BMR: Post-Thanksgiving Winterstorm Edition (IMMORTAL, 1349, DARKTHRONE, ENTHRONED, AKERCOCKE)
Well...as any of you readers in the Northeast US of A can verify...this past Thanksgiving weekend was still in its final stages when that first real winterstorm of the season hit us. It has always been my tradition that with the first major snowfall comes a listen to the first album by the only true godz of what can be described as "snow metal." A band that embodies the BMR like no other...
That reminds me, as a rule, I do try to avoid repeating myself in terms of albums I write about in the BMRs each season. HOWEVER, ritual is as ritual does. And if you do not feel like bouncing back through BMR history, the original text has been reprinted below...
The country of origin is Norway. The year is 1992. The band is the one and only IMMORTAL, and the debut album is Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism.
Abbath and Demonaz would require one more go in the studio before truly starting to embrace greatness, but this was still a considerably-above-average entry in the classic Scandinavian onslaught. Recorded in Grieghallen by Pytten, it's a proud companion to Enslaved's Frost, Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse, and Mayhem's De Mysteriis dom Sathanas. From the opening winds and acoustic guitar of 'The Call of the Wintermoon' to the "to be continued" feel of the conclusion of 'A Perfect Vision of the Rising Northland', IMMORTAL was just beginning to open the door to their vast 'n' epic universe of ice, isolation, battles, snow, storms, glaciers, darkness, and the heart of winter.
IMMORTAL at Peabody's (R.I.P.), Cleveland, OH, May 17, 2002.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Stringer
I honestly was not aware that the snow was supposed to continue as long as it did. Was pleasantly surprised. So Monday's drives in evening and nighttime were accompanied by the third (and I'd still have to say, my favorite) full-length album from Norway's 1349, titled Hellfire.
Released in 2005, this is the record that really "broke" the band and exposed them to a worldwide audience. Not surprising. As I have said before, there are so many variants and sub-categories of black metal these days...I think one of the reasons this Norwegian collective has been so successful is because they are practitioners of a classic art, adding their own incendiary imprint to a style which is basically what caused 99% of black metal fans to fall in love with the genre in the first place. Again, musically it is VERY similar to the earlier releases. Listening again, I think the reason it is my favorite is because they added just a TRACE of variety into their rhythms and tempo (don't worry...the non-stop blasting is still there), and also the fact that they somehow managed to both fill out their production AND make the whole blasphemous assault sound even more raw and painful. Ravn's vocals, along with the barbaric bashing of legendary percussionist Frost, are the sounds that benefit the most from this.
NOTE: Another example of how successful this album was came in the form of the relentless, almost-two-year touring cycle the band engaged in. (I missed them opening for a briefly-reunited Celtic Frost at Harpo's in Detroit in 2006...But witnessed them in March of 2007 in Parma, OH...on a tour package that also included Goatwhore, Nachtmystium and Averse Sefira....I KNOW, right?)
I must confess...when I looked out the bedroom window at my car in the pre-dawn (pre-work) darkness of Tuesday morning, I did NOT expect to see my car covered by a couple inches of white, with the big flakes still coming down. So the onslaught continued...
After a couple records of (sort of?) pushing the boundaries of their sound into a slightly more expensive style, DARKTHRONE made a triumphant return to more familiar territory in the form of the album with the wonderfully to-the-point title of Hate Them (2003). Here was the icey, bitter minimalism of Under a Funeral Moon and Transilvanian Hunger...but pumped full of steroids for a rich, full sound.
This was also the album on which the band's sardonic (see what I did there?) sense of humor really began to seep through into their lyrics...from the first line of 'Rust' ("I come from a land of systematic erasure of optimism and positiveness") to 'Striving for a Piece of Lucifer' ("I've noticed a certain lack of demons lately, and it really worries me sick.") For me, the album's centerpiece, both musically and lyrically, is 'Fucked Up and Ready to Die'. Dude. There are even some "let's break it down" type bridges that make you want to moshboogie!
NOTE: This was the first of two albums on which it really felt like Fenriz and Nocturno Culto were bidding fans a fond farewell in terms of their classic style. Like one last romp through the black metal sound they were so instrumental in creating. For after that, they never truly returned to the traditional landscapes of old.
The snow began to lighten up a bit on Tuesday afternoon. However, still journeying towards the heart of winter, we were. So it was on to the 2004 album from Belgiam's ENTHRONED, titled Xes Haereticum.
I've always found it interesting that this album (and the live album right before it) signaled the beginning of the band's most "underground" period. One can't blame waning popularity (their previous studio releases, Armoured Bestial Hell and Carnage in Worlds Beyond, were both hailed as unholy triumphs), or the record label (both Carnage and this album were released on the perfectly respectable Napalm Records...a label which has grown into a huge entity over the years).
And one certainly can't blame the quality of the work. Xes Haereticum was ENTHRONED's most mature, accomplished work to date (and I mean that in the best sense of words). The primitive hammerfest elements were still there, but spaced out well amidst the many evil atmospheres the band generated. Among my favorite tracks is 'Blacker than Black', with its militant rhythms, droning 'n' deep guitar work and an-army-of-demons-is-marching-to-fuck-you-up menace, still very much reminds me of the second half of Marduk's Nightwing.
The snow had more or less melted by the time we reached the end of the hour-long Satanic maelstrom that is AKERCOCKE's second album, The Goat of Mendes (2001). And it continues to be a fascinating record.
Fascinating mainly because this UK act talks about how they were coming at it from a more prog and death metal background (as mentioned by the band in the liner notes for the ridiculous deluxe edition of their latest album), even though the music they were seeking to create was more of the black metal aesthetic. They talked about how they really weren't inspired by the first and second waves of BM, even the well-known Scandinavian-type sound. They insist they didn't discover bands like Darkthrone until their own musical career was well underway. And honestly, if it were any other band, I would call that a boast/fib to gain credibility...
...But in this case, I totally believe it. The mix is completely unique. Certain classic BM elements are there in terms of atmosphere (the chanting, the eerie female vocals, the unbelievable speed)...but it's all within a death metal framework. The vocals are at least 80% almost-cookie-monster growls, and the production is reminiscent of golden-age Scott Burns/Morrisound.
Anyway...tough to describe. Just listen to it. :-)
And they hadn't even found their true power yet. That would come with the next album...
That is all for now. Thanks again for your attention. And of course, barely two weeks after the snow melted from this storm, another was bearing down on us. But that's another story...
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