What can be said about a band that contains several fictional members, one being what looks like an elderly woman named Mistress Palm that is actually, according to the band’s website, a “rectoplasmic revenant”? After listening to AARNI’s new album "Tohcoth", it is clear that more bands could benefit from such lunatic playfulness in the atmosphere around their music. In fact, there are few bands as likely to cause lunacy as AARNI, but that is part of what makes this one-man project so compelling.
On the surface, songs like “The Hieroglyph” seem like traditional Doom compositions, with the trademark plodding guitars and pounding drums associated with the genre. However, AARNI is anything but traditional. Even for the more straightforward sections, there is a precarious awkwardness to the rhythms and instrumentation, as if the music is constantly in danger of collapsing on itself. The vocals are also off-kilter, their low registry usually off key in some fashion, yet they still fit within the song. In contrast, a more outright insane track like “All Along The Watchtowers,” which contains slow, low-pitch chanting that sound like the sonically-distorted dreams of a madman, seems purposefully put together. Everything is somehow congruously incongruous, as if, by some happenstance, these totally divergent sets of sounds came together to form a unified whole. This is illustrated in “Chapel Perilous,” which is basically a five minute parade of disjointed sounds and bizarre instrumentation, with little regard for nuisances like rhythm or melody, yet it all works somehow.
By the second half of the album, however, the experiment begins to fail. This is evidenced on the overlong “The Sound Of One I Opening” and “The Battle Hymn Of The Eristocracy,” which is merely a re-working of the Civil War anthem “The Battle Hymn Of The Republic,” which contains the famous refrain of “glory, glory, hallelujah.” The line between insanity and silliness is a thin one indeed.
Even beyond the music, the artwork is cartoonish, the “mythology” surrounding the band is ridiculous, and the length is self-indulgent (as is everything else about the album). Many may find all of this downright annoying, especially those that are looking for something straight forward, which AARNI certainly is not. Yet, in the words of Robert Anton Wilson, whom "Tohcoth" is dedicated to, “I don't know what anything "is"; I only know how it seems to me at this moment.” I do not know what the album “is” either, but it surely contains something fascinating, something you have likely never heard before. In this moment, I am glad I at least made the journey.