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  • Words by Faye Coulman, Jonesy and Scott Emery

ANTHEMS FROM THE ABYSS #6


As far as servicing us with a steady, seemingly unending supply of apocalyptic horrors goes, the year 2020 has done a pretty successful job of ensuring life remains in as troubling and unpredictable a shape as humanly imaginable. So much so, in fact, that the arrival of the spookiest day of the calendar year barely even registered for many of us living forever suspended in this present, perpetual state of darkness and despair. That is, until our right honourable Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerged from the shadows of his worryingly extensive absence from UK television screens on Saturday 31st October to officially confirm rumours of a second national lockdown. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine a more fittingly foreboding day on which to announce this next grimly inexorable stint of prolonged isolation and inactivity. But, as we retreat into another tediously sobering episode of death-like silence and solitude, we find ourselves once again seeking comfort in the dusky, distortion-soaked embrace of our favourite extreme metal artists. And so it is that, on this most exceptionally dreary and soul-destroying of Mondays, we proudly present to you our top picks for Anthems from the Abyss #6…

WOODS OF YPRES - 'THE NORTHERN COLD'

With its rich plethora of blackly turbulent aggression, windswept atmospherics and frostbitten outcrops of craggily abrasive sonic terrain, extreme metal has long enjoyed an instinctive affinity with the altogether more hostile features of the natural world. And from the earthy, wetly glistening autumnal richness of Type O Negative’s ‘October Rust’ and the rain-sodden melancholia of My Dying Bride’s ‘A Line of Deathless Kings’ to the icily visceral moonlit territories of Emperor’s ‘In The Nightside Eclipse’, there are certain records that we make an almost perennial habit of revisiting at certain seasonally appropriate points in the year. Among the many enduring favourites of the writer presently penning this fondly nostalgic entry is this coldly immersive epic from Ontario doom metal masters Woods of Ypres.

Despite a career tragically cut short by its creator’s untimely death at the tender age of 31, theirs is a nonetheless expansive and meticulously crafted back catalogue spanning a wealth of various incarnations culminating in the doom-laden mastery of 2011’s ‘Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light’. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to spend a quietly contemplative hour or two in the company of this hauntingly evocative opus, we guarantee you this is one of the most emotionally raw and affecting records you’ll ever have the pleasure of hearing. Yet, prior to this exceptionally poised and melody-rich pinnacle of career-defining perfection, 2007 predecessor ‘Woods III: Deepest Roots & Darkest Blues’ finds visionary frontman and composer David Gold at a decidedly more blackened and acerbic point in his then-fledgling career. Such is the frigid, violently lacerating magic of ‘The Northern Cold’, its frantically accelerating lines of frost-stricken tremolo and battering blasts glistening with reverential nods to black metal’s genre-defining predecessors. Yet, in amongst these generous lashings of murkily cacophonous aggression is no small amount of the distinctive melancholic warmth for which Woods would later become widely admired. And from airily glacial flurries of keyboards that flutter and glimmer like snowflakes born aloft on a gentle winter breeze through to Gold’s sultry, endlessly expressive baritone verses, this track is as rich in nerve-shredding aggression as it is steeped in gorgeously ethereal beauty.

FC

AKHLYS – 'BREATH AND LEVITATION'

I long considered my contribution to Halloween to be some gore-laden death metal as homage to my teenage years and love of totally over-the-top splatter flicks. However, a late night walk with this song totally changed my mind. 'The Dreaming I' is an absolute black metal masterpiece, awash with a foreboding atmosphere and level of sonic evil most bands could only hope to dream about. Opening track 'Breath and Levitation' is an auditory nightmare in the best possible way. The haunting intro conjures up the feel of a desolate wood or dank basement, causing a claustrophobic dread as you take another tentative step into the unknown. Then the song itself bursts into life, like the unleashing of all manner of unspeakable Lovecraftian horrors from the void. The echoey atmospherics in the production bring the song a haunting quality to accompany the shrill guitar work and maniacal vocals. There’s an art to making black metal sound genuinely evil and Akhlys have perfected it.