Will Skarstad, the solo musician behind Ustalost, looking into the distance in a black leather jacket against a wall of bushes
Credit: Simon Keough

New York City black-metal band Yellow Eyes stand out from the pack with the opulence and indulgence in their brutality. Their topsy-turvy song structures, sweeping melodies, and epic structures bring a sense of grandeur to their take on what’s often a stark genre. Somehow the solo project of Yellow Eyes singer Will Skarstad, which he calls Ustalost, is even more indulgent. Ustalost’s new Before the Glinting Spell Unvests (Gilead) is fuzzy, mysterious, and mystical, like a long-lost anonymous tape of raw black metal from the early 90s, but it also embraces the genre’s tradition of lush, over-the-top excess. Through the bleak, blackened haze, an array of dark delights emerges around every corner: layers of gothic synths, knotty guitar interplay, jam-packed arrangements, dramatic orchestral vocals. Before the Glinting Spell Unvests is dense and intense, and gives you the sense that Skarstad is completely off his leash, flexing all his musical muscles and having the time of his life doing it—at any rate, that’s the impression I get from the bouncy, rubber-band bass melodies of “Stinging Stone” and the whimsical “Spider Tongue, Memory Ester,” which tips its hat to Genesis. Because black metal is typically austere, it’s a complete blast to get sucked into Skarstad’s perfectly executed maximalism. Given how excellent Yellow Eyes are, you’d figure their front man’s solo project would also be great, but Before the Glinting Spell Unvests exceeds even those expectations—it’s one of the best solo black-metal releases in a very long time.

Ustalost’s Before the Glinting Spell Unvests is available on Bandcamp.