Album Review – Mavradoxa / Lethean Lament (2017)

A whirlwind of emotions from raw carnal aggression, nature reverence, despair, longing and bliss in the form of stunning Laurentian Black Metal.

“And all that we are,
all that we are,
is silhouettes
in silent
rain 

And all that we are,
all that we are,
is a blackbird
with wings
aflame”

Recorded in the spring of 2017, Lethean Lament, the second full-length installment by American Atmospheric Black Metal duo Mavradoxa, is not only a contemplative and majestic album that is expansive, atmospheric and melancholic, but it’s perhaps the best depiction in modern underground music of what’s commonly referred to as “Laurentian Black Metal”, being highly recommended for dreary and rain-soaked days during solitary walks, or in any moment of introspection. Formed in 2015 in the city of Rochester, New York, in the United States, the duo comprised of Nival (Zachary Smith) on vocals, guitar and bass and Lux (Monica Finger) on vocals and drums is sharper than ever in Lethean Lament, delivering long, progressive songs that flow with purpose where the atmosphere dictates and paints vivid stories in its movement and direction throughout the entire album, encapsulating a whirlwind of emotions from raw carnal aggression, nature reverence, despair, longing and bliss. Featuring contributions by violinist Andy McGirr on the songs “Cicadan” and “Across the Nival Grove”, and vocalist Makr Welden on the song “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame”, as well as a darkly distinguished and impactful artwork, Lethean Lament is honest and genuine Atmospheric Black Metal that beautifully carries on the tradition of bands like Agalloch, Waldgeflüster, Falls of Rauros and Obsidian Tongue.

In the opening track, titled Cicadan, the acoustic guitars by Nival generate the perfect atmosphere for the beyond pleasant violin by Andy to soothe our souls in a comforting and melancholic way, setting the stage for the 11-minute extravaganza The Phantom Visages, showcasing an avalanche of sluggish, somber guitars and beats by the talented duo, spiced up by harsher and more aggressive moments and also bringing elements from Black and Doom Metal, resulting in devilish Blackened Doom tailored for admirers of the genre. Furthermore, its mournful lyrics are effectively gnarled by Mavradoxa (“And soon into the graveyard’s maw the lustrous glow shall fade / Their echoing laments no longer stain the past / Their fleeting memories are borne to midnight rot / My lifeless frame upon the black tombstone is cast”), giving the entire song and even darker and more hypnotizing feel. Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame is the absolute soundtrack for wandering through cold landscapes by yourself with its almost 18 minutes of melancholic passages, introspective clean vocals by Mark Welden, gentle but piercing guitars by Nival and steady, mesmerizing beats by Lux. The music in this underground masterpiece of winter-like sounds keeps growing in intensity inside your mind, turning it into a one-way journey into darkness.

Exploring their more progressive and atmospheric vein, Mavradoxa hone their instruments to pierce our souls with their depressive sounds in Across the Nival Grove, where vocals couldn’t sound and feel more anguished, flowing through several layers of contrasting tunes and nuances until its climatic ending led by Andy’s ethereal violin. Then we have From Fog, a magnificent composition where you can sense the night and the cold embracing the desperate vociferations blasted by the duo (“Shivering, staring at haze from breath on a shattered mirror / Streaking through shadowy groves / Skeletal roots, an edifice… / but where am I?”) in an amazing display of modern Atmospheric Black Metal. In addition, the song offers the listener old school Black Metal blast beats by Lux and a metallic riffage by Nival in perfect sync with the dense ambience surrounding the music, flirting with Progressive Black Metal and, therefore, keeping the music always fresh, vibrant and gripping. And lastly, there’s nothing better than a serene acoustic outro, named Metanoia, to wrap up this voyage through the obscure and gelid kingdom of extreme music reigned by Mavradoxa.

All you need to do to brave the storm of idiosyncratic sounds found in Lethean Lament (which by the way is our album review number 500, and there couldn’t have been a better choice to celebrate that expressive milestone than this) is go to YouTube for a full listen at the album, follow Mavradoxa on Facebook, and buy your copy of the album at the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webshop (as a regular CD or as a CD + shirt + sticker bundle), as well as at Discogs. And after facing such distinguished tempest of emotions, from sheer aggression to moments of hope and melancholy, you’ll certainly place Laurentian Black Metal, especially the one masterfully crafted by Mavradoxa, as one of your top choices for your most isolated and meditative moments in life.

Best moments of the album: Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame and From Fog.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Cicadan 3:52
2. The Phantom Visages 11:25
3. Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame 17:50
4. Across the Nival Grove 15:32
5. From Fog 11:00
6. Metanoia 1:59

Band members
Nival – vocals, guitar, bass
Lux – vocals, drums

Guest musicians
Andy McGirr – violin on “Cicadan” and “Across the Nival Grove”
Mark Welden – vocals on “Crimson Waves of Autumnal Flame”

Album Review – NONE / NONE (2017)

Over 30 minutes of chilling and despondent Atmospheric Black Metal by an unknown entity from the Pacific Northwest that will darkly guide you on a one-way journey to emptiness.

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Chilling and despondent music from the Pacific Northwest is what you’ll hear on the impressive self-titled debut album by Atmospheric/Depressive Black Metal entity NONE, a dark, full-bodied album comprised of three freakish and distinct arias interconnected by the howling winds of winter that will certainly appeal to fans of the Atmospheric Black Metal and DSBM (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal) crafted by groups such as Shining, ColdWorld and Woods of Desolation. Misery, grief, negativity and hopelessness are just a few elements you’ll find in the music by NONE, darkly guiding you on a one-way journey to emptiness.

Formed in 2015 in the city of Portland, Oregon, in the United States, NONE doesn’t carry its simple but enigmatic name in vain. NONE is precisely that, as they have no faces and they are no one, being solely represented by the depressive and obscure sounds emanating from each one of the three multi-layered compositions of the album. Drawing influences from the most melancholic and austere forms of atmospheric extreme music, NONE can quickly become the soundtrack to your most obscure moments, showing you that solitude might not be a bad solution at all in our lives.

In the opening track, simply titled Cold, the atmosphere couldn’t feel more sinister and disheartened, with its background noises and smooth piano notes quickly exploding into a puissant sonority. This is beautiful Depressive Black Metal perfect for closing your eyes and letting darkness embrace you, showcasing not only demonic gnarls and Stygian Black Metal guitars, but also presenting acoustic elements to bring some sort of false peace and hope to our hearts, before its climatic ending gets back to a somber and heavy sonority.

Also phantasmagorical and doomed, Wither is a direct sequel to its predecessor, with its Black Metal sounds invading our ears and souls while its hellish growls transpire hatred and despair. Furthermore, it brings forward a distressing aura found in the most sluggish and evil form of Blackened Doom, resulting in a delicate and at the same time powerful creation by NONE. And in Suffer we finally reach the stage where all songs together become one, displaying anguished screams and slow-paced Doom Metal beats complemented by the song’s serene piano notes. It’s a strong conclusion to the story being told by this arcane creature known as NONE, morphing into a desolated ending where it’s clear that darkness has taken full control of our souls.

You can purchase a digital copy of NONE at the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp, but if you prefer to actually put your hands on such bitterly cold and mordant Depressive Black Metal work-of-art, the album is available in a 6-panel digipack (limited to 300 copies) at the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ webstore, where you can also find it as a T-shirt + CD bundle, or at Discogs. You already know that after following the dark path crafted by this unknown entity there’s no way back, but I guess you really don’t care about the consequences. Quite the contrary, that’s exactly where you want to be.

Best moments of the album: Wither.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Cold 11:57
2. Wither 8:45
3. Suffer 9:25

Band members
*Information not available*

Album Review – netra / Ingrats (2017)

The perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres into a coherent stream of melancholy, might be right in front of your eyes thanks to this exquisite Urban Black Metal one-man project.

Conveying images of a grey, boring and anxiogenic city life, Urban Black Metal one-man project netra is back with its third full-length album, titled Ingrats (which is French for “ungrateful”), the perfect soundtrack for late-night walks in the city, combining several different music genres such as as Ambient Black Metal, Trip-Hop and moody Jazz into a coherent stream of melancholy. Put differently, the music found in Ingrats is highly recommended if you like bands such as Manes, Katatonia or Burzum, and especially if you are not afraid of trying something truly new that will defy your senses and concepts in music.

Formed in 2003 by French multi-instrumentalist Steven Le Moan in Quimper, a citiy located in Brittany, in northwestern France, netra relased its first album Mélancolie Urbaine in 2010. Two years later, netra presented the highly claustrophobic Sørbyen, recorded after relocating to the city of Gjøcik, Norway over the course of a year. In addition to that, netra also collaborated with Californian rap duo We’rewolves in 2013 to create a true hybrid between Hip-Hop and Black Metal, the EP entitled Dreading Consciousness. Now in 2017, after moving to Auckland, a major urban city in the North Island of New Zealand, Steven and his netra found the right amount of inspiration to mesmerize us once again with the Depressive Black Metal and all other styles featured in Ingrats.

Gimme a Break, a Jazz-like intro with smooth piano and drums, introduces us to the universe of Ingrats before netra’s Black Metal strikes the listener like a lightning bolt in Everything’s Fine, a dark and aggressive composition where netra manically grasps the song’s lyrics, full of anguish and hatred. Furthermore, the song’s hints of Jazz and Experimental Metal, together with some clean vocals by the end of the song, make the whole experience of listening to this multilayered tune even more exciting. In Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours, an atmospheric instrumental composition alternating between electronic music and sheer obscurity, simply close your eyes and savor its musicality, getting ready for the melancholic Live with It, continuing with netra’s wicked fusion of sounds and proving music doesn’t need to be heavy and fast all the time to be good. Its clean vocals are spot-on, not to mention the gentle balance between acoustic guitars and electronic elements, turning it into one of the top moments of the album in my opinion.

Infinite Boredom, an instrumental bridge displaying gentle piano notes under the rain, paves a gray and sorrowful path for Don’t Keep Me Waiting, a movie-inspired creation by netra where all instruments keep growing in intensity, transpiring melancholy and pain. It’s interesting to notice how the saxophone somehow “replaces” the vocal parts, with a dense background voice, as well as the song’s Atmospheric Black Metal beats, enhancing the overall darkness present in the music. And A Genuinely Benevolent Man, the most modern and electronic of all songs, blends Trip-Hop with Atmospheric Black Metal elements, with the music gradually increasing in intensity while netra delivers only a few sick growls throughout the whole song.

The hopelessness depicted by netra continues in the ambient Paris or Me, where subtle hints of Jazz and Black Metal coming from the piano and guitar lines add to this instrumental piece a delicate feeling of solitude; whereas in Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve I highly recommend you keep your eyes closed and follow netra in his walk through the dark and hazy urban streets where he lives. Bringing forward Industrial and Alternative Metal nuances, there’s no sign of happiness in the music, which can be felt through his clean but acid vocals, reminding me of some of the best creations by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. And how about a sweet Jazz song as the closing act of this unusual album? In Jusqu’au-boutiste you’ll not only get that, but netra also offers trenchant riffs and blast beats in the best Atmospheric Black Metal style imaginable, like a sharp razor cutting our ears while the piano parts give peace to our souls, ending the album in a tempestuous fashion.

Only time will tell what’s next for the urban black metaller netra, but based on the amazing quality of the music found in Ingrats (which you can listen in its entirety HERE), I don’t think he’ll take too long to release more of his eccentric music. While we all wait for another blast of his multilayered creations, let’s keep in touch with him through his Facebook page, and purchase a copy of Ingrats through the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp (where you can find some interesting bundles like the “ultimate netra listener pack”) or official webstore in a 4 panel sleeve with 8 page booklet format or as a fantastic package containing the CD, a 11cm x 7cm all-weather vinyl netra sticker and a beyond awesome “Urban Black Metal” shirt, as well as on Amazon and on CD Baby. Now please excuse, as I’m going for a lonely walk through the dark and cold shadows of Toronto, and I guess you know which album I’ll be listening to.

Best moments of the album: Everything’s Fine, Live with It and Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve.

Worst moments of the album: A Genuinely Benevolent Man.

Released in 2017 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Gimme a Break 1:19
2. Everything’s Fine 5:24
3. Underneath My Words the Ruins of Yours 3:36
4. Live with It 4:30
5. Infinite Boredom 0:44
6. Don’t Keep Me Waiting 4:32
7. A Genuinely Benevolent Man 5:10
8. Paris or Me 3:32
9. Could’ve, Should’ve, Would’ve 5:00
10. Jusqu’au-boutiste 5:55

Band members
netra – vocals, all instruments