This review began as what I thought would be the final installment in a Shades of Black collection of new songs that I will post later today. But by the time I finished, it had become long enough that I thought I should post it separately.
I knew nothing about this album when I started listening to the first song, which is the album’s centerpiece. It will require some dedication to get through it — not because the music is dull or tedious, but because the song (“Spell 1 / Spell 1b”) is almost 20 minutes long. That song is the product of a collaboration between two prolific Australian musicians who call themselves The Horn and Nekrasov. The album on which it appears is named Volume 13, a three-track work inspired by ancient Egyptian funeral texts. It was released via Bandcamp on September 1.
I had some trepidation dipping my toes into the unknown waters of a 20-minute piece of music, but the bright, folk-influenced acoustic melody that opens the song pulled me right in — and then the ever-changing permutations that followed it kept me rooted in place. From that lilting beginning, the music moves into an abrasive, harrowing storm of bleak, soul-scouring noise that’s a bestial variation on that initial melody, with the lyrics voiced in a heartless roar.
From there the song moves into a hard-driving rhythm that will get its hooks in you, before returning to that bestial cousin of the initial melody — which eventually devolves into the diminishing roar of a tornado and then a protracted, unsettling “ambient” section of distant thunder and ghastly incantations.
The sounds of the storm swell in volume, becoming even more eerie and malignant — and then all hell breaks loose, as the music explodes in a maelstrom of blasting drums, skin-flying riffs, and roaring black noise. The percussive fusillade is eventually overwhelmed by the hurricane of harrowing sound, all the rhythms lost, replaced by unmitigated sand-blasting viciousness.
Like a breath of life surfacing from a vast, cold graveyard, that entrancing opening melody returns at the end.
The next two tracks on the album are much shorter by comparison to the first. “Horus and the Languid” is a terrifying solo piece by Nekrasov, a conflagration of apocalyptic sonic destruction accompanied by the artist’s monstrous voice.
The final track, “Spell 2”, is the most “accessible” of the three on Volume 13. It’s a solo piece by The Horn, which begins with a largely acoustic segment — a traditional stringed instrument leading the way over the rhythmic rumble of a bass and percussive hand-clapping, in the same Middle Eastern style as the folk music that begins and ends “Spell 1 / Spell 1b”. It then transforms into a completely compulsive, industrial-styled percussive rhythm. And I do mean compulsive — it’s catchy as hell. Remaining motionless while it drives to the end of the album will be impossible for most listeners.
I found this album completely fascinating. Its combining of memorable folk melodies, propulsive rhythms, and nightmarish pandemonium is highly creative, highly unorthodox, and highly engrossing. Certainly not for everyone, but a rare experience for those interested in music that’s far off the usual beaten paths.
Volume 13 is available for purchase on Bandcamp. I owe my Serbian friend “M” yet another thank-you for linking me to this album stream.