Tagged: dark

Widt Of A Circle

widt

The record WIDT (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 124-2) by WIDT is largely the work of Antonina Nowacka, a Polish creator who is a visual artist, painter, film-maker and photographer. But she also sings, and has been using her voice and synthesizer for some years to create atmospheric, abstract music which we can only describe as “haunting” – often to the point of being overtaken by a spirit or inhabited by a ghost. She is capable of that slightly solemn and deeply ceremonial dark music which we often associate with recent Polish musical acts to have come our way, including Hati, 23 Threads, and Tundra. Antonina is also one half of A.N.R.S., a duo with Robert Skrzyński, who released their self-titled record for Requiem Records this year. Plus she has performed with trumpeter Algirdas Dokalskiego in 2014, in an improvising context.

On WIDT, get ready to hear seven examples of her craft, where her voice is treated with some reverb and looping effects to create endless patterns and repetitions, and the whirlpools of sound suck you in as expected, down into a gently spinning slow-motion maelstrom of ancient mystery. All the songs are done without words, and it’s all about Nowacka shaping sounds and vocalising into interesting textures. She’s trying to say something about particular mental states and moods. But she also seeks a connection with the “old songs” (whatever that may mean in Poland; perhaps a reference to folk music of the Carpathians), religious music, and opera; traces of all of these can be found embedded in the fabric of her works. More than once during today’s spin, I fancied I was hearing the dark, evil twin of Yma Sumac descending from a cold mountainside, armed with a sword.

The other half of the WIDT act is Bogumiła Piotrowska, a video artist; WIDT’s complete package of son et lumière has been represented before on a CD-DVD package from Circon Int. capturing their performance at Edinburgh; and Pointless Geometry in Poland even issued a VHS cassette of their work, in 2013. The DVD here will allow you to hear all seven songs again, this time accompanied by the video art of Piotrowska. It looks like it’s exploiting video feedback effects in real time to create visuals that move in time to the voice and music; something of a familiar trope, but it’s good stuff; I like the restrained colours, the limited abstract shapes, and the highly grainy quality to the surface, which at times borders on old-school television interference. The visuals have a grittiness which some modern A/V creators have forgotten about, or deliberately try to avoid. I particularly like the black and grey blocks for ‘Joleusa’, which remind me of a test card pattern, going slightly bonkers. From June 2016.

Negation Of The Negation

cura

Last heard from Sturqen in 2012 with their Praga album for Kvitnu, the label that loves all things heavy and dense…the Portuguese duo of Cesar Rodrigues and David Arantes have been active since 2008 and continue to carve their own furrow in the swirling world of dark techno-mechanical blackness. Their Cura (KVITNU 45) shows they are still preoccupied with machines and their work remains themed on the idea of industrial mayhem, described here as a “journey through grimy machines”…consequently, a black and airless world is what they create, with remorseless hammering drum beats sucking up the air and the only relief to our plight is offered by electronic devices and synths occasionally treated to resemble the howl of an electric guitar.

Cura is also a “concept album” of sorts; the title means “cure” in English and an enclosed note muses on the idea of what modern medicine can really offer us by way of effective treatment, perhaps thinking of such aggressive techniques as chemo-therapy to cure cancer. Sturqen propose a radical alternative to mainstream medicine with their music, calling it a “negation of the negation that suppressed that which is strange to a healthy system”, and offer the album to the world as “an act of healthy violence”. Presumably this is all a metaphor. I don’t think they seriously intend Cura to be played henceforth in hospitals everywhere over the PA system, thus causing ill patients to leap from their beds instantly, but their argument has not been fully thought through. It seems simply to be a rather solemn and over-elaborate way of saying “take it or leave it” when you hear their music.

This aside, there is a lot to enjoy on Cura, and I like the stern and unblinking qualities the pair are capable of unleashing, even though their sounds are not quite as dark and violent as they evidently seem to think. From 8th June 2016.

Conceptual Continuity

komora-a1

Komora A
Crystal Dwarf
POLAND MONOTYPE RECORDS mono088 CD (2016)

Previously noted in these pages for a ‘serious lack of force’ and a ‘melange of analogue and digital synth porridge’, Komora A can’t be said to have effected any radical stylistic changes of late, but seem to have honed such attributes into a more virtuous expression of the radiant modular ambience they call home. Their ongoing fixation with the nebulous, titular ‘Crystal Dwarf’ suggests a conceptual kind of continuity. Perhaps it’s simply a case of fine tuning: the Polish trio comfortably dis-locate themselves in a zone that is neither gloomy ‘Dark Ambient’ nor wayfaring IDM, but rather a mildly agitated compromise between the two. Offering reassuring yet fleeting signs of human life, Waking Up’ is a crystalline, drip-dripping pattering set to industrial drone and more erratic fragment congregations – a chaos / order harmony that is neither man nor machine. Subsequent tracks offer more sinister assemblies of their signature ingredients: disembodied pulses, thickening meteorology and subtle accretions of electronic scream and chatter; all amounting to something like a child-friendly form of Pan Sonic’s more ruthless mechanical holocausts.

c

@c
Three-Body Problem
PORTUGAL CRÓNICA ELECTRONICA 111-2016 CD (2016)

Now sixteen albums down the line, Portuguese duo @C continue to refine their own brand of subatomic click n’cut ambience with Three-Body Problem, which began life as Agapornis – another puppetry piece soundtrack (like Ab Ovo before it); one inspired by the writer Anaïs Nin. The title symbolises the logistical synergy of three phases of development: the first, a kind of bi-polar dialogue between two female puppets – described at least partly by the pairing of harp and trumpet – informing the initial structure. This underwent considerable post-performance revision in phase two, when musical collaborators (João Pais Filipe (cymbals and bells) and Ricardo Jacinto (cello and electronics)) added their voice, while still somehow facilitating the distillation of twenty-one tracks into just nine.

While clearly thus a collaborative effort, no effort has been spared into merging all of the participants and themes into highly schizomorphic panoramas; a near-seamless continuum of rattling, electronic textures that sprout, tremble and bifurcate in every living moment; miraculously managing to avoid the perils of overpopulation. This ever-transformative morphology also informed the 3BP’s video-based third phase, which while not part of the album itself, is nonetheless intrinsic to both the group’s visuality. Some striking abstractions and patterning offer a distinctive visual description of @C’s detailed processes – and attest to their collaborative creative process, which unfolds beyond the needs of the individual in an ever-fluctuating galaxy of pure possibility.

Injection: incredibly sad and depressive but not for reasons intended

5ml, Injection, Hong Kong, Nostalgia Productions, CD NP003 (2014)

Listening to this album, I only needed five minutes to discover just how incredibly saddening and dejected depressive BM can be in the hands of this duo who hail from from Krasnodar, one of the, er, sunnier cities in Russia. This is a very sad album indeed, though for reasons the guys might not have had in mind.

First track “Swallow” runs the emotional gamut from deep, deep sorrow to sheer panic and anguish, to the point where you feel more embarrassed for the histrionics and the background whimpering while the thin whiny guitars roar away and the drums flail continuously. It’s actually not a bad track, there’s plenty of good riffing but the overall sound is more wheezy than energetic and emphatic, and probably throws more weight onto the vocals and the hysteria than those deserve. “When Tears Become Bright Again” is not the happiest or brightest of songs either but for sheer pain and burning heat from those crumbly guitar tones this track can’t be beaten. There’s actually quite a good little bass melody going on in the far background if you can ignore the bleating and the screaming.

As the album progresses, I find paying attention to the instrumental music more rewarding than the complaining – if there was some way of erasing the vocals completely and just listening to the music, I’d do it. The contrasts between 5ml’s cleaner post-rock music and the battery-acid BM are very sharp and do much more to disorient and upset listeners than any amount of over-acting and the use of spoken-voice recordings do. 5ml can do moody blues music really well and should just let that continue for as long as they can stand because often that brooding, darkening moodiness is all that’s just needed to impress on listeners a state of unease and fear. The music also improves in the album’s second half with more emphasis on slower mood music and slightly less vocal theatrics.

The music ranges from fairly typical depressive BM with not very much atmosphere (except in the last track where there’s a bit of cold spacey-ness) to brooding urban mood post-rock, with better, more atmospheric music in the later tracks than earlier ones. Final track “Bath of Razors” attempts to integrate the depressive BM and post-rock tendencies more than on previous songs with some success in parts, with the addition of piano and synth-generated droning. Unfortunately those screechy voices are back as well and the music recedes to ongoing scratchiness and cold repetitive noodling.

After hearing this a few times, I find this album more so-so than it could have been: there’s some good emotional music here and if the duo had eliminated those annoying voices and concentrated on bulking up the music with better production, the album’s potential for deep soulful music could have been better realised. “Injection” does promise quite a lot in its first few moments and the album overall does deliver – but you sense it could have done so much more. Let’s hope a follow-up album can deliver a full booster to reinforce and strengthen the positive effects of “Injection” without the adverse reactions.

The Three-Day Week

fract1

Recently we noted The Quietened Village from the English micro-label A Year In The Country (AYITC), a compilation which limned allusive portraits of English pastoral idylls. Here is the same label with another not-unrelated compilation called Fractures, which they dub #3 in a “series of explorations” called Audiological Transmission Artifact. Once again there’s a concept at work; the compilers propose that the year 1973 was a pivotal year for the UK, where a “schism in the fabric of things took place”. The manifestations of this change are reflected in the following list: power cuts, the three day week, the release of the film The Wicker Man, the making of the children’s sci-fi TV series The Changes, and other scattered references. I suppose the main disaster for AYITC was the departure of Delia Derbyshire from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. There are also references to faded psychedelia and corrupted ideals, but the level of engagement with 20th century history hasn’t gone much beyond reading a few headlines and rummaging in a very eclectic shopping bag of cultural effluvia, mostly derived from watching the telly.

I’m all in favour of this kind of alternative history, even if the concept feels a little undeveloped in this instance, and whatever substance it has is mostly reflected in the press release rather than in the actual music on offer. At least on The Quietened Village, some of the musicians were making an attempt to reference real English villages in their sounds, titles, and field recordings; on Fractures, the music’s relation to the central concept is less easy to discern, other than a vague feeling of disquiet and paranoia in some cases. There’s a lack of specificity which troubles me a little. However, Fractures works well as an entertaining spin on its own terms. My favourite pieces include ‘The Osmic Projectors / Vapors Of Valtorr’ credited to two separate projects, where the vaguely sinister purr and spangly electronica of Circle gives way to a deliciously haunting melody concocted by Temple. I also enjoyed Time Attendant and their ‘Elastic Reform’, which like most of the stuff here lacks a real tune, but at least uses repetition quite effectively. It goes on for a long time and insists on itself to the point of creating a nice mysterious ambiance.

Semi-supernatural suggestiveness is to be had from Keith Seatman on ‘Seeing The Invisible’; the sounds are interesting, but the construction is weak. It feels like someone is attempting to summon spirits; buried children’s voices emanate from the quasi-supernatural murk. Polypores are attempting something slightly similar on ‘The Perfect Place For An Accident’; eerie voices are mixed together with off-kiltre keyboard murk, and the technique is like an attempt to conceal a murder mystery where voices of the innocent continue to haunt the guilty. Neither of these are genuinely horrifying though, and feel more like the pale ghosts of certain Central Office of Information films. With their extremely fragile narrative elements, these might be tunes we could match up against the hoped-for associations with BBC TV of the 1970s. Slightly more explicit in making such references are Listening Center 1 with ‘Triangular Shift’, a piece which begins with outer-space suggestions of missiles and satellites at play, and then leads into a jaunty Schools & Colleges type-tune.

With all of these Radiophonic Workshop clues floating about, I’m a tad disappointed that none of the creators make much of an effort to emulate their heroes; I mean that I can find no evidence they have studied the techniques or methods of these highly original and inventive creators who worked in such a physical way with tape construction and sound mixing, and instead are content simply to imitate their surface sounds. In some cases, not even doing that very convincingly. But it’s harsh to level this charge at the creators here, as I refer to a name-checking syndrome that’s been afoot in the UK for many years now. Likewise, I don’t quite get the fixation that everyone continues to apply to The Wicker Man, often to the exclusion of any other English horror movie made in the 1970s. It’s a form of tunnel vision to single out this very unusual movie, and often so many of its adherents seem to lack the contextual understanding of film theory or cinematic history that might help us to see it in perspective.

At any rate, those who delight in the pagan elements of The Wicker Man are bound to find interest in the tracks here by Sproatly Smith and The Hare And The Moon with Michael Begg. Sproatly Smith’s ‘In The Land Of Green Ginger’ is trying very hard to be romantic, English, and pagan in a way that would attract the approval of Julian Cope and his acolytes. I do like to combination of traditional folk-song elements with the doodly electronic interventions, but the tune lacks melodic strength and is badly sung. ‘A Fracture In The Forest’ by The Hare And The Moon appeals to me even less, with its solemn recits about about lifting the veil and catching sight of the God Pan. But it plugs into a continuum of dark Industrial folk music that has its supporters, a strand which I suppose has its beginnings with David Tibet, who has appeared on at least one Human Greed record recorded by Begg. To some extent, The Rowan Amber Mill are also perhaps aiming for a folky vibe on their ‘Ratio (Sequence)’, with its vaguely pastoral melody mixed with modern electronica.

The comp ends on a very downbeat note. A Year In The Country offer us ‘A Candle For Christmas’, a very sombre construction which I enjoyed. It seems to exist in parallel with a wholly unrelated musical sub-genre, that of Cold Depressive Black Metal; but for all their pessimism A Year In The Country never succumb to that sense of complete futility we associate with the latter. Their non-specific valedictory hymn is entirely unique to the label aesthetic, and to this compilation. I’m slightly less taken with David Colohan’s ‘Eldfell’, which amounts to a generic atmospheric drone with wailing voices. It ain’t exactly Popol Vuh, but the unassuming tone and mock grandeur is unmistakeably English. Fractures exists in two editions, of which I received the Dawn Edition on 22 April 2016.

  1. Why is their name spelled the American way?

Farewell to the Sun: a disappointing debut for a promising doom / post-BM band

vow-of-thorns

Vow of Thorns, Farewell to the Sun, Canada, Forest Dweller Inc., CD digipak (2016)

Although the foursome from southern Ontario have been playing together for some 8 years, Vow of Thorns haven’t had an impressive discography so far and only this year (2016) did they release their first album “Farewell to the Sun”. From the sound of it – and I’ve played it a few times already – I’m wondering if maybe even releasing it this year was a bit premature for VoT. There’s some very good atmospheric post-BM music here but taken as a whole the album lacks direction and focus, and much of it seems circular, repetitive and lacking in energy. I’m sure the members worked hard and long on this recording so I’m disappointed for them that it hasn’t turned out the way it could have done.

For a start there are three tracks that form a “Farewell to the Sun” trilogy within the album of the same name so listeners might query whether these songs, totalling 23 minutes altogether, couldn’t have been hived off as a separate album or EP release from the other tracks. For all that, there’s no great difference between those songs and the rest of the album, and the entire recording could have been an overarching work of six connected chapters. At least three tracks on the album, none of them related to one another, are 10+ minutes in length and listeners are hard-pressed to figure out why any one of these should be as long as it is, given that the music often wanders from one set of riffs or melodies to the next without anything being resolved within the song.

Opening track “Meeting on the Astral Plane” seems promising enough as it features some blistering BM energy mixed with passages of emotive doom filtered through a BM sheen along with some solid heavy metal melodic crunch and moments of quiet acoustic meditation within its 10-minute limit. The level of playing is solid throughout and the musicians pour their hearts and souls into the music. Can it be possible that they’re a bit too swept away by the music to the point of overplaying and the song ends up overstaying its welcome? There are moments where it seems there are other songs within “Meeting …” struggling to emerge and the musicians’ attention is diverted to indulging these within the original song and losing sight of what they should be doing. This is a problem that recurs on other tracks later, especially on the album’s other long songs.

You’d expect the “Farewell to the Sun” tracks to form a self-contained set in which a definite musical narrative can be heard. Part I at least starts off as a long instrumental intro. Part II takes up the baton and some of the musical themes but then starts falling apart during its fifth to sixth minutes with pauses that deflate the music’s momentum. From then on there’s a long, long haul back up to where we started. Perhaps the agony and anguish are intended but, jeez, the journey is excruciating. Part III similarly is an endurance test through doomy post-BM. At the end of this set, I don’t get the feeling that whatever crises were brought up during its 20-plus minutes have been resolved and what we’ve had to undergo is an extended wallow in depression and misery.

Much of the music actually isn’t bad, the album could have junked out a lot of the more repetitive sections and been a much tighter and more focused work. The production, while good, doesn’t serve the music too well, not allowing the more contemplative and atmospheric parts to be what they should be (that is, contemplative and atmospheric) or giving the heavier, more crunching riffs the three-dimensional solidity they need. The main problem is that too many songs try to pack too much in, trying to be all things to all people, and they end up sounding very similar.

For all that, VoT have some good melodies and riffs, and the guys play very well together; they just need better song composition skills and to reconsider how they want to sound and what they want to get out of it to provide a better experience for their fans.

776: a monumental doom-sludge psychedelic re-imagining of the United States

Phantom Glue, 776, United States, Negative Fun Records, CD NF-025 (2016)

Being a typical dumb Australian, I thought “776” might have been a reference to when the Ancient Greek Olympic Games were first held. Heh-heh, is that ever a weird guess!!! Truth though is stranger than the imagination: “776” is a metonym for US band Phantom Glue’s re-imagining of the United States as having existed for over a thousand years in an alternative though parallel universe, a United States where the Declaration of Independence had not yet been signed. Appropriately the album “776” is a mix of the mythical and mystical, and the uncompromising and hard-hitting, perhaps as much a commentary on the current nation as it is an exploration of a fantasy alternative.

Opening track “Ion Cloud” and follow-up “Hundred Hand” capture both sides of the album’s concept, at once screeching hardcore, sludge, doom and psychedelic, with the music bordering on overwhelming and monstrous in parts. The vocal seems as much disembodied as distant – the Phantom Glue singer doesn’t even try to compete with the full-on bludgeon attack – as if it really is a messenger from the parallel universe of 776 come to warn us of doom. Once PG have our full attention and concentration, the band dives further into its alternate reality with “Somatic”, a slower, more sludge juggernaut track with thundering percussion, steely rhythm guitars and a squalling lead guitar snaking around the edges of the song. So concrete-crunching is this song that it’s easy to forget that it’s only five minutes long. “Somatic” pairs well with “A Worker-less Mill”, an equally monumental song and staggering in its structuring where the thumping drums take centre stage building up a tower of thudding beats. Guitars stutter or howl around the percussion and the vocals almost shrink to raspy screams. The song is crowned with a corrosive acid ambience that burns and etches deeper-than-deep holes in your consciousness.

The pile-driving psychedelia punishment continues all the way to the end; the band seems to lose a bit of momentum with “Suttungr” which starts off slowly and lethargically but recovers energy and speeds up in its second half. “Hocheim’s War” is a definite head-banging grooving rocker with as much noisy hardcore crispness and crunch as creepy acid-bleached lead guitar flurry. Closing track “Gog is Dead” is the most atmospheric song, though not necessarily in a benign way: the doom is dark, sinister and haunted-house menacing. The song builds up in overpowering intensity and immersive blackness that literally leave folks hanging on the edge of a cliff descending into a bottomless abyss.

This music is so huge, monstrous and at times terrifying that listeners might well be glad it doesn’t last long (it’s about 36 minutes in length) and the more sensitive among you might need another 36 minutes to get the band’s music and terrifying dystopian visions out of your heads. I’m almost grateful that the production on this album is less than what the music deserves – the music (especially the drumming) does have a tinny sort of sound and doesn’t feel as three-dimensional solid as it should – or I might have been sent deranged. This is one album to be heard at least once, if only so you can tell your friends you survived the experience – but just barely. Definitely an experience not to be passed up!

Moon Madness

kallee

Obscure, puzzling and near-anonymous slab of “dark ambient” chill-mode minimal drone-a-thonnery from Poland…Nusthur (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 119-2) is credited to Kallee & The Lunar Trio, an extremely low profile act which seems to comprise Karolina Kallee and Mariusz Nantur Doering, the latter appearing here as Nantur. These two have appeared on the label before, on the 2-CD comp From Earth To Sirius released in 2011; since that comp was dedicated to the works of Robert Anton Wilson, our friends were clearly compelled to call their contribution ‘Sabbah & 23 Hashisheen’, adding to the weight of musical utterances inspired directly or indirectly by William Burroughs…this “old man of the mountain” stuff has clearly not outstayed its welcome…

Nusthur may be gunning for other fish, though. There’s a quote from Omar Khayyam inside the cover, something about sending the soul through the Invisible, and the cover motif of skulls and flowers is very far from being a Grateful Dead tribute. Kallee & The Lunar Trio want to induce “trance…meditation…a soundtrack accompanying the journey into yourself”, and are happy to be associated with sleep-walking as they make this trek into the subconscious. The first track ‘Nox’ is a horrible assemblage of drab, unappealing electronic drones, utterly shapeless; you may fare better, or worse, with ‘Nox-Lunaris’, over 19 minutes of barely-audible atmospheric effects, which might be mistaken for a thunderstorm in the far distance or a supernatural throb produced when the Northern Lights cross paths with a belt of UFOs. At least this overlong stretch of abstraction does manage to convey a “nocturnal” sensation, assuming that’s the point of including a reference to the moon in its title. I kind of get the meditational point, but ‘Nox-Lunaris’ is just too insubstantial to even make an impression.

On ‘Nox-Lux’, the musicians make some concessions to making themselves heard, and while the texture and surface of this 18-minute cut are hard to grasp (terms like quagmire, mud, swamp come to mind), at least the technique of irregularly-repeated patterns and loops starts to make some sense. Kallee & The Lunar Trio refuse any conventional manner of hypnotising the audience, and seem determined to get there in a very awkward, long-winded and unfriendly manner. The cabalistic rules governing this sect are impossible to fathom, and I’m not sure I even want to join. From 14th April 2016.

Oh What An Atmosphaera!

troum-raison-detre

Troum & Raison D’Être
De Aeris In Sublunaria Influxu
BRAZIL ESSENCE MUSIC ESS024 CD (2015)

The press release for this meeting of German and Swedish drone overlords poses a rather touching rhetorical question; “ever wondered how a mix of Troum and raison d’être would sound like?” Well, not really, if I’m honest. But maybe I should wonder about these things. The artists are well-regarded in their field, and the music they make together isn’t bad at all.

What we have here, then, is a handsome CD package containing seven tracks of the deepest, darkest ambience. The Latin titles – “Alio Tempore”, “Oculum Mundi”, “Flammae” and so on – get my vote, suggesting as they do arcane alchemical operations or Goetic incantations. Actually, the album title has a fairly prosaic origin, since it appears to be taken from a 17th century medical treatise by Johannes Bohn. It still sounds enticingly mysterious, though.

There are enticingly mysterious qualities in the music itself, which unfolds at a geological pace, perhaps reflecting the fact that the record took four years to make. The vibe is generally heavy and cthonic, if I can get away with using that word, successfully evoking the solid elemental realm “under the moon”. Drones build, sheets of sound coalesce and reverberate, a crackle-glaze of noise is laid over the top to provide a tiny bit of light against all the shade. Admittedly there’s not much to distinguish one track from another, but that’s ambient music for you, I guess.

On the whole, this ticks most of my boxes for this type of venture, taking my head into another space for a while and altering the flow of time to some degree. Music for chymical weddings and subterranean chill-out rooms.

Christ Clad in White Phosphorus: not just another tour-de-force album by Caïna

Caïna, Christ Clad in White Phosphorus, Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings, digipak CD APW011 (2016)

Since reforming in 2012, Caïna continues to do no wrong from this listener’s viewpoint as it evolves from Andrew Curtis-Bicknell’s solo project  to a three-member band and the music shifting from black metal / post-BM to a black metal mixed with industrial, dark ambient, noise electronics and 80s-styled darkwave / synth-pop influences. In my little world at least, every new album release from Caïna is an event not to be missed.  Listening to Caïna’s recordings isn’t easy and most of them can be very hard-going, and not just because they can be long or because they can be so unpredictable. There is much emotional pain revealed that can resonate with dark moments in most people’s lives and a listener would have to be either dead, comatose or sociopathic not to be affected by moments in Caïna’s albums to the point of tears.

From the hellish industrial nightmare ambience created by opener “Oildrenched and Geartorn” through intense raw garage black metal filled with rage and a desire to destroy everything within hearing range in tracks like “Fumes of God” and “Entartete Kunst”; doomier and darker melodic pop-song tracks like “Gazing on the Quantum Megalith” and “God’s Tongue as an Ashtray”; the noise / dark ambient soundscapes of “The Throat of the World” … the sonic universe that arises is incredibly vast and varied yet it all crackles with energy and a malevolent spirit. If anything, there might be too much going on here (for a 53-minute album) with Caïna jumping from one style of music to another through songs that are often just 4 – 6 minutes which may not be enough time for many listeners to fully savour the sounds, the emotions, the fury and intensity of one song before they are hurled into another.

Just when you think Caïna has gone past the halfway mark and can do no more, the band goes to another level with pieces like the fusion dark ambient / jazz of “Pillars of Salt” and the harsh blizzard 90s-Norwegian styled black metal of “The Promise of Youth”. These send us to the unreal blinding-white dazzle ambient world of static and white sizzle noise that is “Extraordinary Grace”. Have we all died and gone to Heaven to meet our maker and hear the judgement to be pronounced upon us? In an album already jam-packed with experimentation and investigations into angst and melancholy, this near-psychedelic track, lasting for 12 minutes, is an astounding discovery, the proverbial diamond in a heap of black coal. This quartet of songs ends with the title track which with clean vocals, shrill guitar melodies and pulsing synth accompaniment, sounds like a noisy black metal reworking of a 1980s Goth synth-pop song.

For a band that at one point in its past almost did away with black metal completely, Caïna commit themselves to the black art with the force and aggression that comes from being fully invigorated with the music again. Perhaps bringing on board guest vocalists on previous album “Settler of Unseen Snares” and a permanent vocalist and another musician has inspired AC-B anew. Caïna’s sound is fuller, more blood-red raw and intense than I remember from earlier recordings.

Coupled with excellent production, this album presents a reborn Caïna that is at once experimental and at the same time surprisingly accessible with songs possessed of catchy tunes and beats, all arranged in a way that shorter, more conventionally oriented BM tracks (well, relatively speaking of course – we’re talking about an act whose work has always spanned several genres) come first before the more surreal pieces. It can be a lot to take in and several songs are very uncompromising in their aggression and intense delivery. This is an album that repays repeated hearings: with each spin, you may find your darkest fears and vulnerabilities exposed anew.

At this point, if Caïna never do anything else again, the band will be leaving behind a legacy of great if not always perfect albums. I rate Caïna among Britain’s greatest rock music exports, and that is really saying something even now with so much British pop and rock music in apparent decline.