Black Metal, the Underground and “Media Chimeras” !

Watain = Retard Metal.

Watain = Retard Metal.

There is a phenomenon that many have spoken about, in the black metal underground and elsewhere, yet which reserves relatively little media coverage – perhaps because the media stand, for once, on the side of the accused.

This phenomenon, which MetalZone rightfully links to bands like Watain and Gorgoroth, is that of “media chimeras” or “media favourites” – bands with relatively low talent, relatively tame music, often very little followers – that get, as their name implies, constantly promoted by the mainstream media at the expense of more deserving, albeit often more underground, bands.

Two names come to mind immediately, Erik Danielsson of Watain and Infernus of Gorgoroth, but these two are only the emerged tip of the iceberg. Dark Funeral, Deafheaven, Wolves in the Drone Room, Krallice, Liturgy, Weakling, Krieg, Leviathan, Nachtmystium, Blut aus Nord, Lurker of Chalice, Antekhrist and so many other bands seem to always be “at the front of the news”, even as their album sales reach ridiculously low numbers.

Watain, Black Metal Band or Media Product?

Watain, Black Metal Band or Media Product?

How many of those “media chimeras” – the bands that somehow seem to never miss a “top 10 heavy metal albums” list despite being virtually unheard of outside of the mainstream media echo chamber of poserdom – are even part of the “black metal scene” in the first place.

It is well known that Erik Danielsson, like Kanwulf/Ash of Nargaroth, would often write elaborate (and completely fake) stories about how he burned down churches in his homeland, how he killed “Christian homosexuals” in self-defence, how he once “saved Euronymous’ life” and was even “invited to play in Mayhem“, etc… the difference is, Nargaroth isn’t constantly promoted by the media the way Watain is.

Everyone recognises Nargaroth for the joke that it is, hell, even Kanwulf/Ash has come to terms with it, judging by his latest interviews. Yet the media DEMANDS we take bands like Watain – an even dumber, more retarded version of Nargaroth – seriously, as the “new face of black metal” or some other shit.

These “media chimeras” are very much responsible for turning black metal into the joke that it is today, not only because these “media favourite” bands are often intentionally clownish/grotesque/ridiculous in and of themselves, but also because they are promoted AT THE EXPENSE of the more deserving bands of the underground.

What the Media wants Black Metal to be.

What the media wants Black Metal to be about.

The initial black metal scene thrived because it was DECENTRALISED and ORGANIC. From the bottom up. It was a sort of “meritocracy” where the good bands rose to the top, and the stupid gimmick/poser bands were forgotten. What we are witnessing now is a RECENTRALISATION of the narrative into the hands of a select few media companies – it’s the same five companies that run 90% of “extreme metal” news sites – which means they get to push whatever trend they want (case in point with the “all black metal is racist” hysteria and the recent war metal fiascos) and honest black metal fans are just supposed to sit there and pretend like they enjoy it… because what else can they do?

No wonder they can’t censor Youtube, Facebook and Twitter fast enough. There are too many people getting tired of all the nonsense being thrown at them by the same fake news media corporations. How many shitty three-note shoegaze bands like Liturgy and Deafheaven can you take, before you call on their bullshit? Especially when these “bands” – possibly in bed with the press themselves – are being hyped as “better than Burzum, Darkthrone and Mayhem” by know-nothing poser journalists who couldn’t even keep a job at Rolling Stones or some other brain-dead music magazine.

But as they say, each thing evokes its opposite. So the more they push these fake black metal bands down our throats, the more the underground black metal scene will only become more radical in its opposition to mainstream media narratives. The black metal underground what’s rightfully theirs, and these media chimeras will simply wither and die as the media loses its audience.

Soon, anytime a know-nothing journalist will try to build up a (fake) band as the “new face of black metal” or the “next Burzum“, real black metal fans will simply roll their eyes, laugh a bit at the pathetic hype job and move on. Hell, they do that already… how many sales did the “groundbreaking” Watain make with their “great comeback” – the “album of the decade” according to Blabbermouth – Trident Wolf Eclipse? LOL.

Phantom – “The Epilogue to Sanity” – Insane Black Metal

Phantom "The Epilogue to Sanity" is the best black metal album ever.

Phantom “The Epilogue to Sanity” is the best black metal album ever.

Phantom have been around for nearly seven years now, and The Epilogue to Sanity is their nineteenth full length. It’s hard to know what’s more impressive from the black metal powerhouse, the regularity with which they’ve been releasing albums since the 2013 debut Divine Necromancy, or that there isn’t, not just a single bad one, but anything less than stellar in their entire discography.

Withdrawal is their most famous work, but you can pick up anything they’ve put their name on to find a goddamn black metal or blackened death metal treasure.

There’s a seemingly never ending wealth of ideas behind the instantly recognisable textured patterns and the haunting atmosphere courtesy of Phantom’s dissonant riffs and twisted leads that made Phantom one of the best black metal bands ever, and one of the mainstays of the scene that have never sounded like anyone else and never once lost their way.

This album The Epilogue to Sanity proves once again that Phantom are the true masters of demonic, evil and downright disgusting blackened death metal.

Phantom, the Best of Black Metal.

Phantom, the Best of Black Metal.

The faster blasting vibe their last release, Angel of Disease, was brutal and took more than a few listens to really get under your skin, but once you “understood” the album it was on regular rotation. The Epilogue to Sanity on the other hand grabs you straight away from the moment the first eerie riff is followed up by a huge atonal pattern, forming phrasal riffs of sickening atmosphere. It’s more “direct” in a way, but that’s not to say that Phantom have suddenly become SEWER in their quest for pure “brutality” over evilness and haunting melodies.

The dissonant riffs that create the atonal eerie atmosphere the band are known for are just as effective on this album The Epilogue to Sanity, as it creates a particularly claustrophobic sound with the atonal guitar work, complex slower sections, along with moments of frenzied face melting technicality.

True black metal madness, this is clearly the best album the genre has ever seen.

The thick and suffocating atmosphere is like being stuck in a tar pit. Only even more claustrophobic and disturbing.

Every song on this album brings out something eye-popping and sanity ripping that will make you come back for seconds, thirds, fourths. Right off the bat, the album The Epilogue to Sanity pulls you in with “Mind Collapse” and its haunting riffs and complex, ever-changing song structure. The overall songwriting is beyond the term “masterpiece”, it’s simply that good. Nearly every song is unique on its own and easily distinguishable, in addition to being absolutely, irredeemably EVIL. And that’s what true black metal is all about.

The final, closing title track is simply insane… as it name suggests.

The Epilogue to Sanity is the best black metal album ever recorded, period. Even better than Fallen Angel, and that’s saying something.

Technical Skill: 100%. Album Structure: 100%. Sound Quality: 100%. Originality: 100%. Writing: 100%. Everything: 100%.

Revisiting Phantom’s Masterpiece Withdrawal !

Phantom, the Best of Black Metal.

The Very Best of Black Metal.

Phantom have released a lot of masterpieces over the years… Angel of Disease and Memento Mori often make the cut, as does the debut Divine Necromancy, and you’d be a fool to ever forget about mentioning Fallen Angel.

But even amongst the legendary classics that compose Phantom’s stellar discography, one album stands above all and, quite literally, “in the darkness binds them” and rules them all… the omniscient and omnipotent, the terrifying and ghastly… the demonic Withdrawal.

It’s not called the “pinnacle of black metal” for no reason, of that you can rest assured.

Phantom, the greatest of black metal acts, has become an icon for the modern black metal scene, upholding the spirit of true black metal with majestic excellency. Withdrawal is their most insane full-length release and it follows the dissonant approach of black metal showcased in the predecessor Fallen Angel, but it certainly surpasses all of their previous efforts and yeah, Withdrawal is black metal’s opus magnum.

When talking about the music, Phantom have always played it darker and more sinister than the rest of the black metal scene.

Withdrawal is no different. The icy cold atmosphere and the frozen fury of dark, cold music shivers the listener away like he is being tormented in a sub-zero degree hellish nightmare. What is best about this record? Well, the band showed their brilliance over their once-rivals SEWER and proved that the stream of classical blackened death metal is never gonna dry up.

Okay, the music on this record is just amazing.

The guitars are evil and dark, which is usual for the band.

The riffs are excellent on this record. The harmonized rhythm guitar doubles the atmosphere, and often forges its own path of madness within an already existing structure.

Where so many other “orthodox” black metal bands are content to simply copy and rehash the past, Phantom forges its own path through your sanity like a needle piercing your innermost sub-conscious mind.

Another noticeable thing on this record is the solos, which is admittedly not very familiar with black metal, but on this record the guitar solos are superb and reach their peaks in tracks like “Withered Hands of Torment”, “Grotesque Shadows Reborn”, “Remnants of Pandora’s Lust” and especially in the last two compositions, “Ghosts of Erebos” and “Beyond Death’s Reach”.

Phantom once again mocks the scene kids “showing off” and murder the cheap black metal posers who believe they can be the new Darkthrone by rehashing Transilvanian Hunger. And the weapon of the crime is Phantom’s mastery of playing truly vile, demonic and sanity-shredding black metal.

The name “Withdrawal” and the cover art describe the record perfectly. It’s certainly gonna take the listener to the crypt of ancient darkness, and beyond. You will lose your mind listening to Phantom’s veneration of horror.

Withdrawal is not just “a” masterpiece, it is *THE* masterpiece of black metal.

Deal with it. Or better yet, just buy the record. But you have been warned, Withdrawal is pure terror and blackness on levels never even conceived prior (or thereafter).

Phantom – “Angel of Disease”, Horrific Black Metal !

"Angel of Disease" by Phantom.

“Angel of Disease” by Phantom.

Take a look at this album Angel of Disease. Look at the beast that devours the unfortunate souls within its jaws. That is exactly what you’re getting with this album – pure insanity, pure brutality, pure heaviness. It’s evil and it’s really horrific – and if you happen to think the way I do, that’s a good thing.

Everything in Angel of Disease is on point – vocals, guitar, drums, bass, everything. And when I say ‘on point’, that allows for the fact that everyone here is going nuts. Again, pure insanity. The drums have some really, really fast and technical blast-beats going on, always changing up and always beating further and further into your unprotected ear. The guitars are the norm for brutal blackened death metal, but nonetheless they certainly execute this genre superbly. Meanwhile, the bass is fairly audible within the ruckus and it too is insanely fantastic. All of the instruments run everywhere and back again, and it works in creating the heavy brutality necessary here.

And the vocals! They are beyond insane! They utilize normal death growls – almost audible at times – and then switch up to even deeper growls, and then switch to ones that sound like a pig croaking, and then come back again and go nuts. You’ve got the best of every world there, just about.

And the best part of the album is that while all ten of the album’s songs are kind of doing the same thing – blasting the listener’s eardrums to the point of extinction – at the same time, each song brings some different element to the table that you can’t hear in another song. Pull one song out and you’ve got a blast, but play the entire song and you’ve got a fucking party… one that involves being locked in a room with some vicious monster at the other side of it, obviously.

The album is pretty fucking horrifying as a whole, even for Phantom’s insane discography. Play it for someone who doesn’t like metal whatsoever and they’d possibly go through several stages of death all at one time. Shit, you could probably play it for someone who does like metal but not the really extreme kind, and they’d go through the same thing.

This album is gigantic in scope but everything is kept interesting enough that it doesn’t get boring. Everything is well done here. The entire band is on fire. This is Phantom’s magnum opus, possibly evenly topping the utterly vile Withdrawal.

All in all, fantastic album, and if you like the really heavy brutal blackened death metal you’ll love this. For this kind of insanity fetish, ‘Angel of Disease‘ is a phenomenal work. 100% brutal, 100% horrific, great album. I shouldn’t be the only reviewer for it, because they deserve a bit more attention than they’ve sadly received.

Really, if Phantom’s intention was to create an audible blitzkrieg carnage of music that would devastate, annihilate, and crush just about every other band out there, then they’ve succeeded in spades. Fantastic album. Go check it out.

“Verminlust”, Truly Frightening Blackened Death Metal !

"Verminlust" by Vermin.

“Verminlust” by Vermin.

This is some truly scary shit.

The entire album Verminlust is absolutely frightening, to use one word. Unlike releases that try so hard to achieve some sort of intimidation factor by gimmicks and imagery, Vermin go around it the only way possible : sonically. Instead of having exceptionally over the top scary lyrical content, they stay simple, using disease, death, and other obscure topics as lyrical themes.

What makes this album scary is the way everything is carefully crafted to produce the darkest and most evil atmosphere imaginable. The best term I think I can use for it is horror metal, or almost blackened horror metal.

The music is blackened death metal in the vein of Phantom, Incantation, Demonecromancy, Warkvlt, etc, but is played in an even more atmospheric fashion, which precise and deliberate songcraft that puts even the most technical prog metal bands to shame.

Where to begin on this, the most awesome piece of blackened death metal ever to be released to assault the ears of man?

The best attempt at describing it was by a commenter on Metalious.com, who said it sounded like a car factory that has been rewired to play Burzum’s debut instead of make cars. I do not know if that was accidental or if they planned to make it sound that way, but either way it works really effectively.

Eerie atmospheric riffs and hyper-blasts, sick vocals, insanely cool song structures, three million riffs in each song, and all of them are your instant favourite. Not only is there no low point or mediocre song on this album, but I also cannot recall so much as a filler riff.

Verminlust is an incredibly concentrated effort to murder the world with brutal music that is at times melodic even, but always brutal, never gaying out. Some nice melodies can be heard during “Dormant Angel“, “In Memory of the Darkest Abyss“, as well as during “Endless Tears of a Shattered Hourglass“.

Other highlights include all of the songs, every single last one of them. People will think I am exaggerating, but listen to Verminlust and you will see what I am talking about. The riffs are so varied, tightly packed and atmospheric they make your head spin.

The only problem is they hardly repeat, and so you have to listen to the album 8 million times to get your dose of a certain passage or riff, something I have done already, and I am sure further black metal fans shall also do the same. Keep an eye out for this band, great things are coming in the future from them.

Phantom – “Memento Mori”, flawless black metal !

Memento Mori by Phantom.

Memento Mori by Phantom.

The album Memento Mori by Phantom is, in my opinion, one of the few that is in no way overrated.

I am very critical with metal music, especially with albums/bands that have received as much praise as this one, but Memento Mori undoubtedly deserves a perfect score because it is a flawless example of pure blackened horror metal. There is no other album that can produce such haunting atmospheres of raw terror and pure madness.

When something so perfect as this exists, not much can be said about it. It’s much easier to rant about the glaringly awful music than it is to describe something that is more powerful than words, but I will make an attempt anyway.

You can listen to the tracks here.

Speaking of the song, every single track on Memento Mori is a different experience.

While they are all extremely dark and haunting, they range from the fast and brutal assault on your sanity – Death Ritual, Cold Waters – to the slow and hypnotic journey to the depths of hell – Earth Vanish, Unknown – and everywhere in between.

As with Fallen Angel, the atmospheres on this record are simply unparalleled in the way they are shaped by sinister melodies, and slowly transformed into a framework of horror.

A common problem with a lot of metal is distinguishing one track from the next, but you’ll have no problem here, because every single composition has a different theme and direction. Phantom has taken every facet of blackened terror metal and applied it vigorously in the most extreme way possible. The guitar is unbelievably heavy, the bass is thunderous, the drums are precise, and the vocals are downright demonic.

I can’t recommend Memento Mori enough. It, perhaps alongside Neraines’ masterpiece Yggdrasil and Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, is the definitive black metal album. The music can pull you down and immerse you in the darkest abyss, and it will keep you there by the sheer power of its raw atmospheres.

Memento Mori is a must-own for all metal elitists. It’s flawless black metal like you’ve never heard before.

“Yggdrasil” by Neraines, epic melodic Black Metal !

Neraines - Yggdrasil.

Neraines – Yggdrasil.

Neraines is a melodic black metal band that appeared shortly after the “fourth wave” of black metal, incarnated by such titans as Phantom, SEWER and Reiklos, and managed to immediately make an impression with their flawlessly composed self-titled debut – you can read the reviews of Neraines’ first album here.

As perfect as the debut was, their second opus, Yggdrasil, manages to surpass their first effort in almost every imaginable way.

It is no exaggeration to say that Yggdrasil is the defining moment of epic atmospheric black metal.

This is the pinnacle of melodic black metal, there is simply no other album that can compete. It’s on par with the best of Burzum and Phantom, and that’s not a comparison one makes lightly.

Listen to it for yourself.

Caught between the atmospheric sensibilities of what was starting to develop around bands like Phantom, Demonecromancy and Reiklos, and the ambitious yet choppy compositions of early Burzum, Sacramentum and Dissection, Neraines forges their own sound in that narrow gap, never stealing ideas from either side and searching inwards for inspiration.

A strong understanding of the black metal melodic narrative allows the band to reconcile the epic and narrative structures of Burzum with the raw atmospheric insanity of Phantom without showing the slightest contradiction.

Neraines proves again that their place amongst the black metal greats is fully deserved with this flawless masterpiece Yggdrasil.