TJOLGTJAR (pronounced “Toll-Tar”) is one of those bands built on a fabulous premise, boasting its fair share of genius scattered amongst a field of mediocrity. The listener is forced into a scavenger hunt in order to locate the solid and chunky bits of musical merit, digging through mud and scattered waste in the process. Is this the plight of yet another one-man Black Metal project, or simply focus being overshadowed by lack of vision?
Those wonderful prizes scattered throughout that mediocrity field? Those are the riffs and melodies on this album which healthily borrow from Classic Rock and particularly Classic Metal, infusing the vitality with a lethal dose of raw Black Metal and producing this ingenious and potent salve capable of leveling an unassuming listener. The opening riff of “The Black Arts Of Vruguun” epitomizes The Reverand’s vision in my eyes and has my head banging harder and more furiously than any other moment on this disc. This awkward and esoteric musical comprehension is scattered throughout the album and first exposes itself to the viewer in “The Ceremony Of Tjolgtjar”. This track suffers from being reliant on several BURZUM-ripped melodies, but that excellent middle section where the guitars cut out and we’re left with a repetitive drum beat and the insane wailings of The Reverand is pure class and completely unexpected.
“Exorcism Spell” also starts out wonderfully with an ELEPHANT-flavored opening riff before solidifying itself in Black Metal hostility. This track also features the second occurrence of the keyboard/ambient passage which this project seems to unashamedly cling to. I’m not quite sure why, as the intro, “Enter The Halls Of The Pororiium”, explicitly shows that this man’s keyboard work is far inferior to the Classic melodic riffs thrown at us throughout this disc. Nevertheless, “Exorcism Spell” gets back on track quick with additional unique riffing, including that fantastic riff at 2:22 which immediately induces an aneurism.
Those unique moments hit you with such fury and give you such a rush that many times you are fortunately able to dismiss the weaker moments at either end of the spectrum. It is also worth mentioning that “Curse Upon Our Enemies” is another one of those compositions where this man hits you with something completely unexpected and unique capable of loosening your bowels. The Reverand takes another step off the accelerator, but does not floor us with a keyboard, rather, bludgeoning with an acoustic passage featuring clean vocals; and they sound fucking great. The appropriateness of the piece offers the perfect breather to the mix of compositions and due to being the only track of its nature, manages to completely astonish the listener.
TJOLGTJAR gets many things right, but unfortunately merely infuriates me when I contemplate this album for an extended period of time. It’s a goddamn shame that such good material can be book-ended with such utter drivel, causing the listener to work far too hard to and possess far too much patience to truly understand the beauty therein. The aforementioned intro is a good example, as it lasts for over 3 minutes and threatens to put you to sleep before you can be completely drawn in to the mayhem. The keys continue to pop up highlighting the weaknesses of the disc and standing in stark contrast to the rehashed melodies which both serve as obstacle courses on the way to glory.
Ultimately, “The Tjolgtjarian Mass” is a unique album which certainly proves a worthwhile listen. At the same time it is rather difficult to recommend throwing your cash down for such a release when many of the elements fall quite short of stellar. Fortunately, nothing here is completely atrocious and the mediocrity is supplanted with enough vigor and quality to possibly be worth your time. (Online June 14, 2006)