Song debut: Lake of Blood – “In Wells of Shadow”

Wyatt likes to joke about his love for “tape-hiss black metal.” He uses the term in jest, but I like it. Black metal bands who release their material exclusively on tape do tend to share a broad set of aesthetic principles: relative simplicity, budget-sounding recordings, lots of treble, and so forth. Tape-hiss black metal isn’t a real genre, but it’s an entertaining term of convenience.

Southern California’s Lake of Blood have released their new album, Omnipotens Tyrannus, exclusively to tape. (You can order it here. But though Lake of Blood play black metal, they are emphatically not a tape-hiss black metal band. Omnipotens Tyrannus instead offers an unabashedly modern take on the genre: clear tones, tight performances, and long, expansive songs. In fact, its most visible flaw is its length. Omnipotens Tyrannus clocks in at 79 minutes, which I wasn’t sure could even fit on a single cassette. (’90s child here.)

Lake of Blood could’ve done worse than to give us too much of a good thing. Omnipotens Tyrannus punishes, but it also shifts gears frequently. Melody and dissonance receive equal billing in its compositions, and drummer Xsithis drives them both forward with the same relentless precision. Acoustic guitars and spacey ambience vignette some of the songs; Scott Miller of Sutekh Hexen helped Lake of Blood with this connective tissue. But for the most part, the band focuses on dealing out blastbeat after wailing blastbeat. Leviathan architect Wrest contributes both vocals and guitars to two of Omnipotens Tyrannus’s two songs, including “In Wells of Shadow”, which is streaming above. But without his signature veil of vocal effects, he’s hard to pick out; he becomes another anguished voice howling in the void.

2013 has produced several noteworthy albums in this vein. Aosoth’s excellent newest album has received the most attention, but some other remarkable examples still hover under the radar. Patrons of the Rotting Gate and A God Or An Other come to mind. Lake of Blood fits in nicely with this imposing company, though each band has its own strengths. The music-writer instinct in these situations is to come up with a pithy descriptor for all four of them, a la “tape-hiss black metal.” Perhaps we’d be better off calling them “really good” and leaving it at that.

Omnipotens Tyrannus is out on cassette now via Cult of Melancholia. One hopes that it will eventually see a digital release via Lake of Blood’s Bandcamp for the tape-allergic among us.

— Doug Moore