Hierophany of the Open Grave

I love the idea that there’s such a thing as “traditional black metal”. I like the idea that tortuous tritone riffing, compulsive blast beating and hell-rasping-reports from various levels of Hell can now be wrapped in such a cuddly honorific as “traditional”. I mean, “traditional” is a word I associate with folk music, with things like traditional Irish folk music, with Sinead O’Connor cooing “Carrickfergus” over Uilleann pipes, harps and pennywhisles.

The fact that we actually have folk black metal–well, that’s a long way from crazy young guns burning churches. But like the Bee Gees themselves once noted, it’s only words, and words are all we have and in the case of Nightbringer, they’re really quite enough, really.

Nightbringer blood-suck every traditional trope of traditional black metal ala Emperor with glee, zest, savagery and total commitment.

The big difference, and its enough to render the Colorado quartet unique, are the syrupy medium tempos favored by core members Nox Corvus (guitars, percussion, vocals) and Naas Alcameth (guitars, vocals). Those in-between meters are terrific for hanging the band’s apocalypses on, they permit butt-bone levels of rumbling kick, heavy-low-end bass, even low end room-sound. It’s like a regular party pack of bass-i-ness.

And so Nightbringer breaks a holy rule of black and/or extreme metal–there’s sex in this music. You and your boy, or girl, or boy and boy or…well whatever–you guys, you could fuck to this music.

Isn’t that amazing? Metal people listen to fuck-less music.

Maybe that’s what ghettoizes us. The only more fuck-less music is, like, modern jazz or traditional Irish folk. Maybe that’s why it’s so easy to blend folk into black metal–the sheer fucklessness of both genres are just such a natural fit.

But who knows? With the band’s sense of balls-deep groove, its eerie ambience of echoing chants, peeling church organs just waiting to be burned, and its backgrounds chorales of occult-y grimoire, with all that you’re not just talking about fucking, you’re talking about evil fucking.

And so Nightbringer, whom I’m assuming are into the traditional position of auto-misanthropy, will find themselves as an accidental erotic-humanist force, causing the black tee shirt legions to turn off the RPGs, and get laid, for fucks sakes. Me, I recommend you bathe, get a Rammstein or Septic Flesh-worthy haircut, and buy some killer John Varvatos jeans, but that’s just me.

And I do go on, don’t I? Back to Nightbringer. I’ve always believed that the engineer who applies reverb to a band’s mix should be listed as an honorary band member.

The reason: is there any one production element more essential for creating the dankly oppressive, sonics black metal needs to thrive more than judicious reverb over-use?

No. Of course not. And yes, Nightbringer has that awesome sort of reverb that causes the entire band to sound like a single, immense, black-ichor-drooling monster of screaming woe.

And so the spiraling spirochaetes of antagonized tremolo-picked six-stringers, the occulted howls, the horrorshow string-sample cadences—it all blends into this super massive thing, this black metal version of Phil Spector’s wall of sound (but with new, improved bass!).

You’ll have noticed that I’ve not singled out any single song for praise or dismissal. It’s because, like most above-average trad black metal records, Hierophany of the Open Grave works two ways, neither of which calls attention to single songs.

If you’re of a mood, you can turn it down and repurpose it as punishing wallpaper. If you have time, or if you’re totally baked or better, both, you listen, turn off your mind and float to into the band’s many scathingly beautiful blackness.

You explore the murk for details you can barely grasp, for guitar lines that raise from the gluey dark and obliterate themselves before you’re sure you even heard them, and you’ll keep coming back to find out what you really heard, and because of some ineffable quality that keeps rising from the amassment of guitars, screams, echoed chants and more. Whether you call it traditional, neo or post, this is the good stuff. The really good stuff.



[Visit the band's website]
Written by Ian Grey
August 15th, 2011


  1. Commented by: Clauricaune

    I’ll be checking this out.

    But that’s a lot of rambling there, Ian.

  2. Commented by: Adolf Oliver Fingers

    “get a Rammstein or Septic Flesh-worthy haircut, and buy some killer John Varvatos jeans”….Uhhhhhhhhh..Yeah! heh..That’s totally not queer core-phag sounding advice at all..pfffft, you kids these days….

  3. Commented by: Rev

    Holy fucking HELL was that self-indulgent.

  4. Commented by: Ian Grey

    >Holy fucking HELL was that self-indulgent.

    Dude, it’s black metal. What’s more indulgent than that?

    I just tried to match the style with the words.

    And I was serious about reverb–I think it’s an under-discussed topic and something that utterly defines darker metal style records.

    And I was serious about how depressing extreme metal’s fucklessness is. How people use sexless ugliness as a visual goal and when a band tries to break out of that, people spazz out.

  5. Commented by: vugelnox

    Negative Plane use maxed out reverb to great effect, I could see a strong argument being made for your statements about its use in black metal.

  6. Commented by: thisblacksession

    …the hell did I just read?

  7. Commented by: Zach

    Funny, it says “reviews” at the top of the page… but I can’t seem to locate that aspect of this text…

  8. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    sounds good.

  9. Commented by: Rev

    “Dude, it’s black metal. What’s more indulgent than that?”

    You could take that sentence, replace the phrase ‘black metal’ with just about anything under the sun (free jazz, technical death metal, fondue) and it’d still be a complete cop-out.

    “And I was serious about how depressing extreme metal’s fucklessness is. How people use sexless ugliness as a visual goal and when a band tries to break out of that, people spazz out.”

    I don’t think I’ve ever associated extreme metal with sex, and in nearly 15 years of listening to extreme metal, I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed anyone ‘spazzing out’ over a deviance from ‘sexless ugliness.’

    There’s a reason why black metal–and most metal in particular–lacks a sexual energy: it’s not fucking built for it, and it never really has been. The fact that you’re puzzled by this is odd. It’s a cathartic, testosterone-driven endeavor that has little to do with romance. Even a band like, say, Akercocke, who explore carnal indulgences in a Satanic context, can’t hitch their wagons to the concept completely. They’d still like to rip your goddamn face off and feed it to you, because that’s what extreme metal DOES. It doesn’t pour you a bottle of wine and caress you. If you posess even a modicum of context, this shouldn’t be shocking…or even noteworthy. Metal’s ‘fucklessness’ isn’t depressing. Most people don’t listen to black metal–or read a Christopher Hitchens book, or watch home-improvement shows, or run a 5K–because they want to fuck something. Some things don’t lend themselves to sexual activity; I have no idea why this would depress anyone.

    Bottom line: You’ve used someone else’s art to elevate yourself. The only thing ‘sexual’ about this entire endeavor the fact that you used Teeth of the Divine, it’s readers, and a Nightbringer album as a pieced-together pedestal from which to jack yourself off.

    And, as an aside, the stereotype that metalheads-in-black-shirts can’t get laid isn’t only lazy and fallacious, but an extremely petty and transparent attempt at placing yourself above the proletariat. Again with the agenda. Stick to the topic at hand next time; you might render yourself readable.

  10. Commented by: Ian Grey

    I never said black metal people couldn’t get laid! Jeez.

    “It’s a cathartic, testosterone-driven endeavor that has little to do with romance. Even a band like, say, Akercocke, who explore carnal indulgences in a Satanic context, can’t hitch their wagons to the concept completely. ”

    You confuse agression with testosterone. Unless you’re gay, which is fine, the energy behind metal isn’t gender-specific.

    You confuse erotic with romance. I’m not saying that. O’m talking about brute erotic force. Triptykon is incredibly sexual music. Inquisition is erotic. Behemoth, Danzig and yes, Amon Amarth also (ever wonder why women flock to these bands? It’s not the later’s good looks. It’s the sheer fuck in the music’s groove and thrust.)

    I’m sure you don’t think of Bring Me the Horizon as ‘extreme’ enough but again, it isn’t Oli’s pretty face that attract’s women–it’s the fuck in the music.

    My point is that metal–which is such primal shit–should be some of the *most*
    erotic music around.

    But something went wrong.

  11. Commented by: Ian Grey

    And by ‘erotic’ I don’t mean you drop your lift up your dress and grab the nearest guy, grab his dick and stick it in.

    I just mean the erotic element is part of it.

    Think DevilDriver’s “Dead to Rights” for an example of what I mean in uptempo.

    Triptykon’s “Shatter” for mid-tempo.

  12. Commented by: Rev

    To say metal isn’t testosterone-driven is PC revisionism. Of the bands you just mentioned, there isn’t a single one that boasts a female as prominent creative force. All due respect to Vanja Slajh, but I’d venture to guess that Tom G. is the principal sculptor of Triptykon’s sound, no? Therefore, it’s testosterone-driven. This is fact. That doesn’t mean that it can’t–or doesn’t–appeal to both sexes.

    All that aside, I still don’t know what dots you’re trying to connect here. You think metal should be erotic, but it’s not erotic enough (or is it?), and this frustrates you somehow…but despite this, Nightbringer’s third album is “the really good stuff.”

  13. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Is golf a white sport? If so, how do you explain Tiger Woods? Or is he fake?

    So much for that part of the argument. The idea that agression is something owned by people who sport cocks is just…bizarre. I guess Angela Gossow and Karyn Crisis are fakes too.

    If I have to explain what “erotic” means, then really, there’s no point. Next up, I’ll have to explain “pretty”, “ambient” and “hunger”.

  14. Commented by: Ian Grey

    And just off the top of my head:
    Angtoria, Arch Enemy, Astarte, Blood Ceremony, ChthoniC Firebrand Super Rock, Gallhammer (terror-doom/black/crust metal, Japan), Hammers of Misfortune, Iwrestledabearonce, Jarboe, Jex Thoth, Julie Christmas, Landmine Marathon, Ludicra (shared-vocals), Madder Mortem Octavia Sperati, Otep , Rolo Tomassi , Subrosa, The Devil’s Blood, The Project Hate MCMXCIX Unsun, Walls of Jericho

    I guess they’re not very agressive too.

    I mean, the male-run press doesn’t cover them that often, so how often can they be–and not a cock to be seen–fakes!

  15. Commented by: Rev

    Arch Enemy’s last good album was Burning Bridges. The Devil’s Blood, Jex Thoth, and Sabbath Assembly are all phenomenal bands, but I’d hardly call them aggressive. That shit is downright soothing.

    Other than the John Cobbett bands, the rest of the acts you mentioned are atrocious.

    I have no idea what this has to do with racism or golf.

  16. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Whoah, pity the Subrosa record will be in every critic who matter’s Top 5 this year.

    That Madder Mortem are 500 times a more ballsy prog band than any prog band with, you know, balls.

    That Ludicra can shred your face while napping.

    That Rolo Tomassi is advancing the book of what metal can be.

    That Landmine Marathon are a better Bolt Thrower than Bolt Thrower has been in ages and much more, plus, Grace is crazy hot (assuming you have any interest of *any* kind in females.)

    Julie Christmas and Jarboe could have your nutsac for breakfast and have room for Post Toasties and OJ.

    Your post shows you just don’t know who/what any of these artists are/do so you made an idiot remark about Arch Enemy that like saying Megadeath sold out when they started using more than one foot pedel.

  17. Commented by: Ian Grey

    This is what I think: Most metalheads are totally down with women doing whatever–singing, playing, fronting. I mean, it’s more good metal and you get to look at a hot chick instead of some grotesque dude–where’s the downside?

    But there IS a loud, ignorant, caveman minority who desperately cling to the utter nonsense proposition that agression is a cock thing, not a human thing. That metal is a dude thing.

    Well, until the 90s, rock was a dude thing. Then woman-fear and woman-hate slowly eroded at the same time that awesome chick-bands broke down the crumbling walls.

    The same is happening now. And like always, there are the spiritual Republicans at the gates, pitifully denying fact, looking back at oppresion and saying SEE??? When we didn’t allow chicks into metal, there were no chicks in metal!!! Isn’t that proof??

    It’s the same exact thing as SEE??? There are no black golfers! SEE?? Black people can’t play golf!

    Er–whoops. Tiger Woods.

    Cockism is about gender fear, about seeing a threat in The Other (wait til the mess of metal dudes who are gay start coming out of the closet.)

    Cockism is about this pitifully clinging to this teensy thing you can say is yours–we all have cocks, us metal people–and then spazzing when you realize it meant nothing, it was a temporary situation based on general misogyny that affects women in all manner of music.

    But as with the arc of all history, the story goes towards progress, and every year, more and more metal women will be in the field, just as we’re seeing the first gen of female shredders when just five years ago metal-cavemen said this wasn’t possible, that women were genetically unable to shred.

    Which was another idiot idea–look at the female vilionists playing Paganini. Whoops!

  18. Commented by: Danhammer Obstkrieg

    Ian, pretty much the entirety of your last post here is an imagined dialogue that you are having with no one. Having been fairly thoroughly entrenched in extreme metal culture for my entire adolescent and adult life, I have, honest to goodness, NEVER heard anyone say that women shouldn’t play metal.

    I’m perfectly happy to have a conversation about sexism in metal and anything else, but your string of comments are entirely divorced from what you’ve actually written about Nightbringer. Here’s what I think you’re saying in what you’ve said about Nightbringer: hey, this music kind of makes me think about sex because of its rhythm. Now, in your comments following the review, you are saying, “extreme metal used to exclude women, but now more women are playing in metal bands.” To draw those conclusions from a review of an all-dude band is a non sequitur of the strangest sort.

    Furthermore, two things militate against the ostensibly feminist perspective I think you are trying to adopt: one, all of your talk about how ‘erotic’ the ‘thrusting’ and ‘grooving’ aspects of the artists you’re highlighting are shares a dangerously masculinist language of, if not rape, then at least a disturbing sexual aggression; and two, most of what you’re saying about how great it is that more women are participating in extreme metal has to do with how ‘hot’ they are. Both of which points I think are total bullshit. Gender parity in extreme metal would be a great thing, but it can’t be ABOUT gender, or else it devolves into terrible essentialisms about what all women or all men are supposedly like.

  19. Commented by: Rev

    Ian, John Cobbett is in Ludicra.

    Nice meltdown, by the way. Any chance you could tell us about that new Nightbringer album yet?

  20. Commented by: Ian Grey

    There’s no meltdown. Assuming an alpha dog calm doesn’t enhance a position that isn’t there.

    It’s not my fault that the only acceptable mode of discourse for some of the respondents here is Intro-describe record–thumbs up/down–outro.

    So far there hasn’t been a response that engages what I had to say about the record, which was plenty.

    Basically, you even glancingly say anything that even sort of questions the holy primacy of the Cock and the boys go crazy.

    The upside is that the Cockists comprise a tiny, tiny part of a metal world that, in baby steps, IS allowing the erotic, eros and feminine into the metal world, all of which creates a deeper, richer metal.

  21. Commented by: Ian Grey

    In short–it’s not about women being as good and agressive as men, it’s about men trying to play catch-up with what women are bringing to metal.

    Listen to Subrosa. When you say THIS SUX!, There’s no cock! Well, you’ll have it half right.

    As for Nightbringer–I said in the review what I have to say; why say it again?

  22. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Ludicra and Hammers of Misfortune are totally different bands; both use female vocals/input.

  23. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Danhammer’s post–all but the bit about “rape”–is really worth thinking about.

  24. Commented by: Ian Grey

    I’ll say this–when I think ‘erotic’ I do not think in terms of ‘thrusting’–I think rhythmic fluidity. I think Gojira is incredibly erotic and their music is defined by the fluidity of their groove. You *sway* to it.

  25. Commented by: Rev

    Well, for the record, I hated that SubRosa disc. I thought Grayceon’s All We Destroy was a much better release from Profound Lore. And I never said it sucks because of a lack of a “cock.” Those are your words. Initially, I was speaking of “extreme metal.” I don’t consider The Devil’s Blood, SubRosa, Unsun, etc. “extreme.” You took a comment, lit yourself on fire, and ran around in circles with it.

    You project a lot. And honestly, you’re difficult to engage because you don’t make a hell of a lot of sense. Usually, when a person has to comment at length (and with such ADD-addled bursts of consecutive posting) about something they’ve written, it means that the initial piece didn’t sufficiently cover all of the bases. You tried to make an unfinished thought the crux of an album review, and now we’re talking about “Cockists” and Tiger Woods when most people just want to know a few things:

    1) How does this album stack up to Death and the Black Work?
    2) …or Apocalypse Sun?
    3) …or American black metal in general?
    4) …or the other black metal releases from 2011, regardless of geography or scene?
    5) …or 2011’s slate of releases as a whole?

    It’s okay to play with the review format and be creative, but, again, try to make it something that’s not only coherent, but something that your audience can actually relate to.

  26. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Do you realize how hermetic this gets when we start the inevitable battle of What’s Extreme Enough.

  27. Commented by: Rev

    As writers, it’s our job to quantify such things. Nightbringer is face-ripping black metal. The Devil’s Blood is a fucking rock band. Learn the difference.

  28. Commented by: Ian Grey

    I know the difference. Can you NOT be such a douche about it?

    I didn’t say The Devil’s Blood was the same as Watain of Agalloch or Jarboe or James Taylor. Seriously, chill on the asshole vibe, and I’ll do the same.

  29. Commented by: Rev

    Fitting that you cap 900 words of seething condescension by imploring that a reader refrain from being both a douche and an asshole. You’re a pro’s pro, Ian.

  30. Commented by: Ian Grey

    You did a word count???

  31. Commented by: Ian Grey

    I love this record. I feel sad about certain things–not condescension.

  32. Commented by: Ian Grey

    I won’t reply anymore after this.

    What I find in all metal writing is that, no matter what you say that strays from a very thin
    line, it ALWAYS turns into a pissing context between males (never female respondents. Never.)

    I made many points about this band and this record and I made one point about metal in general. They all strayed from The Way One Does Things and the pissing began.

    Really, joining the GOP would be a jump to the left.

  33. Commented by: Grymmbear

    This was the most painful review I have ever read.

    At least you didn’t bring in Mr. Penny Torture from Psycho as an example of great female vocalists, like you did at a few months back.

  34. Commented by: faust

    holy shit.. look !!!! it’s the latest episode of “Who Wants To Be An Esoteric Elitist Metalhead”!!!!!

  35. Commented by: EdKemper

    Grymmbear, thanks for the link. Dudes obviously pushing some horseshit faux-feminism for points with the ladies.

  36. Commented by: Grymmbear

    Not only that, but in the article, he tries to cover up his mistakes by saying “Replace Mr. Torture with *name a female vocalist here* and it still stands”, which it doesn’t, as the bulk and crux of his argument was using him as an example of a “great female vocalist”.

    And now, after reading this “review”, I could tell that this guy was on a self-imposed high pedestal, doesn’t bother to research what he’s talking about, and is basically full of shit.

    When I read a review, I want to know what an album/band sounds like, some points of interest, and if it’s any good or worth my hard-earned money. I don’t want to read someone dancing around the review just so he can beat off all over our faces, so to speak.

  37. Commented by: Ian Grey

    Wow–you fellows are still at this?

    I have time off from a feature article so I’ll chime in here because. mainly, I’m curious.

    First, aside from a mensch who started to talk about the fascinating subject of reverb as an instrument, which *is* fascinating, and something I do know about, what with ten years pro studio experience as an engineer as my day job, everyone kind of freaked out about…well, onwards.

    I wanted to talk about ideas that were, like, side effects of Nightbringer’s terrific CD.

    1. I thought it amusing that a genre that thinks itself so edgy and such, is actually ‘traditional’ now. Which kind of blunts the idea of being ‘extreme’. A sense of humor is a good thing, but not here it seems.

    2. I *loved* the bass on the CD. For some reason, nobody noticed that I loved many things about the CD that might assist in your purchase decisions.

    3. This led to the idea of sexless metal–incredibly, *everyone* missed that I was empathizing with *us*, with our situation as metalheads.

    That we’ve sort of painted ourselves into a corner where, for reasons I’m interested in exploring, where our music, unlike 80% or non-classical/experimental/noise music, is *intent* on not having an erotic component.

    4. For some unfathomable reason, suggesting we get laid enraged people.

    4. For the last seven paragraphs, the review is about nothing but the music. *Nobody* seems even slightly interested in what I said about the band/the CD here.
    They’re off screaming that I’m a PC feminist-poser whatever.

    5. Is it this? “You and your boy, or girl, or boy and boy”? Is it just typing “boy and boy” that did the trick?

    Really, I’m reaching here, because what you have is a review that’s 70% music talk, 20% social observation, and a couple lame jokes.

    PS: If you have a minute, please tell me what you think “feminism” is and why it enrages you so much. Really, it’s like people saying “that damned oxygen! I’ve had it with oxygen and those fucking oxygen dealers!” It’s just weird.

    PPS: On record, The Devil’s Blood and Hammers of Misfortune are indeed like acid-tinged hard rock. But live, they’re so fucking intense, the guitar parts so insanely interweavingly complex and played, again, with such agression, that it *becomes* metal, IMO.

    Way more than, say, Iron Maiden when they’re supposedly playing metal but to my ears are just playing baby boomer rock.

    But you know what? I wouldn’t scream at you you that you’re a poseur douchebag elitist for feeling that way.

  38. Commented by: Ian Grey

    And here’s the most basic thing: who the fuck would even know something called “Teeth of the Divine” even *existed*, to say nothing of writing something, gratis, when they could be spending that time getting paid, unless they really, really loved all kinds of metal to a pretty freaking extreme degree?

    But you see this in most metal boards–people just jumping other people, not aware that they’re all in this same, incredibly tiny boat.

  39. Commented by: faust

    Dude… I find this kind of music insufferable but I still read reviews for it, methinks you’re just making things worse with your rambling, self-righteous comebacks. Move on people!!

  40. Commented by: jerry

    i was a reviewer for two metal sites years ago. i definitely enjoyed putting together reviews not very far removed from this one, and i will admit, it was fun to put my worthless English degree to use. But i will say this-i did shamelessly use someone else’s art to in turn fulfill my own artistic expression. where it differed then, was that i went into a LOT of detail about the music itself, and maybe i would bookend the review with some comedic fluff. I probably even went TOO far into the musical discussion, since i’m a musician myself and most likely lost the audience in the jargon. however, i never felt the need to address the issues of metal as a culture, because we all know them. i don’t need to open a review for a particular album to read about the overlying issues of the genre it belongs to. nowadays, i’m an older asshole who doesn’t have much time for anything more than “so and so sounds like this.” if a review name drops the right band, my money is spent.

    i will say this-the review is a good piece of writing, and as much as i dislike when i have to wade through something verbose to tell me what an album sounds like, i wouldn’t have finished the review if the way you worded it wasn’t engaging. its probably an unfortunate thing that i along with many readers succumb to the perils of immediate gratification, something that has all but destroyed the music industry and probably deserves its own conversation entirely, but when you write a review, as fun as it can be to interject your persona into it, you have to take into account not only that there are countless types of readers, but that you have a job to do, and that for every record you have to write about, there is a band behind it constantly refreshing websites, hoping to just read a positive adjective or a high score or whatever.

  41. Commented by: Rick Perry

    “Scouting ought to be about building character, not about sex. Period. Precious few parents enroll their boys in the Scouts to get a crash course in sexual orientation.”

  42. Commented by: GW

    You can’t fuck to Ludicra, Gallhammer, Unsun, Hammers of Misfortune…
    Especially Subrosa.

    Maybe Benedictum.

    If you like music with Sex, try R & B or Rap. It’s all about fucking.

    Metal is for riding into battle in an M-1.
    Or just forgetting about what you have to do to get laid.

  43. Commented by: GW

    I learned all about how un-sexy metal music is, saw references to the Bee Gees and Sinead O’Connor (who isn’t sexy), learned about the writer’s love of judicious reverb, how far folk metal is from church burnings (which are ostensibly a bad thing!?!?), that maybe i have been ghettoized (!?!?), that there is such a thing as John Varvatos jeans (wtf!?)…

    and Nightbringer is a Black Metal band and play at Medium tempos. And maybe sound a little like Krallice. And it’s good, which i already know.

    To quote Supertramp “…not much of a girlfriend, i never seem to get a lot.”

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