Acephale Winter Productions: Funeral Fornication, Barrowlands, & Nefas Terra

Acephale Winter Productions has been a long-time supporter of Black Metal & Brews and luckily, the label’s releases have been consistent enough for me to provide steady support for this label in return. While early releases were promising and solid, this current batch takes Acephale Winter Productions from small start-up label to a potential candidate for serious expansion in 2014. A newer release than these is already out, showing how truly prolific this label is. Each of these tapes can be obtained through the Acephale Winter bandcamp page.

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Funeral Fornication‘s compilation release, Fornography: A Compendium of Decadence and Defilement is certainly the most unconventional of these tapes, yet I find it strangely addictive. As this covers music created over the course of a decade, there’s a lot of ground to cover here. Early tracks display a stripped down, demo quality take on more melodic black metal, with elements that lean toward the symphonic at times without indulging fully in anything too tacky. It’s nice and balanced, showcasing the band’s interesting early years. While “Cold Colossus” has a piano intro that would make late nineties Cradle of Filth proud, the doom-paced guitars and mid-range clean vocals show an artist willing to defy expectations for the sake of a captivating tune. This willingness to push boundaries is what keeps this release interesting from start to finish. “No One Has the Right to Exist” & “Upon Many An Altar of Decay” play almost as some sort of dance tunes for Hell’s taskmasters when they need to blow off steam after a hard day’s work, yet there seems to be a sincerity to this, even if it does seem slightly tongue in cheek at times. Who said metal can’t be fun? Past these songs, the album gets back into more serious territory, although the homespun sound remains, creating a consistency that I truly cherish, as even the songs that are clearly more developed have the same core elements. By the end of the album, the music has gone from simple and enthusiastic to bombastic melodic black metal, a true demonstration of growth that is well worth examining.

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Barrowlands is a band quickly earning itself a name and visible presence in the black metal underground, and this release, a reissue of the band’s 2012 demo, is a great demonstration of their skill. While this Oregonian quintet has established an elegant, textured sound, to call this Cascadian black metal would be lazy and inaccurate. Instead, they fuse their own region’s notable sonic palette with the icy progressive black metal atmospheres that many legendary Scandinavian bands have adopted over time, creating a sound that is neither frostbitten nor riding the coattails of Agalloch and their ilk. These songs each remain for an appropriate duration, allowing space to breathe but avoiding self-indulgent excess upon which many bands of this nature seem to rely. If anything, I’d like to see the band spread their wings just a bit more and really take on the confident and mighty sound that they’re clearly capable of creating. This is a great demo already, but I think the future will show Barrowlands growing into something truly impressive.

Nefas Terra - Life in Darkness - cover

Nefas Terra is also climbing their way up into the underground’s focus, and Life in Darkness is soon to be a must-have in collections of any serious fans of melodic black metal. This album’s six songs show up, build an intense and majestic atmosphere, and shred it to pieces in a period of approximately thirty minutes. In other words, this plays at the perfect length for a live set, and this music has a solid balance of aggression and harmony, although I doubt this duo performs live. Any time the band’s relentless blasting seems to be verging on excessive, they seem to know better and quickly show proper restraint. Still, this isn’t catchy blackened death by numbers. Nefas Terra has a few moments where they completely change direction without a moment’s notice. While it can catch the listener off guard, it’s mostly effective and definitely shows some serious promise.

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