It’s no secret that even if you’re a little bit familiar with black metal then you might get a lot bent out of shape about what specific variation you like. It’s even less of a secret that I’m partial to some kid in Romania recording the unholy mixture of Ulver instrumentals and Lifelover vocals in his bathtub and immediately running the track to Bandcamp like you would a finger painting to the fridge. Sometimes you are what you are and like what you like and that’s okay. That being said, when it comes to showing and telling, I want to get better about sharing stuff that appeals to fans across the market. As much fun as I’ve been having putting together my DSBM retrospective for Invisible Oranges (or as much fun one can have dissecting the implications of noose-based imagery), I’m realizing that there’s no reason to always splinter the freakshow of black metal even further. We’re all a family, and by god, everyone deserves a seat at the dark carnival.
Speaking of Juggalos, I fell into the weird side of YouTube recently and ended up binging My 600-lb Life segments. This TLC docuseries is truly one of my favorite programs, and I mean that 100 percent unsarcastically. As someone who once dealt with her problems by not eating, seeing the other side of the extreme is utterly fascinating. Really, the roots of it all are the same, just on the different side of the coin. Anyway, one particularly troubled 600-lb participant displays a hatchetman tattoo across her chest as her man hoses her down on their back porch, as she can no longer fit through into the shower. All he talks about in his narration is how much he loves her and how much he hates seeing her suffer. So, he helps bathe her and take care of the household chores to ease her stress. Really, that’s quite a humbling form of love, made extra depressing by the fact that the closest thing I get to emotional hose-downs are water droplet emojis in my DM’s.
In addition to showing a little more patience and acceptance, I think this anecdote speaks to the importance of not taking ourselves too seriously. Some people have the ICP permanently scarred on them and we all take solace laughing in loyal opposition. Really, the only people we should be laughing at is ourselves because we’re literally hurling through a black void on a Wonder Ball and nothing fucking matters. Before I get too comfortable on my high horse about not getting on my high horse, I’m saying all of this as a reminder to myself as much as I’m saying it as a reminder to others.
So, without further ado, here are two fresh drops that I’m confident will appeal to black metal fans of all shapes and sizes:
Gallery (US) – Eternal Night
Musically, New Jersey is full of surprises. Home to mainstays of the Cloud/Camp underground like Shinigami and Psalms of Suicide, the Garden State can teach us a much-needed lesson in diplomacy. Despite it holding the reputation of tanning, taffy, and Tony Soprano, it’s really just another piecemealed Northeastern state. From its standard suburbs and ubiquitous social ills there is a craving for the extremity of black metal, and Elizabeth quartet Gallery satisfies this bloodthirst pretty damn well without having to make any appeals to Al Capone.
Dropping tomorrow on Savage Night Recordings, the unit’s first record Eternal Night becomes a gallery unto itself, showcasing all of the great eras that have shined throughout the darkness. Single “Sol Beyond the Prism” grabs us in with the fast and abrasive beats of war-torn anxiety. Proving that hell hath more than a single realm, the six-minute track evolves into the hypnosis of the postmodern indifference towards evil without necessarily running into the arms of light. Droning riffs befall a wind that welcomes an acoustic outro, guiding us smoothly into the revisioning of melancholic folk.
In addition to the album’s encapsulation of what makes USBM great, it’s exciting that the listener is embarking on the unit’s journey from the get-go. Much like Jersey itself, it’s easy to tread into the black metal underground by accident when you’re just trying to make it around the roundabout to go see Turbonegro in Philly. Typically, by the time you finally unearth a band from the fringes, they already have however many albums under their belt. Singularity makes it easier to appreciate an album in isolation rather than having to play catch-up through the years. It also helps eliminate the pretenses of the adoration-versus-eyeroll debate surrounding certain bands.
From Jersey to journeying across the axis of the mighty chocolate sphere, Deadlife, Antilife, and Morto join forces in creating a split whose title pretty much says it all. Two depressive sides of the cookie are merged through a satanic molten core, suggesting that there really isn’t too much of a good thing when you combine all of the thematic elements; sort of like one of those black ice cream milkshakes that you see on Buzzfeed, but never in real life (if anyone knows where you can get one, holla at a goth girl).
Further humbling me this week is the fact that I’m running out of more profound metaphors than dessert. Watching Catholics flip out over the Met Gala “heavenly bodies” theme makes me wonder if they fuck with devil food’s cake or anything else quietly blasphemous. Is death by chocolate Vatican-compliant? Or is that a middle finger to god’s plan, like euthanasia or Plan B One-Step? Where does one draw the line? Really, I think my subconscious is just bitching about the fact that I’m vegan and therefore have a very limited spattering of cake with which I can fuck. Excuse me while I go cut myself with my third spotty nanner of the day.
What I’m trying to say is that if anyone in the gamut of the Pope to Freelee the Banana Girl has left you reeling in the absence of simple carbs, the decadent darkness of Give Up is the kind of void-fill that draws us back to black over and over again. While the feel of lo-fi goodness runs throughout the album’s six epics, they collectively serve as a sampler for different styles, particularly when it comes to vocals—that tends to be the place where black metal fans get picky. Deadlife’s are most reminiscent of what we think about from the second wave: shrieky and well-placed. Friend of the Graveyard, Antilife unapologetically goes forth with the high-pitched wails, while Morto dabbles into depressive while also trying out the lower quadrant of the lungs. When you need to go shake your first at the Northern skies at 8:00, swing from the gallows at 9:00, and insert your ghost into the rotation for the peace pipe at 9:03, this is the album for you.
And so, the moral of the story is that in black metal (and, of course, metal more generally) opinions are like assholes. Deafheaven is this and Burzum is that and this Lords of Chaos film adaptation tho. While it’s fun to talk shit, get hit, and savor your favorite flavor, let’s not overlook the contributions of artists who have gone beyond cornering the market of a nook of a cranny.
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