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Hello, readers - did you miss me? The dust has finally settled and I’m unpacked (at least for the most part; I actually never fully unpacked at my former residence, oops), so I figure I might as well get back on the horse. This is a really big column, so I’ve made the little blurbs for each release a little shorter than usual. My wrists hurt.

Below is a list of releases which mostly come out between April 10 and April 16, but I’m playing a bit of catch up in the wake of my absence, so allow a little flexibility. Chances are I missed stuff, but look how long this week’s column is! Cut a guy some slack, eh? Feel free to fill in any gaps in the comments, and try to be nicer to me than you were to Richard Street-Jammer! You guys can be cruel!

—Jon Rosenthal
send Jon your promos at jon@invisibleoranges.com

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ANTICIPATED RELEASES

Book of Sand - Occult Anarchist Propaganda | Mouthbreather Records | Experimental/Avant-Garde Black Metal | United States
Minnesota-based leftist black metal idealist/musical oddity DCRF has taken his pet project Book of Sand in some very unique directions. In the project’s seven releases, this lone musician (with the occasional session drummer) has injected his singular black metal vision with elements of avant-garde classical/"New music" (The Face Of The Waters), Gamelan music (The Face Of The Deep), and traditional folk songs (How Beautiful To Walk Free and The Bees And The Butterflies), all while very undeniably Book of Sand. Grasping so many distant genres over one’s discography in such a punctuated fashion can be tiresome and scatterbrained, but DCRF has always been careful and singular, but never wholly black metal in a distinct sense. What happens when such a unique mind centralizes his vision into one specific genre? Magic, apparently. The chaotic murk of Occult Anarchist Propaganda’s fuzzy, rounded edges screams Deathcrush and Stained Glass Revelations, but with the distinct learned musician’s touch which has graced Book of Sand’s overall discography. For a band which has meant quite a bit to me for such a long time (an interview I conducted with DCRF back in 2012 caught the eye of Sergeant D’s former cesspool "Stuff You Will Hate" - it was interesting), such a brazen backwards glance for such a forward-thinking artist is as surprising as it is refreshing. One reviewer had the gall to call Occult Anarchist Propaganda a "run of the mill black metal album," which I suppose is true at least on the surface, full of blasting, chaotic distortion and over-the-top caterwauling, but our idealism-driven protagonist’s conservatism is only that: on the surface. Listen close and you’ll hear bizarre harmonies, unique instrumentation (I’m a fan of DCRF’s bowed string work), and clanging discord. Inspired by the classics? Fine, but a traditional black metal album this is not.

Woman Is The Earth - Torch Of Our Final Night | Init Records | Atmospheric Black Metal | United States
I could get a little wordy about this album here (and Woman Is The Earth’s great performance at Hammerheart Ostara Blot Fest), but we’re hosting a full premiere of this one this afternoon, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Howls of Ebb - Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows | I, Voidhanger Records/Nuclear War Now! Records/Caligari Records | Experimental/Avant-Garde Death Metal | United States
If last year’s psychedelic terror The Marrow Veil wasn’t a strong enough indicator, Howls of Ebb has very quickly made a name for itself as the most creative new name in death metal. The crazed miasma of Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows (where do they come up with these titles?) shudders and gibbers with little regard for form or traditional death metal convention.

Alkerdeel - Lede | ConSouling Sounds | Blackened Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal | Netherlands
Alkerdeel’s self-proclaimed "blacksludgedoomdrone" has always been a force with which to be reckoned—a wall of churning pitch slowly consuming all in its path. This Dutch trio’s nightmarish blackened doom more recently favors its blackened side on the tripartite Lede—a direct, sprinting fist of completely bottomed-out black metal filth. I can’t say I was expecting such a straightforward black metal release from Alkerdeel, but they certainly pull it off (with some extremely well executed bass work) with their own special brand of filthy minimalism. Oddly enough, fans of Demoncy’s earlier works might find solace in Alkerdeel’s terrifying, thick black metal.

Drought - Rudra Bhakti | Avantgarde Music | Experimental Black Metal | International
A bit of a dark horse here, and a great example of Avantgarde Music’s skill at finding the most talented bands in the underground, newcomers Drought’s dissonant black metal chaos sets a new bar in the post-Deathspell Omega world. Revel in guitarist Hasjarl’s genre-defining hyper-discordance. Drought’s unique use of rhythmic ideas sets them apart. Eschewing the now-traditional endless waves of blast-beats, Drought enjoys much more clattering, jarring rhythms for a much more exciting, dynamic listen.

Death Fortress - Deathless March of the Unyielding | Fallen Empire Records | Black Metal | United States
If you’re like me, you probably still really miss Hate Forest and none of Roman Saenko’s following projects have really been able to "scratch that itch." Sure, Blood of Kingu is pretty neat, but then you listen to Purity and say, "‘Sunset in the House of Who’?" Death Fortress’s 2014 debut, Among the Ranks of the Unconquerable was definitely promising, but ultimately came off as mechanical and deferential to the "classic" Slavic sound, which is fine but still, you know, stale. With their latest album, Death Fortress definitely hits their stride. However true to the sound pioneered by the long-dead Ukrainian horde, Deathless March of the Unyielding shows an unbridled passion—an innate melodicism which sets Death Fortress apart from the other Hate Forest contemporaries. Though still not the most unique band, this is a definite step in the right direction.

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OF NOTE

Stillborn Fawn - Norn | Bleak Environment | Black Metal | United States
One of Colorado’s best-kept secrets, Stillborn Fawn’s venomous black metal speaks to Ildjarn’s primitive punk sensibilities just as much as it does to the eerie, crackled melodicism of Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal. Norn’s raw, soulless aggression is the perfect culmination of Stillborn Fawn’s conservative, angry primitivism. Oh, and Morris Kolontyrsky from Spectral Voice and Blood Incantation handles half the guitar duties in this band.

Baise Ma Hache - Bréviaire du chaos | Tour de Garde/Hammerbolt Productions | Black Metal | France
Kiss. My. Axe. Peste Noire’s last handful of albums showed an idiosyncratic movement into what Famine might call "hooligan" black metal, but in reality it sounds like waking up in a field still drunk on basement moonshine. It’s black metal for the countryside: crass, sloppy, folkish and fun. I wasn’t super impressed with the last Peste Noire album, but that’s where Baise Ma Hache steps in. Though not as folky as their primary influence (these guys carry a sort of Lorraine Rehearsal vibe, but much more polished), they certainly share Peste Noire’s goofy sense of humor. Yeah, most of this blurb is about how this band sounds like another band, but the whole "hooligan/hillbilly black metal" sound is still so isolated that I feel any successful attempts are bound to be great (and I love all the samples—the revving engines in "Sang Plomb" are particularly great).

The Howling Void - The Triumph Of Ruin | Avantgarde Music | Atmospheric Funeral Doom Metal | United States
The Howling Void’s pristine, funereal misery has always hit me in a certain soft spot. Sole musician Ryan, who you might recognize from Pneuma Hagion and Intestinal Disgorge, manages to craft mammoth, pure, melodic sadness which advances with every new release. I will admit to sort of losing interest with Runa and Nightfall, the whole "Gregorian chant + funeral doom" thing seemed a little hackneyed for my taste, but the folkier, lyrical approach found on The Triumph Of Ruin sits very comfortably, especially when Ryan includes such buttery smooth guitar leads.

SIG:AR:TYR - Northern | Hammerheart Records | Folk Metal/Ambient | Canada
I always knew SIG:AR:TYR as a neofolk band, but I also never managed to venture outside his first release (The Stranger is still pretty damn good neofolk, if you were wondering). Turns out he’s been making some pretty hefty stylistic sequels to Nordland I & II. I normally stray from "epic" viking metal nowadays unless it’s Moonsorrow, but SIG:AR:TYR manages to avoid any of the cheesy pitfalls of the style’s more prominent sons.

Necrot - The Labyrinth | Tankcrimes Records | Death Metal | United States
From Avinash’s Necrot profile and stream:
"There may be an appreciable wait until we see the first Necrot full-length record but we have The Labyrinth, the document of their growth from one-two beatdowns to aggressively perfected maelstroms from hell. The wait will be well worth it if Necrot continue to follow the approach they’ve taken since day one, the approach that made me drive hundreds of miles just to see their comeback show at the Golden Bull. Death metal made with punk rock standards. Do it right, or don’t do it at all."

Nucleus - Sentient | Unspeakable Axe Records | Death Metal | Unites States
Between the success of Blood Incantation and Wormed (and Demilich’s endless reunions), we are truly in the age of space death metal. Nucleus’s bizzarro death metal acrobatics take us all the way back to Timeghoul’s legendary two demos, and it is certainly weird.

Wrath of the Weak - Weight | Independent/Digital | Ambient Black Metal/Noise | United States
Oh how I have missed Wrath of the Weak. Truly one of the high points in the "syrupy" black metal sound jokingly pioneered by tricksters Velvet Cacoon (on a related note, wasn’t Clair Cassis hinting at new material last year?), this Western New York isolate truly drove the sound home —sunlit, harsh, and enveloping—before sadly disbanding after releasing his final album, Solace, in 2010. Though there hasn’t been any indication as to activity beyond this (relatively) brief EP, Weight picks up right where Solace left off, hypnotic, fuzzy and harsh. For all the bands who call themselves "shoegaze black metal," no one really encapsulated the genre’s "as much sound as possible" conceit quite like Wrath of the Weak has. I hope there is more to come.

Sea of Bones - Silent Transmissions | Independent/Digital | Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal | United States
Most of us know Sea of Bones as an Earth-flattening doom metal band - I certainly learned of their physical ferocity at the last Gilead Fest (they were the only band for which I actually needed to wear ear plugs), but most aren’t aware of each member’s own tenure as experimental musicians. Be it Gary Amedy’s Neurospora or Kevin Wigginton’s Tomb and Thirst (Tom Mucherino actually runs Mammoth Cabinets, so all three know a thing or two about sound overall), Sea of Bones’s sonic size goes beyond volume, and that is perfectly reflected in the nearly-half-hour-long drone/improv Silent Transmissions. Wavering between minimal soundscapes and thick, trudging doom plod, this trio feeds off of each other with such grace and ease that you would never guess this was a "jam" track.

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FOR THE ADVENTUROUS

Lake of Violet - The Startling Testimony Of Plumb Lines | Gilead Media | Shoegaze/Drone/Ambient | United States
Another supergroup? Why not. Bringing together current and former members of Locrian, Kwaidan, Minsk, Sun Splitter and more, Lake of Violet’s kaleidoscopic mix of sunlit psychedelia with the metal and shoegaze’s darker undertones is a hypnotic, warming experience. With such heavy hitters and personal hometown heroes at bat, I was expecting a much louder and more aggressive album, which The Startling Testimony Of Plumb Lines is definitely not, but make no mistake: Lake of Violet’s sound is immersive.

Mamiffer - The World Unseen | Sige Records | Post-Rock/Ambient/Chamber Music | United States
After a woefully disappointing collaboration with Daniel Menche (sorry!), Mamiffer returns with their strongest work yet. Melding the lyrical vocal melodies of Statu Nascedi with the thoughtful extended orchestration of Mare Decendrii, The World Unseen’s heartbreaking fusion of chamber music, early post-rock (think Bark Psychosis and Talk Talk’s The Laughing Stock more so than Mono), and classical minimalism makes for an emotionally wrenching listen. Check back for an in-depth profile of Mamiffer's Aaron Turner and Faith Coloccia tomorrow.

Striborg - Spiritual Deprivation | Razed Soul Productions | Dark Ambient/Power Electronics/Dungeon Synth | Australia (Tasmania)
Weirdo outsider hermit Sin Nanna returns with a completely non-metal album. Sure, Striborg has delved into the MIDI-soaked NES abyss of "dungeon synth" before, and the album even closes with a very lengthy (20 minutes, oh man) bout of crackling power electronics and noise. Probably not for everyone, especially those who take their Striborg black, but an interesting look into the mind of one of black metal’s more warped minds.

:Of the Wand & the Moon: - Tunes For A Twilight, Tears For A Nighttime | Brave Mysteries | Neofolk | Denmark
As I’m writing this, it’s been four days since I saw :Of the Wand & the Moon: live - I waited 10 years for that moment. As a longtime fan of Kim Larsen’s quiet, whispered brand of delicately strummed neofolk-meets-ethereal post-industrial music (and his work in metal, but that is neither here nor there for this writeup), seeing stripped down versions of both older songs and newer, more 60s psychedelic pop influenced works was near revelatory. This cassette, :Of the Wand & the Moon:’s first North American release in almost 20 years of existence, features studio versions of these newer, much more vocally melodious song reworkings.

Rettir Leinahtan - Contemplations IV | Brave Mysteries | Experimental/Industrial/Ambient | United States
Between his work in Kinit Her, Wreathes, Wormsblood, Circulation of Light, Burial Hex, and as curator of the Brave Mysteries label, Nathaniel Ritter’s (whose mirrored name makes for a great, Finno-Ugric nom du plume) body of work is monstrous. Where is usual musical companion and constant collaborator Troy Schafer moves in folkier and modern classically-inflicted routes, Ritter’s strength lies in electronic composition. Compared to his Circulation of Light project, which features an almost slowcorey dronepop sound, the experimental industrial sounds of Rettir Leinahtan follow in the footsteps of Sleazy and Jhonn Balance’s immortal Coil. The pulsing, strange machine sounds and effected voice found in these two songs makes for a unique, entrancing listen.

Common Eider, King Eider - Extinction | Cold Spring/Sol y Nieve | Blackened Ambient/Drone/Folk | United States
The prolific Common Eider, King Eider, headed by multi-instrumentalist and composer Rob Fisk, makes dark, pensive music for late nights. A beautiful pastiche of treated vocal drones, harsh distortion, bowed strings, field recordings, sparse percussion, and shimmering electronics, Extinction is another strong, extremely dynamic statement from Common Eider, King Eider (and it is about time they worked with Cold Spring). If this were any more aggressive, I'd have to move it up to the general metal section.

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FROM THE GRAVE

Esoteric - The Pernicious Enigma | Aesthetic Death Records | Funeral Doom/Death Metal | England
It looks like Aesthetic Death is upping their game this year (remember the Goatpsalm album?) and have finally…finally given Esoteric’s lengthy The Pernicious Enigma the vinyl pressing it deserves. Much like the AD pressing of The Maniacal Vale, this one manages to completely fill three 12" records. Oh, funeral doom.

Slægt - Ildsvanger | Tour De Garde/Vama Marga/Final Agony Records | Black Metal | Denmark
Slægt might have lost me with Beautiful and Damned, but the melodic, folky, clumsy works which led up to and included their debut were promising. Hell, I still listen to Ildsvanger semi-frequently. Tour de Garde (and a few other notable labels) were kind enough to put all that "early" material in one sleek package. When’s the last time you got something in a super jewel case, anyway?

Darvulia - Mysticisme macabre | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Black Metal | France
French black metal always manages to blow everything else out of the water. Though Darvulia’s L’Alliance des Venins is the fan favorite (as it is mine), this reissue of its predecessor shows the cast shadow might not be so broad. Project mastermind and main songwriter Kobal’s ear for chaotic dissonance is just disorienting enough to warrant further listens, and this new vinyl pressing of Mysticisme macabre might be more of a draw for those who were put off by the initial tape release in 2010.

Gath Šmânê - Transmuted Marrow | Graceless Recordings | Death Metal | United States
If you’re like me, you totally missed out on this killer death metal demo when the initial cassette pressing sold out damn near immediately via Youth Attack (as every other thing listed in the Youth Attack store seems to). The crushing, monolithic death metal found on this demo promises great things for Gath Šmânê’s future, but the lineup (featuring current/former members of Krallice, Encenathrakh, Castevet, Artificial Brain, Copremesis and more) ensures them.

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OTHER RELEASES

Fjoergyn - Terra Satanica | Trollzorn Records | Epic/Avant-Garde Black Metal | Germany
To say it has been a long time since I’d listened to Fjoergyn would be putting it lightly—it’s already been 11 years since Ernte im Herbst (I feel old). This new EP shows the band approaching a sort of Solefald-y sound (Ivo Raab’s clean voice and enunciation even closely resembles Lazare’s), but this sadly falls on its face. The idea of an avant-black metal cover of Louis Armstrong’s "What A Wonderful World" sounds pretty funny, though.

Sheidim - Shrines of the Void | Independent/Digital (physical release on Dark Descent Records and Me Saco un Ojo in June) | Black/Death Metal | Spain
Went into this expecting war metal—left dazzled by strange melodies and interesting chord progressions. I’d go as far as to say these guys remind me of an early Arcturus, though there is a definite modern/Ascension-esque vibe. I need to investigate this further.

Necromantic Worship - The Calling… | Nuclear War Now! Productions | Black Metal | Netherlands
Last year’s Spirit of the Entrance Unto Death solidified Necromantic Worship as true to their name (they really like Necromantia). Now, The Calling takes this bass-drums-and-keyboards black metal band out of the realm of novelty and showcases some unique, challenging ideas. I might have written Necromantic Worship off as the former (can you blame me?), but I will openly admit when I have egg on my face.

Schrei Aus Stein - Wanderwege | Independent/Digital | Black Metal/Ambient | United States
Oh hey, I guess it’s been a good minute since we’ve heard from this Colorado mountain dweller, huh? Though previous releases have proven Schrei Aus Stein’s ambient-meets-black metal sound to be of a more chilling variety, Wanderwege paints a much more verdant picture. As a longtime fan of this project, I was surprised to find such a dramatic shift in sound, but R. Hagen’s talent is undeniable.

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