“If you are a false, don’t entry!” And if you are a false, do enter, because the only rule of this weekly section, in which we present you three short blurbs on music we are currently listening to, is that we are under no circumstance allowed to press the enter key. All of these little reviews shall thus consist of one paragraph only. The more this rule renders the blurb illegible, the more the writer has failed. Check back every Friday for a fresh haul of Don’t Enter.
Sadness in music is a delicate emotion. When handled tastefully, it may fuel the most honest, engaging songs out there. However, when less capable artists attempt to convey this sentiment musically, the result will be the type of unbearable ‘kinda sad but optimistic’ song where the singer wails “I’ve had a rough time but I overcame all obstacles over the years, so I’m here proud but a bit broken by the hardships of life, which is why on every song I put out I sound like I am wetting my fucking bed.” In this week’s Don’t Enter, we set out to find different expressions of sadness in metal. Feel free to grab a tissue.
Mortifera – Vastiia tenebrd mortifera | France, 2004
For me, there are a ton of reasons to be grateful to Mortifera‘s first full-length. After hearing its tracks “Le revenant” and “Ciel brouillé” – both of which are compositions by Neige based on Baudelaire poems, I delved deeply into the French black metal scene, eventually uncovering such gems as Sühnopfer and of course Peste Noire. However, going back to Vastiia tenebrd mortifera reveals why this so-called DSBM trend loses its appeal so quickly. Essentially, this music knows only one emotion: sad. And it goes on to express said emotion without the slightest sense of restraint, resulting in Neige and Noktu bombarding us with unfiltered sentimentalism to a point where it becomes tempting to just yell “yeah, I get it now!” and hit the stop button like a crusty at a metal show. Still, most compositions (particularly the aforementioned ones) have a good sense of drama, timing and climax. Despite his increasingly questionable stylistic choices after ditching Mortifera, Neige
has always remained an apt composer. Combine this with a high-pitched, screeching lead guitar that sounds like it is being picked with a piece of WW1-era shrapnel, and this album is enjoyable with measure. Extended listening sessions are less recommended, though. Vastiia tenebrd mortifera may not be an emotionally unipolar work tantamount to the sentimental abortions produced by some of the less desirable Anglo-American ‘post-black’ acts, but it still seems too hellbent on awakening in its listeners a sense of puerile quasi-depression. It is as if this album does all in its power to remind us of the high school crush who never answered our love. On the other hand, we can consider ourselves lucky that at least Mortifera never goes full Werther by degrading itself to employing lyrics along the lines of “I cried against an ocean of light”. Count your blessings like those rejections of old. |Degtyarov
Lifelover – Pulver | Sweden, 2006
Band names do not get more ironical than Lifelover, an act whose defining spirit inheres in an absurdly satirical condemnation of a fundamentally absurd society, and whose ‘love of life’ seemingly consists in the dark hedonism of narcotics, alcohol, and violent sex. Emerging from a period in black metal when most were either concerned with remaining ‘true’ to the original style of the Second Wave (namely the Mayhem and Darkthrone clones that constitute ‘Orthodox black metal’) or generating atmospheres of sickening sentiment and suicidal defeatism à la Xasthur and Abyssic Hate, Lifelover treaded a path that was decidedly their own. There is a vague resemblance that could be made between Lifelover and Alcest: both bands employ indie, post-punk, and even shoegaze types of chord construction in the wake of a metal subgenre that has been founded on abrasive, hateful, and far more direct riffage; both invented new understandings of something whose creative, meaningful innovations were alleged to have been exhausted; and both were responsible for a fascinating thematic synthesis between sorrow and joy, between shades of sadness and the light that yet appears in between the blinds. Where Alcest choose to dream of the faerie and the fantastic, however, of beautiful worlds beyond, Lifelover are emphatically terrestrial in their focus; they dwell in the heart of Babylon, and they choose to narrate the pain and the ugliness therein. In mocking the ‘zombiefication’ that characterizes modern man, in ridiculing the ridiculous, Lifelover approach something closer to Peste Noire than to Alcest: the stench of Stockholm is as malodorous on this album as the putrescence of Paris is on L’Ordure à l’état Pur. The ironic nature of this album is moreover accomplished in the music itself, firstly in the short-range, punkish phrasal patterns that resolve into themselves rather than elongate into long, structural developments that we are used to in black metal, and secondly in the tonal quality of the guitar lines, consisting mainly of B and E minor chords. Together with the upbeat, softly thumping percussion which supports it, the timbre of the lead guitar is reminiscent of post-punk bands like The Smiths and Another Sunny Day who created an acutely optimistic and generous soundscape while lyrically establishing a mood which was melancholic, depressive, darkly humorous, and even upsetting. This juxtaposition between two nominally opposing elements is as effective in supplying a fruitful, emotionally authentic narrative as it was for the aforementioned bands. The sadness that permeates Lifelover‘s Pulver is not an onanistic exercise, a perverse misdirection of sentimental release into something saccharine and meaningless like so much DSBM; it is a genuine falling out with the modern world; it is a transmission of discontent: “The city will go back to sleep, in wait for a new dawn, a new day. I wait for the inevitable” (“Vardagsnytt”). Pulver is a nihilistic poem about urban existence and the depravity of man’s increasingly fallen nature. Love in the higher, in the normal sense of the word is as distant from the streets of Stockholm as it is from the vision of this record. Lifelover apophatically show us the meaning of love by describing the absence of love, and in the absence of love all that can be described is hate, lust, doubt, and a serene sadness. In a world that is in many ways devoid of life, how else would a life-lover express himself? |Maximus
Hate Forest – Sorrow | Ukraine, 2005
Though straightforward the title of Hate Forest‘s last album may be, Sorrow is by no standard yet another exercise in self-pity. On a musical level, Sorrow closely follows Transilvanian Hunger’s formula of entrancing estrangement. But unlike the hordes of TH clones who waddled aimlessly in the quicksands of mediocrity, Hate Forest manage to capture the essence of Darkthrone‘s masterpiece by including subtle variations in most riffs as to provide compositions with a sense of individuality and artisanship even in the face of seemingly endless repetition. Instrumental (heh) in this is Roman Saenko’s superb handling of the bass – not coincidentally an instrument whose contribution to Transilvanian Hunger remains ever so underrated. Saenko’s four-stringed variations on the almost robotic main guitar riffs on Sorrow make them feel lively instead, but never to degree where the basslines overrule the composition instead of enhancing it. This contrast between mechanic coldness and dynamic radiance aids Hate Forest in engaging the listener on an emotional level: their music is distant and inhuman, but not alien to a point where one can just shut himself off from it completely. Rather, these compositions express the power of historic lands; of the ferocious nature and ancestral spirits contained therein. When juxtaposed against the mundane meaninglessness in which we find ourselves today, we encounter a sadness much more profound and worthy of contemplation than the superficial lamentation of never-acquired love that which serves as the source material for the more sugary contingent of black metal bands operating today. |Degtyarov
Pictured: I en hall med flesk og mjød, a gastronomic performance art piece by Degtyarowicsz.