Kjeld – Skym (2015) review


Once more I turn to the Dutch black metal scene. Last year its offerings were top notch. This year’s De Oogstep (by Uitzichtloos) is pretty good, Pyriphlegethon’s debut is out and waiting, while Kjeld‘s first full-length, “Skym”, drew my attention past week. When I found out about this band, I didn’t check its country of origin; due to its name, the cover of the album, and most importantly due to its music, I considered Kjeld a Norwegian or Swedish band. It is a fact that those Dutch are building upon the corpus of second wave Norwegian black metal, using the tools of this black metal sub-genre exclusively. Although they flirt with imitation syndromes, it would be unfair to label them as another «blind-worship» band.

First things first: “Skym” reveals 3 band members with very good chemistry, the kind of which is usually forged after years of bonding. The fact that this is the band’s debut (with only a 2010 demo adding up to their discography) is quite striking. But the truth is that the 3 members also participate together in other bands, thus explaining their quite tight musical bond.

Stepping onto the music part: “Skym” is a work of art paying (conscious or unconscious – doesn’t really matter) tribute to the high ends of “Norsk Svart Metall”, and especially to the naturalistic tendencies within it. Here lie Kampfar’s mountain soul, Gehenna’s majestic march, and (first 2 albums’) Gorgoroth’s wandering ritual. Riff-wise, the band crafts with elegance and diversity, alas imbuing their palette with some (few to be honest) groovy moments which are reminiscent of some 00’s less-than-interesting Scandinavian bands (late Taake period for one). Still, the composition nucleus ticks fine, almost never relinquishing its hold on the listener’s interest. Attention: The composition style is not ground breaking, nor does it reek with originality, but nevertheless it manages to convey a glimpse into the 90’s. The fact that the album is not over-produced is a considerable factor to its effectiveness.

“Skym” is quite addictive to those of us that feel most at ease with the “good old black metal” part of our collection. It shines due to its staying close to the core of the 90’s sound, yet never blatantly mimicking its idols of worship. An overtly enjoyable album, “Skym” reminded me of Tsjuder’s “Desert Northern Hell” as far as the appearance of similar feelings after hearing it is concerned. Finally: Exquisite album cover, primitive and impressionistic, close to Kittelsen’s spirit.



Emptiness – Nothing but the Whole


Dark Descent Records keeps unearthing lumps of pure gold, as far as their 2014 releases are concerned. Following the amazing debut album of Thantifaxath, here comes now a Belgian act, Emptiness, to grab the black torch. Featuring 2 members of Enthroned, and Pro-Pain drummer, Jonas Sanders, «Nothing but the Whole» is the band’s 4th full-length album. I find myself regretful of not having discovered them before this release. It entered my radar on early June, carried on a locomotive of recommendations.The first spin was all it took to make my reservedness vaporize, and since then the release holds one the top places in my best-of-2014-so-far list.

«Nothing but the Whole» is the sonic equivalent of a censer. Like fog being filtered through toxic green smoke, while red orgies create a dead gray mixture in the background. The cover art’s distorted figure predisposes the listener. «Nothing but the Whole» is the aesthetic equivalent of the early 90’s Mediterranean black metal scene (herein lies the ritualistic spirit of demo-era Necromantia and Mortuary Drape – though sound-wise the similarities are pretty minimal). Here burns the black spark of the ceremonial, a pitch-dark curtain concealing the mechanistic part of despair.

Music-wise, Emptiness tread on black/death paths. Still, there is little connection to be found between the band and the prevailing semiotics of the aforementioned bipolar term. Neither brutality, nor the barbaric chaos of Blasphemy and the Latin-American lie within. Here eloquence reigns supreme, here all things flicker, candle-like. The Serpent moves (pun intended, the Belgians have surely listened more than a number of times to Coroner’s «Grin») on measured riffs, some of them tremolo-picked, all of them disaggregated into simplicity. The mind is synaesthetically filled with memories of Von Goat’s («Septic Illumination») mid-tempo moments, stripped down to their essence. Loquacity is non-existent. The bass is clearly distinguishable, contributing mightily towards the creation of ominous delirium. Its paint-like pulses give meaning to the seas of tranquility spread around the album. Emptiness is materialized via unorthodox structure blocks, into hearths of dark chaos. An industrial edge craves to be distinguished. Vocals are deep, hypnotic, sliding ambient-like through the instrumental soundscapes. The birth of monastic death metal spirit is inaugurated.

Not since my first contact with Negative Plane had I experienced such a vast, sacramental darkness. Though there is little to nothing reminiscent of the American band sound-wise (except the torrential «Tale of a Burning Man» perhaps), the 2 acts can now be considered as complementary sides of a Black coin. «Nothing but the whole» penetrates the corpus of sombre music, full of elegant simplicity, it instigates to new depths the notion of «the Menacing Release». A work of art teeming with originality, coiling inside the listener’s brain, feeding on his fears and anxieties.