(Andy Synn once again proves himself a man of the world with this review of the magnificent debut album by Te Ruki)
There’s absolutely no denying it these days – Black Metal has truly become a worldwide phenomenon.
From its humble beginnings the genre has spread out to practically every corner of the globe, constantly evolving and mutating, forming new local scenes and embracing local sounds along the way.
And while much (physical and digital) ink has been shed debating why, and how, this happened, for me the answer is quite simple – whether intentionally or not, those crazy kids who first kicked off the whole movement ended up tapping into something truly primal, something so primitive and fundamental to the human condition that it connects with people of all ages and races, colours and creeds.
Of course, there will always be those who don’t approve of how far the genre has travelled from roots, but to me there’s something almost magical – not to mention deeply ironic – that the so-called ultimate “outsider’s” music has gone on to connect so many different people together through their common humanity.
Plus, let’s face it, if Black Metal had never left the basements and bars of Norway then we’d never have gotten to hear Marako Te Ruki… and that’s not a world I want to live in.
With their bombastic blend of barking, martial vocals, seething guitars, shining keys, and pulse-pounding rhythms, it would certainly be easy to call Te Ruki the French Polynesian answer to Rotting Christ, although it would just as certainly be a little too reductive (especially since Marako Te Ruki has more verve and vitality than the last two Rotting Christ albums combined).
The comparison is definitely valid, however, as there’s an undeniable sense – both rhythmically and melodically – that Te Ruki have been inspired as much by the Greek scene as the Norwegian one (although it perhaps goes without saying that there’s also clear musical through-line connecting tracks like “Tohitika” and “KuraKura Te Kavake” to the lineage of early Emperor and Dissection).
However, as I hinted at above, one of Black Metal’s greatest strengths is not just its ability to connect with people on a fundamentally primitive level, but also the way this allows it to adapt to how people of different cultures use it to express themselves, and while there’s no question that Marako Te Ruki is a Black Metal album, through and through, the subtle use of Polynesian drums (as well as other atypical instruments here and there) coupled with the band’s decision to speak/sing/scream only in their native tongue (including several instances of hypnotic, ceremonial chanting whose meaning may not be clear, but whose impact is undeniable), makes for a truly unique, and uniquely captivating, experience from start to finish.
That being said, while Marako Te Ruki definitely hits the ground running – “Huero a Tamaera” in particular is an absolute masterclass in how to instantly grab the listener by their ears – it would be fair to say that the album really hits its stride around about the time the titanic title-track bursts from the speakers, after which the ritualistic rhythmic hooks of “Te Aka Tamaki” and the unabashed melodic majesty of “Komeri a Kamahi” only serve to reinforce that this record not only gets even better as it goes on, but also gets better with each and every listen.
There really isn’t much more I can say really – Te Ruki have captured lightning in a bottle here, a sound so elemental in its fury that it once again proves that true Black Metal has no gods, no masters… and no borders.