Portugese ashes


Release year: 2023
Label: Nekrogoat Heresy Productions

Portugese black metal and the Portugese black metal sound is something of a thing. I suppose it can be safely called an acquired taste: often leaning towards the incessantly raw and lo-fi, it’s a sound that might take getting used to. This split between two Portugese acts is certainly case in point.

This is not the first collaboration between the two one-man acts: back in 2004, Coldness and Irae collaborated on a split called Our Putrefacted Essence. Apart from that collaboration, the sole members Nocturnus Horrendus (of Coldness) and Vulturius (of Irae) have played together in somewhat more known acts Corpus Christii and Morte Incandescente.

Coldness kick things off with four untitled tracks. And man, a word of warning: that lo-fi sound and production I mentioned above, there’s a ton of it here. The drums are a muffled plod, the vocals sound like they come through a ventilation shaft, and the overall feeling is almost like your neighbour is playing music much too loud. Or like you were listening to a worm-eaten old tape. It’s all very blurry, very crude, but also very obviously intentionally so, as things never succumb to a mere mush.

The musicianship, too, is crude and rather stripped-down. I don’t think I’m very much in the wrong if I suggest the legendary French Les Legions Noires acts as an influence; there’s certainly the same kind of primitivity and straightforwardness to the instrumentation. And the same kind of interred, entombed feel to the sound and overall production. With buried, distant vocals that sometimes become wild, hysterical screams, there’s a definite sense of funereal pall to Coldness’ tracks – transmissions from beyond the veil. In some ways, I am also reminded of the Black Twilight Circle acts, most of all Dolorvotre.

Purely musically, underneath the crudity of sound and performance and the rawness of expression, Coldness is at times even surprisingly melodic. The riffs are not just shredding and buzzsawing; ever so often there’s a deeply melancholic melody, which only increases the ghastly, funereal feel of the tracks.

Irae follow up with four more tracks that aren’t worlds apart stylistically. Soundwise, the difference is almost to that scale. The sound is still on the raw and lo-fi side of things, but Irae sounds a lot fuller, more fleshed out and, well, produced. The guitars sound denser and there’s more balance between instruments. Still, in comparison to your average black metal act, even Irae has a very raw and lo-fi sound.

Stylistically, Irae are by and large cut from a similar cloth as Coldness. Traditional black metal, which is raw and primitive but still with some melodies, again pointing towards musical roots in the LLN acts. The atmospheres are nocturnal, phantasmal and funereal. However, both the arrangements and instrumentation are a bit more fleshed out; the addition of subtle synths in particular adds surprisingly much depth to Irae’s half.

Where soundwise Coldness is by far the rawer of the two, musically Irae are a bit fiercer and a bit rawer. In part, this is due to the slightly tighter playing and the better production. The added clarity adds a bit of punch especially to the vocals.

The sound is a clear divide between the two acts. The jump from Coldness to Irae is distinct. Musically, the chasm between the two is far lesser, although here too the two acts are distinct enough from each other to avoid confusion. As such, the two make for a good pairing – although the jump in sound sticks out like a sore thumb.

Whilst Irae’s half has many things going for it, being a bit more fleshed out, better sounding and fiercer, there’s a weird kind of charm in Coldness’ ultra lo-fi, almost demo-like approach. It’s hard to put to words, but there’s a sense of urgency and directness to it that speaks to me.

Overall, We Are The Ashes is a nice slice from the murky, dark and rotten underbelly of the black metal underground. This is the kind of music casual listeners will most likely instantly be alienated by, and a lot of people will probably find it hard to get to grips with especially Coldness’ challenging production values. However, perservere, and ye shall be rewarded: if aforementioned LLN and Dolorvotre tickle your fancy, you will get your money’s worth.

Coldness has no online presence.

Visit Irae on Bandcamp or Facebook.

Visit the label’s website or Bandcamp.

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