Monday, December 19, 2011

Abbey ov Thelema- A Fragment ov the Great Work(2011)

Abbey ov Thelema- A Fragment ov the Great Work

Sometimes, you hear something that leaves you at a loss for words. Maybe because it is so fucking awesome, you can't think of a word to express the level of awesome. Maybe it was so bad, you fear speaking because vomit may be released instead of words. And maybe you are speechless because you don't know what the hell you just listened to.

A Fragment ov the Great Work fits with the latter description.

Slovakia based Abbey ov Themelma are certainly shooting for something new and unique with A Fragment ov the Great Work. Black Metal is certainly part of the equation, but how much of it is a bit uncertain. The album makes heavy use of keyboards and synthesizers, which may not sound all that strange off the bat. Lots of bands Black Metal bands make heavy use of electronic instruments, and electronic music has always fit well within Black Metal. What makes A Fragment ov the Great Work is strange is that this is not a slow, atmospheric and noisy affair: this album is fast, melodic and not all that inaccessible. The synth moves fast and hard, while the keyboards move at a blistering pace. Sure, things slow down from time to time, but not all that often. Guitars also seem entirely optional: some songs feature barely any guitar work at all. About the only standard thing about this album is the two-pronged vocal attack, which alternates from a shriek to a guttural grunt, while occasionally clean vocals come into play.

Trying to find a way to describe this album has been the biggest hurdle for me, but I can no long deny what this album is: Blackend Techno. That might sound horrible, and before I heard this album I would have agreed with you. But A Fragment ov the Great Work is not terrible. In fact, it is pretty damn good. When this album works, it works incredibly well: "Unearthly Theophagia ov a Nonexistent Deity" starts off with a blistering, pulsating beat that combines synth and a drum machine to awesome effect, before a grooving, Medieval rhythm kicks in, which is more awesome than it might sound. The whole album has a cool Medieval vibe, which I normally hate but here works well. At times, Abbey of Thelema take a more traditional route, like on "The Hidden Wisdom & Clandestine Legacy ov the Black Arts," and that song also works: dissonant, complex and with an excellent drum machine sound, the song is a nice change of pace from the Techno-fueled insanity that much of the album unleashes.

It has taken me a long time to review this album, mostly because I had no idea how I wanted to tackle the bands sound. A Fragment ov the Great Work is certainly one of the most unique and original albums I have heard in a good long while, but the album also delivers where many experimental albums fail. And I have no doubt that when Blackend Techno takes over the Rave scene in a few years, we will have Abbey of Thelema to thank.

Rating: 8.5/10

Beherit- At The Devil's Studio 1990

Beherit- At The Devil's Studio 1990

Few albums are as influential and beloved as Drawing Down the Moon. Beherit had created something that no one had ever quite heard before: drowned in a mist of darkness and doom, these Finns did Bestial Black Metal like few others(I would argue the US band Demoncy did it a lot better, although they never got the accolades Beherit did.) But for all of the brilliance of Drawing Down the Moon, Beherit themselves never repeated the success, of even came close. Between 1994 and 1995, the band released two Darkwave albums, a genre which I do not feel qualified to judge, then disbanded. They reformed to released Engram in 2009, but that is an album which does nothing for me. In the end, Beherit were a one album wonder, even if that one album has stood the test of time and remains as relentlessly evil and powerful today as it did in 1993.

Don't let any Beherit fans know about this fact though, as they are likely to crucify you for such an offense: Beherit are a band who before 1994 was the greatest Black Metal band ever, and have not done any wrong. Which is why I am sure At The Devil's Studio 1990 is likely to cause more than a few fanboy freakouts: this album was actually intended for release years ago, but was shelved at some point and only recently rediscovered by the bands drummer. Basically, At The Devil's Studio 1990 was intended to be the bands debut album, but never saw released. Recorded three years before Drawing Down the Moon, At The Devil's Studio 1990 is a much more traditional Bestial Black Metal album, and it certainly is ferocious. It is also basically unlistenable. Sure, Drawing Down the Moon was poorly recorded as well, but at least the low-end was there: At The Devil's Studio 1990 has not discernible bass work, and the kick drum sounds flat and lifeless. Overall, the drums are completely powerless, drowned out by guitars that overwhelm every other instrument, while tired and barely involved vocals can be heard from time to time, if only to disappear under a wave of amp static.

What makes At The Devil's Studio 1990 even less appealing is that the actual music involved in really not all that interesting: without many of the progressive and Doom-ish elements of Drawing Down the Moon, Beherit are incredibly typical... and incredibly boring. There is nothing here that compares with Blasphemy, Profanatica or Sadistik Exekution, at least nothing you can make out through the atrocious production. Beherit certainly made the right call trying to move the genre forward with later releases, but at the bands inception they were not much to speak of, and neither is this album.

At The Devil's Studio 1990 is likely to make a lot of fans very happy, but for those who do not obsesses over this band, this capitulates inessential. Lost in horribly broken production is a collection of so-so Bestial Black Metal songs from a band whose legacy is built upon the back of a single incredible album, and who cannot seem to damage this legacy, no matter how many piss poor compilations and Darkwave albums they seem to produce.

Rating: 4/10