When we were at Amplifest a little more than a month ago, we got to see a talk about the limits of experimentation in music with an illustrious panel comprising of Maurice De Jong from Gnaw Their Tongues, Stephen O’Malley from Sunn O))), and Kurt Ballou from Converge. One of the interesting talking points was the comparison between writing music all by yourself versus collaborative efforts. With band activities implying an inherent compromise absent from solo works, these leave the artist unchecked by anything outside of him or herself and therefore much more exposed to the world than he or she would otherwise be. It is this frightful world of single authored music that we’ll explore in these six, hopefully not that trivial, examples.
Let’s start with something completely different when it comes to this space and instead of some harsh filth (to which we’ll get soon enough), how about some neo-classical ambient? Despite its name, Bersarin Quartett is the sole work of German composer Thomas Bücker and with the project’s third record “III” soon to be released by the amazing Denovali Records, it’s perhaps a good time to look back at the masterpiece that is “II”, released by the same label back in 2012. Try to imagine the perfect example of music capable of creating a deep visual imagery on the mind of its listener and you might get close to what was achieved then. Just like Ulver‘s “Perdition City” was meant as a soundtrack for an imaginary film, so could one conceive “II”, although the latter stands as a much more beautiful, subtle and evocative work (despite loving Ulver’s electronic phase, to even place those records in the same sentence as “II” feels like a disservice to the latter, sorry about that Garm and co). Subtlety is indeed a recurring feature, as no sound seems unnecessary nor does it ever feel like there’s an insufficient amount of it. When listening to it, one has the feeling that the perfect medium to do so would be absolute darkness and that is precisely how Bücker attempts to recreate it on a live setting. If you ever get the chance of catching Bersarin Quartett live, do so. There, Bücker is joined by drummer Benjamin Kövener and bass/guitar player Patrick Brakowsky; in almost complete darkness the trio recreates the studio soundscapes with added urgency given by the additional instrumentation. While the means to that end are drastically different, the effect of the live performance on those who witness it is easily comparable to that of Neurosis, and if you’re reading this website on a regular basis then you probably know just how fucking hard that is.
Downfall Of Nur
Black metal as a medium for solo work has a long history, spanning all the way from Quothron‘s seminal Bathory to today’s studio brilliance of Alexander von Meilenwald‘s The Ruins Of Beverast. One of the most recent examples within the genre is Downfall Of Nur. Unusually based in Argentina, A. writes music themed around the fall of the Nuragic civilization which inhabited the Italian region of Sardinia starting around the bronze age and lasting for a period of two thousand years, with the only direct record of those times being their characteristic constructions called nuraghe. The first Downfall Of Nur full length was released this year by Avantgarde music, is titled “Umbras de Barbagia” (Barbagia being a mountain area of Sardinia) and is one of the finest recent examples of how to fill atmospheric black metal with folk passages without ever getting remotely close to sounding cheesy. The song titles provide a clear idea of the story being told, from “The Golden Age” (impressively clocking at almost eighteen minutes without ever overstaying its welcome) to “The Downfall Of Nur” where you will find some of the most evocative folk passages you’ll hear all year, wrapping up full of melancholy and a yearning for that which is long lost, as illustrated by lines like “Hidden by modern society / ashes is all that remains” (from “Ashes”) and “Dear Barbagia, your shadows are still alive / in every stone and tree of yours” (from the title track of the record). A huge step forward from the first demo “Jhanas-Nur” and EP “Umbras E Forestas”, “Umbras De Barbagia” stands as one of the best entries of 2015 in the world of atmospheric black metal.
Keeping with the black metal theme, arguably the most important black metal name to ever emerge from Portugal is Corpus Christii, which for most of its history has had only one member and would therefore fit right in this list. Let us however focus on a lesser known entity by the name of Omitir, sole creation of Joel Fausto (also from Bruma Obscura and Forgotten Winter). Their current discography is comprised three EP, one split and two full lengths, the last of which deserves quite some praise. Titled “Cotard” and released in 2011 by Amor Fati Productions and The Path Less Travelled Records, it stands as one of the best and most unique black metal records to have ever come from the country. Exploring the fucked up world of Cotard’s syndrome – those who suffer from it feel parts (or the whole) of their body to be dead – it does so through a fusion of black metal and jazz/ambient pieces that is as uncommon as it is well executed, with clean vocals and sax bits seamlessly transitioning into harsh, high-pitched screams and damn good riffs. Who could have guessed that sampling David Lynch‘s “Eraserhead” on a black metal record would be a good fit? It is, as can be seen in both “Fase II – Dor Submersa” and “Fase VII – Belle Indiference”, the latter of which has an absolutely incredible cleanly sung crescendo that by itself makes the record worth going through.
Trepaneringsritualen – the bleak fucking world of noise according to Swedish artist Thomas Martin Ekelund in a career already spanning seven years with more than ten releases amongst witch stands a collaboration with Sutekh Hexen recorded live in the Tahoe national forest in California. The record embedded above is the most recent incarnation of the “The Totality Of Death” compilation series and was released this year as a triple vinyl by Estonian label :retortae:. As with all previous four iterations, it features a remastered and expanded tracklist as well as new artwork. Self-described as exploring themes of “religion, magick and the occult realms of consciousness” [sic] and drinking from the creative pools of “ritual ambient & death industrial”, it’s far from surprising that the music of Trepaneringsritualen is far from being suited for the faint of heart. Hell, the first song above “Death Reveler” has gotta be one of the most fucked up examples of using tribal rhythms that we’ve ever heard.
Okay, we could’ve as easily picked Hell for this one, with both projects coming from Oregon and playing some properly mournful breed of black metal meets doom/drone. The connection stretches a bit further, as Mizmor‘s sole author A.L.N. (also from Urzeit, whom we briefly discussed last week) is Hell‘s live drummer. As Mizmor, he has released a self-titled full length, the “Untitled Winter EP” and splits with the likes of Hell and Dross, the latter of which was released this year through Cloister Recordings and consists, on Mizmor’s side, of the track “IX – Crestfallen Usurper”. Comparing that most recent song with songs I through IV which comprised the full length embedded above (the first ever record under this moniker), one sees less of an emphasis on the drone side of things and more on the slooow melodies akin to those found on funeral doom records and that were already part of the band’s repertoire back then, as well as an overall cleaner and way better produced sound. What remains is the layered and expansive wall of riffs and noises upon which A.L.N. shrieks and screams like one would always want to hear in this type of music – like a madman, that is.
Speaking of dudes shrieking like some crazed psychopath, here’s Fever Nest. As a solo project by former Mouth Of The Architect and current Struck By Lightning vocalist/guitarist Gregory Lahm, one wouldn’t exactly expect an onslaught of filthy, dirty, blackened punk. Yet, that’s precisely what Fever Nest is. No clean production, no singing, no melodies, no bullshit. No nothing but filth in the form of (so far) three demos, the second of which “The Mooneyed and Paralyzed” is just amazing if your stomach has the right sort of aptitude. Knowing those eight songs take up (slightly) less time than Downfall Of Nur‘s “The Golden Age” and having read the previous description should give you an idea of the slimy pit you’re about to dive in so we’ll just leave you with a warning: these are some bloody infectious seventeen minutes, prepare to have ’em on loop.