St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
After a hint of what was to come (and some delay), we bring you our first Album of the Month feature, highlighting some of our staff’s favorite autumnal albums. For whatever reason, these four recordings have connected us personally to the season presently at hand and we’re proud to share them with you here.
Despite the autumnal parallels we’ve decided to explore this time, these AotM features will hardly be limited to naturalistic or personal phenomena. These particular selections happen to be entirely Scandinavian and span several genres, but that also will be far from typical. Similar to our The Overlooked series, we’re hoping to cast new light on new or old favorites, available in the store, that may get thumbed past by the average metalhead browsing their familiar territory. There’s nothing finer than receiving a dead-on recommendation when one’s mindset is just right and we’re hoping the capture that spirit to the best extent possible. Almost any theme will do and there is much for us to continually explore and share.
Without further adieu, and in no particular order, here are four albums that for us are thick with the nostalgia of searing north winds, falling leaves and waning daylight.
SKEPTICISM — Stormcrowfleet (Red Stream, 1995)
SKEPTICISM takes the work of other pioneering Finns such as THERGOTHON and slows it to the pace of microbial decay. Drumbeats plod at a comatose pace. Cymbals crash and resonate with the timbre of the falling leaves. Vocals of subterranean origin do battle with guitars and organs meting out punishing and utterly depressing melodies. Monumental and genre-defining funeral doom to send your heart, mind and soul into deep hibernation.
LAKE OF TEARS — Forever Autumn (Black Mark, 1999)
A joke about the title’s obvious connection to our theme would be appropriate here if this album weren’t so substantially ignored. Forever Autumn, the hard-to-find fourth album by these Swedish veterans, truly has a something-for-everybody charm: a broad spectrum of synthesized instrumention, catchy, somber melody (old KATATONIA comes to mind) and influences from doom metal to goth to traditional heavy metal. Surprisingly upbeat and undeniably memorable, this is one paean to autumn worthy of the entire season.
ULVER — Kveldssanger (Head Not Found, 1996)
Kveldssanger is the best-known of the selections here, perhaps from the apparent shock that an ostensibly black metal band was willing to release a decidely non-metal album so early in their careers. Little would it be known at the time that ULVER would play the ultimate chameleon as time went on.
So sorry folks, but “metal” is nowhere to be found here. Instead, we’re treated to simple, arpeggiated acoustic motifs somewhere between the tonality of classical guitar and folk music. Beautiful harmonies and flute provide the texture as haunting harmonic chants fill out these heartfelt odes to nature, all sung in the lilting Norwegian tongue for that blustery bite of authenticity. A unique and visionary album.
GOREMENT — Within the Shadows of Darkness — The Complete Recordings (Century Media, 2012)
For those of you left wondering after the first three recommendaitons, you bet: death metal belongs in the listening rotation this time of year as well. Despite their name, GOREMENT actually exhibits significant grace in their doom-tinged approach to the Swedish style. The folky, harmonic repetition of early AMORPHIS meets the desperate mid-paced plod of PARADISE LOST’s Gothic, punctuated by brutal buzzsaw passages worthy of Left Hand Path or Like an Ever-Flowing Stream. Beauty in relative simplicity is the name of the game here, with plenty of heart-stopping melodies to spare between passages of atonal blast.
Century Media was savvy enough to reconceive this collection for a band now almost twice forgotten: once following the original full-length album (The Ending Quest, 1994) and a second-time following a compendium (Darkness of the Dead, 2004) that was left to rot by the inconsistent Necroharmonic Records. The demos and EPs in the bonus material show the synthesis of GOREMENT’s seemingly disparate elements perfectly.
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