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Deaf Forever is our monthly metal column, where we review the best in doom, black, speed, and every other metal type under the sun.
Blut Aus Nord is bar none an elite black metal band, but I had to admit I was a bit skeptical when they decided to name their latest record Hallucinogen. A basic drug reference? Had Vindsval fallen prey to listening to too much bad Electric Wizard records and doing too much bad coke at Ty Segall shows? Turns out I was wrong. There was a reason Debermur Morti decided to release the album digitally early when it leaked last month: it’s amazing. (It received an official physical release this month.) Hallucinogen, like the French trio’s Memoria Vetusta trilogy and their godlike debut Ultima Thulée, is more rooted in black metal, though it barely resembles any of those records. If those records were going towards heavens that were more splendid versions of our own world, this is headed towards cosmos we can barely dream of. It has its own ecstatic energy, clear-eyed yet still in awe of the universe that unfolds before it. “Nomos Nebulum” is black metal tremolo reborn as an awe-struck awakening, downright joyous in execution. “Mahagma” goes further into pleasure, its speed a more rapturous descent. It is black metal crumbling and reemerging as a brighter, majestic, multi-dimensional fireball. Psychedelic Hallucinogen isn’t; it’s more drunk off exploration. I’ve said it before, but Vindsval is the black metal version of Richard D. James, someone who never makes the same album twice but also makes albums that only sound like him. No one in black metal has a personal touch quite like he does. Hallucinogen is one of his finest works in a discography unrivaled.
This month, a prominent artist dropped their highly anticipated record on short notice. I can’t believe I have to state the obvious, but of course I’m talking about Spain’s Teitanblood, who released The Baneful Choir a couple weeks ago. If there’s a band that gets the kvlest of the kvlt and real noise hesher freaks in formation, it’s these dudes. They space out their full-lengths every five years, because we cannot handle their level of intensity on a traditional album cycle. *The Baneful Choir *is more broken up than before, everything tied together through noise rumblings thanks to CG Santos of long-running drone/noise/black/doom project Like Drone Razors Through Flesh Sphere. It’s shorter bursts, but they are no less intense. In fact, Teitanblood go even more bestial on this record, throwing up maelstroms so out of control and blurred that their metal skin struggles to hold on. It’s almost no longer death or black, just pulsing rhythmic hate.
When recording their stunner Life Metal with da gawd Steve Albini, Sunn O))) would take part in practice sessions before and sometimes after recording. These sessions formed Pyroclasts, a companion album that stands out in its own right. Like Life Metal, this is the warmest that Sunn O))) have sounded, with Albini’s studio really letting them open up. Without Life Metal’s vocals, and strings not as great of a presence, it is a touch stripped down, but Anderson and O’Malley still take up a lot of room. There are parallels still: “Frost” comes CRUSHING in like “Between Sleipnir's Breaths,” in a we are not fucking around way, and “Kingdoms” reaches the similarly crazed heights of “Troubled Air.” It’s their most pure drone album in some time, a throwback to the ØØ Void days. Pyroclasts breezes by, definitely not a quality you’d expect from a drone record. How do four 11-minute tracks feel like they’re…not? Sunn O))) works in mysterious ways. It’s wild how an album of essentially warmups is better than most other shit this year.
There’s death metal that makes you feel nasty, but no one goes for lingering internal unease quite like Oakland’s Vastum. They began as an offshoot of Acephalix — vocalist Daniel Butler and bassist Luca Indrio are still in both — with a more death-doom focus, slower and more agonized, ideal for their focus on warped eroticism and sexual perversions. Dead bodies are scary; Vastum growl that live bodies are even more wrought with terror. Orificial Purge is their fourth record, just as twisted as what’s come before. That sickly feeling gets pushed pretty up close; what would be a mosh part for other bands in “His Sapphic Longing” around 2:40 is a tense, almost too intimate pummeling for them. They’re making it almost immoral to enjoy that part, like it’s forbidden. Shelby Lermo (who also plays on the Apprentice Destroyer record I featured last month) and Leila Abdul-Rauf make for a criminal guitar duo, using Vastum’s slower pace to flesh out mangled solos and really ooze the most filth from their riffs. They take the Carnage worship of “I On The Knife (Second Wound)” and take it to even more hallowed depths, the solos more depraved and begging for touch, and the riffs even more slamming. Orificial Purge is not comfort death metal. If you feel bad after, you’ve really appreciated it. Abdul-Rauf makes some great ambient records if you need a cleanse.
Andy O’Connor heads SPIN’s monthly metal column, Blast Rites, and also has bylines in Pitchfork, Vice, Decibel, Texas Monthly and Bandcamp Daily, among others. He lives in Austin, Texas.