The very strange last year has produced a fair share of musical collaborations that, seemingly out of nowhere, have emerged to reveal strange new visions. In some cases, musicians have used the occasion to branch out from the styles of music they had embraced in earlier times, as if the oppressiveness of the new age had become a well-spring of new freedom, or perhaps had led them to use their music as a “prison break” from the new confinement.
The debut EP by the French band Archaeopteris, which we’re premiering today, certainly seems to fall into that category. The group’s three members hail from various projects such as Croc Noir (black metal), Supertzar (doom/stoner), and Toward (folk), but the two long songs on Visions Chaotiques D´un Songe Halluciné represent something different, a kind of experimentation in sound that led the band into very strange territories. It is as if they had a collective vision, both disturbing and fascinating, and then found a way to represent it in what they executed.
This new EP, which will be co-released on June 18th by Personal Records (CD) and Void Wanderer (cassette tape), could be characterized as a blend of black metal, death metal, and ambient music, but such genre labels don’t come very close to portraying the imaginative, mind-altering and mood-morphing, sensations of the music. The songs are intricate, unpredictable to the point of becoming disorienting, and inescapably enthralling despite (or maybe because of) how dark and deleterious the excursions turn out to be.
The name of the EP, which combines the titles of the two songs, points the way: As the tracks unfold, they are both dreamlike and chaotic, frightening and revelatory. We’re told that they translate the members’ own personal visions of Chaos, Nothingness, and the Void, and that’s easy to believe.
Sounds of ghostly exhalations and a distant whine announce the onset of “Visions Chaotiques” — along with bursts of thunderous bass and clattering drums, hallucinatory riffing, and ghastly snarls. The tempo changes abruptly, as do the drum patterns, veering abruptly from battering to pounding, from cavorting to blasting. Dissonant tones slither, and keyboards warble and gleam. Slashing, moaning, and slowly writhing guitars radiate feelings of anguish and dementia, accented by quivering keyboard bursts and whirling wraithlike wails. The music mutates from feverish to forlorn and back again — and then stops altogether, replaced by those eerie, windy sounds, wisps of keyboard chords, a metronomic electro-pulse, a hallucinatory collage of strummed and buzzing chords, and the abrasion of feedback.
Sprightly acoustic guitars unexpectedly launch “Songe Halluciné“, but soon enough the drums begin to tumble and clatter, and those nasty snarls re-emerge, surrounded by a queasy miasma of gloomy and deranged anti-melodies. Just as intricate as the preceding song, this one also changes almost from moment to moment, creating a call-and-response among a clanging bass and unnerving cries from the guitar, witnessing maniacal alterations in the drumwork, and generating frequent ebbs and flows in the music’s intensity. Deep choral voices emerge, along with disturbing, grief-stricken melody with a panoramic scope. The drums vanish, to allow an amalgam of enticing yet also threatening ambient sounds to rearrange the mind and the mood. The warped vibrations of organ and symphonic strings seem to come in and out of existence, joined by a metronomic electronic beat similar to the one that pulsed in the close of the preceding track. At the end of it, you may have to shake yourself like a wet dog to remember where you are.
The press materials for the EP invoke such names as Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord, Yeruselem, and Mitochondrion.
You might think of the pre-historic bird in pondering the band’s name, but it instead seems to be the name for an extinct plant that was one of the earliest known trees. Or at least that’s what this article describes. Or maybe the band had something altogether different in mind (just like their music).
You can pre-order the EP in all its formats now: