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Call me ignorant, call me naive, call me stupid, or just plain silly, but when this ep was announced I was excited. I had hoped for something in the vein of Dethrone the Son of God, a mid paced black metal album with a strong sense of rhythm, blasphemy, and all around charm that made it stand out amongst countless other albums. Instead, with Tungkat Blood Wand, the listener is subjected to almost sixteen minutes of growls, minimalist slow drumming, whooshing noises and other pointless sound effects.
I can appreciate abstract music, or music that focuses more on atmosphere rather than riffs, melody, or emotion; but TBW is just useless noise. For about the first five minutes of the first track all you hear is what sounds like feedback and plenty of "whooshing" noises, then from left field we get Paul Ledney's signature rasps along with a simple drum beat , the sound only evolves to encompass more weird effects and a slower drum beat. Whilst flipping the ep over I still had some hope, only to deal with more of the same crap.
The noise portrayed on this ep is simple and mundane. I suppose it was Ledney's goal to get an evil vibe going, but all that's accomplished is me wanting to throw this ep like a frisbee. This is completely boring and uninspired. Give me garage band and I'll make something similar, AND better.
This little black metal fanboy can still hope Lendey's little side project might return to its former glory, but it's quite unlikely.
To be perfectly honest, I don't much like Paul Ledney's brand of black metal as performed in previous releases (this is the part where I get swarmed by the "black metal hordes" and get nailed to a pair of two by fours for blasphemy most high), but I decided to check this release out on a whim. I assumed it would be worth at least a listen, seeing as it's the first thing he's released in 7 years.
Let me tell you something about this release: it's one of the coldest, blackest, most truly EVIL things I have heard in a while. It's an almost complete departure from their previous stuff, which is a blessing to me. The only band who is in any way similar to this stuff is Abruptum, and even that's a far cry. This, unlike Abruptum, has some structure. As far as I can tell, the guitars only appear from time to time, such as in the beginning of the first song... or maybe the buzzing noise throughout the tracks is also guitar... It's actually rather hard to tell whether it's just an effect or not. Paul Ledney's vocals on this release actually sound like he's retching up something foul, which adds to the atmosphere of the release. I don't believe there are lyrics whatsoever, more like words scattered and repeated throughout the tracks. The drums, which are usually used to tie the instruments together, take second place to the effects and are quite sparse, which conveys to the listener that he/she is taking part in a ritual inside a deep cave. The strange effects used throughout are what tie the EP together, at least in my opinion.
There are some bands that capture a certain essence very well; Arkhon Infaustus, filth & foul muck; Funeral Mist, concentrated evil; and Ofermod, death. With this release, Havohej captures emptiness. I was going to insert a metaphor to better describe it, but words are truly useless in this case; listen to it, and make up your own mind. Although I warn you, if you don't like black/noise very much, you should probably stay away from this.
Up until the satanic mastermind Paul Ledney decided to resurrect Profanatica, the black metal underground seemed like all was lost. Not entirely lost because you had such acts as Funeral Mist, Drudkh, Deathspell Omega, Archgoat, etc. etc. putting out quality releases that definitely out shined so much disposable crap, but it definitely felt like something was missing and/or not precisely there. Paul Ledney stepped out of the shadows and came back with Profanatica and threw the three-headed beast of black metal a huge bone it could gnaw upon for the next few eternities, that meaning not only the excellent “The Enemy Of Virtue” discography collection but as well as the proper full-length “Profanatitas De Domonatia”. But with Profanatica finally getting the credit it was due, a few comrades began to wonder….What about Havohej? If Profanatica were a huge black obsidian rock found in a cave waiting to be unearthed, then Havohej is something all-together different. Havohej are the band you would find in the 9th circle of hell completely devoid of God’s presence. For much of the later part of the 90’s Paul Ledney juggled mainly between the two in competition for which could be the most down-right blasphemous, ugliest, rawest, black metal act one could listen to. Havohej releases such as “Dethrone the Son of God” and the “Man & Jinn” E.P. became instant classics. Suffice to say, Paul Ledney did decide to bring back Havohej and still more questions….would Havohej sound the exact same? Would Paul Ledney suffer from burn-out due to his evil vokills? Would he throw something out for the fuck of it just to cash-in on the name? Could he not possess the truly unholy flame that he set back in the 90’s?
Yes and no. Havohej come back with something that even MORE darker than any previous Havohej release. “Tungkat Blood Wand” actually is an excellent progression in the minimalism that Havohej is known for. But at the same time it’s a grand departure from what we’ve come to expect from Paul. Gone are the blast-beat programmed drums, and guitars. Havohej have taken a complete left turn into more experimental territory. “Through The Gates Of Umu” sounds like the gates of hell are opening and lasts for what seems like forever. Howling, moans, rumbling, noise, etc The drums are extremely slow and dense. Guitars are present but in a warped, deranged sense that everything seems to melt into a hallucinatory state of pure agony. The only guitar you will find here is a vague eerie-like melody that is creepy sounding further inducing a satanic acid trip. Paul vocals? Fuck. This guy can do no wrong. He still sounds like the possessed demon that made him well-known. Just this song alone take up the entire A side. Side B starts off with “Tungkat Blood Wand” which continues the tormenting black noise….starting off with something more akin to black metal…..the sounds of cold freezing winds. Fuck Immortal, they couldn’t hold a candle to this. Paul steps back in and lets forth agonizing screams. Drums are a notch up in tempo. I’m sure if one were to do a cover of this song, the riffs would enhance it ten-fold. “Spirit Voice” is again much like the previous song with Paul screaming his head off to what sounds like he’s saying “Murder!!!”.
I can tell this will cause a shitload of controversy in the black metal scene in general. People looking for something cliché, redundant, monotonous, overdone, look else where. People that want to listen to something that you have to give your entire attention to and actually FOCUS on the music itself. All in all, this is BETTER than 99.9% of what is being pushed in the underground. In total, "Tungkat Blood Wand" is NOT like previous Havohej releases, but at the same time a piece of black droning minimalistic noise that fucks with your mind.