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The French Black Legions (Les Legions Noires) included many bands and projects that shared members and one of these prolific musicians was Lord Aäkon Këëtrëh who, in addition to playing in various LLN bands like Torgeist and Belketre, had his own experimental solo project that was simply called Aäkon Këëtrëh. The project released three demos from 1995 to 1999 before folding in 1999. As far as I know the demos were originally self-released and were passed around friends but as time goes by and the LLN bands gain more notoriety, their various side projects as well as their music attract more interest, deserved and undeserved alike. But I think it's worth investigating and hearing some of the lesser known side projects if only to be able to say whether the attention is worthwhile for other people to know.
"The Dark Winter" is the last and longest of the AK releases but whether it's the best is another question altogether. About two-thirds of the tracks are less than 2 minutes in length - simply not enough time to be more than experiments in atmosphere, emotion and sound, and some of them not even very good experiments at that. There is a lot of repetition to the extent that even very short pieces sound cartoonish and cringeworthy, especially when the caterwauling vocals, intended to pass as expressions of emotional pain and despair, start up. On one level, the music can be barmy and enjoyable if not taken very seriously; if on another level it is to be considered as serious exercises in expressing feeling, the music's limitations are immediately apparent. The presence or lack of good instruments, recording facilities and playing ability has nothing to do with this: the level of musicianship can be good on some of the middle tracks (after the 10th minute) and there are some genuinely heartfelt guitar melodies and excellent riffing with highly distorted and gritty tremolo guitar textures, so sound is not an issue. Listening to some of the music, I get the impression that sometimes AK was disappointed even with his own efforts in experimentation that after endless repetition he abandoned them (but kept the results in case they could be worked into something else better later on).
Generally the pieces with BM guitar or solo electric guitar are better as expressions of pain and atmosphere - a piece around the 26th minute is a case in point - than the acoustic or near-acoustic melodic pieces which usually feature a guitar tune going round and round in self-pitying circles while a lone clean vocal mopes about overhead. Had AK thought to combine the BM-guitar bits with the melodic Moebius-strip tunes into definite self-contained tracks, he could have ended up with quite complex and substantial work. There are some good ideas here but they float about in isolation from one another and are lost as a result. (The notion has occurred to me that this might have been the intention.)
Making a dark ambient BM album with just vocals and guitar and relying heavily on emotion and ambience is not for the faint-hearted so it's to AK's credit that he got this done. The album may not have quite reached the standard he intended for it. The fact that the AK project was abandoned not long after could suggest that its creator was dissatisfied with the work he'd done so far. There's always the possibility though that some time in the future the album can be revisited, its concepts and themes reworked, and the music and singing improved. The singing in particular is likely to get on listeners' nerves: there's too much keening and moaning for the vocals to sound like genuine expressions of sorrow and hopelessness.
The third effort of AK is quite a bit different from the sophomore release, There is much more atmosphere, with a focus more on this aspect than the guitarwork as was the case in Dans la foret. The guitar passages are very minimal, simple, and extremely varied in their sound, as well as an added element of atmosphere thanks to the overdubbed clean "choir-like" vocals, and the tinny sound of the recording.
There are some samples, as seen in the first of fifteen untitled tracks, where there is some howling winds and sounds of stormy weather. There is also a lot of reverb from the guitar which is noticebly more muddy and distorted. You can hear the feedback from the amplifiers, and this is sometimes the only sounds accompanied with screamed vocals for long periods of time. The guitar has a feaux-distorted sound, perhaps because of the recording methods that are used for this particular record, and does not do much justice for the overall feeling of the album. Instead of sounding dark, as the title hints, it sounds sloppy and half-assed. There are also tracks that are void of distortion, such as Untitled track number four, which almost serves as an interlude because it seems out of place when placed next to the very dissonant and harsh sounds of the other tracks.
Almost every song has some type of vocal attachment, which is something not seen on (in my opinion) AK's best effort, Dans la Foret, and does add a large amount of a forboding feel to the record. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of clean vocals, which again seem out of place, and do not induce a sense of "darkness".
Many of the tracks are very short, ranging from 1-2 minutes, and make for a very choppy listen and the album does not flow well as a whole. Another aspect of this recording that reduces it's effectiveness is the wide range of guitar sounds that are found here. Progressing from clean fingerpicking passages, to black metal-sounding tracks without any warning are very startling, and make any mood that begins to set in disappear in a flash.
All in all, this is a very inconsistent effort. The mood that is attempted to be set is not well documented, and due to the massive amounts of variation in guitar sounds, with no apparent progression or direction inhibit this album from being anywhere close to "ambient". It is, however quite dark thanks to the growling screams that AK added, and even some of the overdubbed multi-layered clean vocals (when used in a choir-like setting) also add to the forboding atmosphere, but these sections are as short-lived as the track lengths.
If a listener wants to hear what AK can really amount to, see their previous recording, otherwise, the listener may walk away with a confusingly bad taste in their mouth.
This is the last, longest and definitely most elaborate release from Lord Aäkon Këëtrëh. We’ve got 15 tracks of the typical, eerie, Les Légions Noires styled music. In the case of projects as Aäkon Këëtrëh, that is a weird sort of dark ambient, usually composed on screechy, off-tune guitars, raspy screams and an occasional synthesizer. It has improved technically, but perhaps not atmospherically.
The most obvious change with the earlier demos, ‘Journey into the Depths of Night’ (1995) and ‘Dans La Forêt’ (= In the Forest, 1996) is, besides length, the more elaborate songwriting. The guitars play more extensive melodies and not always as disharmonic as in the past. We also find lead parts combined with a chord-strumming rhythm guitar, which is also new. Besides the combination of lead- and rhythm guitar, the Lord has used a clean guitar with a plucking riff as a basis for a distorted guitar that plays an actual harmonic, haunting melody. Other tracks consist of real, clear riffs with chords. More effects have been used on the guitar, and the synthesizer is more varying as well.
These changes all work for the better in one way; it gives the demo a bit more the feel of an actual release rather than some random recordings. As far as the vocals go, they have improved, mostly production-wise. His screams aren’t that raw and high-pitched as they used to be; no longer my ears end up aching due to the high overtones in his screams. One of the reasons is he mixed them better, the other is he also used other kinds of vocals, such as the high clean vocals in the Moëvöt vain (‘Zurghtapre - Chant d'Eternité I' from the ‘Abgzvoryathre’ demo (1993) is a good example of this, if I remember well. This track has also been used on the Moëvöt clip circulating the net.)
However, I can also mention a downside to the developments. For example, while creating more ‘real’, song-like riffs (or may be even more song-like songs) can be a good thing, it doesn’t work when the song only consists of a single guitar playing a black metal riff. There’s nothing to hold on to; nothing that marks new riffs or that defines development in the song. It would have worked as an introduction to an actual black metal track, but over 3 minutes of that single guitar gives me the idea he never recorded the other instruments for this song and therefore decided to just dump the guitar in solo on his demo.
This eventually brings me to the conclusion that Aäkon Këëtrëh has developed a bit too much. His first demo wasn’t really a success, but Dans La Forêt was just right, and he’s lost that touch again on this one. The technical improvements came at the cost of the atmospheres, and atmosphere is actually all there is to a project such as this. In a way, those flaws created the atmosphere together with the eerie riffing style, and I hardly hear the typical Dans La Forêt sound here except in a few leads.
How good this work is, depends on your point of view. If you’re looking at it from a very broad, overall perspective, considering the black metal/dark ambient standards, and if you think tuned guitars, playing in sync and a certain level of technicality are positive aspects to all sorts of releases, this is relatively good. But I tend to view this as a dark ambient project from Les Légions Noires, a group that spawned projects who were good in doing what would have wrecked others. And considering the fact that only a few tracks on this demo are as good as the best that Aäkon Këëtrëh produced, I see the improvements as 'negative improvements', thus bringing down the score.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is still very clear that this is work from LLN/Aäkon Këëtrëh, but not the best. Recommended to the fans of LLN and fans of their dark ambient sound as we know it from Aäkon Këëtrëh and Moëvöt, but don’t expect it to be as rich of the atmospheres they often created.
I stumbled across this album when searching on Google Image search for "dark winter". I took a gander at it, and I ecstatically grabbed myself a copy of it. What could possibly go wrong?! A demo album, dark ambient, ultra-black metal album art, and a promising title. Right? Wrong. What a I got was an unorganized jumbled mess of simple dark ambient and occasionally a distorted guitar. And all of this was lo-fi to the point where the sound started getting distorted, the obvious sound of a cassette recording. Unfortunately, I can't reference any of the songs, because Aäkon Këëtrëh decided that he was too good for actual song titles. Either that, or he's just purely lazy.
If your going to make dark ambient, it expected that the quality should be good, as to envelope the listener; the definition of ambient is music that envelopes to listener. This does anything but envelope me. No, I take that back. It envelopes me with anger and eventually gives me a headache. The bass-deprived music in the album sounds like it was recorded in the basement of a black metal teenager elitist's basement of his parents on a Fisher Price microphone. That's about as typical as it gets. Now, I'm not trying to go against the natural circle of life in the world of black metal, but it's time to bring something new to the table, and Aäkon Këëtrëh sure as hell isn't doing anything to help that.
Also, Aäkon Këëtrëh needs to be a tad bit more organized with his music. It's sounds sometimes that he's hitting random notes. Maybe thats not organization and just pure lack of skill at the instrument that he's playing (which is just about all of them), but whichever one it is, he needs to work on it. Also, parts come in at random times. Aäkon Këëtrëh doesn't seem to get the concept of symmetry, and that it's very important in music or else the listener won't know what the fuck is going on. For example he'd doing something like this: Song begins with two measures of an acoustic guitar, then a piano would come in. That goes for 3 measures and then a distorted guitar cuts in. See?
All in all, this album was quite lame, even if it was dedicated to the guy from Mutiilation (as I can barely read from Metal Archives). My tip to the artist, go out and buy a new microphone, get outta your parent's basement, and learn the instruments you so crudely try to play in this album a little better.
Aäkon Këëtrëh is the man behind this piece of truly depressing underground masterpiece. He was guitarist for Torgeist and vocals-guitar for Belketre and eventually branched out to create his own dark ambient project ala 'Lord Beleth'Rim' with 'Amaka Hahina'. This dark ambient project is music that can only come from true feelings within, this music can't be done by a man with a normal or happy life. When I heard this demo I immediately was taken to a place and time that just brings out extreme sorrow inside me. When I listened to this at night with my eyes closed I had images of being in the woods alone, cold and in complete darkness.
How can someone capture that feeling and put it into music? Aäkon Këëtrëh must have recorded this during the winter and out in a secluded area in the late evening. If not, the inspiration certainly comes from that time and place. If you're familiar with LLN music you'll know that it's practically a law that the music be done in a raw, low-budget, underground fashion. There's 15 untitled short length tracks that add to the mystery that is Aäkon Këëtrëh and his music. This is also the last known recording from him. His singing is mainly low growls and chants, but the guitar is the main instrument here, no drums, capturing lost souls and releasing them on tape.
In the insert he dedicates this work to Lord Meyhna'ch. Is it referring to his departure from the Black Legions due to his drug use? Or is it referring to his supposed suicide attempt that people thought at the time was successful? We'll probably never know. This demo is quite possibly THE HARDEST to find and if you own this then you truly have a rare item. Of all the dark ambient projects I've heard from the LLN this one in my mind captures the sounds of sadness, the chill of winter and the darkness of a January night better than any other yet. This is not something you want to play if you're going through depression.