The Atmospheric Black Metal Thread
Paysage - d'Hiver - "Paysage d'Hiver" (1999)
A demo tape comprising of three tracks that range from 16-20 minutes in length. Intentionally noisy no-fi production is used to create a cold, texture-rich experience with added synths & folky instrumentation. I absolutely love tracks 2 & 3 but the opener does nothing for me at all. Fans of Darkspace, Burzum & Vinterriket will love this shit. In fact, the man behind Paysage d'Hiver (Tobias "Wintherr" Möckl) is a member of Darkspace.
I was originally turned on to this via a recommendation through RYM about three years ago. I got hold of a copy and listened to it for the first time whilst out walking during one of the worst snowstorms we had experienced in England in years. Sometimes things just feel right and the album's icy atmosphere perfectly suited the surroundings. I've loved this album ever since.
I feel very similarly about tracks 2 & 3 Sonny but found some major obstacles that I failed to overcome with opener " Welt aus Eis". The vocals & drumming to be more specific. The vocal delivery is very different & much more direct than on the other two tracks. It sounds kinda childish & immature to my ears to be honest. I'm not sure whether it was intentional to make the drumming sound so sloppy & primitive either. Perhaps it was & I'm just not on board with it but the drums get more buried in the mix on the other two tracks & they're much better off for it. "Gefrorener Atem" & "Der Weg" certainly take some time to develop but the second half of both of those songs are nothing short of wonderful.
Paysage d'Hiver - "Im Wald" (2020)
Utterly essential atmospheric black metal for fans of Burzum, Darkspace & Darkthrone. It spans an incredible 120 minutes with the second hour being as metal music gets.
"Im Wald" is currently my Album of the Year. A truly incredible record.
Lurker of Chalice - "Lurker of Chalice" (2005)
I have to admit that when I first encountered this unique release I was completely unprepared for what was in store for me. That was back in 2009 & I was still yet to allow myself to become completely immersed in the incredible atmospherics of the post-metal movement so I was still looking to hear an ultra-aggressive Satanic blast-fest when I put on a "black metal" record & that's certainly not what I got from "Lurker of Chalice" so I was left struggling to come to grips with my disappointment rather than treating the record on it's merits. Since that time a lot has changed in my world & this revisit has seen me being completely opened up to the charms of what is essentially a pretty indescribable extreme metal release.
"Lurker of Chalice" is generally tagged as Atmospheric Black Metal & there's little doubt that this subgenre plays a strong role in the outcome however there's a lot more to this album than that. In fact, I'd suggest that there's probably as much Doom Metal (often venturing all the way over to the Funeral Doom end of the equation) & Post-Metal on offer as there is Black Metal & I've found it very hard to identify an easy pigeon-hole with which to place "Lurker of Chalice". The best I can do is to label it as Post-Black/Doom Metal which I feel is the fairest assessment. I love the croaky vocals which are beautifully placed towards the back of the mix so that they seem to contribute more to the atmospherics than they do guide the listener down their dark path. Interestingly I find the pure black metal sections to be the least engaging inclusions with the stunning Post-Metal atmospheres & cripplingly depressive yet still decidedly beautiful doom metal parts grabbing me by the balls & dragging me into territories of appreciation that I never expected to venture with this artist. It's an emotionally engaging experience that leaves me feeling thoroughly rewarded, even if the more conventional atmospheric black metal track "Granite" is pretty flat when compared to the other material.
My vinyl boxed set of Blut Aus Nord's 777 trilogy arrived today. Complete with splatter effect vinyl, a turntable slipmat and multiple posters it is s et of albums I have been meaning to revisit for some time after initially giving them all a decidedly average 3 stars on the MA site originally. Now I understand the story behind the series I am listening back through with a much clearer head now I understand the construct (and you really have to get the background to these albums to understand what the band are trying to achieve.
This weekend's top ten list is my Top Ten Atmospheric Black Metal Releases Of All Time:
01. Burzum – “Filosofem” (1996)
02. Akhlys – “The Dreaming I” (2015)
03. Altar of Plagues – “Mammal” (2011)
04. Burzum – “Hvis lyset tar oss” (1994)
05. Wolves In The Throne Room – “Two Hunters” (2007)
06. Paysage d’Hiver – “Im Wald” (2020)
07. Paysage d’Hiver – “Winterkaelte” (2001)
08. Murmuure – “Murmuure” (2010)
09. Lurker Of Chalice – “Lurker Of Chalice” (2005)
10. Darkspace – “Dark Space III” (2008)
One of my favourite of all musical genres. My top ten looks like this:
1. Wolves in the Throne Room - Two Hunters (2007)
2. Drudkh - Blood in Our Wells (2006)
3. Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With the Stars (2009)
4. Burzum - Hvis lyset tar oss (1994)
5. Panopticon - Kentucky (2012)
6. Saor - Aura (2014)
7. Paysage d'hiver - Im Wald (2020)
8. The Ruins of Beverast - Rain Upon the Impure (2006)
9. Winterfylleth - The Mercian Sphere (2010)
10. Ulver - Bergtatt - Et eeventyr i 5 capitler (1995)
Oh hey I can do this one. Let's see here:
- Paysage d'Hiver - Im Wald (2020)
- Saor - Aura (2014)
- Mare Cognitum - Solar Paroxysm (2021)
- Drudkh - Blood In Our Wells (2006)
- Spectral Lore & Mare Cognitum - Wanderers: Astrology of the Nine (2020)
- Kaatayra - Só quem viu o relâmpago à sua direita sabe (2020)
- Kaatayra - Toda história pela frente (2020)
- Ethereal Shroud - Trisagion (2021)
- Paysage d'Hiver - Paysage d'Hiver (1999)
- Summoning - Minas Morgul (1995)
Bit of a weird list admittedly, it's made me realize I don't put too much thought into stuff like this, especially since I put so much weight on newer stuff. Hard for me to really parse how things stack up against some of the older albums.
Izthmi - Leaving This World, Leaving it All Behind
Very happy to see this Seattle based black metal band back with their follow-up to the excellent debut The Arrows of Our Ways.
Just checked this out today. The Arrows Of Our Ways initially impressed me, but fell off significantly since their vocalist is really grating to me for some reason. I think I prefer their more atmospheric sound here, looking forward to giving it a few more spins as I think it may be better than I currently think once I understand the pacing.
I'm a big fan of all three albums, particularly The Desanctification. Didn't realise there was any sort of story behind them to be honest.
So, it might take me a few weeks to get all this correct but I have started my re-rating and reviewing of the whole trilogy tonight, beginning with Sect(s).
Blut Aus Nord’s “777” trilogy initially passed me by as being just “three more BAN records!” Foolish though my initial summary admittedly was there is no denying that taken as three sprawling soundscapes that explore the full dynamic range of one of black metal’s more experimental artists, this trilogy commands more than just a cursory listen. To truly unfold the ethereal and haunting and downright catastrophic tale they tell here requires time to be dedicated to the cause.
The theme (I suppose I could say the story at a push) behind the trilogy is essentially the death of mankind as we know it. Predictably perhaps, this does not happen in as simple a format as a nuclear war or even a deviant strain of some pandemic. BAN’s vision is much more terrible and is delivered with a real sense of there being a taunting applause reaching a steady crescendo, somewhere in the darkest corner of the universe.
Told in three parts, this macabre yet (increasingly) relevant scenario plays out with the upmost contempt for humanity that you can muster. Do not be fooled by the relatively tame artwork that adorns Sect(s). The bold silver and gold symbolism belies a cruelty without bounds. Capturing this vision of man being stripped of his belief systems, of his ideologies, of his very existence. Artist Daniel Valencia clearly understood the vision from his discussions with Vindsval. As the first third of the trilogy, Sect(s) sets out a bold undertaking in deconstructing the known foundations of life itself, pouring scorn on the selfish nature of humanity and assaulting the very principles of cultural, religious, and existential need.
“…there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of 'world history' — yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die. One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened.” Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, (1873) – with thanks to Lurkersgrave.com for pointing me to this.
Nietzshce’s quote seems to be a perfect summary for the trajectory that Sect(s) starts us on for the rest of the “777” trilogy. It begins at a hopeless point of no return, without any reverse gear to select or handbrake to apply. This crude sense of humility that it flings the driver and all passengers head-first through the windshield and onto is the opening act of a series of events on an unimaginable scale.
To deliver all this BAN simply dip into their armoury of tormented chords and deviant rhythms that disorientate the listener. It is an album that you can lose all sense of narrative in and for once I have no issue with this – it is after all exactly how it was intended to be done. This is not supposed to be an easy listen. The tracks are all entitled “Epitome” followed by the relevant numerical order, but this order is against the values of the song writing of course and as such I find it has little traction.
By and large the more aggressive of the three albums, Sect(s) will appeal to the more traditional bm fan whilst also clearly setting a tone for the imaginative and the alien aspects of the style also. The opening track flies straight out of the traps leaving the listener in no doubt as to what they are in for. Niggling riffs flit about the place before the track breaks into a much more looming prospect. As with a lot of tracks on the album, BAN have this art of making riffs taunt one another. Like tormented serpents writhing in some biblical pit of reckoning; just as one thinks it has the better of another its opponent snaps its head away, prolonging the anguish of the game.
As we have come to expect with BAN, the album also has more than its fair share of ambient ludes/sections, often they appear when we least expect them, causing a sudden change of pace or tempo. These moments seem to just be placed to emphasise the misery of the unfolding story and can equally lead to melancholic melodies just as easily as they can charges of ferocious black metal. At the same time though there are arty rock moments that shimmer in their avant-garde nature, delivering a sense of maturity and total consciousness to the horrific subject matter. This is truly the beginning of the end, and the auditory assault will not let you forget that.
For an album that I hold in such high regard (now that I have taken time to listen properly to it over many spins) it is hard to find fault as so much of what goes on here only has value when explored in the context of the whole trilogy. As such there is very little wrong with Sect(s), despite its obvious deviance from the norms of extreme metal. For any first-time listeners – what the hell are you doing starting out here? Go and start at Ultima Thulee and build yourself up to this stage of the bands career. For the uninitiated, this is a hellish soundscape to comprehend. The undulation of the riffs, the constant subtlety of the drums that frustrates and compliments at the same time, finalised by vocals that you are never quite sure if they are there or not make for a dizzying experience. I have heard the word hypnotising applied to reviews of this album and I have to say that this sums my experience up perfectly. I am so in tune with the album that I can track the mesmerising dissonance that haunts the experience from start to finish. I look upon Sect(s) as being a collection of six rituals that defy linear narrative and yet are just as interesting and enthralling as any story, legend or myth you could care to think of.
Trhä - "Novej kalhnjënno" E.P. (2020)
Wow! Just wow! This release seems to be picking up some big ratings on other sites however my experience with it today has been a very long way from enjoyable. "Novej kalhnjënno" sounds like this mysterious solo artist from an unknown location is trying for the lo-fi atmospheric black metal sound of an artist like Paysage d'Hiver but if that was the case then he hasn't managed to achieve much in the way of the ice-cold soundscapes that that underground legend is renowned for. Instead, Thét Älëf has drenched his black metal in wispy synthesizers that often remind me more of trance than metal. The vocals & blast beats are effective but I simply can't tolerate the light-weight atmosphere & the pleasantly melodic keyboards which are very much at odds with my idea of what black metal is or should ever strive to be. I guess I'm just not the target audience for this one but I still can't help but ponder how "Novej kalhnjënno" has managed to get noticed among the masses of black metal releases that hit the internet every day.