Archive for the ‘From the Past Comes the Storms’ Category

From the Vastland - Blackhearts

Sometimes material I get for review disappears into my folder and my iTunes and I lose it for years. Then I find it again on shuffle and think wow, what I missed the first time. From the Vastland’s ‘Blackhearts’ EP is one of those, from 2015 through Satanath Records. It is an intense slab of powerful black metal, and worth seeking out all these years later.

‘Astoyhad’ starts with a slow, deliberate riff leaden with dark atmospheres before charging off with poisonous intent. A howling, frostbitten chainsaw through your heart, this Iranian one man effort weaves gloom throughout this piece. Iranian black metal; what strange worlds we live in. As orthodox Scandinavian as it comes, From the Vastland don’t try to be different because of their locale, but pay homage to the vast frozen north with the icy ferocity of the title track and the cold majesty of ‘Abakhtaran’.

I need to scour deeper into this vast catalogue and see what else I can find, because if there are more hidden gems of this quality they deserve the coverage! From the Vastland is blackhearted indeed, and this EP captures them at an icy and relentless highpoint.

Monster Magnet Dopes to Infinity.jpg

Last year saw the twentieth anniversary of one of stoner rock’s most iconic record, the superlative ‘Dopes to Infinity’ by Monster Magnet. While for me, Monster Magnet have been a little hit and miss over the years, ‘Dopes to Infinity’ is an album I revisit regularly, for its simple, space age groove that it injects into the solid RAWK weaved by riff, drum and bass.

It is, for me, one of stoner rock’s most complete statements. It meshes a simple groove that will appeal to even the most addled mind, but delve into the spacey grooves and you’ll find insidious melody, soothing drone (tell me that the repetitive riff that lies through ‘Look to the Orb for Your Warning’ isn’t pure psychedelic drone material, just speeded up a bit) and hazy anthems. The title track itself is one of rock and roll’s best tunes, yet smothered in a drugged haze it becomes almost an anthem for the great beyond. Wyndorf and co have always expressed their appreciation for space rock bands like Hawkwind, but they feel like the first truly out there band. A band that could come from the stars and yet be rock and roll icons. But for coverage, Monster Magnet could be stadium rockers.

The esoteric ‘All Friends and Kingdom Come’, with its glistening sitar moments, the frantic groove of ‘Ego, the Living Planet’, the introspective acoustics of ‘Blow Em Off’. Monster Magnet put everything forward into this record, and that’s why it will forever be their magnum opus. Yeah, ‘Spine of God’ is the cult debut, and ‘Powertrip’ may be the bigger hit, but Monster Magnet have struggled to create something as timeless and complete as ‘Dopes to Infinity’.

That is no slur on what they’ve achieved since. That is just how important ‘Dopes…’ was and is. I love this record, for all its timeless groove, the ghostly acoustics and the otherworldly psychedelica pervasion. The positively 70s occult rock groove ‘Dead Christmas’ is a highlight of mine, but I could pick anything from this record. ‘Dopes to Infinity’ we should all be. ‘We are all here my friends, alive and spaced but all so beautiful’

1993 saw Immortal release ‘Pure Holocaust’, one of black metal’s most potent and iconic albums.  From the grim black and white cover featuring the band in full ‘evil’ gear to the frostbitten song titles and the icy blast of the actual material, ‘Pure Holocaust’ is a work of pure, unadulterated black metal majesty. It feels odd going back to one of the genre’s hallmarks when said band is in the midst of an ugly battle over the rights to the name. I must do a Gorgoroth rediscovering actually, come to mention it. But, does ‘Pure Holocaust’ still hold up after almost 22 years?

The simple answer is yes. Immortal haven’t released a bad album period; each one has been dedicated to perfecting black metal, from the rasping croak of Abbath to the tremolo-heavy waves of frozen guitar. Immortal are a band that it is easy to laugh at. Their album pictures are generally laughable, the band corpsepainted to the max and pulling all sorts of horrible faces. But in 1993, this shit was actually scary! The album is swathed in the buzzing chords made popular by their contemporaries in Mayhem and Burzum, but is rendered instantly recognisable by Abbath’s raw, unholy rasping vocals. He doesn’t scream like a tortured banshee, nor growl like some demon; he just vocalises like some possessed frog.

‘Pure Holocaust’ is nothing short of a raging wind of black metal. It is relentless in its assault, atonal power chords crashing repeatedly against some pretty solid, if occasionally sloppy blastbeating. Demonaz’s tremolo melodies are surprisingly accessible for a genre known for its ‘kvltness’, and each song is memorable in its own right. I sometimes have a problem telling tracks apart on some releases from this period in black metal’s history, but not with Immortal. They are catchy, and helped by a top notch production. It’s a surprise to find an early 90s black metal album that is so clear and concise, and doesn’t sound like a wasp stuck in a jam jar. A lack of bass reduces the bite of the album, but strangely increases the effectiveness of the frostbitten tales of frozen kingdoms. Snow and ice rarely has a deep sound, and the material is a personification of winter eternal; bleak, cold and lonely.

‘Pure Immortal’ takes the expression of a feeling through music to a new level. In this case, the frozen bleakness of winter comes straight through every icy riff and incantation to chill the bones. Perfect for that wintry walk in the woods, or the endless blizzards that choke the North, Immortal’s legacy will live on through this album alone. Essential black metal.