Tour De Garde : Fall 2016 Batch (10 out of 12 ain’t bad)

Listen, I’ll be the first to admit my fanboy bordering on obsession love for this label. Founded in 2001 by Akitsa frontman Pierre-Marc Tremblay, this Québécois label has been releasing some of the most intense underground Black Metal there is. However, my complete adoration comes not only for Tremblay’s impeccable taste in metal, but for having the bravoure to not letting himself get pigeonholed into a single genre. TDG has issued releases from Folk, Dark Ambient, Dungeon Synth and just about every shade of Metal imaginable, including the downright bizarre. So when I saw TDG were dropping a whopping twelve new releases, I promptly snatched up the ten below.

Yes, I missed two. Counting to 12 is hard.

Démonos : From Sacred to Profane
Format : CD

The lone compact disc in the bunch, “From Sacred To Profane” is released in conjunction with Iron Bonehead.  This is actually a reissue of a long gone cassette issued earlier this year on Germany’s Dunkelheit Produktionen. Hailing from India and led by Démonos Obscurís, this 23 minute EP waltzes the listener through the halls of the avant-garde. Peppered with samples from Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece “The Seventh Seal” and abrupt twists, the four tracks take everything great about “extreme” metal and filters it through a kaleidoscope of Eastern mysticism. Early Black Metal, hints of NWOBHM, Prog and hell, even gritty old Danzig-esque Hard Rock grooves ebb and flow throughout. And like one from column A and two from column B Chinese takeout, it works beautifully beyond any natural explanation. As far as I know, this is the only release, but I sincerely hope it’s only a taste of things to come. Highly recommended.


Coffinshade : Demo I
Format : Cassette

Coffinshade is a Polish/American collaboration with just two members creating depressive Black Metal of the highest order. Seriously, it’s tapes like this that brought me into the fold to begin with. think early Burzum, Shining, Forgotten Woods or contemporaries like Bekëth Nexëhmü.

Just three tracks, beginning with the sparse and haunting “Intro”. Reverb-heavy dual guitars, stunningly beautiful, giving way to mid-paced drums, subtle keyboards and the tortured vocals one comes to expect from the genre. Slipping seamlessly into “March to the Cliffs” and the nearly twelve minute closer “What Have We Become”, it’s nearly impossible to tell where one song ends and the other begins. It’s a 20 minute journey to turning the bathwater red. Mandatory.


Lunar Womb : The Sleeping Green
Format : Cassette

Originally recorded between 1998-99 for a cassette demo intended for release at that time, Lunar Womb is an Ambient/Neoclassical project of Moonsorrow/Finntroll multi-instrumentalist Henri Sorvali. Now you would think something nearly 20 years old would sound heavily dated, but like all well constructed music, it transcends the passage of time.

There has been a huge resurgence in this type of folkish, atmospheric releases as of late. The popularity of the Dungeon Synth genre has given rise to tons of new labels and projects, and with these cyclical waves of what’s fashionable, it becomes more of a task to separate the wheat from the chaff. While I’m loathe to label this project as something as limiting as “Dungeon Synth”, it’s current prevalence has no doubt seen the releasing of a lot of these long forgotten, or in this case “never were” classics such as this. And just so no one is mislead, Lunar Womb owes more to the Berlin School of early electronic music pioneers such as Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Manuel Göttsching of Ash Ra Tempel than anything produced by Burzum.

I can’t recommend this tape enough.


Morbid Lament : Rise Again… Till Dawn
Format : Cassette

Ok, this is some weird as fuck archaic and cryptic Black Metal from Quebec. Reminiscent of the First Wave Black Metal of demo era Celtic Frost and the like. Uber raw with that “who the hell are these guys?” mystic. I mean, when’s the last time you couldn’t find a band on Metal Archives?

This sounds like it was recorded with a mic propped up against a basement door while the little brother your family tries to hide from the world screams below. Filthy guitars and blown out drums round out the cacophony for sound like the beauty of a lone burned tree on a bomb-ridden hillside. They also really like obscure vampire movie samples. I mean really like them. Like I felt like I listened to half the film like them.

lethal-siegeLethal Siege : Demo I
Format : Cassette

Look at this WWI motherfucker on the cover and you can pretty much guess what you’re in for. Punked out, thrashy Black Metal from Dallas, TX. That’s right, the same state as yours truly. Or in the bands own description, “HARSH BLACK METAL WAR PUNK”. This one is noisy and fun. A little bit Crusty, but without the vegan politics. Hopefully no one in the band has one of those weird dread-mullet things.

Over-the-top guitar and drums that sound like they were recorded in Fort Worth, this is the audio equivalent of shoving a buzzsaw into your ear. I mean that as a compliment. If you’re not already sold, they also do a cover of Bathory’s “Armageddon”.


gwyllgi-2Gwyllgi : Demo I: Fields of Sorrow
Demo II: Skies of Ruin

Format : Cassette

In Welsh mythology, the gwyllgi is a hellhound, or an incarnation of the Black Dog or ghost wolf legend that can be found throughout the folklore of the British Isles. This mysterious US horde plays that mesmerizing, viciously raw, old school Black Metal meant to alienate rather than attract. Hypnotic guitars, drums that sound more like gently throbbing static than percussion, the occasional completely off-kilter keyboards and malicious vocals akin to early Xasthur or the legendary Les Légions Noires. There are also some nice acoustic interludes reminiscent of middle era Vrolok (US).

I’ll be completely honest, these kind of deliberately coarse recordings that try to emulate an era that has long since passed usually don’t appeal to me at all, but something about these two tapes smacked as genuine and immediately sucked me in. Both are reissues of tapes self-released by the band earlier this year and almost identical in length at just over 18 minutes. Get them both.


Order of Darkness : Untitled
Format : Cassette

Order of Darkness are another arcane US Black Metal entity playing bizarre as fuck Black Metal. The heavily reverbed guitar sound is featured prominently in the mix paired with muffled programmed drums and voice-as-instrument-of-torture unintelligible vocals.

Completely chthonic and brimming with malevolence, it’s like the whole thing was recorded at the mouth of an abandoned coal mine while the artists writhes deep within. This is another reissue of a tape released earlier this year by the Dutch label The Throat.

No samples for this one. You’ll just have to act on instinct.

Fause Knicht : Demo I
Format : Cassette

Fause Knicht (Portuguese for False Knight) is the Dungeon Synth incarnation of Michigan Noise/Ambient/Industrial artist Miles Haney. He’s been in several projects, but is probably most well known for his long-running endeavor Evenings. For this release, he adorns the cloak of early 90s pioneers of the genre (back when we just called it Dark Ambient).

Uber minimal and sparse, the demo uses the synth tones traditional of the early years of the genre. Don’t ask me buttons are pushed, but you probably smell what I’m stepping in. At times it’s vaguely organ-ish, others more woodwind, but keeping that “this is definitely electronic” timbre throughout. However Haney breaks up what can occasionally become monotonous and boring with plenty of curveballs: near martial militaristic drum machine beats and Tangerine Dream inspired showers of shimmering synth. If you’re into the this whole Dungeon Synth resurgence, and I unashamedly admit I’m a sucker for it, you can do none better than this.


nocturnalchaliceNocturnal Chalice : The Hidden Order
Format : Cassette

Hailing from Scotland, Nocturnal Chalice play Black Metal in the classic, second wave Nordic style. Bringing to mind “Funeral Moon” era Darkthrone, Satyricon, early Immortal…you get the picture. These guys aren’t bringing anything earth shattering to the table, just paying homage to their forefathers without sounding cheesy or cliched, solid riffs, pounding drums and nefarious vocals.

Fuck off with your “Post Shoegaze” what the fuck ever. That has no place here. Leave the Hall. Seriously, this was the kind of stuff that attracted me to Black Metal to begin with. Plus the cover features one of my favorite lithographs of all time, Werewolves, illustration for Legendes Rustiques by George Sand by Maurice Sand. Useless trivia: “George” was the pseudonym of his wife, Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin. My only complaint with this tape, with just two songs it’s far too short. Hopefully there will be more on the way soon.

 No worldwide web presence for this obscure act either.

All of the tapes come in the black & white DIY Xerox style we’ve come to expect from TDG, with the exception of Lunar Womb, which is a nice Lunesta butterfly green for extra dreaminess. This keeps the cost low for you, the connoisseur of fine music. Not that it needs to be lower, since according to the latest currency conversion the Canadian dollar equals a petrified moose turd. I’d suggest you order them all, even the ARTIFACT OF SKULLS and MOONKNIGHT/RHUITH split, which I stupidly missed. 

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