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10 Blackgaze albums released before Sunbather

The word blackgaze is used to describe one of the most improbable genre fusion we could ever imagine to happen; Anticipated by Alcest’s 2005 EP Le Secret and officially explosed in 2010, the genre is a mixture between black metal and shoegaze.


For all those who are not very familiar with such styles, black metal is the most extreme form of heavy metal named after a Venom album from 1982, transposed into a genre by a few very extreme thrash metal bands such as Bathory, Celtic Frost and Sodom, and then exploided with its second wave consisting in a scene composed by norwegian bands active during early 90’s (Mayhem, Immortal and Emperor are a few examples). The genre is frequently associated to a very stereotyped (often reaching ridicolousness) imaginery of musicians with black and white facepaint and long hair with conceptual themes about darkness, occultism and northern european landscapes.

On the other side we have shoegaze, a mostly UK phenomenon of mid 80’s and early 90’s, which is a very dreamy and fuzzy type of alternative rock born as a lighter counterpart of 80’s darkwave and post-punk (Some essential bands are Slowdive, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Cocteau Twins).

It’s important to say that while shoegaze has been a thing for a short time with most of its leading bands breaking up, black metal has always been very prolific and since the beginning several bands experimented with weird fusions of the genre (Ulver, Fleuerty, Ved Buens Ende, Enslaved) and completely ignored its estetical and conceptual stereotypes.

But how it’s possible that such opposite worlds would collapse together into this new odd marriage? The non so obvious answer is “completely accidentally”.

In 2005 a very underground french act named Alcest, solo project of Stephan Paut (more known as Neige), a black metal musician with no idea of what shoegaze was, released an EP with both ethereal/dreamy atmospheres and harsh vocals/metal fast drumming called Les Secret. While this EP remained not much more than an innovative underground gem, it is with Neige’s other project Amesouers (same formula, but more post-punk oriented) and the following Alcest full-length Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde (2007, basically Le Secret with zero metal elements) that he gained a strong popularity and got its formula transoformed into the blackgaze genre with the following Alcest album Écailles de Lune (2010);  a record that influenced tons of bands all around the world.

As said some rows up, Neige had no idea of what shoegaze was at the time and that result came up simply following his artistic creativity. Later after reading reviews mentioning the shoegaze genre he would eventually fall in love with it and becomes a very good connoisseur of that style of music and its main and less known bands.

Like him almost every band that approached to this genre at the time came from a metal background, with a small knowledge and interest in shoegaze, even perceptible in the way of playing clean and dreamy guitar parts, sometimes way too dry and rough .

From 2010 to 2014 a lot of blackgaze bands have been formed, mostly Écailles de Lune influenced and coming from a black metal background, than San Francisco based band Deafheaven released their iconic album Sunbather and things completely changed.

This list is intended to gather some essential records from the early blackgaze period before the release of Sunbather, of course i can already confirm that there will be a second part entitled 10 Blackgaze records released after Sunbather.

Last but not least, blackgaze is just a term invented by music journalists, it is never been a real genre, but mostly a way of making music.

Alcest - Écailles de Lune Lyrics and Tracklist | Genius

Alcest “Écailles de Lune” (2010)

Released in spring 2010 with a strong hype behind, this should be considered the real blackgaze manifesto and the album that gave Alcest the boost to arrive where they are now.

Everyone who was into atmospheric black metal at the time has been captured by the mellow tunes of this records and its unique mood made of melancholy and nostalgia.

Contrary to its predecessor Souvenir D’un Autre Monde, that had a very fuzzy sound, this album shows a very massive and modern production, with chrystalline sounds, explosive metal guitars and liquid/dreamy clean arpeggio driven sections. Also the vocals shows both harsh black metal screams and ethereal Cocteau Twins-ish singing, which is a unique trademark of the project.

The first three songs Écailles de Lune parts 1 and 2 and Percées de Lumière are already longtime classics and their emotional impact is really powerful and irresistible.

Écailles is elegant, sad and incredibly beautiful: An ocean of dreams that completely absorbs the listener into a magic and comfortable world, and this is not a random example. Indeed Alcest’s music and lyrics on the first three albums are completely based on some visions that Neige had when he was a child that seemed to be sparks of memories from an early life in another world; and this spiritual component of the music in particular makes this album a really unique and mysterious journey. Essential.

Amesoeurs - Amesoeurs - Amazon.com Music

Amesoeurs “Amesoeurs” (2009)

As mentioned on the introduction, this is another project formed by Neige.

This time it is a sort of more collaborative project, initially only with singer Audrey Sylvaine and later with Fursy Teyssier (mastermind of Les Discrets) and Jean Deflandre (Alcest drummer, also playing with Les Discrets at the time): This self titled album is their only full-length released and the last work before splitting up because of internal disagreements and according to rumors also because of Audrey’s open affiliation with neo-fascism and embarassing nationalist right wing ideas.

But even if their carreer was short lived, this album is already an iconic and really wonderful release, with uniqe way of portraying grey urban landscapes through the melancholy of post-punk with some black metal influences.

A strong tribute to Joy Division is certainly not hided here, clearly perceptible across the enthralling bass driven sections of songs like Gas in Veins and Les Ruches Malades, but there are also strong tributes here and there to bands like Asylum Party (Amesoeurs), The Cure (Video Girl), and even some very dark massive metal moments (I XIII V XIX XV V XXI XVIII XIX – IX XIX – IV V I IV and Au Crépuscole de Nos Rêves). Guitar work and songwriting here are incredible, showing very simple, but yet absolutely emotional moments, expressed with sad arpeggios and touching melodies. Also Audrey’s vocals are very well crafted and seems absolutely perfectly mixed with the music offering a unique and magic performance.

Amesoeurs is another worth to listen album you absolutely need to know, it is a fantastic journey across abandonment and sad human feelings, screamed at loud in a city where no one is paying attention to the others, and where the skyscrapers’ shadows are devouring you.

Une Matinée D'hiver | Les Discrets

Les Discrets “Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensées” (2010) 

Fursy Teyssier is a very talented video maker, designer and painter, known for its unique style and creativity; the project Les Discrets is the demonstration that he is also an amazng songwriter and musician.

This is the first album of his solo project, released after Amesoeur’s split up, and with the help of Jean Deflandre on drums who is already behind the rhytmic sections of Neige’s main project Alcest; it is also interesting to mention that at the time both Neige and Fursy were playing live bass on the other’s respective project.

Needless to say that this is another fantastic jewel emerging from France 11 years ago, merging dark post-rock (L’échappée, Songs for Mountains) with french chanson (Une Matinée d’Hiver), acoustic guitar driven folk and even some Ulver’s Bergtatt recalls (Les Feuilles de L’Oliver). Frusy’s approach to music is very original and shows a strong personality emerging from his beautiful voice and his evocative lyrics.

This album contains one of the most impressive atmospheres that melancholic music has created during the last decade. Absolutely recommended.

Lantlôs – .Neon Review – Last Rites

Lantlôs “.Neon” (2010)

One of the most suggestive and beautiful metal albums released in the last years, .Neon is one of the most interesting and well realised things of the whole post-black metal/post-rock hybridation.

Dark jazz vibes, urban desolation, nocturnal music, Deftones inspired parts and black metal blast beat driven section are just only a few of the things you’ll find in this masterpiece, which is the perfect soundtrack for a lone walk at night through the urban lights, able to let you drown into the beautiful calm of dreams. Lantlôs is the solo project of Markus Siegenhort from Rheda, Germany, an artist and music producer that made some of the best music of the period and never disappointed an album with this project.

The very original vibes present here on .Neon make this album absolutely unique and beside the almost perfect songwriting and execution (Markus plays all instruments) should be mentioned the good suffering vocal work recorded by Neige (who also provides some french singing on Neige de Mars) and the beautiful cover art designed by Fursy Teyssier (who also made the artwork of all the records i have mentioned till now).

The way post-rock and black metal are balanced here is fantastic, Markus has actually a really good music knowledge and he’s not only a metal musician, but is really aware of what post-rock, shoegaze and noise rock are, and that is perfectly perceptible basing on the way this album sounds like; perfectly riverbered clean tremolos and amazing guitars with a distortion tone halfway between icy sound and modern production that makes every part to sound like something coming from a nocturnal dream. If you are familiar with insomniac nights, this is the perfect album to hear during them. Definitely one of the records of the decade.

mortuusinsomnis777: Cold Body Radiation - The Great White Emptiness

Cold Body Radiation “The Great White Emptiness” (2010)

Ok, seems like the bands from the scene around Neige are finished on this list.

Cold Body Radiation is one of the bands that circulated a lot when the first flowers from the blackgaze seeds where flourishing, alongside projects such as Sleeping Peonies, Dernier Martyr and Sun Devoured Earth. The things that associates this band and all these ones i mentioned is a very fuzzy and raw use of guitars, which is in a certain way typical of some not so famous space shoegaze bands such as Flying Saucer Attack and Alcian Blue.

This album has in fact a lot in common with the most noisey form of shoegaze, but it’s still very melancholic, melodic and black metal influenced with its icy screams and blast beats.

Despite its raw nature, this album is incredibly organic, and the wall of sound on the most melodic parts totally hits you with an immense power (Close your eyes and listen to White Light for a demonstration), also the use of dirty distortions makes the bass even more audible with its proggy verses (Loss, Radiance).

Dark, suggestive fascinating and mysterious.

Deafheaven "Roads to Judah" - Deathwish Inc

Deafheaven “Roads to Judah” (2011)

Alongside Bosse-de-Nage, Deafheaven is America’s first answer to the blackgaze euophoria, and before creating their own way  of approaching the genre with the following Sunbather, they were already answering in a less original, but absolutely impressive way to the genre.

After the release of a very good demo in 2010 that gave them the inclusion in Deathwish Inc.’s roster, they put out one of the most intense and interesting american black metal albums of the last decade.

Even if a strong Lantlôs influence is present here, Defheaven also shows strong roots on the US atmospheric black metal way of sound providing influences from bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Weakling and even Liturgy.

The album is divided in 4 very long movements, marked out by dark and desperate blast beat explosions, very melancholic atmospheres and some very convincing post-rock interludes, that shows how the band really knows how apporach to such style (at the time their line-up included members of shoegaze bands Whirr and Nothing). Deafheaven is indeed one of the first bands showing real post-rock and shoegaze roots compared to the other european colleagues who were mostly people coming from black metal who discovered post-rock and shoegaze very lately and only beacuse of this new trend.

As i already mentioned on the intro, Deafheaven will later become the most distinctive blackgaze band around with the release of their masterpiece Sunbather and completely changed the approach to the genre, influencing mostly musicians outside metal to embrace such vibes, while in the early it was the opposite.

Also the lyrics here should be mentioned, showing a completely original take, different than any other similiar band who have approached this music; narrating stories and reflections on everyday life with a very impressive poetical work and lexicon.

In conclusion Roads to Judah is another foundamental piece of this puzzle, providing some of the most beautiful melancholic tunes created at the time.

Heretoir | Heretoir

Heretoir “Heretoir” (2011)

When blackgaze started to become a thing, a label in particular answered immediately to this new trend; this label is Pest Productions from China and a foundamental blackgaze release from them is a compilation entitled The World Comes to an End in the End of a Journey, that immediately became a cult release for people interested in such atmospheres.

Heretoir was one of the almost unknown demo projects present there and it is the one that got the bigger recognition not much years later.

This is the debut album by the german one man band leaded by musician David Conrad, who answered with strong Lantlôs and melancholic black metal influences to the blackgaze genre. This album is very good, even if it shows some imperfections on the production, which is way too raw and dry on a post-rock perspective, and on a sometimes too repetitive songwriting; but beside these two things this is undoubtely beautiful and worth to listen.

The song Fatigue is still one of the stronger Heretoir tracks, with its decadent depressive vibe able to let you drown into wonderful sad melodies; this journey into pure sadness than continues through a few instrumental interludes and reaching other high points on the songs Graue Bauten and the conclusive long Heretoir. Also the vocals shows a very good clean singing, often enriched by beautiful harmonisations, accompanied on the other side by black metal screams that are not too impressive, but that certainly do their work.

With the following album The Circle (2017) the band will release a more mature album that also sees the addition of Thärnenkind/King Apathy members, showing a more various and complete repertory of influences and embracing anti-fascist sensitivity, which is always a good thing.

From The Swamps

Dopamine “Dying Away in the Deep Fall” (2010)

Technically this is an unofficial release that started to circulate in 2010 as a digital/streaming fan made album, based on unreleased material of a project recently disbanded; it will be officially released by the band with a different cover only in 2019.

Dopamine is another band part of the split The World Comes to an End in the End of a Journey released by Pest Productions: formed in China under the influence of Alcest, on this album they show a very strong influence from the french band providing sad melodies (Melting, Dying Away in the Deep Fall), but also more post-rock oriented vibes (Incised by Water). Production is generally fine, but sometimes too dry,  which is a common problem of albums released at the time.

However the overall feeling related to this album is definitely good, Dopamine certainly knows how to craft emotional music and even on the more depressive black metal influenced parts (i can hear also a strong Austere, Woods of Desolation tribute) they remain sticked to an original formula. At the time this record had already become a sort of cult album among blackgaze listeners, which is pretty much atypical for an unofficial release.

Harakiri for the Sky | Harakiri for the Sky | AOP Records

Harakiri for the Sky “Harakiri for the Sky” (2012)

Nowadays Harakiri for the Sky is one of the bigger names of the genre, even after the Sunbather revolution that dosen’t influenced much their formula.

This duo was formed in Austria in 2012 between Vienna and Salzburg, and it is composed by Michael Jimbo Jones (Vocals, lyrics) that provides the hardcore influences (a good trademark for the band in my opinion) and Mathias Sollak (all instruments and songwriting), which comes from a more black metal background.

When this self titled album came out the band was pretty unknown and their music has been received as a sort of mix between the newborn post-black metal/blackgaze (Lantlôs, Alcest), modern german post-black metal in the vein of Agrypnie and atmospheric black metal inspired by Austere and Woods of Desolation.

Harakiri’s musical approach is pretty distincitive and differently than very similiar bands like Heretoir and King Apathy they haven’t changed much their style through the years on their five albums, the production has always been very modern, a bit too digital sounding for my taste, but certainly coherent.

This is with the following Aokighara (2014) their best effort in my opinion, showing proudly their enthralling drums driven sections accompanied by melancholic metal guitar melodies and hardcore-ish vocals.

Il debutto Dreariness, tra depressive black e shoegaze

Dreariness “My Mind is too Weak to Forget” (2013)

Even if it is not the best by this band, this albums is important to be included since it chronologically closes the cycle of very well received albums before the release of Sunbather, and it is obviously more associable to the Écailles de Lune influenced formula.

Formed in Rome, Italy back in 2012 this band revolves around three members with some constant collaborators. After an unpleasant experience with an old vocalist that continued to use the band’s name and instrumental arrangements, the remaining members answered to this event by forming their own version of the band with a more convincing and solid imaginery and sound (the other band have released nothing more than demos) expressed thorugh this album.

Distincited by some very extreme vocals (which is probably the only metal thing alongside some double kick patterns), and long minimal songs with very catchy melodies, Dreariness’ formula have been very well received. Some moments here are very good like the incredibly melancholic chorus arpeggio of My Mind is too Weak to Forget, or the one from Lost, both beautiful and intense. Also the very addictives melodies of One Last Wish (which is one of the best songs on the album) are definitely impressive.

Beside that some other moments (Coming Home, Dysmorphophobia) are not convincing in the same way, and the very digital and compressed production haven’t aged really well, especially guitar distortions  that are probably the most penalised element.

In 2016 Dreariness released Fragments, a more mature album that shows more post-rock direction and some very good songwriting moments.

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10 Recommended Covers Songs

Tributing other bands through covers has been always a tradition in rock and pop music since the early years, and there have always been basically two ways to approach to it:

There are copy-cut bands who cover their favourite artist’s track making it sound exactly as it was and there are others who completely changes the song’s formula and make their own one. Personally i usually prefer the second category, which is sometimes also the same case of a band that covers an unexpected song from an artist we didn’t even image they could like.

In this list there are some of my absolute favourite covers ever, usually different versions of songs i already use to enjoy very much.

Chris Brokaw – Canaris (2008, CD) - Discogs

Chris Brokaw “Drink the Poetry of the Celtic Disciple (Vlad Tepes cover)” (2008 – original 1994)

Deconstucting and tributing an already existing musical piece may be a hard challenge sometimes and, above all, a non certain success, but this is for sure an impressive case.

Chris Brokaw is well known as the founder of cult band Codeine, a band that during 90’s contributed to create the foundamental elements that compose slowcore and early post-rock; as a solo artist he released different types of music from slowcore/indie rock to acoustic and experimental music. This cover is taken from his album Canaris and it is an acoustic guitar instrumental version of a long epic song by raw black metal band Vlad Tepes, an act part of Les Legiones Noires collective, which was a cricle of very underground  french dark ambient and raw black metal projects that released only limited demo tapes.

The original version is of course one of the most lo-fi things you could ever hear (and it’s the same for the rest of the demo where it comes from), but in the same time it shows a very impressive songwriting and use of melody taking inspiration from classic heavy metal and the most interesting black metal around at the time. The demo is also a very rare cult release for people into underground black metal, and it is a very good surprise to see someone apparently with a completely different musical background making a such interesting version.

The cover is basically the opposite of the original: minimal, soft, elegant, but even if it’s totally revolutioned, it preserve its mysterious and magic vibes showing a very impressive and beautiful take on a track that was already inspiring.

Green Day “Working Class Hero (John Lennon cover)” (2007 – original 1970)

Back in 2007 a John Lennon tribute album entitled Instant Karma: The Amnesty Internation Campaign to Save Darfur was released, with the goal of supporting the cause of the aforementioned Sudan’s region devasted by conflicts, poverty and lack of resources. A lot of very famous acts partecipated (U2, R.E.M., Christing Aguilera and Duran Duran are just a few names), providing several good tributes to Lennon; this version of Working Class Hero in particular has been considerably boosted by the band showing a very strong interest for the cause.

Beside their punk roots Green Day have never hided their passion for classic rock, by showing some strong influences in some albums such as American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown and by playing various covers during their shows.

Working Class Hero is a difficult song to cover in a memorable way, on first because the original is played with just vocals and guitar and moreover because tons of famous artists have already covered it (Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson are just a few example), but beside that Green Day provided a massive and well crafted full band version of this classic, giving it even more passion and anger while showing also a strong respect and inspiration for the original version. There are some evident american folk vibes that are absolutely lovely and also the addition of some stunning lead guitar parts and solos that fits perfectly with the song. An excellent take on a classic.

√ Marc Ribot - SONGS OF RESISTANCE 1942-2018 - la recensione di Rockol.it

Marc Ribot & Tom Waits “Bella Ciao (Italian folk song cover)” (2018)

As an italian i can’t be more happy to listen to this cover of a folk song from my country played by two magnificent artists like Marc Ribot and Tom Waits together.

This is also a very particular and delicate chant since it has been created during the struggle between partisans and nazi-fascist oppressors in Italy; it is a song about freedom, love and it stands against the brutality and tyranny of fascism.

This fantastic duo re-interpreted this song adding some english verses and making a beautiful music video that shows images from american manifestations against Donald Trump’s recently ended government and his nationalist propaganda.

This version of the song is absolutely fantastic, with a strong emotional component and a very intimate vibe; the perfect soundtrack for a personal reflection about a certain type of modern politics, that even if have certainly left behind the atrocities of the past, sometimes still endangers the personal freedom of several communities through the weapon of ignorance.

This track is part of Marc Ribot’s album Songs of Resistance 1942-2018, which as the titles says, is a record composed by covers of protest songs.

The White Stripes - Hello Operator b/w Jolene (7")

The White Stripes “Jolene (Dolly Parton cover)” (2000 – original 1974)

Guitar player, singer and multi instrumentalist Jack White is certainly one of the greatest musicians active nowadays with its unique blend of blues rock inspirations and psychedelic explosions perfectly transposed in a modern rock context.

The White Stripes is probably the most famous of his bands and this cover, released by now more than 20 years ago, is still remembered as one of the highest live moments of the band’s shows.

This cover is actually pretty different from the original, especially beacue of a few choices that makes this version incredibly good, like the slower tempo change and the more melancholic and intimate mood that can be felt here. it’s also alwyas nice to see how Jack White’s style is influenced by american country (and of course the original version of the song was as well), without losing the ability of tranforming a very beautiful folk song into a rock ballad with a Led Zeppelin flavour. So, Mr White never disappoints, also his voice seems to be made for singing this song. Even if this cover has been originally released in 2000 as a b-side of the single Hello Operator, the live version released as a single in 2004 is probably more famous.

A Perfect Circle “Imagine (John Lennon cover)” (2004 – original 1971)

Yes, John Lennon again, and, spoiler, this is not even his last apparition on this list.

Well, i suppose we all know Imagine and it dosen’t need a particular introduction, i mean, maybe there are people living on this world that dosen’t, but it’s almost impossible to find them on a blog like this.

The main point that makes this cover so interesting is the overall atmosphere, which is completely opposite than the original version. I’m not only refering to the major chords transposed into minor chords, but to the fact that this is the perfect 30 years later counterpart of a song released in 1970 with a strong message of hope for humanity’s awareness on the evil made by war, diversity acceptance and the danger of the exploitation of our world. This version’s shows no hope, 30 years have passed and humanity is even worse compared to then, people are still doing the same brutal things and showing no respect for the others and for the world they live in. There’s also a very suggestive music video that shows all human’s cruelty and frivolity with many reflective and shocking images, most of them taken from real reportages.

Agape - Lantlôs - recensione

Lantlôs/Lìam “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Ryuchi Sakamoto cover)” (2012 – original 1983)

Like the Chris Brokaw case this is another cover that completely revolutioned the sound of the original, but since the Brokaw one was a guitar only version of a full band track, this is the opposite case (with piano instead of guitar).

From the homonime Nagisa Oshima movie (also known as Furyo), the original piece by Ryuchi Sakamoto is an incredibly beautiful and famous piano only track, written with the unique style of the multi awarded japanese composer, made of classical music references, japanese traditional music and contemporary composition. This cover have never been officially released, but only posted on Soundcloud back in 2012 (now it is available on YouTube only) and it is performed by members of both Lantlôs and Lìam. It’s incredible to see how certain beautiful melodies can perfectly arrive to the heart in the same emotional way, even if they are playd with a completely different style. Of course Markus Siegenhort and the others have an incredible taste in writing music and the heavy and slow post-rock of this musical piece has for sure an incredibly brethtaking impact. If you guys may ever read this article, please, consider to release this as an official single, it’s something the world definitely needs. Fantastic.

MEEKS - Beatless -Shoegazer Covers Of The Beatles- - Amazon.com Music

Meeks “Norwegian Wood (The Beatles cover)” (2013 – original 1965)

The Beatles’ music and shoegaze are not apparently two very distant universes, of course they are part of different periods, but they both have a certain songwriting sensitivity and come from the UK; even if this band, called Meeks, is actually a side project of members from Broken Little Sister from Yokohama, Japan.

Under this name, the ensemble have only released an album of The Beatles covers in shoegaze variant (entitled Beatless, as tribute to My Bloody Valentine’s Lovess already entirely covered on several compilations), which is par se a very original and interesting idea. The curiosity generated by the album’s idea is definitely worth to satisfy and all the 10 songs choosen by the band are perfectly re-arranged in a dreamy and ethereal way that fits so well to The Beatles’ classics.

Norwegian Wood is in particular one of the best episodes, preserving the psychedelic vibes of the original song, drowning the main melody in an ocean of reverbered guitars walls. It sounds like listening the actual song, but into a dream.

ULVER Childhood's End - Lost & Found From The Age Of Aquarius reviews

Ulver “Magic Hollow (The Beau Brummels cover)” (2012 – original 1967)

The norwegian experimental ensemble is certainly not new to covers; their version of Black Sabbath’s Solitude from their 2007 brillant album Shadow of the Sun is already a classic. But it’s with their 2012 album Childhood’s End entirely composed of covers that they have reached their best.

The record contains only songs from the 60’s psychedelic rock period and beside this stunning version of The Beau Brummels’ Magic Hollow, there are also other tributes of amazing bands such as 13th Floor Elevator, Electric Prunes, The Byrds and many more. Every song is played with the band’s own style and the whole album is an absolutely recommended experience.

Sticking to this cover in particular that’s incredible how the folk vibes and the intensity of such beautiful melodies are completely preserved even if reproposed in a modern context. Kristoffer Rygg’s vocals are so intense and the overall mood is absolutely magic and mysterious; after all the original version was already an incredible piece of music and Ulver is an amazing band, it seems to be the perfect formula for an excellent result.

Nadja “No Cure for the Lonely (Swans cover)” (2009 – original 1992)

Like the case of Ulver and Meeks this is another song taken from an album entirely made of covers. This time the band is Nadja, true experimental drone/fuzzy rock masters from Canada and then relocated to Germany, with an interesting album made of very bizzare choices revolutioned in their personal style; My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, Codeine Slayer and Elliot Smith are just some example of the tributes you’ll find on When i See the Sun Always Shines on TV. The Swans song i picked up is one of my favourite songs ever, so it’s been pretty natural to me to think about it when the idea of a cover list came to my mind, but i have to admit that there are several equally interesting others off this record i could pick up. Here Nadja explores their most heavy, fuzzy and sludgy side, that on this song is also fused with some very intense ethereal and dreamy vibes, creating a super massive guitar wall of sounds enriched by reverbered chants, melodic ambient loops and a slow repetitive drum machine pattern.

The original version is a brief beautiful song with just vocals and acoustic guitars, one of the highest points of Michael Gira’s poetry, and indeed i’ll never understand why it’s been used as a bonus track only present on some versions of Love of Life. This is a pretty good example of a song revolutioned with a completely different approach that mantains its emotional mood. it’s also actually surprising to see Nadja choosing this song in particular from Swans’ discography, since there’s plenty of songs that are already pretty close to their noisy style, but they probably wanted to be more creative and definitely did the right choice. There is also a live version of this cover from the previously released live album Trembled (2006), which is even more ethereal and intense.

Bosse De Nage / Deafheaven - Split - Vinyl LP - 2012 - US - Original | HHV

Deafheaven “Punk Rock/Cody (Mogwai cover)” (2012 – original 1999)

I have to admit i usually dislike a lot metal versions of non metal songs. Using abrasive distorted guitars and harsh vocals on classic or soft songs makes really no sense to me, and i’ll never understand why it is so common among metal bands, but this is one of the cases where i really enjoyed the operation.

Of course this is a sort of anomalous case, since Deafheaven is already a very borderline band with a style made of many different genres where metal is just one of them and their music is also probably closer to Mogwai than any traditional metal band around.

Indeed the use of guitars is definitely heavy but in a very shoegaze-y way, with a super intense loud tone and powerful noisy distortions, there are also piano, post-rock liquid arpeggios and effected loops, making screams the probably only metal element of the song.

This is actually a cover of two songs, respectively the intro and the first full track from Mogwai’s 1997 masterpiece Come on Die Young. On Punk Rock Deafheaven replaced the spoken word from Iggy Pop’s interview with William Faulkner’s nobel price aceptance while on Cody, that was a very calm song with tender vocals, they added distortions, powerful drumming and screams, but maintained perfecly the melancholic aura of the musical piece. After a short interlude with piano, clean guitar and shrieks in the background, the song explodes into an extremely emotional ending, with violent blast beats and post-rock tremolo euphoria. Even if covering any song from a masterpiece like Come on Die Young is a hard operation, Deafheaven definitely did it in the best way possible, creating an incredibly beautiful tribute, full of desperate sadness, deeply emotions and outstanding atmospheres. Impressive.