Thursday, January 6, 2011

KALTETOD "REUE" (Eternity Records)

One of my very favorite black metal bands returns from the wintry enigma, bathing us in a frigid and unforgiving blast of hyper-elite classicist blackened art. Kaltetod are one of the most under-appreciated bands in the black metal landscape; they're easily on par with underground giants like Mutiilation, Grand Belial's Key and the Ruins of Beverast yet they receive few of the same accolades. Perhaps that obscurity works to Kaltetod's advantage-they're not very prolific (this being only their sophomore album) and that lack of critical focus allows for a certain amount of time in preparing every new communication, thus ensuring an enviable ratio of quality to quantity that very few black metal projects can meet.
Hearing "Leere" back in 2005 was a revelatory experience, comparable to hearing "Filosofem" for the first time and truly beginning to understand it. Kaltetod plays with the same sort of time-stretching, blurring ideology, the warping of the now into the always and eternal, as transcendent an experience i've had with any other sort of music, be it the endless void of Skullflower or the formless sprawl Eliane Radigue's electronic meditations. Kaltetod clearly get the transformative potential of extreme composition, crafting epic pieces of black metal art that ultimately leave their conceptual grounding behind and leave a much more pure and involved engagement in their wake. "Leere" was as much a trance as it was an album of music and is simply one of the most consistently involving works i've heard in the genre.
"Reue" follows ably in "Leere"'s footsteps, boasting six more incredibly blinding, clouded songs that sound as though they've been buried under layers and layers of bitter dust and ice. If black metal is meant to be the sonic equivalent of winter (yes, i know it's an incredibly juvenile metaphor) then "Reue" is a scathing blizzard, a raging wall of screaming white blindness and numbing frigidity. Every sound melds together throughout. Guitars and vocals become textural devices meant to impart melody and extremity both; howls and wails run concurrent with dissonance and neoclassicism. Drums are machinelike and near inaudible, forcing the music along at breakneck speeds but just as easily dropping into half-time neck-crackers lest you forget that you are indeed listening to metal first and foremost. This is a band that grasps the impact of the black metal genre and refuses to dilute it; perhaps that's another reason for Katetod's relative underexposure within the scene. Black metal at its inception stood for violence and hallucinatory obliqueness; there was a sense of fright and mystery at the center of Mayhem's operations and a cultural disavowal at the genre's implied mission statements. It's not difficult to picture Kaltetod's music blasting as the soundtrack to a church burning; it's equally easy to imagine a depressed individual slicing open their wrists by candlelight as "Leere" blasts from a corner of the room. Kaltetod embody the most extreme aspects of black metal while relinquishing none of the compositional maturity the genre's exemplaries demand. This music operates and exists on a higher caliber and plane.
Philosophically the project is given over to an exploration of emptiness, presumably in both life and death. The music easily falls into the "suicidal" tag but there's more there than a simple wish for end. Like Lyrinx there's a desire not just to die but to disappear or be completely removed from the world as is. Death isn't enough, as it's still an earthly process mostly crushed under the weight of earthly attachment and ideals. There is a yearning for beyond-ness, a question thrown at the night and cast into the multitude of stars. How far does all the emptiness go? Is there a bottom somewhere in the human experience? How permeating is this malaise? How does time figure in, if at all? Can you actually refuse to take part in any of it? How? These questions are part of what Kaltetod strives for. In striving to understand the idea of removal they approach a transcendence approximated by music by that goes beyond simple extremity into a territory populated by careful consideration and near endless textural complexity. This band deals in masterworks, and while not to every taste, the music is beyond worthwhile for those seeking transformation and a deeper understanding of the self and its place.

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