Cherd’s Raw Black Metal Muster [Things You Might Have Missed 2022]

There are two types of people in this world: those who appreciate raw black metal, and those who live fulfilling lives with friends and careers and family who speak to them at holiday gatherings. I’ve declared my love of raw black metal here before, and since the advent of Bandcamp, the kvltest of all metal genres has become infinitely more accessible. Every year I wade through acres of tape hiss and tinny treble, looking for the half dozen or so raw black releases that rise above the buzzing tangle of cobwebs to rarified, putrid air, and this year, I’ve finally decided to document my findings. The following represent a cross-section of the seemingly infinite number of corpse-painted weirdos in basements the world over making music with no hope of even the smallest commercial success. This is for the fans, like me, as well as the curious. And if anyone in the comments says “This would be pretty good if the production wasn’t so shitty der der der,” I swear I’ll slap on some messy black and white makeup, put on spiked gauntlets, find where you work, barge into a meeting and declare loudly in front of your boss that I just tested positive for herpes and that you better get tested too. The shitty production is the point.

Grave Pilgrim // Molten Hands Reach West – Oregon-based Grave Pilgrim is far from the kind of second-wave worship usually found in the raw black scene. This is black ‘n’ roll insofar as rock music was an outcropping of folk, country and blues traditions. The seven tracks here are split almost evenly between longer, raw black rock-outs and shorter, folk-like melodies starkly interpreted on guitar, including an oddly disquieting Irish jig in opener “Sanguine Dawn.” Of the three full-blown raw black tracks, “Forged in the Fires of a Setting Sun” is the real barn burner, shifting between rock (almost rockabilly), trad metal and black metal beneath distant-sounding vocal rasps. It’s a stunning track with high re-playability made all the better for following on the heels of one of the weirdest tracks, “Young Hickory,” which features a waltzing melody and some light oompah percussion. Great stuff from a project that’s only been around for two years.

Kryatjurr of Desert Ahd // Ecological Grief: Relentless Visions of Fire and Aridification – Speaking of newer projects, this mysterious entity emerged from the Australian desert only this year with three thematically connected EPs, Unbearable Nightmares of Heat and Desertification, Ecological Grief – Relentless Visions of Fire and Aridification and Devastating Losses of Ecological Doom. The theme is roller skating. Sorry, no, (check’s notes) It’s climate change. While each stands on its own merit, the second release, Ecological Grief…, hit me hardest. Kryatjurr of Desert Ahd’s approach to raw black metal includes generous helpings of psychedelia and ambient noise with tortured, manipulated vocals used more as compositional tool than lyric delivery, as well as sound samples, like the uncomfortably close panting dog in opening ambient track “Solastalgia.” When the raw black blasts hit in “Ecological Grief,” the result is fugue-state-inducing terror music to play as the world burns. There is clear melody undulating beneath the parched surface of the two non-ambient tracks, giving an overall impression of a once-beautiful world now in ruins.

Lycopolis // Amduat Parts 1 & 2 – If you’ve been wondering when exactly I’d be getting to the straightforward raw black metal that’s untainted by other styles, wonder no more. Even though this Egyptian three-piece does incorporate traditional Arabic/Egyptian melodies, the style in question is no-nonsense, riffy black metal. The two-part album, The Midnight Mystery and The Hall of Maat, technically six-song EPs that combined make a 12-song full-length, is based on the ancient Egyptian 12 hours of night (Amduat) funerary text used to send departed pharaohs on their Underworld journey with Ra. I’ll admit that there are raw black bands that wouldn’t sound nearly as intriguing if they embraced high production values, but Lycopolis is not one of those. The songwriting, the razor sharp riffs and the acid-bit vocals would hold up under any production style, but I’m glad they keep it raw. These records are packed full of ass-kicking black metal melodies that get stuck in the head. The fittingly epic closer “Hour 12: End of the Thick Darkness” has all the cinematic sweep one could want with its stately riff announcing the dead pharaoh has merged with Ra and reached the eastern horizon, ready to rise again as the sun.

Old Nick // Ghost O’Clock – I’ve been an Old Nick apologist since they first emerged from their coffin only to slip on a banana peel to the sound of a slide whistle in 2020. While it’s shocking just how many releases they’ve had since then, 2022 has (so far) seen only one Old Nick appearance, the seven-track, 27-minute Ghost O’Clock, which makes up for its brevity with just how much Abysmal Specter and crew have perfected their schtick. This is the ideal mix of sneaky good raw black riffs, hoarse barking vocals and goofy synths that fit the comical song titles to a tee. Those synths have grown ever more complex and important over the last few releases, with songs like “A Witch’s Bike in the Forest” and “Ghost of Sourdough Bread and 2% Milk” now dominated by rather than supplemented with them. They’re played with as much levity as ever, but, as always, are also un-ironic earworms that prove Mr. Specter knows how to play melodies off each other. Late 2021’s Crisp Winter Dawn of My Night Moon had me worried that the project was poised to leave the raw part of their black metal behind, but this brings back some of the grime for a satisfying balance.

Till // Monument to Man’s Frailty – As raw black goes, this is pretty clean sounding, but it’s my column and I’ll include it cry if I want to, because sorrow is one of the moods Oklahoma’s Till is best at evoking. With song titles like “I Gaze Upon My Grave” and “The Mountains Weep Not For Me,” did you expect this would be improvisational jazz? Till play highly melodic, synth-heavy black metal that leans hard on the ol’ lament. The melancholy permeates riffs and synth lines alike, while becoming especially overt when tracks like “Withering Branches of Bygone Tales” kick off with acoustic guitar and woodwinds. Don’t worry though, you won’t find any clean vocal passages or dips into doom on Monument to Man’s Frailty, nor is it DSBM. This is buzzing, righteous black metal at its core that remembers to be stirring as well as downcast. Sorrow and triumph are a potent combination, and Till know how to deliver both. I’ll admit I can see some folks having trouble with the flatness of the vocal delivery compared to the dynamics of the music, but it’s part of what puts this in raw black territory and I, for one, appreciate the contrast.

Weeping Coffin // F.B.I. – As a fan of not only Old Nick, but also the various other Abysmal Specter projects he releases on his Grime Stone Records imprint out of California, it would be tempting to give him a bit too much room in a piece like this. I resisted the urge to include his work as either Curta’n Wall or Bloody Keep, although both releases this year under those monikers were also good, because they hew too closely to what he does in Old Nick. I will, however, give a nod to his one-off record as Weeping Coffin, F.B.I. No synths, no video game music, no goofball song names. Just the most unlikely fusion of stripped-down raw black metal with 90s pop-punk you’re ever likely to hear. For someone getting increasingly more Baroque in his aesthetic elsewhere, this is practically skeletal in execution, but it’s all the more charming for it. AS and Grime Stone Records have won a legion of fans, as well as their share of detractors, by daring to have fun in the least fun genre imaginable. F.B.I. is further evidence of just how irrepressible AB’s vision is, and how refreshing it is to have him thumbing his nose at his bullet-belted brethren.

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