Black Metal has been around long enough that it can remain true to its roots while successfully incorporating elements from other heavy genres and expanding its musical palette.
Of course, not all bands or musicians are willing to even slightly deviate from the tried-and-true old-school black metal formula perfected back in, oh, 1991 or so – and that’s OK. There will always be a place for ear-shattering shrieks, cardboard-box-and-tin-can drumming and “My tremolo is faster than your tremolo!” guitar work. All hail Kvlt!
But let’s face it: sometimes a constant barrage of blast beats and blistering speed can have a numbing effect that dilutes the intended impact. Or, to put it another way, if all you eat is pizza, at some point you’re going to stop noticing the taste.
Fortunately there are bands like Merciless Savage (North Wales, U.K.), an invigorating example of an entity that acknowledges the importance of dynamics without throwing the black metal baby out with the bong water.
I say “band,” but Merciless Savage is essentially the work of one man, founder Raz, who handles all duties (guitar, bass, vocals and programmed drums) on the new Visions EP (as well as on previous releases Isolation and Northern Desolate Wastelands).
Initially created as a solo project in 2007, he expanded it into a full lineup that performed supporting gigs for bands such as 1349, Nachtmystium, Desecration and Sabbat, but you know what they say – life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. So for now, Merciless Savage remains a one-man army, although Raz’s priority for the upcoming year is to find “dedicated musicians with the right mindset for the music.”
And what is that mindset? I’m glad you asked. Give Visions a spin and become enlightened.
These five songs, clocking in at nearly thirty minutes, are a seamless gut-punch of black metal seasoned in the abysses (yes, that’s the plural form) of death and doom with just a pinch of heavy tribal rhythms here and there.
“Visions” kicks things off in fine traditional form with blast beats, tremolo picking and alternating passages of neck-cracking “evil marching music” that will get you in the groove. Sit still when you listen to this – I dare you.
“Poison Legacy” showcases a haunted demoniac vocal that sounds as if it traveled from the depths of Hell for the sole purpose of giving you nightmares. The music is both dirge-like and pummeling.
“III” and “A Horn to Wake the Sleeping” are ominous and hypnotizing riff generators, while “Flight of Thought and Memory” kicks off like a long-lost Black Sabbath tune before careening full circle into an all-out aural assault.
If you want your metal blackened and crushingly heavy, you want Merciless Savage.