Eh, what the hell? I already covered that Sir Rosevelt project, so we might as well just make it a non-Country day in its entirety. For a lot of people, Winter is when they catch up on new releases from the year that they missed. For me, it’s more of a chance to either finally explore a Country artist’s backlog or just go outside my boundaries entirely and try something different (last Christmas was heavily Hip-Hop influenced for me outside of my Cody Johnson story for example). Ever since I published the year end lists, I’ve been leaning towards Black Metal. Now, I won’t tell you the entire history of the genre. I don’t know it, and considering most of it is associated with atheist cults, I don’t care to learn more. I do however appreciate its focus on creating more atmospheric music. Here, the lyrics seriously don’t matter one bit, mostly because whoever is singing them likely sounds like they’re screaming in a deep voice at the top of their lungs, and the enunciation is some of the worst you’ll ever hear. It’s like angering the abominable snowman and seeing what noise he makes.
I was first introduced to the genre via a band called Saor, mostly notably through their latest album, Guardians. Considering that they blend Celtic elements such as flutes and melodies akin to what you’d expect from Celtic music, I was definitely willing to at least try it. Really, there isn’t a lot to say about the project either. Throughout, it feels like a sweeping blend of the aforementioned elements with elements you’d expect from Black Metal such as heavily distorted guitars played with tremolo picking and rapid drumming. Essentially, describing the project all boils down to what analogy you feel best describes the tone of what they’re doing. My favorite on the album is the title track, and Mark Grondin over at Spectrum Pulse probably came up with the best analogy when he said that listening to this album made you feel like you were riding on a dragon about to embark on some badass quest. I love how dynamic and lush everything feels. It’s heavy music, but it also has a calm, soothing sense to it likely due to the melodies. Do I recommend it for Country fans? No, but I do recommend at least trying it. Be careful though, another element of Black Metal (and Metal just in its entirety really) is that the songs do run very long, and lengths of over ten minutes are often considered the norm. It makes sense though considering it’s all about the journey the music takes you on as well as the atmosphere it sets.
Of course, I discovered Saor last year. This year I’ve been getting into another band named Panopticon fronted by a guy named Austin Lunn who is actually the sole force behind everything (the only time it’s a real “band” is during live performances when there’s no way he could do everything at once). Now, where Saor actually goes ahead and outright blends the Celtic and Folk elements into his songs, Panopticon more or less just separates them as their own individual songs. For example, the beautiful, soothing instrumental, “Tamarack’s Gold Returns” off of his 2015 album, Autumn Eternal is completely Bluegrass in nature, but the next song, the title track is completely Black Metal. For Country fans, the best you’ll probably find is 2012’s Kentucky (“Come All Ye Coal Miners” is a damn great song), but my personal favorite is 2014’s Roads To The North for being his most cohesive project. I recommend the Bluegrass jam, “One Last Fire” from that album. Much like Saor, Panopticon’s work is largely atmospheric, and the melodies often help to ground that in. I mean, the aforementioned “Tamarack’s Gold Returns” makes you feel like you’re walking through a forest on an Autumn morning. Meanwhile a straight Metal song such as “A Superior Lament” feels like a faceoff with a friend or foe (and you can actually hear Austin actually singing around the 4:40 mark). It sounds weird and as if I’m making some of this up, but that’s the power of this particular genre. You paint your own pictures. It’s brilliant stuff.
I’ll leave Youtube clips of some of the aforementioned songs by both bands below, so you decide for yourself. As for me, I’m glad I got to write about two interesting bands who aren’t completely removed from what I talk about anyway. I hope I’m able to find more bands/artists like them in the future.