An exploration of UK Black Metal…
The last ten years has produced some of the freshest, most original, forward thinking Black Metal for a long time and most of it has stemmed from the UK.
When Black Metal is mentioned, the stereotype is a bunch of grim, corpse-painted Scandinavians playing at a thousand miles an hour and ranting about ‘Satan’. This is very far removed from what’s currently happening on these shores where the inspiration comes from such things as nature, paganism and vast, desolate landscapes.
I’m going to briefly cover the bands that, in my opinion, are at the forefront of this movement and providing some of the most innovative and downright fucking exciting music I’ve heard in a long while.
Wodensthrone from Sunderland formed in 2005 and are prime exponents of the ‘Pagan’ sound. With lyrics steeped in Anglo-Saxon mythology and ancient rites, Wodensthrone conjure a very English sound that harks back to a time long past. Subtle keyboard flourishes enhance the overall dynamic but the feral brutality is never far away.
The band released a couple of split albums and have one full length LP out on Candlelight Records entitled “Loss”. A new album that is said to be called “Curse” has been recorded and is due for release in 2012. Wodensthrone are a band that plays live fairly regularly but I have to confess on the one occasion I saw them, I was mildly disappointed. This was mainly down to them been a bit ‘Blasty’ and that seemed to bury the subtleties present on the recordings under a barrage of kick drums.
Kindred spirits to Wodensthrone are Manchester’s Winterfylleth. Winterfylleth is the Old English name for the month of October and the band play their own brand of ‘Heritage Metal’. Fiercely patriotic and using subject matter that celebrates Anglo-Saxon pride and nationalism, Winterfylleth have found themselves surrounded in controversy on more than one occasion. Fact remains that they produce some of the beautifully atmospheric Black Metal you are ever likely to hear. Stunning folky acoustic segments featuring violin passages and almost whispered vocals sit perfectly next to feral rage. The band have recently notched up a few high profile festival shows including appearances at Bloodstock, Roadburn and are playing both Wacken and Hellfest in 2012. Winterfylleth also share record labels with Wodensthrone. Candlelight has released two LP’s, 2007’s ‘The Ghost of Heritage’ and ‘The Mercian Sphere’ earlier this year.
(A Valley Thick With Oaks by Winterfylleth)
Staying on the western side of the Penines we come to Dragged Into Sunlight. These scousers are possibly the most unpleasant thing to slither out of the UK underground for years. You would struggle to find more hate-filled, malicious slabs of misanthropy anywhere. Not strictly Black Metal in its purest form but a filthy amalgamation of Blackened/Death/Doom and Grind with some creepy GGFH-style samples thrown in. In a live situation they are simply stunning. Through a fog of dry ice and incense they play the complete set with backs turned to the crowd on a stage adorned with skulls and candles. The songwriting is lengthy and can be disturbing exercises in endurance.
One album is available and with the title ‘Hatred for Mankind you know exactly what you are going to get. A project called ‘Widowmaker’ is due for release in 2012 and is just a single 45 minute track, judging from the trailers for it on YouTube, the horror is even more intensified. Also, DIS have a split with Gnaw Their Tongues scheduled for 2012. In short, I fucking love this band!
(‘Boiled Angel-Buried With Leeches’ by Dragged into Sunlight)
Fen take their name and a large amount of musical inspiration from the wetlands of East Anglia. They are sometimes (lazily) described as ‘Shoegaze Black Metal’ due to the lavish sound-scapes they create and ambience plays a great part. Fen sound like bleak isolation; inhospitable landscapes, and a futile sense of longing. Aggression is carefully tempered with sonic textures that are uplifting and at the same time, heartbreakingly desperate and tragic. So far they have released two cracking albums and a couple of splits. The full length LP’s are ‘The Malediction Fields’ from 2009 and this years ‘Epoch’. Not a prolific live band but well worth the effort to see when they do play gigs.
(Exile’s Journey by Fen)
When it comes to true Avant-Garde no one does it better than Leeds’ A Forest of Stars. Formed in 2007 they invented ‘Steam Powered Black Metal’ and are truly unique on all levels. With the Victorian period been a massive influence they look and sound like no others. Violins, flutes and gentle female vocals sit along side the psychedelic madness created by the rest of the band. The band dress in accordance with the Victorian era, waistcoats, pocket watches and dress suits and it works very well, giving the impression they have just stepped out of an Absinthe-soaked sÃÂ©ance in an opium den. Live shows are something of an event when the band employ the services of a member who’s sole purpose is to provide visual effects with lighting, projection, smoke and mirrors! The band have released two LP’s, ‘The Corpse of Rebirth’ in 2008 and in 2010 came the masterpiece ‘Opportunist Thieves of Spring’. I recently saw them live at the Damnation Festival in Leeds (LTW review) and was utterly blown away by the 30 minute set they played. They switch from violin-led melancholia to violent blasting to piano-driven ballroom dancing music effortlessly and it works. If you have a thirst for something totally different, I can’t recommend them enough. Even their website is a thing of great beauty!
(A Raven’s Eye View by A Forest of Stars)
There are many more UK Black Metal bands that are more than worthy of inclusion in this article and if I went into it, it would never end. However, I must mention Ireland’s Altar Of Plagues at this point. Check ’em out.