Italian black metal heathens Tundra return with fire, melody on grimy ‘The Burning Fanatism’

Tundra coverHurtling through chaos, into a vortex of mystery and madness, ready at any time to take the blow that puts you out of your misery for good. That’s the way really good, infernal black metal can make you feel, and as the sub-genre has essentially exploded the past decade, getting that sensation has become a little less common.

But it’s not a deceased concept by any means. Sometimes you get a record, put it on, and it feels like you’re headed toward a pit of vipers, ready to take one for the team. I got that when tackling “The Burning Fanatism,” the latest record from long-running Italian horde Tundra. From day one with this band, it’s all been about violence and torment, and they deliver the goods wholeheartedly on this album. Yes, it’s plenty vicious, but dig a little deeper, and you’ll find cool pools of melody making things even more interesting. The band has more substance to them than just bombarding you with blasts and carnage, and the fact that there is plenty of meat to the music means you’ll return for more once the shock of their fire subsides.

Tundra have been running strong since 2002, putting out their debut full-length “Ansia” three years later in 2015. Since that time, they’ve only put out one more record, that being 2008’s “Primordial,” but they’ve offered up a slew of EPs and split efforts (with the likes of Inferno, Ruina, Operation Winter Mist, Alastor, and Korium, just to name a few) to keep their ravenous audience well fed. Another thing that’s been common for Tundra over the years is lineup turnover, of which they’ve suffered plenty. But original member Pesten remains on bass and guitar, and with him are Thorns (Fides Inversa, Deathrow, Kult, Acherontas) on vocals and drums and Shatraug (Horna, Sargeist, Behexen) handling guitars on this record that’s a really solid entry in their bustling catalog. By the way, this lineup is the one that recorded the record, and now Demogorgon (vocals) and Under (guitars, drums) have joined, replacing the latter two.

The album opens with “Disgust,” and from the start things get kind of weird. The song begins sounding more like a Neurosis piece, complete with the desperate wails, but it’s not long until the track blows up and the stampede strikes. Melody and savagery unite, while Thorns’ vocals get nasty and gurgly, growling along with intensity matched by the music. A little calm sets in, but then we’re quaking again, with howls of, “You are nothing!” sounding both anthemic and accusatory. “Oblivion” is fierce from the start, with the band hammering away and the growls sounding more talkative. The storming continues through the song’s body, only ending when the track comes to an abrupt finish. “Breakdown” simmers as it starts, with the pace whipping up a good fog, and the band working hard to disorient as they lay in the punches. “Everything around me must collapse and disappear,” Thorns howls before he’s overcome by the flood of panic. “Insanity” is another that bruises, but it also confounds. There is an unsettling element to this one, as the vocals sound tortured and detached, and the music is fast and blinding when it isn’t deliberately clubbing you. “Blurred” slips in and also changes the pace a bit, with some acoustic strains ringing out, guitars creaking, and thunderclaps and storms soaking this instrumental cut.

“Wrath” has a dissonant start, with the guitars churning in the atmosphere and preparing for landfall. Melodies fire up, and tales of humanity’s collapse are woven, with Thorns howling what we all have come to know: “Only death is real!” From there, the band stages a hellish invasion, with the growls going crazed, and total destruction unearthed. “Revenge” digs up speed again, with the riffs blaring, and the vocals almost sounding choked. “There is no god,” is a declaration made over and over again, and there’s a punk feel to some of the melodies, making this seem all the more raucous. “Fanatism” boils slowly at times, letting the intensity of the song be the focal point. “Eradicating the human virus,” Thorns calls, as the tempo simmers, hypnotic waves of melody reach out, and the final horrifying notes are allowed to just hang in the air. Closer “Empty” also delivers strangeness, with guitars sending out weird signals as the pace goes slower but remains undoubtedly heavy. There are reflective passages, scorching parts that cause you to cover your eyes, and a bottomless pit in which this song swirls and drains away forever.

Tundra may have had some faces change over the years, but their hellish mission remains true and steadfast. “The Burning Fanatism” proves Tundra’s collective teeth remain sharp, and their penchant for brutality amid melody is as strong as ever. This is just a damn good slab of traditional black metal, a refreshing collection amid a sea of albums and bands that just can’t measure up.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/tundrablackmetal/

To buy the album, go here: http://avantgardemusic.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.avantgardemusic.com/

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