Black Celebration #1: Morning Star

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A reader once told me that the best black metal was that which nobody heard. I’m inclined to believe that. Most of the black metal I listen to is inexplicably underexposed. (Actually, I can explicate – the bands don’t have cool shticks for people to latch onto.) I’m not the type to keep bands to myself. The more people who listen to good bands, the better. So I’ve stopped waiting around for others to catch on to the bands below and collected them into a mixtape. 10 bands, just under an hour. This, to me, is some of today’s most exciting black metal.

— Cosmo Lee
Illustration by Gustave Doré

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DOWNLOAD: BLACK CELEBRATION #1 [117.28MB .zip]

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Infernal War (Pol) – “Into the Vortex of Naught”
from Transfigurations (Malignant Voices, 2010)

Infernal War’s split with Kriegsmaschine is the black metal release I’ve listened to the most in the past half year. (Stream the whole thing here.) Infernal War nail the orthodox vibe perfectly with big, aching bends and strong backs. I prefer my black metal with strong backs.

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Kriegsmaschine – “Onward Destrudo”
from Transfigurations (Malignant Voices, 2010)

Kriegsmaschine might have resulted had Apollyon Sun gelled and turned into a black metal band. A slight industrial influence (in feeling only – no electronics) undergirds declamatory vocals that shade into Tom G. Warrior territory; in one part, the drummer even busts out a sly drum ‘n’ bass pattern. Very fresh and strong.

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The Battalion – “Within the Frame of the Graveyard”
from Head Up High (Dark Essence, 2010)

Absolutely nasty, Norwegian blackened thrash that belongs in the same sentence as Aura Noir and Audiopain. Slithering riffs and stumpy polkas – if you don’t bang your head to this, you are no metalhead.

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Odem – “Nails as the Weapon of Hatred”
from Rape Your God and Pray for Reprieve (Self-released, 2010)

I bet we’ll hear much more of this name soon, as this ludicrously titled record is getting a proper label release soon. (It’s already available at The End and Hells Headbangers.) Death metal vocals over a swarming Russian attack! Yes!

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Aosoth – “II”

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Aosoth – “II”
from III (Agonia, 2011)

This is a vast improvement from before. Now Aosoth has a strong orthodox vibe (which musically means “interesting high end”). The decision to slow down in places was extremely wise. Dissonant, massive, and stimulating – don’t sleep on this. That’s How Kids Die has an interview here.

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Infestus – “Down Spiral Depersonification”
from E x | I s t (Debemur Morti, 2011)

A strange, cool record with a seemingly unintended post-metal vibe. There’s a lot of crossover now between post-metal and black metal (Deafheaven, et al.). But Infestus doesn’t carry the short hair/stovepipe jeans vibe that typically accompanies that. This is very deep metal that isn’t afraid of clean tones and big solos.

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Ascension (Deu) – “Grant Me Light”
from Consolamentum (W.T.C., 2010)

The buzz was mostly justified. This record is front-loaded, but, man, is that front great. “Grant Me Light” epitomizes the orthodox vibe with cavernous chords, yearning melodies, and “God”-praising lyrics evidently drawn from an Islamic prayer. I’m in awe at the depth of feeling religious nuts can have.

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Cavus – “Discovering Through Suffering”
from Fester and Putrefy (Listenable, 2010)

This record’s main interest is texture, which must be unintended. It’s very aggressive and probably intended to run you over. Instead, it showers gravel and rocks on you, with rubbery bass to add interest to injury. The yogurt and Grape-Nuts of black metal? Evidently Grape-Nuts are hard to find in Finland.

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Vulvark – “Imperial Harvest of Ecstasy”
from Vulvark (Ván, 2009)

I have been listening to this record for almost two years. Yes, that makes me terribly delinquent in writing about it. Then again, no other record from the past two years has remained in my playlists this long. Imagine the chewy tones of the Velvet Underground amplified into a poisonous mist, with wires of spaghetti western guitars poking through.

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Urfaust – “Der Mensch, die klein Narrenwelt”
from Der freiwillige Bettler (Ván, 2010)

You’re paying attention to Ván, right? Straight up, this record is Swans as black metal. Big, slow, hollow doom with crazy caterwauling (yes, singing) and a jaunty death rock number. No other band sounds like Urfaust.

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