It very much seemed that by the end of 2016 there were very few places across the globe that hadn’t been affected by a plague of black metal. Bands were springing up in some very unlikely places and seemingly on a weekly basis. No longer just the product of various Scandinavian territories and a few other places, for such a niche genre, black metal seemed to be big business (relatively speaking, of course). While many bands seemed happy to screech and hiss their way down a familiar path, there genre still had other avenues to explore.
How to describe Satarial? Aside from possessing a broad extreme metal tendency, this Moscow based outfit are almost impossible to pigeonhole. A rather clumsy description might be “operatic battle black metal”. It sounds implausible, but that’s kind of where the bulk of their inspiration comes from on their 2016 release ‘Blessed Brigit’. It should be a mess; it should be so confrontational that almost no-one would want to listen…but, somehow, their noisy sound collages are fascinating in their aural brutality – and after over a decade of plying their ugliness, the fact that they still sound so original and so vibrant is no mean feat.
Originally featuring members from the Ukraine and Hungary, NordWitch formed at the beginning of 2015. Although firmly selling themselves as blackened death metal, it’s only ever really frontwoman Masha’s vocal style that holds them to that, since so many of the tunes on their debut ‘Mørk Profeti’ have more variety than your average blackened death band. For starters, none of this release is blighted by the cold sheets of sound so often associated with black metal; the band much prefer to concentrate on classic contemporary death styles, but take things further by mixing those traditions with the melodicism associated with early In Flames and the more extreme elements of Soilwork.
Stripping away the lightning speed drums and very much favouring a mid paced plod, or a funeral march, Estonia’s Vanad Varjud experiment with some of black metal’s more avant-garde elements throughout their 2016 release ‘Dismal Grandeur In Nocturnal Aura’. Although they are billed as “ambient”, fans of genuine ambient music will certainly want to give this a wide berth. Judging by the four compositions featured on this release, the band don’t always seem to understand what ambient truly means. Most of the supposed ambient moments seem to be either just slow, or hastily composed oddness with a jarring noise for accompaniment.
In the summer of 2015, German experimental black metal trio Zeit dropped their third EP ‘Trümmer’. The bulk of its material was cold, uncompromising but rather interesting, putting the DIY band firmly among the heavy hitters with regard to truly challenging metal sounds. Less than a year on, their fourth release, ‘Gram’ sets out to thrill, frighten and confront – almost in equal measure.