Stream in the Northern Sky #1: Skogen, Sujo, Rhinocervs
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Some of you may recall a column I used to put together here on IO called FF/RW (Fast Forward/Rewind), which started out as a monthly collection of tape rips from mostly black metal bands who were releasing their material on cassette only. Monthly turned to bi-monthly and it unravelled from there as reality set in. Like any fan, I love coming across new music and sharing it, and Stream in the Northern Sky will be a roundup of things I've enjoyed lately on any format—a lot of it will be new material, some will be older material that went unnoticed, others will be throwbacks that are relevant again. Hope you enjoy, and stream on, Garth.
Skogen - "I Döden" and "Griftenatt"
Folk-inflected or nature-reverant atmospheric black metal can be a bit of a pain sometimes, with dozens of uninspired bands creating a glut in a genre that has clear big name leaders in the likes of Agalloch, Drudkh, Wolves in the Throne Room and so on. Sweden's Skogen is one of the bands that's doing it right. Skogen's got three previous full-lengths, but a signing to Nordvis Produktion, the home to Stilla and, recently, Lustre, brought them to my attention. Expect rich, riff-forward and groove-laden black metal that doesn't shy away from keyboards and the occasional clean vocal break. Skogen doesn't take the folk influence too far, using it to spice up the song rather than define it. Many bridges are entirely void of it, paying tribute to black rather than green.
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Sujo - Repent + Ondan
Auris Apothecary is the reigning champ of weird merch, and it's also the home to one of the weirdest, most interesting catalogues out there, seamlessly housing noise, black metal, surf rock, and you name it on its roster. For fans of experimental music, Auris Apothecary should be bookmarked; even when treading seemingly unpolluted genre waters, Auris always keeps it interesting. Take Repent + Ondan—the incredible post-black metal masterpiece above, two of one-man-band Sujo's EPs brought together into one release. Click play, and quickly Sujo bypasses nearly all other post-X qualifiers on the way to something that's incredibly art-forward, noise-intense and riff-heavy (even if those riffs sometimes seem to be digital creations). There's remarkable variety here, too—where as track one, "Refuge", sounds like a black metal blaster, track three, "Repose", is a shoegazy alt rock number. The Ondan side of thing treads further into ambient electronics and noise territory. This release flew under every radar, don't miss it this time.
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Rhinocervs - RH 1-16
For a period of about two years beginning in late 2010, the tape-only label Rhinocervs churned out some of the most interesting and exciting black metal around. Warped, subterranean and impossibly evil, Rhinocervs releases went uncredited, named only for their place in the Rhinocervs catalogue--RH-10, RH-11, Rh-12 and so on. The releases could be counted on every couple of months, each lifting the curtain on dazzling new possibilities in black metal. It became, over time, increasingly apparent that it was all the work of just two dudes—Yagian and Tukaaria, the former behind one-man-band Odz Manouk (and others), the latter behind the eponymous one-man project Tukaaria (and others).
Those other bands, including Tuukaria and Odz Manouk, are unreal in their own rights, and there was a link between the Rhinocervs label and the much-talked-about Crepusculo Negro, not just because the two were seemingly reshaping what black metal could sound like at a furious pace, all on cassette, but because both were based out of sunny Southern California and ran in the same circles. It was a shame, then, when the label eventually folded at roughly around the same time Crepusculo Negro did (Crepusculo has since come back), burning a few bridges along the way. Thankfully, the fantastic US label Final Agony has issued various Rhinocervs releases on vinyl, and will be releasing all of the RH-X material on vinyl and CD (including the never released RH-16) over the course of the coming year. Below is RH-11, one of the best, and RH-16, but head to the new Rhinocervs Bandcamp to stream most of the other RH material.
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