Dark Hemyspheres: October 2017
It is hardly a secret that I am quite the fan of Anneke Van Giersbergen and her beautiful voice, so the prospect of a new "heavy project" under the name VUUR got me somewhat excited. Of course the comparisons between In This Moment We Are Free - Cities  and her first band are what people will immediately look for, but this shares far more DNA with her work alongside Devin Townsend than The Gathering. There is a brash crunch to the guitars throughout, stylistically a much more modern prog metal that on occasions doesn't quite match with her vocals. However for the vast majority of the album the glorious melodies she brings enlivens the whole piece to go where most in the genre simply cannot, and what a delight it is too.
Fleurety have returned after nearly twenty years to completely baffle us all with The White Death . Their jazz-tainted, flute-toting black metal is... well, it is certainly different; but given who they count amongst their ranks (such as Svein Egil Hatlevik and Czral-Michael Eide), that should be of no surprise at all. Other genres such as folk and prog also stick their oars into the water as the record progresses, if nothing else than to just confuse the poor listener even more. The final product sits rather precipitously on the brink of becoming an utter mess throughout, but never once loses it balance to plunge into the mire. Despite the staccato pattering and jittery riffing that is the result of all these disparate influences converging, there is still a smooth fluidity to the music that is impressive, no matter what you make of the cacophonous din.
Very few albums carry such genuine pain as No Stars Under The Bridge , the outpourings of Juha Raivio under the alias Hallatar. Based upon the writings of his late partner (both in life and music) Aleah Starbridge, it remains in a similar folky doom/death vein to their joint venture Trees Of Eternity as well as Raivio's Swallow The Sun, with the emphasis strongly resting on the doom. This is an emotionally wrought and agonisingly heavy record, mired in the blackest bleakness; but it is not all funereal riffs and morbid procession as the ilk of 'Severed Eyes' weaves in some haunting melodiousness to the affair. The veil is pierced at times by Starbridge's beautiful voice, returning once again from beyond the grave to shine a light. A loving, heartfelt tribute to one lost.
The early Noughties heralded a brave new world in the States, and like any such time gave rise to many new musical movements. Many of the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal bands have since fallen by the wayside, but The Black Dahlia Murder continue to unleash furious, relentless blasts of hardcore-meddling death metal. Nightbringers  comes with no surprises buried within, however that does not mean it is not worth a little of your time to sink into the blistering riffs and anger-ridden screams. The band have become increasingly adept at producing music that is clinical and crystal clear without sacrificing a jot of pure unbridled aggression; once again they have shown everyone how to walk that knife edge, the result as brutal as it is crisp.
It appears that Enslaved really are now a prog band with a dash of black metal rather than the reverse, as has been the case for so long. The melodramatic Viking intro to E  quickly gives way to dancing acoustic passages more often associated with the Seventies; although decidedly retro throughout the entire record, thankfully these sections avoid sinking into lazy rehashings. But fear not, a punchy blast of Scandi hatred is never far away as it winds its way through a varied musical landscape. The leaps and detours that continually keep this interesting probably shouldn't work on paper, but such is the skill, craft and experience on show that the band rarely misstep in the enthralling hour they have deigned to us.
The joy of listening to Amenra is a truly perverse one; the music is so nihilistic and black, a terrifying wall of noise that collapses around the listener at an excruciatingly slow pace, merely gaining in power as time drags almost to a halt. Mass VI  is no exception, and is well deserving of this month's Dark Star. From ethereal whispers to apocalyptic crashings, once again the Belgian noise-mongers seamlessly meld the violence of hardcore with the overwhelming despair of doom, a nightmare made audible with a grace that is rare to find in such horrors. The air of ceremonial worship to dark unnamed gods that has long given Amenra's albums their name is still very much apparent, yet neither is Mass VI merely a rework of familiar strains; for instance, the tones of grey used to emphasise the darkest shades are more folksy now, like ghosts of old 78s rising from a twisted afterlife. This is another mesmerising descent, a delectable celebration in exercising demons.
VUUR - In This Moment We Are Free - Cities (20th, InsideOut Music)
Fleurety - The White Death (27th, Peaceville Records)
The Black Dahlia Murder - Nightbringers (6th, Metal Blade Records)
Hallatar - No Stars Under The Bridge (27th, Svart Records)
Enslaved - E (13th, Nuclear Blast Records)
Amenra - Mass VI (20th, Neurot Recordings)