We don’t know much about the background of Kuolevan Rukous. The names used by the band’s three members — Unholy Necrosis, Tuliips, and Buer Enkoimesis — are not the ones they were born with. Although a German band, they chose a Finnish name for themselves, one that translates as “The Prayer of the Dead“. And apart from the track names, we don’t have any special insights into the inspirations or conceptions behind their first demo release, which will be out on April 14th.
And so, Kuolevan Rukous are a paradigm example of an obscure group whose music must speak for itself. It turns out to be a very interesting form of speech. A trio of underground labels — Vita Detestabilis, Reaping Death Records, and Grieve Records — will release this debut demo on tape, and Vita Detestabilis previews it by telling us that Kuolevan Rukous have expressed themselves “through asphyxiating dissonances, noisy atmospheres, and using death doom as a conductor for funeral black”.
Those words created intrigue around here, and the music itself proved to be intriguing, and far, far more than that. It was not a difficult decision for us to be the bearer of the demo’s premiere today.
The demo includes five tracks, which collectively provide a 24-minute listening experience. That experience begins with the formidable “Trägheit“. There, the band use the dim sizzle of static, moaning strings, weirdly writhing sensations, and dissonant electronic screeches to create an unnerving atmosphere of distress.
When the music finally blooms, with clattering drums, gut-gouging bass, abrasive chords, and macabre roars and screams, it’s really no less unnerving. But an even more startling flowering occurs in an eruption of percussive mania, dense swarms of distorted riffage, and crazed screaming that echoes off of crypt walls.
The preview provided above refers to death-doom, and the first track leads us into that blood-congealing territory too. The chords heave, a guitar wails, and the vocals seem like pure audio torment (even though the drums scamper about in perplexing ways during that suffocating slog).
That first song displays a diabolical approach to both songwriting and also the tonal expressions used to materialize the ideas. It seems intended to disorient and destabilize the listener, and simultaneously to create a message of fear. “Scherbenschmelze” doesn’t back away from that message. It’s also scary, but more immediately assaulting. The drums drive in a thunderous gallop, and the riffing (no less abrasive) rises and falls in semblances of madness. As the drums begin to stumble and wander, the guitars grow dismal and demented in their mood.
Once again, the band suddenly throw switches to divert their hellish train onto different side-paths. The drums begin to sound like a strange, slow metronome, and a guitar twangs like an eerie wanderer through barren midnight plains while spirit winds whistle. The guitars also methodically rake like big blood-caked claws while the vocalists shriek and howl like the subjects of ruthless torture in the dankest of dungeons.
If you’re like us, by now you’ve become even more intrigued by what these fiends will do next, but now we know not to expect either a straight and steady course or any escape from the nightmare world they’ve created so far, and the band don’t give you either of those in “Verblichen“. There, it sounds like warped sirens are going off in the midst of a rumbling avalanche, where mega-hornets swarm and vipers roil. In the throes of violent lunacy, the vocals again shred the listener’s ears, and the drummer fucks with your head in his oddly varying, skull-cracking movements. Perhaps more than the first two songs, this one sounds feverishly demented from beginning to end.
The temptation to continue commenting track by track is too irresistible, because each one is so brazenly bizarre. “Tempelschlaf” presents a contrast between beastly yowling sounds in the low end and ethereal astral emanations high above. Heavily distorted guitars, simmering ambient tones, and ghastly whispered snarls only add to the paranormal atmosphere. The music eventually seems to wail in agony, and then to become a violent spasm of riotous blasting and dense, convulsive riffage.
The music stomps and crushes too, but there’s no reprieve from those other weird and hopeless sonic sensations, or from the continual ebb and flow of the madness — until suddenly it seems as if we’ve been seated next to a flowing stream, to meditate.
Which brings us to the closer “Niederungen“, where Kuolevan Rukous seize one last opportunity to throw listeners off-balance, which indeed they do, even after we’re already expecting to become unbalanced again. We aren’t really prepared for the slow, spell-like electric piano melody and the murmuring drone that open the song. It’s entrancing but sad. The slow and steady drum beat that joins in doesn’t interrupt the mood, though the intrusion of threatening whispers and choked, gagging sounds do that – a forecast of something uncomfortable to come.
And come it does, as doomed corrosive chords descend like hammers cloaked in poisonous fog, while the drums bounce and batter. You almost don’t notice that the fragile electric piano motif has never disappeared, and it carries the demo to a close, though seemingly under attack by angry wraiths.
Maybe the band or the labels would find it useful for us to provide some kind of quicker and more quotable summation rather than the big pile of impressionistic descriptions above, so let’s try this:
The first demo of Kuolevan Rukous is relentlessly fascinating, and relentlessly disorienting. Their amalgam of death, doom, black metal, and ambient music is uncomfortably abrasive and bizarre in its unexpected twists and turns, immersing listeners in sonic nightmares of predation, pain, and oppression that verge on psychedelic experiences, with moments of eerie wonder along the way. It has the potential of becoming a cult favorite for stalwart and steely fans of extreme underground metal.
The demo was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Dom at Distorted/Liquified in Göttingen, Germany. It includes artwork and layout by Joscha Bauer. On April 14th it will be released digitally and on tape by through Vita Detestabilis (EU, UK, US +) and Reaping Death Records and Grieve Records (South East Asia). For more information about the release, check the links below as we approach April 14th.