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Moloch, the legendary black metal solo venture from Ukraine, really needs no introduction. On this album, Sergiy’s sixth full-length release, we begin to see the formation of the ‘standard’ Moloch formula: that is, raw and heavily emotive depressive black metal accompanied by two pillars of solid dark ambient work.
“Niflheimr” (the opening track) and "Muspellsheimr" (the closing track) are masterpieces by themselves. Cold, dreary soundscapes are created by a combination of droning synthesizers and depressive buzzing ambience, providing what would be the perfect soundtrack to a night alone in an abandoned psychiatric ward. With a combined running time of just under half an hour, these compositions encase the black metal tracks; they provide an uneasy entrance into the tortured world of Serigy Fjordsson, allowing the listener to leave via the same passage and ultimately end the record with a feeling of dread and despair.
The seven black metal tracks are similar enough to provide a consistent running theme, yet varied sufficiently to allow the music to flow and embed itself in the listener’s mind. The aggressively distorted guitars act as talons which grip at the cerebral cortex and refuse to release themselves; the pounding drums act as the administering of the venom, the rhythmic pulse of a lethal injection flowing into the veins. The venom itself, Sergiy’s vocals, are the most hallowed and anguished howls one could ever desire to behold. These screams are the voice of depression, and we as outsiders can only begin to comprehend the complexity of the mental suffering engraved into the roots of this record.
The song structures are unorthodox to say the least. Use of alternating minor stretches on the guitars is combined with a droning phrasing method to allow the listener’s mind to metaphorically sink to a level below one which it has ever found itself at before. Sergiy does deviate from this, however, and on the third track “Asaheimr” a technical depressive riffage is combined with an almost bombastic repetition of huge minor chords to remove all joy from the immediate surroundings of the music. The drums [I dare hypothesize that they are programmed, though I may be wrong] pound beneath the blizzard-like mix of guitars, allowing the music to truly flow (in the greatest sense of the word) like a snowstorm in the Carpathian mountains.
This record is a viewing window into the world of Sergiy Fjordsson. Far beyond the ‘by-the-numbers’, generic and cathartic approach of bands such as Happy Days and Nocturnal Depression, Moloch encaptures true sorrow from its barren, twisted heart.
Opener Svartalfaheimr begins with very anthemic guitar and faint drums. The vocals are high-pitched shrieks, buried amongst the music. They fade in and out of the music and sound very disturbing. It's a brief opening song. Ljosalfaheimr sounds more downbeat in it's delivery. The same high-pitched vocals remain but the riffs are slower and more drone inspired. The vocals here sound very maddening. The way they are layered as well makes them sound even more hellish.
The production and sound on the cassette also helps to increase the atmosphere, with a subtle hissing underneath the guitars. The songs end quite abruptly as well and as third song Asaheimr kicks in; all you can do is buckle up for the ride. There are touches of ambience within the guitars but this is solo black metal at it's finest.
Fourth song Jotunheimr is a guitar laden instrumental, with plenty of feedback drenched riffs. It breaks up the unnerving atmosphere created by Moloch's screams. Fifth song Helheimr is another short blast of ambient black metal madness. Much like the rest of the tape, the guitars rule the roost, only diminishing slightly when the vocals kick. The bass and drums can be faintly heard in the background. This rounds off side 1 of the tape.
The second side features the other four songs. Vanaheimr carries on in the same format. Its running time is only just over a minute, so it feels a little like a second intro. Jotunheimr (pt. II) is the second instrumental on the tape. Much like Jotunheimr on the first side, the guitars carry it along with a consistent beat in the background from the drums. There are nice swathes of ambience and other instruments in the background of the song too though, signalling it out as a subtly different song.
En As I Dype Skogen is a Darkthrone Cover with a difference. It starts with what sounds like a programmed beat and the main melody is played on keys. This piece of music carries the ambient influences of Moloch and does away with the harsh black metal sound heard throughout the rest of the record. There are even no guitars heard on the song. The final salvo on this tape is the seventeen minute instrumental Microcosmos. A song inspired by the heavens above our heads. There are crashes of thunder amongst the orchestral ambience. This is a slow and relaxing piece of music though, which wouldn't be out of place on an exotic film score.
Even though this review is short compared to many of the ones I've done recently, it's worth noting that this release is another one that's difficult to categorise. Moloch has a habit of producing music differently with each release, and by doing so keeps things fresh and keeps listeners guessing.
For this release I am going to have to break down some of the album review into a song by song basis, because of the fact that there are different playlists for both the promo, and regular releases. Thus, the first two songs that I will speak of is Niflheimr, and Muspellsheimr.
Niflheimr/Muspellsheimr: The first track Niflheimr takes quite a while to get going...and it is a very quiet dark ambient track with minimalistic tendencies, and is very hollow, whispering sounding track. There is a droning bassline, that fades in and out, with some layered ambience, and has a nice depressive feeling to it. Seeing as Niflheim is the "Mist World" in Norse mythology, it is a very fitting title, and the music is just as aptly composed. Muspellsheimr is the land of fire, in Norse mythology. Another very long track, it once again takes some time to get moving. Unfortunately, it is a smoldering ember, and lacks the punch I expected from a song that should capture the rage of the sons of Muspel, who are to destroy Bifrost, and end all time.
The other tracks that are black metal, with depressive connotations, some songs with drum programs, others with minimal, and still other tracks with no drum work at all. Nonetheless, the tracks are very well produced, and the guitarwork is thick and full, and the vocals are excellent. Stylistic in the vein of Brocken Moon, Sergiy wails his anguish, and sounds great, not nearly as ear-splitting as he sounded on Eihwaz, and there is good reverb to the mix, that adds to the atmospheric guitar work. The riffs are simple, yet effective and sound very good; fitting in with all aspects of the metal tracks in the album.
The Darkthrone cover has very heavy synth, coupled with the drum machine and is much unlike the original song. The drums are light and fluffy, the synth is quite like Burzum's Hildskjalf era, and is not really that great. It doesn't fit at all with the dark, and foreboding atmosphere of the rest of the album.
The final track on the full length is a track called Microcosmos, a synthesizer-laden ambient piece with nice pseudo-orchestral progressions, with the omnipresent thundering of a storm in the background. This is a fantastic ending for this album, and if the Darkthrone cover track was not there, would be a well-rounded album incorporating excellent use of the realms of depressive style black metal, and dark ambient. Alas, the cover song throws too much of a wrench in the works and has derailed the train before it arrived at the last track. Sad, because the rest of the album is fantastic.