Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Lone Rangers

I was going to write another Usual Locations article, which I decided to change as I started noticing that all of them essentially were one-man projects. So with a quick rewrite it has become the Lone Rangers. There are a lot of articles about one man bands bandying about, mainly centred on Black Metal. An interesting documentary has been made exploring the idea of one man black metal projects. One WikiHow you can also get a guide on how to start your own Lone Ranger. The great thing about one man bands from the the one man's perspective is that it gives them a complete control, but the problem for the listener, often not always, is that the instrumentalists rely an awful lot on drum machines and synths, both that can be used for extremely good effect and can be done really really well, but more often then not it comes across as half-hearted shit that should have stayed in the mix longer. My personal favourite would be Thy Catafalque who I've written about previously, though I'm not too sure on it's One Man stand, even if it is Tamas Katai's brainchild. Well here is a choice selection of one man projects of varying quality, mainly from Very Good to Great.

Ars Moriendi
La Singuliere Noirceur D'un Astre
First in line is a French one man band called Ars Moriendi. In the recent years there seems to have been a bit of an explosion of good quality metal bands coming from France. Gojira, Hacride and Alcest being probably the top of the pile. Though I should probably also mention Grorr and Psygnosis who are very interesting to listen to. Ars Moriendi is manned by a multi-instrumentalist named Notre Amertume. Though whether that's his real name I have no idea. He's been steadily releasing albums since 2001. But the only album I have heard is 'La Singuliere Noirceur d'un Astre', The music on show here could be defined broadly as Black Metal. It is very experimental in nature, symphonic and atmospheric, with horror movie samples used as start. There is a fair bit of ambience used that could at first be construed to be just some padding in order to make the songs sound longer. So far I am very impressed with the instrumentation, a lot of thought has gone into what goes where, even the synths don't sound out of place and provide the necessary symphonic oomph the he needs. There is a lot of buzzsaw guitars on display, but that is then punctuated with some classic metal guitars and bookended with acoustic guitars as well. His singing veers from screeching, gutturals and whispers. All in French. The language of love is not on display or at least it is not showing it's intimate side here. It's all rough and edges, with side drip of evil going on. This is pretty much how I imagine Vincent Cassel if he was bathed in blood of thousand virgins screaming for the devil to forsake him while covering songs by early Enslaved. He isn't breaking any new ground here, but it all does sound good if some times a little generic in black metal terms, though the breakdown that happens in De l'intouchable Mort is pretty nifty. The bass playing on here is really something else to listen to, it's not often you get to hear such clear bass playing in Black Metal. None of the songs go below the 8 minute mark so there is quite a bit to digest, but all in all pretty good. I'll happily put this on and enjoy the screaming of French Horror.

Neurotech hails from Slovenia. I knew Slovenia existed, but as far as I'm aware I had never heard any music from there let alone metal music. I was introduced to this by Blacksmith Biologist and boy am I grateful. Lately I had been listening to a lot of Samael, who play a sort of symphonic techno metal with lots of rather uplifting lyrics to boot. The focus is on synths with programmed drums and rough baritone singing with droning guitars. The only thing that Neurotech doesn't do, as much, is the uplifting bit. The music would be very fitting for a cyberpunk apocalyptic Mad Max style future. Neurotech is one guy, who likes to be called Wulf but his real name is Andrej Vovk. Well that's at least according to the Holy Book of Armaments. To be honest there is a lot more symphonic elements going on here then Samael have tried to incorporate. Being the clever dick that I am, I decided to listen to the albums chronologically, which has really paid off. The earlier albums like Transhuman and  Antagonist  have a lot more rawness to them, though maybe raw isn't the best description. But at the same time there is a certain clinical coldness to them.  Antagonist is probably a bit more party-oriented which makes the similarities to Samael even more evident. Whereas Blue Screen Planet and The Elysian Symphony seem more, well, sophisticated. There is a lot of symphonic elements at play in those two and so far they've become my favourite of his work.

Dommedagssalme. Now I'll have to admit to having close connections with this project. No it is not mine. He is the godfather to my youngest child. His name is John Marshall and he has been involved in the black metal scene, albeit very very very underground, for quite some time. First being part of a duo called Circumscriber, which then morphed into Contra Ignem Fatuum, but since 2004 he's been releasing on a infrequently periodically basis as Dommedagssalme. The music itself has been described as Depressive Black Metal, a title that John doesn't agree with. Though I can see why people want to label it as Depressive. It is all very hard listen. But not without rewards. There is a lot of distortion going on, it's bloody hard to understand what the hell he's singing about, the drums are droning, the keyboards provide a constant ambience, there is so much fuzz and buzz on the guitars it's like a chainsaw going through a ever multiplying featherfilled pillows. But, you (well me that is) feel a certain cathartic feeling when the songs are over. I personally always feel like there's a load that's been lifted off my shoulders and I somehow feel happier about the world. The vocals sound like they are sung from the fifth circle of hell. The one item that is possibly missing are interludes with the sound of footsteps in snow. The last album came out in 2012 and was called Division which only contains two songs. Those two songs are to be fair over 20 minutes long each. But his confidence in songwriting and all around maturity is best on show on that one. There is more going on, more breaths being taken with some interludes between fuzzfilled riffs. There are more technicalities on show, the vocals are slightly more audible yet still incomprehensible. The production is really rather good as well. Most of the time, this wouldn't be my cup of tea (I tend to drink coffee), but I had to listen to his work and I am glad that I have. It still isn't my cup of tea, but I can certainly appreciate John's work without it I probably wouldn't feel as relaxed.

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