Saturday, January 22, 2011


Massive four way conceptual split conceived by the great minds at the Ajna Offensive who once again put together an extremely thoughtful and beautifully constructed compilation embracing both the outer reaches of esoteric knowledge and outsider musicks. Based on a complicated theory of magick known since ancient times but recently put forth by occultist Eliphas Levi, and later, through him, Aleister Crowley this split seeks to attain a fertile state of mind through the efforts of its four contributors, seemingly for the purpose of ritual or trance. From Eliphas Levi directly:

“To attain the SANCTUM REGNUM, in other words, the knowledge and power of the Magi, there are four indispensable conditions--an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which cannot be broken, and a prudence which nothing can corrupt and nothing intoxicate. TO KNOW, TO DARE, TO WILL, TO KEEP SILENCE--such are the four words of the Magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx.”

Therein lies the purpose behind this assemblage. Each of the four acts represents an aspect of the Powers and transforms the ideas behind them into some sort of auditory proclamation. Saturnalia Temple tackles the study, Nightbringer the intrepidity, Nihil Nocturne the will and Aluk Todolo the incorruptible prudence. It's a lofty concept, obviously, but so well conceived and executed by all involved that the pretensions are easily forgiven in light of the musical statement being made.
Saturnalia Temple opens things up with "To Know," a slow burning glacial piece of psyched out doom hedonism that grows larger and larger as each minute passes. Here the idea of study and contemplation is transformed into hypno-repetitive song structure, a piece built on one riff that mutates slightly throughout the song's run but ultimately remains focused and unchanged. Saturnalia Temple keep things drugged out and loping as if in tribute to Crowley himself but never forsake the necessary heaviness to pound the idea into the subconscious. "To Know" is a crushing, sleepy head-nodder birthed from the same ground as Pharaoh Overlord and Neu, a total abandonment of self into groove and tone.
Nightbringer releases the next assault, "To Will," a forceful and high-strung illustration of creation magick via fierce Mayhem-esque black metal fury and occultick distance. Already conceptually vague and intentionally obscure, Nightbringer are one of few black metal acts able to compete with the Norwegian masters musically, tapping into the same oblique melodies and blinding ferocity that distinguished so much of the initial wave. "To Will" is a crushing piece equally composed of conceptual and musical heft, replete with spoken/whispered enigmas and blinding tremelo-picked guitar lines that scream to an open sky. The sheer force Nightbringer play with comprise an apt demonstration of human willpower, easily showcasing the inner drive necessary to bring elemental magicks into being.
Nihil Nocturne also focus on willpower with their piece, "To Dare." For me this is the most surprising song here since for years i've written Nihil Nocturne off as an adequate but wholly overrated black metal act. Blessed with the prestige of being on the mighty End All Life label, Nihil Nocturne have turned out two predictable albums of black metal virtuosity, showing a definite knowledge and commitment to the ideology but very little originality, with many of their songs being watered down rehashes of past Scandinavian glories (and not in any sort of way that speaks of influence or growth-just simple regurgitation.) So to see them turn in a worthy track to accompany the rest is a feat in and of itself, easily speaking to magick and will. Here their interpretation of black metal takes the form of a languid and stretched approximation of songcraft, given over more to Burzum-styled transcendence than Darkthrone's puerile aggression. Nihil Nocturne here grasps for something far beyond in the cosmos, desperately attempting to pluck stars from the night and render them into some more powerful, insidious form. For the most part they succeed, brilliantly, giving the split one of their most fully realized (and best) compositions to date.
Aluk Todolo closes things out with their epic kraut-rocking "To Keep Silent," a hulking waste of song that obsesses over one bassline and shits guitar mess all over the steady, skittering drums. If it sounds sexual it is, as buried deep in all modern magick there exists a fixation on the energies produced during copulation. Here Aluk Todolo turns those pressures and tensions into a boiling stew of kinetic energy, the nearly open portal to another view that will distort the world we know know and turn it into some hazier sort of sight, bent on illusion and summons both. As in all their previous work Aluk Todolo completely master the idea of the repeat, clutching the listener close to the chest and lifting them up higher and higher into a breathless realm of both contemplation and understanding.
All of it adds up to some outstanding music, four interpretations of essentially the same idea, filtered through two distinct genre perceptions. Ajna has done something wonderful here; they've taken an extremely esoteric subject and made it real through music. It's the ultimate act of artistic illustration. Totally recommended.

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