Pesanta Urfolk extends its reach with new records from Merkstave, Leila Abdul-Rauf

People tend to envy music writers because we get to hear records earlier than the general public and basically are swimming in new music that would enthrall and excite! I’d say it’s more like we’re drowning in promos. It’s to the point there I have certain key words that, when I seem them in a bio, I immediately hit delete without ever thinking of it again.

I’m only partially complaining because, yes, it’s great to hear new music before having to wait until it arrives in a store, and having tons of new music at my disposal is the cliched “good problem to have.” But it limits what we can do here, which is why we pick and choose stuff we really like to expose to you, so not everything we get is going to get attention. That posed a problem when a huge digital offering from Pesanta Urfolk, a label I really like and am intrigued by, arrived with six goddamned promos in it. Even that is a tall order, but I have been wanting to do more on the label for a long time now, so now seemed as good a time as any to get some words on here about their releases, which are anything but ordinary and predictable.

Peasant Urfolk certainly put out a lot of cult, underground metal, and recently they issued vinyl helpings from Ash Borer, Hell, and Lux Interna that are all worthy of going out of your way to hear. In fact, you can find reviews of two of those records in the archives of this site. That’s just scratching the surface, by the way. They also have put out records for bands such as Velnias, Fauna, and Skagos. Yet, they don’t limit themselves to just purely metal releases, as you’ll learn a little later on in this piece, and what they put out always is worth getting immersed inside of for long periods of time, for you’ll need that for full absorption.

We’re going to get a little more in depth with two of the releases Pesanta Urfolk sent over, and the rest we’ll give you a roundup so you have an idea of what else they’re putting out there. One of today’s albums is by a funeral doom band Merkstave that passed well before its time and absolutely burned with morbid, solemn potential before they faded into the night. The other is a solo record by the wondrous Leila Abdul-Rauf, who has dominated your life in bands such as Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune, Saros, and others, but has something that reaches further back to her Amber Asylum days on her mesmerizing debut record. These albums could not be bigger polar opposites sonically, and I’ve spent a lot of time letting each soak and sprout, which has been a rewarding experience.

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

We’ll start with Merkstave’s three-track swan song, a gorgeous and destructive collection that fills me with sadness that this strange, shadowy unit no longer makes music together. Made up of four individuals who also play in bands such as aforementioned Hell, Abysmal Dimensions, Elu of the Nine, and Total Darkness, among others, they put together a pair of demos before this full-length collection came together. If you have an affinity for sorrowful, emotional, slow-moving doom, you are likely to mourn this band’s demise as hard as I am, but at least we have this record to remind us of what was.

The first two cuts are the dual-part “Lament for Lost Gods,” a pair of powerful, calculating, downtrodden tracks that might make you think of Pallbearer or Lycus from time to time, and that also can be violent and punishing. Growls spew forth but sometimes are balanced by clean vocals that sound hauntingly detached, which actually makes the presentation more chilling, and the band speeds up their approach in pockets, allowing them time to crush bones into dust. Actually, when they do speed up it takes you by surprise and jerks your head around, proving a stunning change of pace. The second part is more melodic and enchanting, even turning into an infectious piece in parts, with chunks that’ll stick in your head and play back in your mind. Closer “Spawn of a Lower Star” has a purposely weary start that trickles a while before it really comes to life, rolling along with slurred melodies, full-bodied expression, and the torrid crunch eventually melting into its final minutes of melancholy.

Every moment of this album is captivating, and it’s already slipped into my personal heavy rotation. With the colder months not that far away, I imagine that will only continue as we seek shelter from the winds and chill, something this band’s music practically personifies. Too bad we won’t get any more from Merkstave, a bright funeral doom star that burned out too soon.

For more on the band, go here:

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

Abdul-Rauf certainly keeps herself busy when it comes to her music, and her addition to Hammers of Misfortune’s lineup was a brilliant move, one that added even more depth and soul to their classic-style metal. She’s proved an awesome guitarist and vocalist, and everything she’s involved in is worth your time not only because she’s such a good artist but because she only aligns herself with quality bands.

“Cold and Cloud” is Abdul-Rauf’s debut solo outing (the first for Urfolk imprint Saadi Saati), and you might and might not be surprised by what you hear on this record. The compositions are more like what she did with Amber Asylum, as I mentioned, and they’re gentle and atmospheric, with her voice coloring in these pieces with reflective, emotional flourishes. The songs are steeped in a lot of ambiance and can make for a calming, thoughtful listen, and while we miss out on any guitar thunder here, there’s enough of that in her other projects to tide you over, I’m sure. Oddly, a lot of my visits with this record have come during the recent rain and fog spell in these parts, and this album has proved a perfect partner for those times, especially songs such as the drone- and horn-dressed opener “In This Dream,” that mixes New Age mysticism with desert loneliness; “Will I Be Sane?” a song that lets noise bubble a bit and Abdul-Rauf sing like a ghost in the attic; “Tears in White Fluid,” that is pumped with air and a dreamy aesthetic; and the deep sense of finality on closer “Separation,” that has drilled itself deep into my head and heart.

Abdul-Rauf’s album is only available in limited vinyl quantity (we’re talking 100), so if you’re interested in this, you better jump. I’m always pleasantly surprised by everything this great musician does, though not really shocked because I know how capable she is of just about anything musically. Here is more proof, and is it ever beautiful and numbing.

For more on Abdul-Rauf, go here:

Pesanta Urfolk have a few more releases ready for you that aren’t necessarily down the metal path but should pique the interest of our more ambitious readers out there. The Sterling Sisters make dusty, compelling country rock that would sound perfect during a Western murder film, and that band’s singer Scout Pare-Phillips also has a 7-inch out. There also is the dark Americana of Munly & the Lee Lewis, as well as the spiritually-devastating neo-folk of Sangre de Muerdago, who made people take notice at last year’s Stella Natura festival. All of these records might take a special listener to fully understand and embrace them, and if that’s you, prepare to be surrounded by musical riches.

To buy any of these albums, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

2 thoughts on “Pesanta Urfolk extends its reach with new records from Merkstave, Leila Abdul-Rauf

  1. Haha, I got that Pesanta email and was also overwhelmed. Have you checked out the Sangre de Muerdago promo? It’s pretty beautiful neofolk, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.