Against stupidity… The Gods themselves… Contend in vain?
Straight up: I appreciate surprises when it comes to music. I, like I’ll assume many of you, listen to a veritable avalanche of constant new shit that unfortunately often ends up falling on the wrong side of predictable. If something isn’t what I expected it grabs my attention all the more (and if it then proves to actually be good too, we’re onto a glorious winner), so when this split between Ukranian ambient/black metal duo microcosmys and Canadian enigmatic raw black metal entity La Torture des Ténèbres entitled ‘The Gods Themselves‘ proved itself to be packed to the brim with surprises, suffice to say I was more than satisfied in that aspect. But is it any good? Well, as the old adage goes… Let’s find out.
First surprise: As the title may have already tipped you off, the entire split is dedicated to science fiction literature pioneer Isaac Asimov and is thematically tied together by his 1972 novel ‘The Gods Themselves’. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a dazzlingly intricate tale of parallel universes and alien beings, infinite energy, greed and the possible end of humanity. Heady stuff, and a fascinating choice of inspiration for a black metal release. Which brings us to the second surprise: without knowing exactly what form the blackened delights within would take, imagining a sci-fi theme paired with dense, cosmic blasting black metal isn’t too far of a logical leap. But lo; this is not the case, as both artists take far different approaches.
As the first notes of microcosmys (stylised with lower case m) landed pleasurably upon my hearing-centres, the raw tones immediately piqued my curiosity. Turns out their side is a wonderfully adventurous, warped, lo-fi and totally instrumental trip with avant-garde tendencies in a vaguely similar ballpark to artists like Wolok. Each of their three tracks is dedicated to a member of the book’s central family unit of aliens: Odeen, Dua and Tritt, and each posesses it’s own like personality. ‘Odeen‘ is the Rational of the three, a driving force and the most straightforward of the triad. It’s a harder composition that paradoxically also wants to feel, as not least evidenced by the great dysphoric vibe that opens it up. ‘Dua‘ is the Emotional and is also where things start to get a little more out there as artfully placed alien synths create an engaging otherworldly tension, while final piece ‘Tritt‘ is the Parental and is where their science fiction induced mayhem comes to a head in intense and commanding fashion.
Third surprise: I had actually heard La Torture des Ténèbres once before, just not made the connection when I read the name. A one woman black/noise project, sole conduit J. Kinney channeled one of the more soul-burning releases of last year with the dystopian ‘IV- Memoirs of a Machine Girl‘ and she is easily as mesmerising and violent here, if not even more so; her side of this split is comprised of two cuts from her 2016 album ‘Choirs of Emptiness‘ (which in turn is material that predates even her debut album). If you haven’t heard her work before, you really do need to and this is a great place to start: ‘Next Stop, Virgo City‘ wastes no time exploding into a glorious, howling, cacophonic maelstrom of abrasive-yet-melodic immensity close to what I imagine having the life force of the entire universe being forcefully pulled out through your brain must sound like.
‘We Should Have Left It On The Country Station‘ continues in this fashion, and I’d love to be able to effectively dissect both tracks further but a) I’m still reeling, and b) I honestly don’t think they need to be. Words are ultimately redundant with a sound like this; this is pure primal sensation. You need to push play. It must be experienced. It’s like through hyper-magnifying the simplest cores of human emotions and fears she opens the floodgates on an unimaginable and uncontrollable power; so hopelessly monolithic it could in fact only be of the gods themselves. All you can do is surrender; throw your head back, arms out and allow yourself to be rent asunder as the rapture takes hold.
Last surprise, which by now probably isn’t one at all: Is it good? No… It’s fucking great. Two very underappreciated artists with vastly different approaches and a power all their own, combining to produce something never before seen. A fitting metaphor for both worlds in the novel. Both enjoyable for their own reasons, and both worth your time. I’ll be picking up a copy of this. Hails.
Out today, July 13th, through Xenoglossy Productions/Breathe Plastic Records.
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