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If you’re looking for a fresh take on black metal that compromises absolutely no integrity or raw fury, look no further than the new Blackbraid album, Blackbraid II.

There’s a certain quality that is needed for good black metal that doesn’t quite have a word, at least not in English. It’s the quality of being simultaneously grimy and crusty, sounding like it crawled out of the depths of hell, while also remaining triumphant and melodic when it comes to the riffs. Only select bands have nailed this over the years: Dark Throne, Dark Funeral, Spectral Wound, and now, Blackbraid.

In addition to their absolute nailing of the classic black metal sound, Blackbraid also bring a breath of fresh air to the genre. The band is the solo project, with some collaborators and guests, of project master mind Sgah’gahsowáh. As an indigenous musician, Sgah’gahsowáh channels his heritage and love for the earth through his music, and with that, he also brings a certain energy that conjures up desert dunes and rolling planes from North America just as well as a Norwegian black metal band conjures up snowy, bleak hills. And he has a unique take on the black metal look, incorporating a more indigenous-influenced paint style.

In interviews, Sgah’gahsowáh has been quick to point out that though he loves his making music as an indigenous person and stands with leftist political bands, he does not make music to make a social point or scream about ideologies, beliefs, or even wrongs to indigenous people, the things that plague the daily existence of systemically impacted people. His aim instead is to celebrate nature. Hailing from the Adirondack Mountains, all of his music, including this album, is about the majesty of mountains and nature.

There truly are no dull moments or letdown tracks on Blackbraid II—The only slightly unimaginative thing is the title, and nothing else disappoints. The third track, “The Wolf That Guides the Hunter’s Hand,” is probably my favorite from the album, a longer, epic track that reminds me of a cross between Bathory and war metal. And speaking of Bathory, there’s a cover—”A Fine Day to Die,” everyone’s favorite song by the classic bands. “A Song of Death on Winds of Dawn” is another outstanding, epic track.

Most impressive of all, in a world where even underground music is governed by allegiances and record deals, the album is completely independent. Don’t think for a minute that this compromises the quality of the music or the recording. For anyone remotely interested in black metal, this is a must-hear. []

  • 6-panel digisleeve, fully printed with custom artwork by Adrian Baxter.

Wolf Mountain 2023

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