(Andy Synn wrote the following review of the new album by Selbst, a band that originated in Venezuela and is now based in Chile. The album will be released on August 7th by Debemur Morti Productions.)
For a while now I’ve been trying to put into words precisely what the difference is between Death Metal and Black Metal.
Oh, I know there are lots of physical, practical differences between the two genres (despite what some people might think) but I’ve often struggled to express what I feel is the fundamental difference which separates and defines the two.
The best way I can think to put it is this – if Death Metal is comparable to another form of art, it would be sculpture. It’s all hammer and tongs, chisel and awl, structure and form. It’s about making a plan, holding it in your mind’s eye, and then beating things into shape, chipping away at the excess, to forge something with real, tangible physicality.
Black Metal though… Black Metal is more abstract. It’s about letting whatever’s inside you (for better or worse) pour out onto the canvas in wild, expressive strokes and lurid, hypnotic patterns.
That’s not to say there isn’t a clear sense of vision behind it – there often is – but this willingness to just cut loose and see what flows out is, in my opinion at least, what makes the genre so utterly visceral, so unexpectedly versatile and, every so often, so breathtakingly vulnerable.
And it’s also what makes Relatos de Angustia one of the best Black Metal albums of the year.
With a sound that’s comparable to both Mgła – particularly in its busy, creative drum work and willingness to let the lead guitar take centre stage – and Schammasch – especially in the vocals, but also in the creative use of atmosphere and ambience throughout – Relatos… will certainly appeal to a large swathe of our readers who like their Black Metal to be as hypnotically immersive as it is hideously intense.
By the same token, however, Selbst’s overall sound is (purposefully) neither as polished nor as pristine as their Polish/Swiss cousins, and there’s a certain wildness, a raw and unrefined sense of energy, driving songs like “Deafening Wailing of the Desperate Ones” and “The Depths of Selfishness”, which also recalls the primal power of the Icelandic scene, especially the blood, sweat, ‘n’ blastbeats approach of Misþyrming.
But while these vague sonic similarities and rough comparisons serve to ground the band in the here and now, it’s also eminently clear that the band’s main architect and prime mover, the mysterious multi-instrumentalist known only as N, has a distinct vision in mind for his music, one which helps set it apart from the majority of its peers.
It’s not a restrictive vision though, and that’s something important to point out, as while the album’s predatory focus and restless, reckless sense of forward momentum means that, at a little over forty-one-and-a-half minutes, there’s not an ounce of fat or wasted space to be found, it’s obvious that tracks such as “Silent Soul Throes” and “The Weight of Breathing” have been allowed to develop in their own time and on their own terms, with only the lightest touch on the reins from N to keep them moving in the right direction.
The former, for example, starts out as a slow-burning procession of doom-laden dissonance, all given ample room to breathe and brood and broil, which then gives way to a frantic, galloping, blasting display of blackened fury, after which an atmosphere-heavy interlude of brooding, bass-driven darkness sets the stage for a final, climactic deluge of soaring lead guitar and blistering drum work.
The latter intersperses passages of rippling blastbeats and raging intensity with a series of haunting harmonies and mesmerising melodic lead parts, each section flowing smoothly and organically into the next while, atop it all, the vocals howl and wail with unfettered anguish.
What really makes this record stand out, though, is just how natural and unforced everything feels.
Whether it’s the effortless transition from moody, expansive atmosphere to searing aggression during “Sculpting the Dirtiness of its Existence”, or the intricate blending of dissonance-drenched ambience and creative instrumentation (particularly in the song’s vivid lead work and fluid bass lines) which characterises captivating closer “Let the Pain Run Through”, every part and every piece of this puzzle fits and flows together utterly seamlessly from start to finish.
Make no mistake about it, this is the sort of album which doesn’t just grab you and grip you with its sheer immediacy, but which also rewards the truly dedicated listener with new and even more rewarding revelations each and every time it’s played.