Today’s black metal exploration takes us to the United Kingdom. Since its early days in the 1990s, the genre’s seen plenty of quality and diversity arise out of this scene. And even today, bands like Winterfylleth, Saor and—as we touched on yesterday—Crom Dubh, have done their part to ensure the isles remain a vibrant, consistent source of black metal that is consistently on notice. Terra, however, is a recently developed project out of Cambridge that has only just emerged onto the scene with their impressive debut EP, Untitled. I’ve gotta say, calling an album “Untitled” is awesome; after all, what’s the most brutally dark gift ever? NOTHING. Plus, my curiosity’s automatically piqued at anything that remains nameless, as the potential contents that lie within are infinite…
Anyway, normally, this would be the time for me to give a little background on a band for the sake of context. The reality is, though, that I can’t do that for Terra, who are as close to brand new to the scene as a band can get. Only formed within the past year or so, they turned this EP around rather efficiently. But calling it an EP isn’t fair. Sure, there are only three tracks—titled quite simply “I”, “II”, and “III”—but with each one 11 minutes or longer, the album ends up covering more than 40 minutes of total listening time. But once you get into the actual music, Untitled calls for more of a commitment than that.
I’ve already mentioned the UK’s historical relevance to black metal, and really, it’s the diversity in the scene that’s most impressive. You’ve got the symphonic style of Cradle of Filth and the modern insanity of Anaal Nathrakh, sure, but this area also generated two of last year’s best releases—Fen’s Carrion Skies and Winterfylleth’s The Divination of Antiquity—both of which take a more progressive, atmospheric approach with an occasional touch of doom. This is the realm in which Terra’s chosen to reside, but with far more emotional aggression—almost as if paying homage to the black metal sounds emerging from the Northwestern United States. (I’m looking at you, Wolves in the Throne Room) Their union of sounds is simply mesmerizing through its complexity.
Each track here is a journey, as you’re quickly surrounded by an organic earthen feel. Through its wide range of musical influences, Terra manages to develop a melodic feel layered behind its damning grandiosity, all at a relatively high tempo. The percussion is exceptionally dynamic, offering differing cadences and the occasional blast beats, while the guitars cleverly interpolate a number of styles: blistering tremolo picking, aggressive riffage, and some technically sound leads. The rhythm and bass hold equally as much prominence, giving Untitled a deep, full sound.
Yet despite the diversity of the musicianship, it’s the vocals that have arguably the most notable impact on the raw personality of this record. The howling, despair-ridden shrieks are more emotionally charged than anything you may hear for some time. The vocal content may be minimal, but the added presence is undeniably significant when utilized. Not to mention the lyrics are virtually incomprehensible, leaving it up to the listener to interpret them as they see fit, making this a very personal listen start to finish. It’s a combination of sounds that’ll heighten listeners’ senses, and transport them to a far more natural environment.
Put simply, Untitled is impressive—even more so as a debut release. Effectively reaching the intersection of melodic and organic, Terra have created a sound that is worthy of listening in isolation. The production on each track feels natural and never over-developed, which translates into quite a thought-provoking album. Terra combines their many sonic influences tastefully, giving us a very listenable album while leaving room for them to develop in the future. I’m not going to say this debut is perfect, but the sound and atmosphere that Terra create is undeniably authentic, which is an imperative quality to maintain in this brand of black metal. It’s a hell of a start, so we’ll see what the future brings.
“Ein Bier… bitte.”