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‘Tis the season of thankfulness for black metal

Four of my favorite regional black metal bands gathered at The Sidebar Tavern November 15 for what I’d like to call my own personal “kvltsgiving”. The show merged the tail end of the two-week “No Souls, No Minds” tour of Pittsburgh’s blackened avant-grinders Dendritic Arbor and Philadelphia’s ritualistic Haethen with Baltimore’s black metal practitioners Xeukatre and Frederick’s aggressors Dweller in the Valley. I call it a “kvltsgiving” because seeing all these people that I love in one place to play music that I love trumps any  meal-based “thanksgiving” I could imagine. This was a feast for my ears and my mind. And this is the month for giving thanks, is it not?

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of a genre of music that in itself is considered somewhat extreme. Few people understand black metal, or care to, and this is probably how it should be. Black metal is not for you. In fact it is against you. I don’t think that is the reason this musical style appeals to me so much, as I don’t really seek out things that are intrinsically obscure. I haven’t signed the hipster oath just yet. But I know what I like and I know what moves me, and this music, especially this particular line up of these bands, was not something I was going to miss.

Dweller in the Valley, an aggressive trio from Frederick with a drummer/vocalist, began the evening in usual ritual style. Drummer Dane Olds adorns his kit with a herd of horned animal skulls of various sizes. Their style is forthright and filled with agony.  I can’t understand Dane’s lyrics, but he sure looks pissed. The effect is very cathartic for me (and possibly for that drunk girl in the audience). I am looking forward to hearing their forthcoming recording of new music…..whenever that drops. You can download their demo for free—name your own price.

Of the four, I have been aware of Haethen the longest. They performed at Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest I in December 2012, and I have followed them since. Their music is melodic, yet raw, anti-life, blast-beat driven ambient black metal. They are probably my favorite among the four, because they play the style of black metal my ear gravitates toward. (There are substyles of the subgenre! It never ends!!) Check out the video for a taste.

I heard about Dendritic Arbor earlier this year. They write songs with a pro-mother earth theme. Apparently, they used to perform shrouded in robes but I’ve never seen them play like that. Their music can best be described as certainly black metal but with definite experimental grindcore and avant garde underpinnings. Three of the four members are singing. It’s like a chorus of chaos. Dendritic Arbor is among the most challenging bands you are going to listen to as the music can be just as chaotic as the vocals. Most of their songs are short, except for the massive “Drifting,” which will fuck with your head after one listen.

Visually, Xeukatre  presents black metal the way it looked in the 90’s, complete with bullet belts and corpse paint. Musically, their style is raw and unpretentious,  a sort of what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to black metal. I appreciate their aesthetic and am always entertained when they play. They will perform again next week with Demonic Christ at The Sidebar.

Black metal is alive and well, it would seem. It’s not what it was in the 80s or 90s, but because there is real evil in the material world, it seems to be evolving into something perhaps more brutal and sinister than its satan-worshipping roots. At my core, I find I need a means to express these themes and philosophies, and the presence of bands like these four is something to be thankful for.

View my gallery of photos below.


Nachzehrer: wicked good black metal from Boston

This week I decided to spend my local show dollars on a black metal show at The Sidebar Tavern, featuring Boston band Nachzehrer. I did not know too much about this band but had listened to them a bit after stumbling across a news item some weeks ago about the singer in the band being detained on a train platform because of his bullet belt. (Apparently there really are fashion police out there.)

Anyway, The Sidebar, which is now under new ownership, has been booking some great shows lately, perhaps in an effort (consciously or not) to fill the void left by the demise of another smallish venue the Talking Head Club. So naturally, if they are going to go to the trouble to book some black metal, I am going to go despite having to get up for work early the next morning.

The other bands that played deserve separate blog posts so I won’t go into much detail about them here. But I will mention that  the bill also included Wolfnuke (black metal from Hagerstown, Md.), At the Graves (ambient blackened doom from Baltimore), and Necropsy (Baltimore death thrash).

So back to Nachzehrer. According to the Wiki, a Nachzehrer is a vampire that devours its family and sometimes itself. We all have one of these in our family I am sure. The particular iteration of the band I saw had drums, guitar, bass and vocals, though their Facebook page lists an additional guitarist.

I am a lousy show reviewer, I must admit, mostly because I am more of less caught up in the moment and not taking notes or anything. But here’s my impression of this group.

Overall the songs are solid, semi-melodic traditional black metal. The drummer and bassist are completely in sync with one another, providing a solid head-banging foundation. Riding atop the bassline are some searing guitar melodies, threatening. The effect is punishing and raw, which is exactly how black metal should sound.  The songs mirror the structure of everything you would call “TRVE” black metal. Sometimes the tremolo guitar picking even reminded me of my beloved Tsjuder, minus the breakneck speed metal pace.

Nachzehrer’s vocals, unlike traditional black metal singing, are more in the grindcore style. Anytime a singer stands out in front of a band and is as physically active as Nachzehrer’s singer is, it reminds me of grindcore. That is not a bad thing, it just is what is it. Obviously if you were listening to the music on a CD or otherwise, this would not be an issue.

Unfortunately, the band did not have any CD or tapes available.  Many of their songs are uploaded on their Facebook page if you want to check them out. I did get a t-shirt.

Nachzehrer produced some brutal tunes and got the small audience revved up. I am glad they were able to stop by Baltimore on their mini-tour this week.  Hopefully, they will come back again and bring a full-length recording.

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