Northern Isolation

Let the Hellish Blasphemy Begin
07/21/2011, 3:59 PM
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , ,

This will be where I review all kinds of obscure (and some not so obscure) black metal (and occasionally other things) from varying time periods and countries. You’ll get the hang of it as I do. But I’m not wasting any time. Let the Blaspheming Review process begin!

Sump-Taken Dead

Sump-Taken Dead

Country: England

Label: Titan Woods

Year: 2010

Setting things off appropriately is Sump. Despite the hype that I only just recently discovered this band is surrounded by, this is the first recording by Sump to have crossed my path. I can say with some certainty that it will not be the last. There are points on this cassette where it seems that the drummer thinks he is in Discharge, which seems to work in Sump’s favor here. The piss-poor production (which I suspect is intentional) detracts from the power this cassette could command, but what the hell can you really expect from an Northern English cassette black metal band? Good enough to convince me to listen to more.



Country: Norway (Oslo)

Label: Self-released

Year: 2006

Atmospheric black metal, most of the time, is just really boring. You find a few bands who will do something crazy like throw in a major chord progression (BLASPHEMY!) or some weird samples or something (Forteresse is really what I’m thinking of here). The first song on this offering had me believing this would proudly trot in the winner’s circle, so to speak. Then the eponymous second track began. Another thing I find atmospheric black metal bands doing too much is relying on the acoustic guitar to create a woodsy atmosphere (I must admit, I’m guilty of it myself). In the case of a song like “A Face in a Night Time Mirror Pt. 1” by Wolves in the Throne Room, I think it works. With “Knokkelklang”, it does not, for many reasons, the least of which being apparently no one in this band knows how to tune a guitar. This demo climaxes with the snoozefest “Eksistens” which runs a little over 8 minutes, features at least 4 minutes of the same chord over and over again and nautical samples that sound more like a day of fun at the beach than an ominous Norwegian viking invasion (that might just be because it’s July and 87 degrees out). This demo flops, meaning that half of Knokkelklang’s discography is a failure, but I have yet to hear “Kalke & Aske”, their 2nd demo. Maybe one day when I’ve forgotten all about this piece of shit.


Wire Werewolves-And The Moon Became a Fang

Country: USA (Los Angeles, CA)

Label: Elephant Graveyard

Year: 2007

Before I say anything about this album, I have to admit that it could be the worst album ever recorded (which it isn’t). I would still give it a good review for one simple reason: cover art by Stephen Gammell. I was once 10 and rather obsessed with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. That man’s illustrations gave me nightmares until I was 14. That being said, there is a lot about this release I’m wary of. First of all, scary movie samples. This makes me feel like I’m listening to “Hopkins Witchfinder General” or some fucking powerviolence band, both of which Wire Werewolves are not. Secondly, they’re from LA. I am famously cautious of black metal bands from places where there is no snow (the same goes for hockey teams). And as a New Yorker, I tend to just hate everything LA stands for on principle. Thirdly, the drum machine sounds really fucking awful on the first two tracks. However, by “Coffin Twilight”, this band had sunk in for me. There is a point somewhere in between harsh noise and black metal where these dudes seem to hang out a lot and, to be fair, once they hit their stride, it works really well. Plus the blast beat in “Leech Feast” sounds like it causes panic attacks in otherwise healthy people. But they’re still from LA, that still sucks, fuck LA.


Swamp Toad-Mire Ensemble

Country: USA (Portland, OR)

Label: Self-released

Year: 2010

This record hurts to listen to. At first, I was pretty sure I’d stumbled into a trap and had accidentally started reviewing a harsh noise demo on here. As the album progresses, it does eventually reveal itself to be a black metal record. This is impossible to believe on word alone, but if you could imagine the old Hellhammer demos with worse production value, that would be heading in the right direction here. This is by far the worst production I’ve ever heard on any release ever. But for some very weird reason, it makes me like this even more. It’s 5 songs long and clocks in at just over 8 minutes (the whole album is four minutes longer than that fucking “Eksistens” nightmare 2 albums back), some sort of bizarre black metal/fastcore/harsh noise hybrid band which sounds just fine to me. I really hope they didn’t just break up after that demo at that somewhere in the murky smokey depths of Portland, there is still a Swamp Toad making more shitty albums that I’ll almost certainly love.



Country: France

Label: Drakkar Productions

Year: 2007

Thursday was Bastille Day so in honor of the Republic of France, I give you some really obscure French black metal who apparently are a big mystery. All all anyone seems to  know about Cendres is that they’re signed to one of the premier French BM labels and this demo tape is their only release. The French have a tendency to use poor recording techniques as the cornerstone of their ambiance, which is certainly the case here. Unlike some of their labelmates (Torgeist, I’m looking at you), this band backs up that shit-ambiance with repetition and growly undecipherable lyrics that are mixed just even with everything else. Just to throw in a healthy dose of “what the fuck” factor, they also throw in some effeminate wailing and clean vocals that are hardly in the mix at all. Mix all of this together with that non-discript cover art and you have a generally unnerving release from the dominant force in BM today. Good job, France. Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!


I’ll be back in a few days with more reviews.

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