Artist: Best EPs of Quarter 1 2016 Part II
Album: Nocturnal Graves – Lead Us To The Endless Fire/Sharpen The Knives EP; Häxkapell – Om Sanningen;
Here is Part II of my Best EPs of the first quarter of 2016. Check out Part I here.
Nocturnal Graves – Lead Us To The Endless Fire/Sharpen The Knives (Independent)
Nocturnal Graves is an Australian blackened thrash band, and man do they ever rip! Over the course of two five minute-long songs, they demonstrate that they have the ability to not only melt your face off with speedy and technical riffs but also break your neck with the amount of headbanging you have to do.
The first time I listened to this band, the opening notes gave me very strong Inquisition vibes, mostly because of the really fast start-stop style of riffing which really gets the blood pumping. Of course, that was soon replaced by completely different vibes, because Nocturnal Graves is much closer to thrash. Their speed and intensity is bolstered by how many different amazing riffs they manage to pack into every moment, with many sections being punctuated by creative, really fast breakdown-like transitions, like the one about half way through Lead Us To The Endless Fire. While everything has a menacing tone to it, the most black metal thing about the songs are the vocals, which is a vicious snarl that is pushed far back into the mix.
My main problem with this EP is that it is far too short. Both of these songs are so intense you can’t help but hope for another once Sharpen the Knives ends. The only other drawback I can see is that the vocals, which bring a lot of fury to the table, could be a little bit louder. Regardless, there is so much potential here and this band is definitely one to watch.
Grab it on Bandcamp: https://nocturnalgraves.bandcamp.com/releases
Häxkapell – Om Sanningen (Independent)
Another debut release (the first being Horns & Hooves from Part I), Häxkapell is a Swedish black metal band. The most notable thing about this release is the great guitar riffs. We have three songs, one being a short outro, clocking in at 16 minutes.
Opening up with Dödsdansen, Häxkapell immediately starts with a great riff, really pushing that very guitar-focused sound, eventually throwing in vocals that also sound really great. They manage to sound screeched while remaining quite low in tone, which I think really works. The song manages to work in an interesting interlude during the first half of Dödsdansen, which I thought sounded really good. I really enjoy those black metal bands that try to work in something different to break up the pacing, especially when they don’t fall back on the ever-present acoustic folk.
The next track is the eponymous Häxkapellet, and this one has a more evil, brooding tone to it. The main riff almost sounds like it was inspired by the early sound of fellow Swedes Vintersorg, but that could be my ears playing tricks on me. The song covers a lot of ground over its 8 minute run, spending a good portion of its time moving to a new section every 30 seconds. The ending to the song is awesome, an epic outro that some bands just nail so well. In fact, it was this ending that made me pay closer attention and revisit this release as many times as I have.
Every moment of Om Sanningen is enjoyable and it is definitely an impressive debut. I hope to be seeing a full length from Häxkapell sooner than later.
Grab it on Bandcamp: https://haxkapell.bandcamp.com/releases
Vrångbild – Crystalline Veil (Independent)
Vrångbild is a really interesting act. They are a one-man black metal band from Sweden, and have a string of demos to their name, as well as three full lengths and a handful of EPs. They play a spaced out kind of black metal, almost psychedelic at times, with long songs that meander and subtly shift. Crystalline Veil consists of two such songs, totaling just under half an hour in length.
The first song, Mephedrone, opens up to a very ambient soundscape, slowly building up, as Vrångbild introduces one of their staple sounds: spaced out guitar notes. They are high notes playing one at a time that reverb and waver with sluggish drums and synths create a peaceful atmosphere. The bass is very prevalent for this band, adding to the psychedelic feel. Only twice does this song rouse itself out of the spacey soundscape, but when it does, the pace picks up and we are given pummeling drums and guitars and some decent black metal rasps. The speed shifts sneak up on you so well that they are almost surprising when they come.
The second song starts as much more furious piece, eschewing the spacey soundscape for icy black metal. However, staying true to their sound, Like Cold Fire slows down after the first few minutes, bringing in these really interesting notes that almost sound like a wind chime, but much more sinister. The song carries along this vein until its end, using heavy notes to occasionally drown out the ambience.
Vrångbild provides some really interesting sounds that are rarely heard in the context of black metal, and they are definitely an act that deserves more attention. If you are interested in slower, more atmospheric black metal that is definitely not “atmoblack”, check out Crystalline Veil.
Grab it at Bandcamp: https://vrangbild.bandcamp.com/album/crystalline-veil