Let's take a break from the wild cabaret stylings of Leslie Kritzer Is Patti LuPone at Les Mouches (which I saw for a third time on Saturday night) in order to focus on a particularly unholy week: The old-school black metallers in Dark Funeral and the fierce proggy Vikings of Enslaved land at BB King's for a Scandi double whammy on Wednesday 10, while Northsix shows that America can throw a mighty punch as well by hosting a seriously scary evening of domestic brutality that includes Southern Lord signees Lair of the Minotaur and cultish BM band Krieg on Saturday, January 13.
To get in the mood, here's a selection of MP3s by some favorite underground extremists, harvested from various European fields. Think of it as Travel + Leisure for the maleficent set.
I find extreme metal makes for invigorating listening, which some may find odd considering it's a genre dedicated to nihilism and eeeevil. But the sheer intensity and ultra-dense texture of these sonic tapestries is unparalleled; the listening experience is very tactile. And I realize I may torpedo whatever cred I have left by writing this, but this stuff also works great at the gym. The crazy-fast BPMs would get anybody going on the treadmill, and the looks from people next to you hearing the primitive shrieks bleeding through the earphones? Priceless.
England's Anaal Nathrakh pretty much laid down the rules for the necro subgenre on its debut, The Codex Necro. The duo plays some of the most stomach-churningly violent music I've ever heard, and its latest, Eschaton, shows no sign of slack. I reviewed it for TONY a few weeks ago, and here's a taste:
MP3 Anaal Nathrakh "The Necrogeddon" from Eschaton (2006)
France, where metal and hard rock had always faltered, has recently emerged as a rather fertile ground for mysterious—even by BM's standards—combos that take black metal in unpredictable, often experimental directions, making the Scandis sound like the nerd squad in a John Hughes comedy. Hailing from the darken lands of Normandy and Burgundy, as well as the hellhole known as Paris, I give you Malcuidant, Arkhon Infaustus and Blut aus Nord.
MP3 Malcuidant "…et la complainte se tut…" from L'Hymne de la Ghilde (2005)
MP3 Arkhon Infaustus "Epsilon: Saturn Motion Theology" from Perdition Insanabilis (2004)
MP3 Blut aus Nord "The Howling of God" from The Work Which Transforms God (2003)
The aforementioned Enslaved is only the top of the Viking metal iceberg (so to speak). Good thing that the field's crowded, too, because frankly you can never have enough albums hatched in forges by burly men claiming to be inspired by valkyries and ice-covered paganism. Speaking of ice, deaths in extreme metal are known to be pretty dramatic: Musicians die of exposure, or they fall from a bridge and break their neck on a frozen river—which at least isn't as bad as allegedly eating your dead bandmate's brain.
Tyr comes from the Feroe Islands and offers a melodic, almost dreamy, folk-inspired version of the Viking genre; the production values are relatively high as well, which seems to be a folk-metal trademark (think of Estonia's Metsatöll or the grandiose Finntroll). On the other hand, take Graveland, hailing from the well-known Viking province of, er Poland, with a big grain of salt. The band aims for the majestic with no small success but it's a really good thing we can't understand what they sing about—in interviews leader Darken espouses the kind of stupefyingly dumb theories sadly common in a certain black-metal fringe, eg Burzum et al., and among such Neofolk and industrial outfits as Death in June and Der Blutharsch. The power of the music is hard to deny; the politics stink to high heaven.
MP3 Tyr "Olavur Riddararos" from Eric the Red (2003)
MP3 Graveland "Prayer for My Ancestors" from Fire Chariot of Destruction (2005)
Similar ethical issues emerge with the Ukraine's Drudkh, though its take on Slavic pride is a lot more literate—the lyrics to The Swan Road are influenced by the work of 19th-century Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.
MP3 Drudkh "Eternal Sun" from Lebedynyy Shlyakh: The Swan Road (2005)
Finally, a short trip across the Mediterranean to Israel and Tangorodrim—hey, if Israel can compete in the Eurovision Song Contest, I can include it in a post about European extreme metal. The band's latest is on Southern Lord, ensuring easy access in the US at least.
MP3 Tangorodrim "Bestial Scent" from Unholy and Unlimited (2006)
And speaking of the US, Americans aren't well known for BM (or Viking metal for that matter) but there are exceptions, and they tend to be one-man bands like Xasthur, Leviathan and my favorite of all, rehtaF ruO. Hailing, I believe, from Florida, rehtaF ruO has made a demo CD and one proper album, Boiled in Goat Blood, a monument of paradigmatic bedroom metal. The entire thing is terrifying, a mess of lo-fi hisses, buzzes and inhuman screams, but this track has got to be the worst of all.
MP3 rehtaF ruO "Child Sacrifice" from Boiled in Goat Blood (2000)
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