to create a record without expectations of what would happen once it was complete. Featuring musicians that are found in a multitude of other projects (Laster, Paramnesia, Hypothermia, everything that Déhà is a part of), Silver Knife’s debut is an intricate and shimmering work that is the result of artists trusting in the process and bringing their personal complexities to the fore. Black metal in essence, Unyielding / Unseeing is a far-reaching explosion of sound –- post-black metal elements tie into inhuman shrieks, incandescent guitar lines twist around atmospheric whispers of gloom and an air of sorrow cloaks the album in human emotion.
“This Numinous Loom” fractures its beauty with wails that illuminate the song with bright, unending pain while “Silver & Red” pushes for mournful clarity in its echoing guitars and nebulous progressions –- the darkness moves onward in Silver Knife’s world yet the songs serve to break free of that melancholy, to push past the hardships and to embrace the light that may wait on the other side. “Unseeing” offers a brief moment to catch ones breath and to look towards a beacon of hope that lies far on the horizon, its instrumental progression broken only by a delicate spoken-word passage that is soon shattered by the monumental fire of “Conjuring Traces.”
The push and pull of dark versus light is a subject that many black metal bands take their inspiration from and while Silver Knife are no exception, their struggle with darkness is spun through with humanity and honesty. Personal experiences are woven into the fabric of Unyielding / Unseeing and the screams of “Conjuring Traces” can be felt in the deepest recesses of the heart –- there is a palpable turmoil being expelled in the vocal lines and as such the music of Silver Knife feels wholly sincere and utterly real.
FFO: Laster, Fluisteraars, Paramnesia