Andavald – Undir skyggðarhaldi
The black metal scene in Iceland has been thriving for many years and where many projects from the volcanic country are proving their worth with second full lengths and touring the world, Andavald have been slowly curating their sound and biding their time before unleashing their debut upon an unsuspecting scene. Undir skyggðarhaldi is the culmination of years of work with Andavald forming around 2014 but waiting until 2019 to release their music. Their debut is more moderately paced than, say, Sinmara’s work, but it’s no less impactful for it; instead the band use moments of doomed rhythm and slow, drawn out screams to create their darkness. Speed is not of the essence here and for Andavald it is the building of terror, the procession towards finality and the beauty found within the pitch black cosmos that serves Undir skyggðarhaldi the most.
“Forspil” is an atmospheric introduction and the instrumental track moves steadily towards its end point before flowing with ease into “Afvegaleiðsla” and its deathly howls. Vocalist A.F. utilises a sound that is perhaps found more in depressive black metal or even doom – a deep and guttural presence is brought to the fore and the screeches and high pitched screams of their peers are forgotten about instantly. There’s a stately melancholy, then, running throughout the album and Andavald are more interested in creating shadowed tones of harrowing proportions than bringing the cold winds of the north upon our heads.
The depressive elements of Andavald’s sound are monumental and in “Hugklofnun” those are written clearly in the opening moments – deep, bruising vocals spill over the jarring warmth of the instrumentation, a tactic that aids the band in moving past their peers sound and embracing the more human side of black metal. The emotion on display is tangible and in A.F. the band has a voice that drips with anguish and pushes their debut into the realms of greatness. Undir skyggðarhaldi is truly a mesmerising record and Andavald are a name to mention alongside the already established acts from Iceland and with songs like “Undir skyggðarhaldi” that pulse with despair and sadness, they could perhaps surpass those names entirely.
Listen and purchase here.
KVELGEYST – alkahest
The Swiss metal scene is one that has been thriving, at least in the underground, since the inception of Hellhammer in the early 80s and has continued to produce new and interesting music for the years following. Hellhammer and Celtic Frost are undoubtedly two of the influences cited most by Swiss bands and the power of that band has seeped into many of the projects that are coming to the fore today. Zürich’s KVELGEYST are no different and their debut is full of rhythm and groove while also moving the black metal scene firmly into the future.
alkahest takes in orthodox black metal tropes, depressive black metal moments and displays powerful voices and scintillating keyboards, often within the same song, in order to create a sound that is all-encompassing, oppressive and a lot of the time, rich and rewarding. “Miasma – Vor flirrenden Götzen in stickigen Grotten” is one such track and the band mould a cohesive and intriguing sound out of many differing parts and weave it together in a way that is both impressive and claustrophobic. KVELGEYST are seemingly well versed in darkness and their music speaks of such knowledge with style and the ability to construct those shadowy thoughts with murky guitars and drums that are distinct from the outset.
“Demiurg – Denaturierung Holobiont” is a monstrous song that incorporates vocals that scream or howl or feel dredged from the very bowels of Hell – the feeling is one of cosmic despair; that the universe is resigned to death and that one day it will come to us all and we will return as dust to the stars. Of course, interpretation of lyrics is deeply personal, particularly when those lyrics are not sang in your native tongue but there is a sense of hopelessness running through alkahest that is difficult to ignore but easy to become lost in.
Listen and purchase here.
Starless Domain – ALMA
EOS was a record that breathed with space, both musically and conceptually, and while ALMA follows that cosmically inclined base concept, this new record is much more oppressive and deathly claustrophobic in its execution. From the opening synthesised notes to the harshly rendered screams, ALMA is cloaked in darkness – the single track runs for almost forty five minutes and not once during that time do the band allow you time to breathe, time to take stock or time to feel alive. It’s a record that spins out into the cold realities of the cosmos and the punishing programmed beats create tension and atmosphere in waves of desolate electronics.
The high pitched register of the vocals on display are perfectly suited to the subject matter and while the words may not be clear, the intent is far more obvious – there is fear and awe at what lies beyond the realms of human knowledge and a respect for that potential emptiness. Starless Domain push for bleak and isolating sounds and achieve it through cycling passages of electronics and synths, programmed drums that are alien in style and the inhuman screeches of JR – all elements that come together to force a sense of loss, yet, there is something darkly comforting about ALMA and where it could have felt disturbing it feels like a blanket of sound that will open your mind to other possibilities. There’s a sense of wonder, that exploration can bring new perspectives and ideas and where some bands of this ilk can go far down the path of abject misery, Starless Domain are somehow bringing the depths of despair to the forefront and actively revelling in it – there is life beyond the stars and perhaps one day we will find it.
Listen and purchase here.