From it’s birth in the coldest extremes of Scandinavia, black metal slowly spread across Europe like a harsh plague, invading territories with a barrage of riffs, twig shaped logos, minimalist artwork and sounds often characterised by especially harsh, thin vocals. Over the years, the style has become more refined, mixing the purer elements with death metal depths and complexities. In allowing itself to be more inclusive of a few other extreme metal styles, it seemed to become even more influential – a huge surprise for a metal subgenre born within such extremities. In short, it’s all come a very long way from it’s roots; it’s no longer about painting your face white and considering burning a church during your spare time.
Darkflight first took form in 2000 with a mission to create harsh, doomy sounds. Over the course of various DIY releases combining heavy as hell riffery with fantasy themed lyrics, they carved themselves a space in the world of Eastern European extreme metal. By the time of 2008’s ‘Perfectly Calm’, their atmospheres had grown to include elements of medieval folk metal, but generally speaking, their main concerns leant very much towards the heavy.
Fast forward to 2017’s ‘The Hereafter’ and Darkflight is just the product of two men: multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Ivo Iliev and bassist/clean vocalist Milen Todorov. The apparent lack of full band has had no impact on either Darkflight’s sense of vision or their abilities to absolutely crush with a riff, although Milen’s contributions of clean and gothy vocals certainly go a long way towards making this album as enjoyable as it is.
Switzerland isn’t always known for it’s metal bands. Celtic Frost are arguably the country’s finest hard rock/metal exports, closely followed by Krokus, but compared to neighbouring Germany, they’ve never been the biggest players on the musical map. Obviously, size is a factor. That said, black metallers Pure make more noise than about fifty metal bands playing simultaneously and their 2017 release ‘J’aurais Du’ is a frightening experience to say the least.
Following their 2004 release ‘From The Land of The Shining Past’, Serbian black metal band All My Sins took a break. Not just an eighteen month sabbatical to regroup, but a full scale thirteen year break from recording. Think about that. A lot could happen in that time. For All My Sins, the biggest change regards their recording budget and sense of vision; although only a four track EP, ‘Lunar/Solar’ dispenses with the demo sound that hampered the band previously and presents four well recorded pieces that, when heard together, very much feel like a song cycle. A heavy, cold and confrontational song cycle, but a cycle nevertheless.
Two years on from ‘Songs of Regression’, UK pagan metallers Nordland really upped the stakes for their forth album ‘European Paganism’. Not only does the album boast a better production value than before, but the band have taken their love of extended tracks to their very logical extreme. Whereas their previous few records offered at least two ten minute workouts, ‘European Paganism’ outdoes them all by presenting just three tracks within a near forty five minute span, with the opening number taking up the best part of half an hour.