Psychonauts enter the realm of the ancients
Black metal is a medium through which the bold strive to transcend the limitations of the flesh. Like a creature emerging from a charred chrysalis, the triumvirate of BM veterans that comprise and compose the darkly ambient environs of Shibalba – Acherontas V.Priest of Greek atavists Acherontas, fellow countryman Aldra-Al-Melekh, and Karl NE of defunct Swedish occultists Nåstrond – have stepped beyond extremity to channel the trance-inducing state of their latest release, Psychostasis – Death Of Khat, as they attempt communion with realms beyond death.
“The conquest to explain death is an ancient one,” ruminates Acherontas, “although, it is not the explanation that matters. For us, the perspective of death is a field of dynamic experimentation, not a blind worship or a preconceived, inexplicable fear. Metal has a childish view over this matter, with a few exceptions. The entity of Shibalba sealed this concept with our latest work, arousing the very essence of sorcery to overcome mortality. Death is the last enemy that must be destroyed.”
Like a beating heart torn from the chest, Psychostasis delivers you, raw and vulnerable, from comfortable earthly environs, attuning your senses to a plane far beyond ours.
“The sonic fields of ritual ambient unlock limitless possibilities,” Acherontas extols. “It is a vast world – to bring inner vibrations to the exterior and perform, animate and record our aural and physical practices. Nothing is prepared or scheduled, it’s pure inspiration carved into sonic form.”
Describing an almost subconscious compositional process, Shibalba’s soundscapes resonate at the cellular level, ensnaring the body and unleashing the soul. To do so, it was important to use appropriate tools, the rattle of bones making for a spinetingling musical accent. “The use of alternative, native and traditional instruments was a crucial point of experimentation,” Acherontas affirms. “We build atmosphere based on the tools of the traditions we explore, bringing forth their aura. Bones, bells, horns, singing bowls, didgeridoos and more define our musical path.”
The rousing ritualistic percussion, echoing incantations and hypnotic melodies make for a compelling experience, quickening the pulse and acclimatising you to the increasingly oppressive, formless environs that await. Shibalba awaken lost legacies and ancient traditions.
“Eastern mysticism has offered a lot to the corner- stones of our perception,” Acherontas explains. “For the practitioner, artist and adept within, this river of inspiration and illumination is a hidden yet profane treasure, although we are not blind to one direction; gnosis has no one road.”
Shibalba’s is an initially disorientating realm, exploring a spiritual connection that modernity has obscured – one that, for many, it may not be possible to reawaken. For those who wish to try, Acherontas promises to unlock the path.
“Shibalba is a key to otherworldly planes, a musical temple and labyrinth, rewarding the listener who will approach with the will to understand,” he intones. “Modern society has corrupted man’s essence, severing bonds to the divine. We won’t weep over this corruption; we shall strive to revive the pure, atavistic nature within, by all means.”
Who are they?
LINEUP: Acherontas V.Priest, Aldra-Al-Melekh, Karl NE/Nachzehrer (Collectively: bones, skulls, Tibetan horns, Tibetan singing bowls, darbukas (goblet drums), horn and bone trumpets, ceremonial bells and gongs, synths, guitar drones.)
SOUNDS LIKE: Obsidian ritual ambience to awaken your soul
FOR FANS OF: Svartsinn, Halgrath, Funerary Call
CURRENT RELEASE: Psychostasis – Death Of Khat (Agonia, 2017)
Spanish trio depart from the partying
“We don’t understand why everybody has to be happy all the time,” broods Kabbalah drummer Carmen, explaining how the mystical doom trio emerged out of party-hard rock’n’roll outfit Las Culebras. For Carmen and bassist/singer Marga, having a good time all the time started to get boring. “Marga and I wanted to make our own music with no restrictions. It resulted in us forming Kabbalah, which brought together all the darkness we were hiding.” Their potential was clear: “Our natural way of playing music was similar to having a nightmare,” recalls Marga.
Despite their name, Kabbalah repudiate any belief system, comfortingly favouring the more traditional palette of doom metal hobbyism. “Kabbalah’s music has a lot of gloomy ambience that comes from watching horror films or reading books to do with mania, darkness or general desolation,” reflects guitarist Alba. Asked which works influenced their debut album, Spectral Ascent, Marga specifies a documentary about sleep paralysis, while Alba confesses “I’m a bit obsessed with The Lord Of The Rings soundtrack.”
Spectral Ascent follows three beguiling self-released EPs since 2013; these experiences have gradually sharpened Kabbalah’s instincts, all three women agreeing that crafting a long-player has focused their chemistry and expanded their horizons. “It was the first time Alba was involved in the songwriting, and we all worked together as a coven,” explains Marga. “It was the best moment since Kabbalah was created. We had a clear idea about the direction we wanted to follow.”
“Everything is more thought out,” reckons Alba. “With each release, we are getting closer to reaching a ‘Kabbalah sound’.”
Finally, with music so suffused in spooky goings-on, it’d be remiss not to ask: have Kabbalah ever seen a ghost? “Yeah. We have one in our rehearsal room,” confirms Carmen. “It makes noises from time to time, and throws things.” Alba concurs: “It sends spiders to Marga.”
Who are they?
LINEUP: Marga (bass/vocals), Alba (guitar), Carmen (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Drugged disciples of a Sabbath-worshipping cult in a haunted crypt circa 1967.
FOR FANS OF: Blood Ceremony, Pentagram
CURRENT RELEASE: Spectral Ascent (Twin Earth, 2017)
A warning forged from the fantastic
From the crypts of ancient Egypt to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, metal loves a good legend. Keenly embracing this tradition on their eponymous full-length debut, Canada’s Loviatar conjure a dark and striking landscape of fabled beasts, terrible plagues and Scandinavian deities. “We try to tell a story in pictures and soundtracks,” says drummer JP Sadek, “and myths and fantasy provide the perfect foundation.”
Taking the band’s name from the Finnish goddess of death and disease, JP explains, “Norse and Viking mythology aren’t central to our creative process or vision, but we carry the strength and ferocity of Loviatar into every song.”
Loviatar is a thrilling affair, surging with taut riffs, spine-crushing polyrhythms and dizzying tempos. Effectively split into two parts, the album opens with Stygian Wyrm – an expansive three-part suite about a dragon who interacts with mankind to explore human experiences such as love, betrayal, corruption and murder. JP says, “A song as big as Stygian Wyrm needed a theme that was equally gargantuan.”
Just as most mythology stems from current events, Loviatar is equally informed by today’s headlines, although vocalist/guitarist JD clarifies, “While you could interpret the songs as warnings, our species isn’t terribly good at heeding them. Better to think of them as eulogies.”
The album closes with Blind Goddess Of The Nine Plagues, an utterly transfixing, 17-minute epic that alternates between soft, ethereal melodies, spacey psychedelic foraging and towering climaxes of terrifying potency.
Entirely self-produced and recorded in their own studio, Loviatar is an expansive and wholly immersive voyage whose scale and ambition are rivalled only by the fantastical creatures within its realm. Showcasing a startling depth and layered with subtle dynamics, the band are enormously pleased with the result. Says JP, “My hope at the outset was for the record to come out exactly as it is – uncompromised.”
Who are they?
LINEUP: JD (vocals, rhythm guitar), JP Sadek (drums, backing vocals), Shane Whitbread (lead guitar), Mike Bond (bass)
SOUNDS LIKE: A direct-into-the-heart injection of prog-metal, psych and doom.
FOR FANS OF: Mastodon, Baroness, Isis
CURRENT RELEASE: Loviatar (Prosthetic, 2017)