With a ton of major-name metal releases getting ready to overwhelm us and devastate the Internet with overexposure, let’s not forget those who are releasing music as good as, if not arguably better, than the indie majors but won’t get even a percentage of the hype.
Kind of how we did last week with discussing Grimoire Records’ latest offerings, today we turn toward Sol y Nieve Records, a label based out of Northern Idaho that focuses on “analog technologies and handmade packaging,” according to their Facebook page. So basically, there’s a real human touch to these releases you can hear and feel, something that’s not nearly common enough in today’s metal world, much of which was based on tape trading and practices like these. The label has released some damn impressive music so far, including from bands such as Yellow Eyes (who, if you haven’t heard them yet, you need to change that now), Monument, He of No Name, Dead Dragon Mountain, and Golden Fawn, and now are firing back with two more releases that are worth checking out.
Now, the lo-fi, harsh sound of the label’s other bands also is a trait found with Nemorensis and Hellebore, both of which have new releases out that you can grab physically or for obscenely reasonable prices prices on the Sol y Nieve Bandcamp page. Each brings something different to the metallic table, though I can see there being crossover appeal for each band, as well as for listeners who simply love what the label represents, Oh, and you’re not going to be able to find out a whole lot about these groups because they’re basically shrouded in secrecy, with such small online profiles, it’s almost comical. But we embrace keeping things mysterious, because we know way too much shit as it is, so it’s cool that these bands are eschewing all that.
We’ll begin with Nemorensis’ incredible 27:27-minute opus “The Lady in the Lake,” a single track that makes its way over all kinds of musical terrains, leaving your mind floating in the ether when it’s all over. It’s spacey, has quieter moments that reflect in nature, sometimes feels like a seance calling upon spirits long gone, and despite its challenging presentation (hey, some people have an issue with single-track albums, as silly as that seems), really keeps your attention and keeps you wondering what’s next. And it always delivers.
The track begins with a cosmic atmosphere and chilling keys that eventually dissolve into a section that sounds a lot like bizarre chants. Guitars begin to charge up and inject electricity into the track, while a sense of murkiness remains thick and present through most of the song. Shrieks are buried millions of layers beneath the chaos, giving off a sense of being lost so far off in the wilderness, your voice barely can be heard, and just as the song seems to be building into a boil over, it levels off, letting some serenity into the room. Waters begin to trickle, as it feels like the scene has shifted into the middle of a frosty forest, and amid drone, folk flourishes, and smoky keyboard, the song shifts into strong, emotional melodies. Screams once again call out, seeking its inspiration, and the final minutes are awash in both beauty and savagery. I’ve had many journeys with this album so far, and each time something different takes hold, be that the serenity or the fury. There’s plenty to examine here, and you’ll want to put aside some time, get a comfortable chair, and devote all of your brain waves to “The Lady in the Lake.”
Hellebore, a Canadian solo black metal band, also has its eyes set toward the skies, but their music in their latest piece “Anouof Thwo” feels like a gigantic sci-fi exploration into the stars, past planets and galaxies unexplored by humankind, and into a cold, isolated blackness that should scare the hell out of you (think Darkspace at times).There is a lot of crushing and black metal rage that might make you think of the early days of the Second Wave of Nordic bands, and the mind-altering passages could have you seeing things, hearing strange sounds, and wondering if there is some way you, too, can go beyond this planet and headed toward another level with species who we haven’t met yet. And the fear sets in when you realize you don’t know if you’d survive the encounter or not. That’s just the feeling I get, not my interpretation of what’s being said, as I don’t speak French and cannot translate the words. But again, mystery is good.
The album kicks off with the noisy interlude “Etoiles d’eau” that leads into the 12:42 “Aootw” that begins chugging right away. There are strong riffs, harsh vocals, and bits of melody that sweep through the machine-like drumming and massive under section. The music keeps building, getting darker and meaner as it goes, and as the song grows off-kilter and cosmically weird, it keeps delivering violence and chaos that rages until the song fades out. “Udrea” is a chillwave-style interlude with beats and sweltering synthesizer, setting the stage for “Les Martiens Eta’ient la’,” an 18:28 crusher that begins with whirry, spooky keys, that give way for guitars exploding and going off, keys buried into the torment, and vocals that cry tyranny. As it builds, the song climbs aboard soaring riffs, the drums don’t just keep the pace but blow it into powder,’and the lead guitar playing is both glorious and explosive. The fury subsides a bit about halfway through the song, but as finger tapped guitars take over, the track’s soul soars deep into space, the tempo violently changes back and forth, and beastly growls erupt from the pit of fires to give a terrifying voice to the thrashing chaos that brings the song to its wild conclusion. Closer “…reflechis dan l’eau” ends the album ideally, with acoustics that meet up with whirring keyboard, buried growls and howls that remind of Leviathan, wildness that feels uncaged and free, and that final jaunt into the stars where the rest of the story will repeat itself forever.
These albums aren’t going to be easy listens for those whose ears are used to the smooth, polished side of metal, but someone who wants to get in touch with more primal, raw sounds, energies, and emotions should find both of these albums rich with content. Both bands may be bound for the underground forever, but we need those types of artists that are real and honest and always bring us back to the roots of what we love. Also note that each of these cassette releases are limited in quantity, so if you want a physical copy, you better get on that.
For more on Nemorensis, go here: http://nemorensis.bandcamp.com/
For more on Hellebore, go here: http://hellebore.bandcamp.com/
To buy the albums, go here: http://solynieve.bigcartel.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.solynieverecords.com/