As time renders sacrilegious music in itself subject to consecration, profanation will no longer be solely intrinsic since any divergence from the unholy norms will be deemed a desecration of their very unholiness. At the time of its release, “Neonism” was considered a heretic piece of work by many Black Metal advocates, who discarded it for its unconventional employment of satirical socio-political lyrics and its unorthodox fusion of a variety of musical genres which are, by all means, alien to all that is archetypal about Black Metal. Nonetheless, adventurous audience, who listened to it through less austere eardrums, could easily and utterly digest its content in spite of all its radicalness. Ten years later, “Neonism” might attract a broader layer of listeners and be more accessible to those who rejected it at first; however, it is still, as has always been, a chic stab in the back of rigid conformity.
As far as my meagre MTV education is concerned, SOLEFALD colourfully weaves elements of Drum and Bass, Hip Hop and Pop music into a Black Metal tapestry. There is a lofty Surf Rock wave drenching many songs, most notably “Backpacka Baba”, with incredible intensity and colour. The symphonic arrangements are more linearly orchestrated here in comparison to the debut, and surprisingly add a morose danse-de-salon vibe to the songs. Certain Dark Wave and Post-Punk ingredients are also pinched into the mix recalling BORN FOR BLISS and NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS among others. The vocal duties are co-handled by both Cornelius Jakhelln, whose yelped shrieks sound no less anguished than Lucifer’s in his eternal torment, and Lazare, whose mournful touches on the clean vocal lines are not unlike NEVERMORE’s Dane’s; DEPRESSIVE AGE’s Lubitzki’s and, above all, his own in AGE OF SILENCE.
Lyrically, SOLEFALD disobeys the tenets of Black Metal and writes about the mainstream as opposed to underground culture, which is the natural habitat of Black Metal. The album is a social satire mocking dominant trends and disparaging people’s common inclination towards embracing what they are told to be fashionable: ‘Survival of the fittest suits me fine/The truth that was told to me by Calvin Klein’. It also derides the public’s obsession with celebrities fed by the media: ‘White men came across the sea/To wipe my ass with tabloid paper’. The only allusion to Satan in “Third Person Plural” is as ironic as those made to Tom Cruise and Dale Cooper; nonetheless, ridiculing commonality stresses individualism and free will, which are what Satanism is mostly about. On a more poetic level, one of my favourite quotes here is to be found on “CK II Chanel Nº6”: ‘Love is the glue of our fragmentary nature’. Astutely said!
When “Neonism” was first released in 1999, there was a huge complaint about its recording quality; therefore, it had to be re-released with finer production values. This is, however, the second re-release and the first on Peaceville; yet, I have no idea whatsoever whether or not the sound quality was improved on the previous re-release as is the case here. Furthermore, the colourful cover is drained to white featuring a triangular recycling symbol on it. The track list is also altered since the band, or the label, has chosen to transpose “Proprietors Of Red” and “Fluorescent” giving the former the honour of opening the album. An 11th track, namely “Cosmophony”, is included as a bonus that draws comparisons to EINHERJER hence ends the album on a Viking note. Thus, for the indecisive that cannot make up their mind between the two issues – taking into consideration that the 1999-release is still in stock – I cannot find any reason why they should favour the original press release to this.
Despite its miscellaneous components, “Neonism” is not too profound an album to absorb—especially that all the parts are authentically connected to the whole. Some may say it is not music for everyone but, then, what music is? Personally, I know I am not the most tolerant of listeners when it comes to tainting my cup of Metal with dots of Hip Hop; however, this is not ANTHRAX I am reviewing here. What works for a band does not work for another; and some bands succeed where others fail. When all is said and done, “Neonism” is, and will always be, more than a simple patchwork where pieces of music are sewed together at random; it is a musical design whose unity derives from the dependence of these pieces on one another in order to create a surrealistically coherent work of art.
(Online May 1, 2009)