(Andy Synn explores the new album from the shapeshifting sultans of strange, Dødheimsgard)
There’s an unfortunate tendency, as I’m sure many of you aware, among some of the more… ahem… self-consciously “Avant-Garde” members of the Metal community to try a little too hard to convince everyone how progressive, how clever, and how creative they are, rather than letting their work simply speak for itself.
Whether that’s due to a lack of confidence – or an over-abundance of it – is always up for debate, but the truth is it’s almost always better to show rather than tell, and if you’re more interested in making solipsistic statements and delivering pretentious proclamations about your own intelligence, then… well, that says a lot, doesn’t it?
Dødheimsgard, however, have always come by their weirdness honestly, and their unwillingness to conform has never come across as contrived or calculated, but simply as an organic expression of their own unique oddness.
And Black Medium Current is a sublime space oddity of a very special sort, no doubt about it, that may one day be held up as the band’s de facto magnum opus.
Is that statement a little hyperbolic? Possibly. Controversial? Most definitely (especially in light of how beloved A Umbra Omega has become in the years since its release). But inconceivable? Not in the slightest. Not once you’ve really listened to it, several times over, and truly absorbed everything that it has to offer.
Although perhaps that’s setting the bar a little too high. After all, Black Medium Current is a big album (clocking in at almost seventy minutes, when all is said and one) and covers a lot of musical ground – opener “Et Smelter” alone is part moody melodic eloquence, part seething Black Metal belligerence, and part proggy, Post-Rock ambience, all infused with an aura of spectral sci-fi psychedelia – so even after several listening sessions you may not have fully grasped everything that’s going on here.
But while the sheer scope of the band’s voice and vision is incredibly striking, what’s even more impressive is just how naturally it all fits together – each track obeying its own dream-like logic as it flits from tongue-twisting fury to vaudevillian theatricality to indulgent, Kraut-Rock inspired electro-minimalism to shamelessly slinky Prog-Pop (prodigious penultimate track “Abyss Perihelion Tansit”, for example, does all these things and more) – in a way that doesn’t require reams of tortured exposition or an overwrought explanatory thesis to understand.
It simply is what it is because that’s the way it has to be.
It should be no surprise then, given how wilfully and willingly unconventional the songwriting is throughout Black Medium Current, to learn that DHG main-man Vicotnik (here taking on full-time vocal duties and delivering an eclectic and suitably iconoclastic performance that veers from nihilistic venom to naked vulnerability) has already said that this is arguably the band’s most personal and intimate work to date, reflecting the trials and tribulations of the band’s many years in a way that often reminds me of Pink Floyd‘s legendary Dark Side of the Moon (and I can’t be the only one to note the album cover’s subtle visual homage, can I?).
If that still sounds a little too hyperbolic, then consider this: Dødheimsgard have long since earned their place at that rarefied level of ostensibly “Black Metal” bands – artists like Arcturus, Ulver, Manes and Code – who have firmly transcended the confines of the genre, so perhaps it’s only right to search for clearer comparisons in other realms. After all, that’s where they’re headed, and if we don’t keep up then we’re simply going to be left behind.
What’s interesting to note in closing, however, is that it never feels like Vicotnik and co. want to leave us behind… they want us to come with them on this journey, but to do so requires them to subtly rewire our neurons, to reconfigure our way of thinking, so that we can follow them.
And that’s why Black Medium Current is, compared to so much of their back-catalogue, such a slow-burner, one that works its mental magic on you over time, a little more with each listen, until you’re finally on the right wavelength to fully appreciate all that is has to offer.
So let me finish with a warning: exposure to this album may permanently alter your consciousness and the way you perceive music. And its creators accept no liability for any changes in character or behaviour, permanent or otherwise, which you may experience as a result. Push play at your own risk.
I dont know….for me Aldrahn made the magic…
Can’t wait for this one. Awesome review!!
This Can Be Never Transcended By The Ones Who Created….Cuz This Is Close Perfection….Certainly This Year’s Magnum Opus
Okay,so i’ve listened to it an its truly great but personally i miss the more insane moments like “ion storm” or “traces of reality”…but on the other hand vicotnic also got “doedsmaghird” which sounds like it could have been recorded around “satanic art”. Listen to it on peaceville sampler “dark side of the sacred star!