Rahu- The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
Drawn to it from positive word of mouth and the brilliant cover art, The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows was the ultimate shot in the dark for me. I've never heard of this Finnish two-piece, though I am familiar with Atvar and his project Circle of Ouroborus, nor am I an any way familiar with Hindu mythology. But this made the thrill of discovering fresh brilliance all the more satisfying, as The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows is a dynamic, well constructed and immersive Black Metal. Rahu don't completely re-invent the wheel, so much as deconstruct it, moving the various pieces to and fro to fit their compositional desires. It's such an expertly done album, which feels both fully realized and warmly familiar without being derivative. Rahu have landed in the sweet spot of creativity and craftsmanship, and do so with such confidence and skill that it's impossible not to be impressed.
Featuring a raw, space-y production, The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows sounds great and makes a strong first impression that eases you into the deeper, darker aspects of the album. The Finnish influences are pretty strong with an evident Horna and Sargeist vibe, threads of chilling melody strewn amongst the fleshly and raw Black Metal riffs, but the dependence of hypnotic song structures and pure crushing blackness brings to mind Darkspace and even Burzum at his most raw and sleepy. It's a powerful combination of traditional demonic practices with the ethereal darkness of modern atmospheric Black Metal, complete with all the nihilism and somberness left in tact. The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows is firmly an Atmospheric Black Metal record, but it touches on a lot of different styles and atmospheres and feels both real and focused. It's an album that comes about when a couple of talented, learned and visionary musicians get together and create: the perfect storm of creativity and credibility. I wouldn't go so far as to describe The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows as ground-breaking, but it's not far off. The influences are there but they never overwhelm the bands vision or identity and the album feels unique throughout. Rahu sure didn't invent the disparate elements on this album, but they have without a doubt come up with a new way of operating them.
There are no real complaints for my part: The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows is a complete album and a full-contact listening experience. Though perhaps not quite and overwhelming as Darkspace, who seek to swallow you in the massive gravitational force of their riffs, Rahu present many of the same ideas in a more diverse and vibrant way. Rahu are masterful in their use of melody, always a tricky thing for most Black Metal, composing both eerie whispers and soaring, epic leads(or in the case of the opener "Ordeal of X," both). The twosome also demonstrate complete control of atmospheric song-writing, as repetition is used to create hypnotic atmospheres, but never abused to the point of boredom. The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows makes use of a lot of tricky, difficult elements: melody, repetition, rawness, extreme song-length. All of these things utterly destroy lesser acts and albums, yet all feel absolutely essential to the greatness of this album. It's utterly amazing when you think about it: Rahu took all of these elements that consistently ruin other bands, and then crafted an entire album around them with masterful precision. It's as if the band were trying to win a bet, and if there was a wager on whether a band could pull all of these concepts off on a single album then somebody needs to pay up.
I honestly cannot recommend The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows enough. Black Metal is a genre that can be so diverse that it's hard to find those albums that every Black Metal fan can enjoy. Some want keyboards, some want epic, some want grime and ghouls and some want to be eviscerated. The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows provides a little bit for all while being as focused and professional as one could ask for. I don't know whether this album will be remembered for years to come as some classic or if like many great albums it will disappear into the bowls of obscurity, but for this moment, The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows is an epic undertaking worth the struggle.