VELNIAS: Rulers of the Night
After a long hiatus of sorts (also known as trying not to fail out of college and gallivanting across the country in search of metal and Kuma's burgers) Grim Kim is back to wish you a br00tal New Year and blow your fucking minds with another slice of pure underground heaven. As usual, I'm indulging in the heavier side of amplifier worship, but this time around, we're darkening our doom with a little folk, a little drone, and a whole lot of blackness…
November is a terrible time to visit Minnesota, unless you happen to be there for a pagan/black metal festival (in which case the mead and ale will keep you plenty warm!). Such was my purpose for braving St. Paul's frigid, inhospitable climes a month or two ago – hitting up the third annual Heathen Crusade metal fest and doing my best to stave off frostbite. During the course of the weekend – most of which was spent knee-deep in booze, beards, and broadswords – I managed to be blown away not once but twice by bands I'd been previously unaware of. An honorable mention goes to Mexico's excellent Viking black metal horde ULVEHEIM, but top honors must be handed to Chicago, IL's VELNIAS, whose mindblowing performance literally stopped me in my tracks and send me scurrying to their merch table as soon as the last lingering chord was struck.
Upon an initial listen to VELNIAS' debut LP, Sovereign Nocturnal, I was pleased to discover how well that the ritualistic, almost trance-like atmosphere the hugely powerful trio cultivated onstage carried through into their recordings. The somber blue lights and scraps of bone and antler that littered the candlelit stage served as a fitting backdrop to VELNIAS' melancholy, deeply-affecting blend of black, folk, and doom, underlain as it was with the kind of suffocating, hypnotic groove that DEATHSPELL OMEGA would sacrifice themselves for.
As an album, Sovereign Nocturnal is a sprawling, expansive epic, comprised of three songs (all of which break the twelve-minute mark) of blackened, folk-inspired doom that has drawn VELNIAS comparisons to AGALLOCH, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, and early OPETH, yet manages to stand entirely alone upon its own merits. Highly recommended and absolutely essential for the discerning metalhead or curious outsider. YOU NEED THIS.