Fresh Meat: The three best new bands from metal's undergound

A press shot for Draugsol taken in 2016
Draugs\u00f3l: mourning has broken

Draugsól

Adventures into Iceland’s ravaged psyche

As with all Icelandic musical exports, there is a quintessence about Reykjavík residents Draugsól – an infusion of that dramatic landscape of fire and ice, a desolate, profound beauty that has an indelible impact upon the artistic endeavours of those who live amongst its dramatic thrall.

“It’s the endless winter nights when you long for daylight, the never-ending day when you‘re exhausted and want to sleep,” romanticises vocalist Axel. “It’s the air, the wind, the sea, the mountains, the drugs. It’s downtown Reykjavík after midnight on a Friday: mass depression, mass medication – the mental implosion of a whole nation.”

Draugsól’s debut album, Volaða Land, (‘The poor land’ )strikes a balance between stark environmental factors, which seem a common inspiration in the wellspring of great black metal currently coming from the country, and the issues of mental anguish that the record explores. “It’s less about the land and more about the people it influences and has influenced for many centuries, us included,” Axel explains. “The album serves as a reflection of our fears, habits and emotions; it deals with a lot of anguish. Draugsól has guided us over the last two years, and it’s safe to say that without it some of us might have been much worse off. People who realise they will never live up to norms and standards tend to get lost, but finding your way in such a position is also greatly rewarding.”

Surviving a troubled recording process, Volaða Land is the debut that almost never was. “At first it was great, we were pumped up about recording,” Axel remembers. “The songs were all pretty much written and the process, although not very focused, felt natural. Then the band inexplicably started to drift apart, and the process was put on hold for more than a year. The vision was to reflect our perception of our environment, and we tried our best to do so with as much conviction as possible.”

A true outsider’s tale of finding oneself, theirs is a cataclysmic urgency, delivered at a hollow clatter, Axel monstrous in his rage, sometimes incoherent in his anguish. From above such leaden skies however come piercing shafts of sunlight, moments of hope articulated by pealing solos and mellifluous clean picking just about discernible in the maelstrom. Like many for whom black metal forms not only a search for answers in unknown realms, but also an escape from asphyxiating norms, Draugsól are as much about articulating their frustrations as they are seeking transcendence. “One cannot achieve transcendence through music alone, but simply gaze into it, admire it,” ruminates Axel. “There is a certain aspect of music that is unattainable in real life, which is why it is so appealing to us and why we choose to create it; sort of like a glimpse into another reality – one that seems almost more real than this one. If we knew how to achieve transcendence, we already would have. We do try, though.”

Who are they?

LINEUP: Axel (vocals), Max (guitar), Oddur (guitar), Hannar (bass), Kjartan (drums)

SOUNDS LIKE: Raw, cataclysmic black metal with a penchant for uplifting experimentation.

FOR FANS OF: Svartidauði, Enslaved, Misþyrming, Deathspell Omega, Swallowed

CURRENT RELEASE: Volaða Land (Signal Rex, 2017)

WEBSITE: www.facebook.com/draugsol

Terra

Atmospheric UK crew seek higher ground

Terra’s black metal bears little resemblance to the windswept call of UK compatriots Saor or Winterfylleth. Instead, the trio’s shape-shifting, rhythmically destructive style shares more characteristics with US acts such as Ash Borer or Yellow Eyes. Their second album, Mors Secunda, presents an even starker take on their debut, as jackhammer drums dictate the direction and impact of the scathing riffs, while screams sink further within wild soundscapes.

Guitarist/vocalist Ryan Saunders attributes their stylistic developments to “playing more shows and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Hopefully the listener can feel the ebb and flow of the songs as if they were watching us live – although at a significantly reduced volume!”

Terra chose Colin Marston to master their second album – a no-brainer for Ryan. “The intention was to work with Colin for the first album but we did everything so quickly there just wasn’t time,” he reveals. “I don’t think there was anything ultimately missing from our debut, but I feel he really helped deliver the sound we had in our heads.”

That sound has been tagged ‘post-black metal’, a subgenre typified by trebly shoegaze melodies and post-rock crescendos – both of which are absent from Terra’s punishing, ever-evolving music. So how does this label fit given some folks have attached negative connotations to it? “That’s just something we need to accept, that people are always going to lump us in with one thing or another,” Ryan notes passively. “I try to let people interpret what they want onto the music, so who am I to tell them what they’re hearing is wrong? How I describe our music is probably entirely different to how the other guys in the band might describe it; music is a very personal thing, and that’s how I like it.”

Who are they?

Lineup: Razor (drums, vocals, keyboards, folk instruments), Wojsław (guitars, bass, folk instruments)

Sounds Like: Wandering the forests at night with only the moon as your guide.

For Fans Of: WITTR, Forteresse, Drudkh

Current Release: O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach (Werewolf Prod, 2016)

Wędrujący Wiatr

Far-flung Poles make a romantic sweep

Wędrujący Wiatr, or ‘Wandering Wind’ in their native Polish, bring together gorgeous guitars, romantic odes to their homeland and a heartfelt and emotive presence to their deeply atmospheric take on black metal.

“We come from the opposite ends of Poland: Warmia in the North and Tatras in the South,” states singer/drummer Razor. “In 2011 we decided to experiment with nature/folklore-themed BM with a deep, foggy sound. The concept, both musically and lyrically, evolved as we dug deeper, eventually crystalising itself as what we today know as Wędrujący Wiatr.”

The duo behind the band are involved in other projects but it doesn’t dull their sense of story, and their sophomore album, O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach (‘Of mountains, lakes and nightly paths’), speaks of “the Polish landscape, its people and its soul, with the narrative focusing on a man who is embracing the spirit of his land.”

These are potent themes, and the album moves through beautiful passages, hoarse screams and spoken word sections that contain local dialects and traditional stories as their thrust – each song tied to their homeland. It’s not just the music that is deeply rooted in folklore, as the cover for the record itself speaks volumes about the sounds contained within. “It’s a woodcut taken from Melchior Wańkowicz’s Na tropach Smętka novel, and we thought it really depicts what we wanted to speak of in the album – a lonesome wanderer is lost in the forest, among lakes and mountains, deep in the night. An immense longing drives him in the endless journey through majestic landscapes… very much like the wind itself.”

It’s this spirit that will carry O turniach… deep into the hearts of all that hear its melancholy grace.

Who are they?

Lineup: Razor (drums, vocals, keyboards, folk instruments), Wojsław (guitars, bass, folk instruments)

Sounds Like: Wandering the forests at night with only the moon as your guide.

For Fans Of: WITTR, Forteresse, Drudkh

Current Release: O turniach, jeziorach i nocnych szlakach (Werewolf Prod, 2016)

Fresh meat: The best new bands from metal's underground