September 10th, 2019
REVIEW: Ved Buens Ende - Written in Waters (1995, Misanthropy) @ 02:54 pm
, posting in kultur_multur
Current Music: Arcturus - Arcturian
In the mid to late 90s there was a popular infliction in Norway of
calling anything that somehow doesn't fit in the mold of a specific
genre, an avantgarde. Such a classification has some merits, however
the Norwegians within a certain scene got to use the term avantgarde
extremely liberally. The singer cannot hit a note? That's avantgarde.
The drummer cannot keep time? That's avantgarde. The band knows nothing
about song structure and composition? That's avantgarde.
Those who followed the development of the Scandinavian black metal in
the 90s readily remembers many musical miscarriages stemming from throwing
a wrench at the known notions of music, or whatever might be construed as
such by those involved.
The album in question released in 1995 (before anything of this sad
nature in my memory) perhaps receives the credit for starting the
trend. Those versed in the black metal lore may recall that throughout
the history of the genre, a (pseudo)intellectualism was one of the key
ingredients of the ideology and pose. At some point somebody decided
to crank the knob of the latter to the far right, make a bunch of
references to the cultural legacy of grown-ups and see if the audience
swallows what comes out of it. Judging from the rating in Metal Archives,
the trick worked.
On "Written in Waters", the only full-length album of thankfully short-
lived project, members of Manes and Dodheimsgard do exactly that.
Technically speaking, this is rooted in black metal with everything
one expects to see in it by 1995. Avantgarde leanings or not, this was
a wise move as the BM scene in that year was hot. The BM base is liberally
strewn with snippets of non-black-metal music, primarily leftovers from
70s, mostly post-Crimson prog rock. Occasionally, jazz parts kick in.
And all of this lavishly sprinkled with vocal exercises courtesy
of Carl-Michael Eide, which is the worst part of the deal.
I've seen many lousy attempts at vocalization in my time, and must admit
that this is a prize-winning one. The definition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,
"is there a cat or something stuck in a chimney" describes the aural
experience pretty accurately. Let's face it: Carl-Michael plainly cannot
sing, in any possible definition of the term. Varg can, Vidar can,
Calt-Michael cannot. Based on this outing I'd place him at the second
rank of bad singers, second only to Keiji Haino, and that's a big
achievement of sorts.
While awful singing being the worst offense committed by the crew it is
certainly not the only one. The music is devoid of any dynamics or inner
logic whatsoever. Both metal and non-metal parts follow one another for
no apparent reason. Each part taken separately is executed and recorded
competently, but are mostly un-engaging and tedious on their own, and
completely lose their appeal and purpose when thrown n a seemingly random
sequence. Chaotic songwrighting can be executed tastefully and to a great
deal of dramatic effect, however this is certainly not the case. By the
time the album reaches its half it becomes damn annoying. For those who
has patience of sitting though an almost an hour long ordeal there is a
short reward of a free jazz piece towards the end of the "Remembrance of
Things Past". Apart from that none of the compositional components are
particularly worth attention as to that date there were lots of better
examples in any field touched by this record. The only question worth
pondering is how this pile of crap ended up being praised as an avantgarde
You will do yourself a favor by avoiding this album. Those brave souls
who have an hour of their life to waste can form their own opinion here.
April 24th, 2019
REVIEW: Necrom -- The Light Has Never Been Here (2019, independent) @ 09:39 pm
, posting in kultur_multur
Current Music: Necrom - The Light Has Never Been Here
I usually don't review singles and EPs because limited material
does not provide sufficient insight into composition dynamics
that can be derived from full length work, and on many occasions
such releases are offhand statements that don't necessarily represent
the band's vision.
This is a rare exception, because, as it turned out, that's what
I was waiting for for a fucking decade and a half.
Necrom is the latest project of Roman Saenko of Hate Forest, Drudkh
(and countless other projects) fame, Varggoth of Nokturnal Mortum,
Khaoth from Khors and a couple of young bloods . This year has
already seen the release of The Onlooker which nodded to the old
glory days of our beloved Hate Forest. While I liked the evolution
of the band's sound, few things were still missing.
Well, this release finally dots all the i's and crosses the tees.
This 3 song plus intro EP is by no means a next iteration of Drudkh
sound towards the vacant throne of Hate Forest; neither it is, as
the lineup might suggest, anything prog/folk/epic. This is straight-ahead
old school death metal in pre-melodic tradition, with Saenko's roar
finally back as a last piece of the puzzle that made HF so great.
Neither it is an attempt to recreate HF or pick up where the latter left
off; with so much time passed and so many things changed I don't
think it's possible, rather the band shoots to the deeper roots,
to the epoch before modern influences started piling up waves of
commercialized extreme music. This sounds as if HF were formed a
decade before they actually did. There is some Purity-style
kinetics that sets the material apart from the likes of early Dismember,
and adds atmosphere typically found in black metal albums, but
that's about it. There is a lot in the way of nuances here, but
I will hold my breath for now; as far as 3-track EP goes this
is perfect and I don't know how to deal with perfect.
I am waiting for the full-length and biting my fingers.
It is about fucking time.
You can form an independent opinion here.
March 9th, 2019
REVIEW: Earth and Pillars -- Earth I (2014, Avantgarde) @ 01:12 pm
, posting in kultur_multur
Current Music: Earth and Pillars - Earth I
One of the benefits of sticking to compact discs is similar to
that of the archaeological excavations. The liberation of music industry
in late 80s and the advent of CDs have laed to massive proliferation of
all sorts of oddities that anyone who is not a devoted fan of the
specific genre is unaware of. A decade and a half of unrestrained
publishing left a rich layer of artifacts and curiosities that soon
went forgotten, in many cases quite unjustly so. An inquisitive soul
with a few hours of spare time on one's hands and burden of nostalgia
occasionally stumbles upon pieces like this.
The case in point is the first album of the Italian project
Earth and Pillars, whose cover on the second edition on Avantgarde
music looked a lot like some EP by Agalloch who also have a song
about pillars. As it turned out, this was not merely a coincidence.
The band plays the atmospheric black metal on which West Coast sound
definitely left its imprint, specifically, the early Wolves in the
Throne Room and Velvet Cacoon come to mind. Another obvious point of
reference is the attempts of Vinterriket at playing black metal.
Christoph Ziegler is mostly an ambient (and, recently, neofolk) artist
whose takes on BM mostly reduce to ambient music played with distorted
guitars and, as result, by and large, fail miserably. In a setting with
musicians originally rooted in lack metal, however, this plays out quite well
Likewise, Earth and Pillows also mitigates abstract nature of dark ambient
with more organic textures of post-West Coast, post-post-rock sound.
Being similar to Battle Dagorath in format (the Italians stick to
long buzzing semi-hypnotic excursions) is not as harsh as the former;
perhaps, Italy is indeed warmer than Switzerland. If you like one chances
are you will like the other.
Earth and Pillars are of minority projects in the subjenre that include
more than a single player. The lineup is traditional guitar, bass, and in
this case, a drum machinist. I am very skeptical of electronic drums, but
in this case they are passable as they are buried deep enough in the mix of music
intended to be trancelike that their implementation no longer matters.
The same goes for vocals, which are decent and shifted from the canonical rasp
towards semi-growl more common currently. You see, black metal is evolving, too.
The biggest problem of this album is that, while being good and competitive
(surprisingly so) by itself, it is released about a decade and a half too late,
after a brief revival of the strain of harsh semi-abstract of black metal
at the turn of the century.
To form an independent opinion, proceed here.
March 1st, 2019
REVIEW: Changes -- Fire of Life (1996, Hau Ruk!/TESCO) @ 05:25 pm
, posting in kultur_multur
Current Music: Changes -- Fire of Life
This collection of archive recordings by an American duo
dating from period of 1969-1974 begs comparison with a
certain British band Venom. Both either predated or
accidentally created (depending on your choice of the
lore) a music genre which made the originators pale in
comparison in every aspect if their art. Reportedly,
Albin Julius of Der Blutharsch was so impressed with these
recordings that he reissued the material on his imprint
Hau Ruk! which is not typically associated with material
like this. Several other zines praised the album as
"truly deserving the name 'apocalyptic folk'".
One thing that I would admit that comparison with Venom
is perhaps, a little bit stretched and does the disservice
to Changes. Venom, at least in their earliest incarnation
(as well as the majority of the first wave black metal
acts) plainly sucked at their performing and songwrighting
abilities. Changes, however, did not suck, they were decent
and competitive enough not to be dismissed from the array
of better known psychedelic folk acts, but hardly more
than just that. Sure, the story of the duo interleaves
with certain philosophical, metaphysical an religious
movements, such as The Process, Church of the Final
Judgement, however, late 60's produced prophets, visionaries,
cults, sects and plain nutcases in quantities unseen by
any other period of time in the modern history, many of whom
explored borderline states of mind. Most, if not all
Woodstock generation did that, not to mention characters
like Charlie Manson or Jim Baker a.k.a. Father Yod.
While it is common for people to confuse "the influential"
and "the great", it is not entirely clear why these songs were
even considered influential in the first place, aside from
rather remote factors. From the commentary to the album
by authors themselves it follows that less than half of the
songs even touch upon the apocalyptic themes, and some of
those do so laterally, e.g. not by actual content
but rather by what was going behind the scenes when the
song was penned. Nobody calls Arthur Brown apocalyptic
rock despite his first record, written several years
earlier than this was more apocalyptic than anything in
"Fire of Life".
This is not to say that this record is a waste. As I mentioned
above, it is quite decent album, which mostly does sound
like Simon and Garfunkel, at times indeed getting slightly
more delicate and transcending. However, it is not difficult
to find more impressive records from music prospective
originating from that era.
To form your own opinion of this album proceed here.
February 23rd, 2019
REVIEW: Current 93 -- The Light is Leaving Us All (2018, The Spheres) @ 07:38 pm
, posting in kultur_multur
Current Music: Current 93 - The Light s Leaving Us All
As we all know, Current 93 is a cult project, meaning that if you
know what it is all about, you are probably a devout follower and
stay tuned. If you don't give a shit, you are not in the loop, not
reading this review, and, well, don't give a shit. That is, there is no
middle ground. So, there is probably not much I can tell to those
who read even this far except a little story of how little it
takes to ruin an otherwise decent album.
Current 93 started of as a some sort of experimental outfit (in 1984
"Dog Blood Rising" did sound out-there). To stay experimental for
over three decades and a half one need to be have a substantial
amount of artistic craziness, which David Tibet does not. Otherwise
the creativity of a project inevitably reduces to exploiting on of the
number of successful formulas that one develops over decades of
I haven't followed Current 93 since mid-2000s and not aware of the
developments since "Black Ships Ate the Sky". However it seems that
the year of 2018 finds the project in the trench they dug in late
90s, sometime around "Soft Black Stars", that is, melancholic crooning
to largely acoustic backdrop with occasional slide guitar and assorted
percussive tinkery. David Tibet cannot sing in the common sense of
the term and instead utilizes a chant-like style with which he delivers
what is supposed to be a loosely joined array of sort of apocalyptic
images, many of which made their way into titles of his albums and songs.
This is a very delicate method which invokes corresponding atmosphere
when it works and turns into a blatant gibberish when it does not,
especially in cases where there isn't much of the instrumental cacophony
to hind this behind.
Unfortunately, this album exemplifies the latter case. The concept of
ultimate hopelessness of being and life's decay is a good candidate for
an apocalyptic imagery. Trying to maniacally ram it down into the center
of the listener's spine is not so. The line "The light is leaving us
all" is repeated several times in every fricken song that has lyrics,
except "The Kettle's On" (which perhaps was deemed so unstable that
it was wisely decided not to overload it). By the third track I grew
suspicious of the plot and started paying attention. Yep.
By the middle of the album it became annoying to the point that red
churches and dead kings lost all their menacing aura. By the time
the album delivered awfully profound statements like "If a man breaks
a bone of another man, his bone is broken" ("Fair weather"), the whole
affair began to sound downright comical. Following that, another
"The light is leaving us all" nearly made my day. Thanks, David, we
got the idea, let's move on.
You can form your own opinion of this album by listening to it yourself.
REVIEW: Windswept - The Onlooker (2019, Season of Mist) @ 03:49 pm
, posting in kultur_multur
Current Music: Windswept - The Onlooker
Ever since Roman Saenko shifted the focus of his creativity to Drudkh
and laid Hate Forest to rest, I missed the latter a lot. In retrospect,
in mid-2000s Hate Forest managed to accomplish something I haven't seen
for almost a decade by then. That is, they managed to create compelling
and powerful material while operating within a scope of extremely limited
means. Simply put, I haven't heard music encompassing everything black
metal was about with the minimalist palette since Ildjarn. While the two
projects are not particularly similar as far as the actual music is
concerned, the purity and stark beauty of approach and execution certainly
put these two projects in the same category.
Naturally, every time I found out that another project by Saenko is
launched I took a look at it and, in most cases, walked away in
disappointment. There were occasional moments when he hit the mark
(for example, the second album of Blood of Kungu), but in most cases
some of ingredients that made Hate Forest that great was missing.
Enter Windswept, another project launched two years ago presumably
to explore the path of instant enlightenment; the first album "The Great
Cold Steppe" was reportedly recorded over the span of three days.
In the nutshell, Windswept is comprised of the same musicians as Drudkh
sans Thurious, for better or for worse. Whether or not the band meant to
move back to a harsher and more primitive sound is unclear, but the material
does indeed sound like Drudkh covering Hate Forest; the sound bears all
signatures of the former and the songwriting is essentially of the
latter. For those who followed the development of Drudkh over the last
decade that does not seem like a much of the diversification, or might
not even warrant starting a new project. Sure, Drudkh carved themselves
a niche of established sound and aesthetics, which, because of its success,
will inevitably leave an imprint on everything that comes out from the camp.
While this outlook is reasonable, one, as a BM follower, will ultimately
be more interested in nuances. There are some.
Naturally, the album picks up where the previous album left off.
I was not particularly happy with "The Great Cold Steppe" because of its
utter lack of variation almost to the point of sounding as a demo. "The
Onlooker", on the contrary is not only more varied musically but also
arranged as the concise album. The toy jukebox ties both ends nicely
and gets the album closer to telling a story. The lyrics are not provided,
however it seems that conceptually Windswept is further removed from
romantic roots of Drudkh therefore being more abstract in virtues.
Hence, the nod towards Hate Forest is a reasonable move. Some moments do
resemble parts from "Purity", refracted through melodicism of Drudkh.
There are few things that prevent me from being totally happy though.
First, the music here is a bit too melodic for my tastes; or, more
precisely, the noodling is often too much upfront. Second, I miss the
growl of Thurious which, among other things, made Hate Forest special.
As much as I appreciate Roman's canonical snarl, it is simply not powerful
enough to turn it into real killer, although essentially all other
ingredients are present.
In the nutshell, while this album does not do enough to break the mold
of Drudkh aesthetics entirely, it likely points to undercurrents in the
cam that would eventually carry the masterpiece of the old glory days.
You can always form you opinion by listening to it yourself.