Here we have a collection of songs for nippy nights, such is the preoccupation with the dark and the cold. Though the three artists don't necessarily plough the same furrow, they share the harvest and so the Ambience of LIHOLESIE sits easy with the highly communicative Black Metal of MOR and even the clubbed baby fur seal, blood and beauty of STIELHAS STORHETT.
LIHOLESIE top and tail this split with flurries and shimmers of icy crystals blown across a desolate landscape, the closing track in particular guarantees frost bite with its Northern Blight hum and twinkle of petrified tree limbs. “Barbarians...” is less draining, perky piccolo teasing the bombast that it accompanies, the Neo-Folk/Ambient composition haughtily stomping along to a herald of horn and crashing cymbals.
“Kola Cross” introduces the jar of electric guitar, MOR's contribution actually being a single track with four parts. MOR's Black Metal is certainly progressive, it incorporates a number of Rock elements without employing the now ubiquitous Post-Rock contrivance, the lead guitar picks out a constant narrative, highly eloquent, it glides and spirals on thermals that the cold shouldn't allow. As it is in fact one track, there's no surprise in the constituent parts carrying a common theme, the intensity is gradually ratcheted up until “Sunless Dawn” veritably toboggans along alive with Black Metal vigour.
And so whilst the lead guitar may flicker like St Elmo's fire along MOR's wing, the rest of the instrumentation has a much rawer edge. The first three parts convey a bleakness, the rhythm guitar is jagged and riff based, the Jekyll and Hyde of the guitars working in stark contrast to each other, it's only when “Sunless Dawn” streaks away that they reach a symbiosis, a necessary evil to ensure cohesion at speed. With the vocals providing an angst-ridden harsh barking commentary, you can't fail to notice the emotive content of these songs, there is undoubtedly a story being told. On the evidence of this contribution alone, MOR certainly have a wider appeal than a Black Metal audience, or a Metal one come to that.
“Vandrer” was a Top 20 of mine a year or so ago and so I was looking forward to STIELAS STORHETT's tracks. That album prepares you for being surprised, the core sound is re-worked to the moment and there is an even wider dichotomy here than MOR when it comes to the contrast between lead and rhythm guitar. When the lead soars, it does so right up to stratospheric levels, these two songs differ in pace and ferocity but the lead provides a constant that maintains identity. “Taedium Vitae” marches along, there's a weathered texture to it and it's the uplift of melody that provides the will to carry on, there's a deliberate clumsiness of crash and bash but purpose is maintained despite the morose atmosphere.
It is STIELAS STORHETT's second track that provides this albums highlight, his work always sounds more effective when there's an injection of speed and “Sic Itur Ad Astra” is no exception. Rabid barbed guitar rips along with the sear of lead flying off at tangents before sweeping back down to buzz at its earthbound partner in grime. When the rush falters, the lead takes on a harsher tone as if the drop in pace allows the whir of the blade to slow enough to feel the teeth. In common with his album, there is a sensuality to his work as well as hints at faux classical structure, it is virtually impossible not to get swept up in the fatal embrace of this music, it draws you onto the rocks as sure as an island of sirens. Demonstrating solidarity with the harsher elements of these songs, the vocals snarl despair, clearly wretched as if expressing self disgust at not being able to match the dazzling drift of the guitar.
A gratifying listen then, three artists with differing perspectives but a common vision. MOR show a wider promise but STIELAS STORHETT can rip you apart on a freezing wind, as well as providing Black Metal that drips sensuality, that might have some of you gagging but I say with a straight face that STIELAS STORHETT makes Black Metal you can definitely shag to. Good luck in trying to find someone who'll agree though.
(Online April 26, 2009)