As I sit in my cavernous subterranean dwelling, the candles flicker and cool air starts to fill the space. Slowly the heating dissipates and it’s getting much easier to breathe and cope. I sit at my slope, with my new fan-dangled tablet looking through the history and the source of black metal. As I light up a cigarette and scratch my dry and dusty skull, I wonder if ever there was a gimmick that kickstarted all of this and can we link it to the genre at all if in any way.
I flick through pages and pages also doubling back through my old manuscripts and scrolls that lay scattered around my ever-decreasing mausoleum. I suppose it all starts with the end of the punk era in the late 70s where what could be called gimmick was to be anti-establishment, anti-government etc. Their style of playing was sporadic and supercharged to the next level. So what could take it to the next level, what could supercharge this anti-music to the next level? Well, that would be Venom, a U.K. band that took this fast-paced style of playing but introduced a new anti to the mix to be precise religion. As Venom introduced anti-religious themes throughout their lyrics album titles etc. Other countries were waiting in vain to adopt a similar style and stance.
The likes of Hellhammer and Bathory were part of the first wave and whilst Venom took a quite camp and tongue-in-cheek approach the Swedish band Bathory and Swiss band Hellhammer took it further and made it much darker and more evil therefore taking what was a gimmick and turning it into something much threatening and so etching other native countries to sink their teeth into. Spanning from the darkness elements of Norse mythology crept in, in both the first wave and second wave.
This introduces an almost new and fresh take and also a more native insight into some of their culture and belief structures. So all this lightly gone over we reach the present day and there seems to be a new gimmick entering the scene, but is it a gimmick or more of a glance into another culture or an individual’s inspiration? As one act at present is storming the scene getting equal praise and slander from fans is there room for more and how will they differ themselves in what can already seem a more than pigeonholed genre? So as I lean back on the chair and blow the smoke out a knock comes to my door. I climb the stone steps to my front door. As I open it there is a look of bemusement on my skull.
Now usually I go weeks without a single sighting of the postman and now he’s at my door with packages. As I take in the wedge of panels I take them to my hollow and sift through them. As I glance at the envelopes and their postal markings one sticks out. An American one. As I tear through the envelope the contents drop to my desk. A cassette and it’s from the solo black metal outfit Isataii. As I cast what is left of my rusty mind back I start to remember a conversation between him and me. Well, here we are and this must be what I am due to review. As I head over to my tablet to take a look at a little back history on both the artist and his releases I look at the genre description. Listed as Penateka Comanche Black Metal, this is a tall statement to make. So it is here that I dive in full force ready to embrace and maybe even somewhat strip back the layers on this release.
Track one “Wagons In Flames” (Ft Wild Band Of Comanches) wastes no time in laying down the exact driving force behind the entity’s works. As the primitive drums beat and the war cries of the Comanches soar high into the night sky, the cries of the tribe blend seamlessly into the opening guitar riffs blending this new and evoking style of black metal. Whilst usually a more freezing tone to the guitar riffs in most black metal, here the tones appear much warmer. The guitars on the mix take a lesser centre stage, however, this doesn’t mean they are lost within the mix. In this opening track, it is the bass and drums that take centre stage next to the vocals which mix between a rasping and snarling style to little intervals of spoken word elements, even though they are spoken they still retain a dark and brooding element to them so that not to lose focus from the ferocity of the track. The drumming is next level and you can pick out a great playing style with amazing double bass hits and blast beats on top The drumming lends itself to this entire track. The real surprise comes just over midway through where the bass almost gets a solo of its own. This stunning warm melodic breakdown makes for a great intersection before the Venom comes seeping back through. Whilst slower than the opening the build-up is incredible and you can feel it coursing through your veins. This very opening track is almost like your life force getting a kick start like being reborn.
Track Two “SkinWalker” takes no time in seeping under your skin. Whilst much like its predecessor the bass and drums take the forefront creating that driving delivery of the track. The guitars still vicious in their attack almost seem more layered creating a haze of a riff pattern. The vocals are more in the back of the mix in the opening much like a chant or even a summoning still raw and brutal in their delivery it truly matches the pace of all instruments. There is more than just black metal woven into these tracks you can almost hear traces of both death metal and even doom. These little short triggers fire synapses in your brain and lead you into little hidden gem pockets of the track. Stunning breakdowns in the track elevate the listener and take the brain into a restful mode. This all sets up for the next hit from the remaining verses. I do love the depth these tracks have and this fresh take on B.M could indeed have something more than meets the eye.
Track Three “Vengence” is another pummelling yet a little more frosty within its delivery. The overdrive on the guitars is purely guttural, but at the one-minute mark, the tremolo finally surfaces. Whilst not piercing like most black metal riffs this tremolo section is just perfect breaking through the rhythm section and just adding that cold element to the track between the delivery of this and those sheer glacial vocals this track does exude pure vengeance as the line “Kill Them All” rings out the track enters into a much more slower pace. These deep-seated riffs are almost verging on a DSBM level before the sound of a guitar being violently unplugged, whether intentional or a clever effect added it just adds to the severity and the intensity of the track.
Track Four “Destroy the Missions” comes in ferocious and blasting much like the title suggests. You can hear and feel the visceral feeling in this track it’s relentless in its pace and the vocal work just fuels it further. All are backed by the instruments being played at full tilt. It is relentless and pummelling, to say the least. The track is sprinkled beautifully with little groove elements which for any black metal listener can be an unheard and not very adopted style. However, with the mix of sounds that Isataii uses these just gel well with the overall sound. These little flourishes soon make their way into other breakdowns within the track creating a much-rounded midway track through the album. This also includes a malicious and icy B.M. breakdown complete with spoken word lyrics that only intensify in their delivery. This is a tremendous track that adds a great midpoint in the album, leaving you wondering just where this album could ride next.
Track Five “Dark Witch” wastes no time and goes straight for the jugular ripping and tearing like a rabid black beast. With some well-incorporated blackened death metal riffs dropped in adding just that extra flare to an already brutal track. The tempo whilst upbeat in places still manages to retain that darkened black hate which just proves limitations that are set by other black metal artists need not be. Having drumming and the bass match the level of intensity of one another can make for an extremely well-diverse yet still evil sound. Again this track contains enough brutality and hatred as any of the previous tracks so you cannot deny the power and intensity of this act.
Track Six “Sickness Is Life” is the shortest track on the album and it is easy to see why, the vocals almost turn from the rasping side to an almost wrenching style not that that is a bad thing and accomplish this even at the four minute mark is still impressive by a large margin. The guitars create a more guttural sound to back the power of the venomous vocal range. There are once again little slices of colder tones mixed within, this I feel helps with the chilling song title and gives that little nod to traditional B.M. riffs. At the nearly two-minute mark, the breakdown enters to a solom and slower pace, almost heralding that the sickness truly is for life and that life is slowly fading either fast or slow.
Track Seven “Ghost Warrior” has an almost battle-ready riff and beat from the outset. A very rich and grandeur sound is incorporated within the first verse. The lead guitar picks out a section to highlight this with some muted yet little key additional structure to the track’s sound. Which can then be heard throughout the second verse and chorus. With some beautifully frosty tremolo work in the midsection it makes for the return of this B.M. drenched track a stunner. With a slow and chilling ending has our Ghost Warrior met his fateful match? The remainder of the album will be the one to tell you that.
Track Eight “Shade Of Tragedy” starts with a great slow drum intro and once the guitars come in it seriously elevates the track again. The rotting and fermenting vocal work of the main entity adds chills to me as they grace the track like an intravenous drip of horror. This slow track is welcomed and you can feel the album is coming to an end. However still not feeling final in any sense of the word. The solos in this track are like eagles in the night sky creating an almost freeing and soaring feeling whilst looking down at the tragedy that lay before them on the ground. This track is another slow and intense track, but the depth is still retained and the story of the track’s title is told beautifully and with an extreme sense of pride.
Track Nine “Ancestral Powers” rips forth like a tornado and leave nothing in its wake. Like the title states the calling of Ancestral Powers can both be cathartic and powerful and this track fits the title well. With pounding drums and cathartic riffs, the tempo on this track takes on so many levels it almost feels quite cosmic and a cacophony. The riffs are delivered with every last ounce of power you can truly feel the native sound breakthrough and in the last final seconds of the track it is delivered by an almost spiritualistic ending. I do wish the ending had been that fraction longer as I feel it would’ve closed this track just sublimely.
Track Ten “Keepers of the Krypt” is also a bonus track much like its predecessor and a worthy one too. This is a brutal B.M. track and what a track it is. Delivering sheer brutality from the offset. This track pulls absolutely no punches while the track is mid-paced in places with some great breaks in it, it is the vocals that deliver the almost final nail in the coffin of its delivery. They have maximum range and truly elevate this track to new blackened heights. You can sense a shift from the remaining tracks of the album on this particular one. However, this just highlights the diversity of the act and his ability to shift from your normal cathartic and hateful black metal to his more focused and chosen subject matter and sound.
As I lean back in my ornate chair and pull a cigarette from my stash box I light up and take a deep inhale. Thinking to myself while I write my closing synopsis to this amazing body of a newfound style of black metal, I’ll listen to the aforementioned act Blackbraid I know this may seem contradictory to do whilst writing about another act. However, knowing the subject matter of content for both these acts is similar and the style is very much on the verge of being the same too, not taking away from either act at all I kinda feel I have a chicken and the egg situation on hand. I look at Isataii and his body of work and dedication to his native ancestry within his works has been running at least a good year before that of Blackbraid and I can’t help but think has the aforementioned act taken on a similar style to that of Isataii or has he helped with opening and pushing this new subgenre of B.M?
That I will leave up to you the listener. I’m not saying you cannot support either endeavour at the same time. I also understand that more than one act of this calibre can exist at once. However, I do feel I lean more towards the works of Isataii. There is just that little something else that features in his latest release. I feel his works are much more warrior-like like and his passion leeches through every track like a bright fire burning within. He desperately cares about his heritage and that is truly noticeable in every track but I also feel there is a much more sense of Authenticity to his work. As I listen to Blackbraid I can hear little licks and riffs that have been borrowed or even adapted from other tracks that sound desperately similar. Whether intentionally done or not when I listened to Isataii there was a real sense of originality, I had a hard time relating a riff, beat or baseline to any band previous. This I feel is what gives that night and day effect between both bands. In all if you are after a hard-hitting Native American-inspired warrior-like album then look no further than Isataii and ” In Vein Of The Ancestors” because this is viscous from the offset.
Without having to blend in too many native instruments to drive his sound home that opening track with the Comanche cries is enough to fill, your heart with that Native pride. That war cry is such a powerful opener you truly need nothing else to make the album more dedicated to its heritage. In all this album has assured me that come what may of this new subgenre whether it be a flash in the pan phase of a genre or one that we will find new and interesting acts to come rest assured the true native of this genre is Isataii.
Darkest Hails #Foras #LordOfTheShadows
- Wagons in Flames 05:53
- Skinwalker 05:35
- Vengeance 05:14
- Destroy the Missions 06:07
- Dark Witch 05:13
- Sickness Is Life (The Second Coming) 04:01
- Ghost Warrior 05:31
- Shade of Tragedy 05:20
- Ancestral Powers Bonus Track 04:12
- Keeper Of The Krypt 07:28