ANTHEMS FROM THE ABYSS #8
For the first time in many long and arduous months, our dreary little isle is finally approaching something resembling normality, with the UK’s hospitality and entertainment industries making firm and decisive moves toward economic recovery. Better yet, not only is it now possible (and indeed actively encouraged) to get pissed somewhere other than in your own home or on a hypothermia-inducing park bench in mid-January, but with Download festival having recently wrapped up its highly successful pilot scheme earlier this month, the much yearned-for return of live music could, at long last, finally become a tangible reality. So while the UK metal scene awaits – with bated breath – this tremendously anticipated advent, we at Dark Matter Towers have been busily scouring our inboxes, YouTube streams and record collections to bring you coverage of our finest musical discoveries from the grim and frostbitten netherworld of extreme metal. Featuring our team’s most highly rated tracks to date, get ready to plunge headlong in this, the eighth edition of Anthems From the Abyss…
‘Existence in a Dream’
Back in simpler, bygone times, the wondrously malicious likes of Mörk Gryning would have likely been found marauding the murky, subterranean bowels of some thoroughly disreputable local dive bar (or other equally nefarious establishment). The sort of venue whose every ancient, drink-sodden floorboard is liberally saturated with a stickily pervasive aura of coagulating booze, black leather and heavily fermented sweat. Punctuating the odorous, unmistakable stench of a million misspent weekends, the band loom into view up ahead as immense, eardrum-pulverising blasts assume a monumental assault on the senses, shaking the slowly decaying basement venue to its deepest foundations.
So goes the report we wish we could have given you…
But alas, this is the year 2021, and the discovery of these grimly absorbing Swedes did, in fact, occur one fateful drunken night in Swansea in the midst of what can only be described as a YouTube wormhole/marathon drinking session. Unremarkable and rather meandering backstory over, Mörk Gryning are a thoroughly magnetic proposition, their intoxicating melding of blistering aggression, icily visceral fretwork and deathly atmospherics bewitching the listener from the get-go. With their decidedly necro-sounding band name translating from their native Swedish tongue to ‘Dark Dawn’, these talented Scandinavians have maintained a steadily consistent output of studio material since forming way back when in 1993.
Numbering one of the many deliciously frostbitten highlights to feature on 2020 epic ‘Hinsides Vrede’, the blackly entrancing ‘Existence in a Dream’ intermingles searing extremes of aggression and coldly immersive atmospherics to mesmerising effect. Layering intensely sinister lashings of ritualistic chants and distortion-drenched guitars in amongst frantically accelerating episodes of synapse-scorching aggression, this is black metal at its blistering, complex and deftly controlled finest.
HARAKIRI FOR THE SKY
‘Us Against December Skies’
It seems there are as many genres of black metal as there are needles on a pine tree. And while some black metal is so inward-looking it could conduct its own rectal examinations, there’s plenty of mileage left in mixing in other influences to the treble-heavy riffing. Austrian post black metallers Harakari For The Sky have taken that to their black, wounded hearts, and their welding of tremulous frantic guitar chords is given ever more power by the contrasting shifts in tempo and tones. The epically cyclical structures and defiance of post-metal convention are a perfect fit for black metal’s raw uncompromising ethos. Amidst a constellation of classics on this year’s ‘Mӕre’, this eight minute somehow stands tall as a masterpiece among other masterpieces. A hoarse vocal performance that has fire in its belly and tears in its eyes, the guitar leads singing like the cries of dark bitter angels. But it’s the whole package - the breathless journey it takes you on, that sweeps you up every time.
SECOND TO SUN
‘I Psychoanalyze My Ghosts’
Artistic genius, in its most unflinchingly raw and authentic state, has long proven itself to be a wayward and elusive mistress. Some squander years, sometimes even decades, in fruitless pursuit of its fabled spark, painstakingly honing, adjusting and perfecting their craft, all to no avail, while other, altogether more fortunate souls seem to instinctively crackle and glimmer with its coveted, white-hot flame from the get-go. And judging by the tantalising handful of tracks we’ve sampled so far from this towering, thoroughly nightmarish manifestation of a black metal band, it’s more than evident that Russia’s Second to Sun belong firmly to the latter of these two starkly divided persuasions.
Among the many deliciously sinister standouts with which latest, aptly-titled long-player ‘Leviathan’ is positively rammed, there’s something particularly engrossing about the intriguingly named ‘I Psychoanalyze My Ghosts’. Like the most potent and lethal of chemical toxins, theirs is an exceptionally fast-acting formula that revels in rich, blackly expansive layerings of sinewy groove, its every violently bristling, pitch-black contortion ramping up suspenseful energy in nail-biting abundance. Then, it’s with brutally propulsive force that we’re hurled headlong into the track’s various climactic peaks of blindingly frenzied speed and aggression, its bloodcurdling array of caustic, lung-puncturing screams leaving the listener delirious with adrenaline and the unmistakable sense of a presence not entirely of this world.
Together with intangibly delicate flurries of crystalline keyboards that glimmer with otherworldly beauty, theirs is a curious and thoroughly absorbing melding of influences. And from synapse-scorching episodes of hyperblasting acceleration and jaw-droppingly detailed technical fretwork to exquisitely fine lashings of icily entrancing keyboards, precious few tracks are as relentlessly arresting as this.
KARMA TO BURN
‘Thirty Two - Live in Brussel’
Karma To Burn were one of the first stoner rock bands I ever heard, and I’m devastated at the passing of guitarist Will Mecum. He showed me the way of the riff, and that music was just as important as having a vocalist, as Karma To Burn proved time and time and time and time again. Their first album had vocals as per Roadrunner’s insistence, and while a fine album (including the best Joy Division cover ever, sorry Therapy?) featuring Jay Jarosz’s sinister tones and enigmatic lyrics is still beloved, Will wouldn’t thank me for paying tribute with something like ‘Patty Hurst’s Closet Manta’ or ‘Bobbi Bobbi Bobbi, I’m Not God’. Not when the vast majority of their live gigs were as a holy trinity of guitar, drums and bass. ‘Thirty Two’ was the first track I ever heard by the West Virginians and it had me hooked me from the very start . The guitar hook is moonshine sharp and it sifts round a rhythm section that’s just as agile and pummelling. It’s almost impossible to resist getting up and having a grand ol’ hip-shaking boogie and shows how much Karma To Burn thrived in the live environment. What you can’t get is the sweat and energy and the crushing thrill of being at one with riffs. Rest in power, Will.