When writers characterize a piece of music as “ambitious”, that might mean different things to different people, but usually signifies an effort to reach beyond what is commonplace, perhaps through the use of unusual techniques or the creation of rare sounds but more often by trying to more fully engage the listeners’ imaginations and emotions — to create a sensation that takes them places far beyond mundane experience. In all those ways (and others), the new album by the French post-black metal band Decline of the I is ambitious, and it greatly succeeds in realizing those ambitions.
The name of the album is Johannes, and its ambitions actually extend beyond what we hear. For example, there can’t be many black metal albums out there which (as this one does) take their inspiration from the works of Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. And this album is also the beginning of a new trilogy, following this band’s completion of a previous one, which was inspired by the works of French surgeon and neurologist Henri Laborit.
We’ve already written about the first song that was revealed from the album (“The Veil of Splendid Lies“), and today we bring you a second one in advance of the album’s March 26 release by Agonia Records. Its name is “Diev Vide“.
photo by David Fitt
As before, this new album is principally the work of AK, who has been involved in an impressive panoply of past and on-going acts, including Vorkreist, Merrimack, The Order Of Apollyon, Neo Inferno 262, Malhkebre and Diapsiquir. For Johannes, he wrote the music and the lyrics and performed guitars, keyboards, and some of the vocals. He was joined by a full line-up of SI (vocals), AD (bass), and SK (drums).
The five tracks on the new record are long ones — “Diev Vide” nearly reaches 15 minutes. It scales a mountain of emotional intensity, beginning slowly and reaching intermediate crests where it becomes hard to breathe, slowing to rest and trying to collect itself, then forging ahead to even greater breathtaking heights. As it ascends, it becomes capable of bending you at the waist with the heavyweight power of its rhythms while also immersing the mind in sensations both spectral and distressing, furious and anguished, cold and calamitous. Evading its grip is kind of out of the question.
In the video that presents the song (made by Woda i Pustka), wine pours to overflowing in what at first appears to be a still-life painting. In the very interesting and absorbing lyrics, there is a juxtaposition of first- and third-person narration that addresses momentous subjects involving divinity.
In the sounds, the listener is exposed to strummed chords that are brittle and glistening, momentous and haunting, and to the intensity of a wailing voice. We experience the cresting of those sounds, and a silence; the heaving immensity of the bass and the sharp pop of the snare; the slash of abrasive riffing and the peal of high reverberating leads; the jolting force of hammering grooves and the wretchedness of screamed words.
We become subsumed in the mounting tension of thundering double-kicks and blaring minor-key chords, of cold, grim, riff-swarms and frenzied glimmerings above titanic pounding. We encounter the brief breaking of that tension and then the even greater turmoil that follows, a crescendo of feverish violin and arresting symphonic grandeur, self-immolating strings and punishing, hurtling rhythms, as well as the sharp contrast of halted momentum and ghostly emanations, of muttering voices and building tribal beats, of somber singing and strummed chords again — and of a final unleashing of incendiary and obliterating tumult across all the instruments and voices before a bleak, earthquaking finale that fades into quivering mists.
In case you missed that previous advance track, “The Veil of Splendid Lies“, we’ll put it here too. In this song, soaring choral voices and ominous detonations give way to grieving solitary melody and then the power of titanic bass, skull-cracking drums, demented guitars, and scorching screams. It’s a mountainously heavy and mind-mauling experience — theatrical in its frightening magnificence, multiply textured in its vocals, tormented (and sometimes dreamlike) in its melodies, and crushing in its low-end impact.
A few more details: Dehn Sora (Deathspell Omega, Blus aus Nord) crafted the cover artwork. The drums were recorded at Hybreed Studios (Temple Of Baal, Ritualization, Merrimack) while the rest of the instruments were recorded at a private, home-studio. The album was mixed by Xort at Drudenhaus (Alcest, Aluk Todolo, Drastus), and it was mastered by Déhà at Opus Magnum Studio in Belgium.
Agonia Records will release it in a variety of formats (with variant artwork) — DIGI CD, DIGIBOOK CD, LP, and DIGITAL — and pre-orders can be placed now:
DECLINE OF THE I: