A friend of mine whom I also work with just got a shipment of a bunch of cassettes a few months back. Knowing I’m down with albums on tape, she brought them in for me to see, and a coworker of ours was stunned that people still buy tapes. I told her there are labels that release their music primarily on cassette, and we’re going to visit one of those today.
We’ve hailed Folkvangr Records in the past, and they’re back with a trio of releases you definitely want to consider when making your record-buying budget. However, we will only be featuring two of those today, as the third one will be coming tomorrow. Both records are very different from each other, but there’s a good chance the audience for each will be interested in the other one. That sentence was OK, right?
New Hampshire-based duo Beorn’s Hall bring a savagery and passion to their Pagan-splashed black metal, and the band’s second offering “Estuary” is one electrifying listen. Following up last year’s debut record “Mountain Hymns,” the group—drummer/vocalist Vulcan and guitarist/bassist/keyboard player Rognvaldr—harness what is majestic about their New England-based home state with a folk-infused collection that sounds raw, emblazoned with nature, and burning with chaotic fires. This record that features nine songs (including an unexpected cover) reeks of black metal’s past glories, as it sounds like it was dreamt and created decades ago when the roots were just taking form. Their music can make your blood rush, and I’ve spent a ton of time poring over this record, as it reveals something new each time. This is a joint release with Folkvangr handling the cassette (its cover at is breathtakingly magical) and Naturmacht issuing the LP and CD.
After a woody, tribal-sounding intro cut, we dig right into “Dark Wood-Black Marsh” that emerges from acoustics and fog before wild howls erupt, and a fiery assault emerges. Some of this has a nice old-style black metal feel, sort of like Bathory, and that carries over onto other tracks including the awesome title cut that has doses of castle synth before launching into punishing thrash and folkish fury; “The Nurturing Soil” that is just a killer track, with a rousing chorus, accordion adding texture, and some truly feral moments toward the end that draw blood; “New Hampshire Rain” that, quite obviously, opens with a downpour before leading to a grisly, yet spirited attack complete with massive growls, great melodies, a dramatic shift into prog-fueled wonders, and as return to serving riffs that keep you bruised but well nourished. Then there’s that cover, a rustic take on The Grateful Dead’s “I Know You, Rider” that plays like it emanates from a crackling old record and drinks the spirit of the song but also adds the band’s gruff fingerprints. This is a really strong record you should make a point to hear.
Battle Dagorath, yet another duo, have been awfully busy the past couple years delivered two mammoth releases that redefined the idea of space-inspired black metal. Over the course of 2016’s “I – Dark Dragons of the Cosmos” and last year’s “II – Frozen Light of Eternal Darkness,” records that demanded a large chunk of your time to digest, the band expanded on its galactic vision, and you weren’t likely to tackle either with a single listen. Through a cassette box set courtesy of Folkvangr in partnership with Out of Season, both of these records are being presented in a single set that lasts an intense two hours, 17 minutes. But this is the perfect way to handle the work presented by vocalist/bassist/guitarist/drummer BSB and keyboard player Vinterriket, as you can start from the very first moments of the journey, through these 14 cuts, and into the wooshing, atmospheric conclusion. It’s a must-have package, especially if you enjoy pushing through the galaxies during your musical adventures.
It would be kind of pointless to sum up this entire package, plus it might be nice to leave some to the imagination for anyone who has yet to hear either record. “I” begins with “From the Black Sun’s Fire,” a quick introduction cut that feels like an eerie space movement, and then we’re right into “Phantom Horizons Beyond,” a beefy, 13:50 pounder that mixes speed and soot, as deranged howls make their way across the stars, and the music has sections where it feels equally alien and demonic. The melodies are thick, and the song offers servings of hypnosis. “Return to Gates of Dawn” has furious riffs, relentless chaos, and scorching vocals, with the guitars agitating the fires, squealing out like a bizarre transmission from beyond. “Transfixion of the Spheres” is a blur of madness, with the vocals doing plenty of damage, and keys washing in like a strange burst of cosmic dust. Eerie cleanliness makes your body shiver, and the track makes it feel like you’re traveling through an endless vortex.
“II” also starts with a short opener, “The Great Untuning” that gets your psyche ready for tracks such “Asteres Planetai” where an extended exposure to creeping winds feels like you’re trapped on an isolated planet with no other companion than the strange darkness. Once it opens, it’s ashen black metal that compels and terrifies. “Cast Their Ashes to the North Wind” is the longest song of the bunch at 19:12, and it sucks you right in, with wrenching melodies, blasts of dangerous madness, and even a stretch of calm that lets the storm die down, the cloud cover to change, and another burst of mauling devastation to carry you the end. The final two tracks are instrumental based, as “Supernal Realms” forces your head to swim as stars burst; and closer “Ignis Fatuus” is an ambient, spellbinding finish that melts among the galaxy and imprints its DNA on your psyche. You’ll be exhausted but enthralled when it’s over.
These are two excellent releases that will please any listener of challenging metal bands not satisfied with trends or status quo. They practically exist on separate planets, these two groups, but together they make for interesting journeys into music that will expand your horizons. Folkvangr always is a reliable place to find this kind of music, and these albums are well worth your absorption.
For more on Beorn’s Hall, go here: https://www.facebook.com/beornshall/
To buy the album, go here: https://folkvangrrecords.bandcamp.com/album/estuary
For more on the Battle Dagorath, go here: https://www.facebook.com/BattleDagorath/
To buy the album, go here: https://folkvangrrecords.bandcamp.com/album/i-dark-dragons-of-the-cosmos-ii-frozen-light-of-eternal-darkness
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/folkvangrrecords/