SHADES OF BLACK (PART 1): GENUNE AND AB IMO PECTORE
Mr. Synn‘s preparation of a very interesting interview for publication yesterday allowed me to spend parts of Friday and most of Saturday focusing on what I might do for today. Like a cat playing with a ball of rough black twine, I unraveled more and more threads of spiky music. Now I’m going to try to make sense of this morass of strands that has snarled my brain (and snarled at it).
I’ve decided to begin with short reviews of two very impressive albums released last week. I hesitate to mention the rest of the plan, since at this point it’s only partially completed and could go awry. But as you can see, I do intend to provide some further recommendations from the black realms before night falls.
Daniel Neagoe left his imprint on many 2018 records, including Clouds‘ album Dor (which made Andy Synn‘s list of the year’s 10 best albums), Eye of Solitude’s Slaves To Solitude (reviewed here), and Pantheist’s Seeking Infinity. It’s fair to say that whatever he is involved in, we pay attention to. And that’s what led me to Genune.
Genune is a black metal band based in Dan Neagoe‘s homeland of Romania (Cluj-Napoca, to be precise), its line-up consisting of guitarists Dragos Chiriches and Cosmin Farcau, vocalist/bassist Istvan Vladareanu, and Mr. Neagoe on drums. Their first album, Cern Sol (which translates to something akin to “blackened soil”), was released on December 17. Lyrically, the songs are preoccupied with time — “focusing on the inevitability of death and its distressing effects on us, the encompassing, unstoppable sense of decay that seems to affect everything, but also on the impression of moments experienced in the past, which linger in the mind years later, the remembrance of warmth and on a need to be alone, away, reflecting”.
The electronic pulsations and mystical rippling and ringing tones of “Strata” provide an alluring entry into the record, and perhaps a hint that black metal won’t be the sum total of the musical styles to which Genune are drawn. It’s a hint that proves accurate.
While Istvan Vladareanu‘s flesh-stripping shrieks are certainly familiar, especially to those of us who might be enamored of depressive black metal (you’ll also hear vicious snarls and heartless growls), and while Daniel Neagoe does occasionally deliver torrential blast-beat assaults and double-bass rumble beneath waves of racing tremolo’d chords, the music ranges widely.
Soaring and sweeping melodies with an ambient texture give the music a mystical and panoramic quality — though the feeling is more haunting and dolorous than glorious. Sorrowful guitar reverberations and the gloomy hum of the bass, sometimes stripped of any percussive accompaniment, pull the mood into desolate introspection. Twisting elements of dissonance portray anguish on the brink of mental fracturing. Blaring, jolting tonalities and rapidly shifting drum patterns catapult you over the brink. Neo-folk acoustic instrumentation and synthesized strings take the stage without warning, usually in a way that quickly casts a spell, a spell of sad remembrance. There’s hard-punching physicality to be found (albeit sometimes married to off-kilter time signatures), as well as the lilting gleam of clean guitar notes.
The vocals add an extra element of intensity where needed, but the songs are principally instrumental in nature, yet so varied and richly textured, so constantly swerving in their course that there’s no chance of you zoning out. And as mentioned before, the stylistic ingredients, which include post-metal and something close to prog-rock, embellish the band’s black-metal core in mesmerizing ways.
The album trip as a whole is like falling into a dream, and while there are bright and even hopeful vistas that pass before the mind’s eye in listening, it’s largely a dark dream in which the shades of lost souls and lost happiness are never far away, and in which anxiety and pain vie in battle with defiant resilience, and are more often than not victorious.
Here near the very end of the year, when many people might not notice, we have yet another wonderful new record, one that I found thoroughly enthralling. Set aside 50 minutes and immerse yourself in this fascinating experience from beginning to end. I think you’ll be glad you did.
(Along with the album stream I’m including a gorgeous video accompanying “Wilderness7“, the album’s first complete track after the introductory “Strata”.)
AB IMO PECTORE
One of last week’s more exciting events for me was the launch of ticket sales for Ascension Festival, scheduled to take place in a suburb of Reykjavik, Iceland, on June 13-15, 2019. I’ve been itching for a reason to return to Iceland after attending the last Oration festival in Reykjavik earlier this year, and Ascension has provided it. This new fest might be considered a continuation of Oration Fest under a different name, given that Oration Records and Studio Emissary (i.e., Stephen Lockhart) are again the driving forces behind the event. It’s an amazing line-up, especially for a fan of black metal, and I encourage you to check it out HERE, where tickets are still available; mine are already in hand.
I mention this because it was Oration Records that released the debut album of Ab Imo Pectore on Friday, December 21, the same day that Ascension tickets went on sale. That album, entitled Heaven, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All, follows two demos released in 2011 and 2012. The band is Portuguese, and seems to include members of Israthoum and Monte Penumbra, if Metal-Archives is to be believed.
So, consider the album title again. It seems to encompass vast subjects of both spiritual and carnal dimensions, and suggests visions in which the lot of mere mortals is to be tossed about like leaves in the gale, or pebbles in the avalanche, desperately straining toward something greater — while bound for destruction. An ambitious title — and the music proves to be ambitious, too.
I confess that my interpretation of the title was influenced by the music, which itself is composed of multiple dimensions, most of which are so hallucinatory that they don’t sound earth-bound at all. Dissonance is dominant in the melodies; madness is made manifest in the vocals, even when they may seem solemn; apocalyptic upheavals rise up without warning, just as do sensations of severe mental deterioration and flensing physical pain. There are feelings of desperate yearning in the music, too, and fleeting glimpses of the divine in the midst of grappling with all of hell’s demons. And the over-arching sensation is one of calamity, in every way one might imagine.
There’s an avant-garde quality to the songs’ ever-changing and unpredictable twists and turns, which are guaranteed to twist your mind into shivering tangles of severed neurons. Ingeniously conceived, beautifully executed, and immaculately produced, this is very scary stuff for sure, but spellbinding as well as mercilessly harrowing.
As in the case of Genune‘s album, this is another formidable achievement that I hope won’t get lost because it has arrived so close to the holidays and to the end of the year, because it is richly deserving of wide-spread attention, even if it may disturb your sleep for days to come.