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There is no question that 2008 is turned out to be an extremely productive year for the duo (NOT a one man project, a fact which many seem to ignore). This could be cause for alarm for some or a treat for others, obviously depending on which side of the fence you sit on. Here we have one of the newer full-length albums entitled 'Mal Esk Varii Aan'...
About 40 minutes of extremely cavernous drone and ambience with black metal seeming more of a reference point for the guitar melodies than anything. Aside from many of the duo's recordings, this specific album have a very unique production quality to it, much like the sound of their first demo 'Aartuu Mortaa'. And obviously for good reason, it was recorded in the same studio as that recording (Studio Eckart) as opposed to the other recordings they do in the Svenderhallen Lydstudio.
The album creates a very 'lost at sea, desert or forest' feel to it. Very cold and distant, but oddly warm and emotional as well. A very distinct duality of emotional tension and release throughout the disc. There is an open influence from post-rock/shoegaze music in this release, which sometimes could almost be perceived as depressive indie rock (?) more than black metal. Don't expect Alcest-style gazing from this release, but this project is more in tune with something like that than Burzum or Darkthrone.
I am pleased to say that this album does not disappoint. there is no question that most people have a 'love or hate' relationship with this band and style of music. But i am very much a fan of what these guys are doing. Its a very refreshing and unique take on underground sounds, i would highly recommend this album to anyone looking for something new in the blackened art realm.
2008 is turning out to be a productive year for the one-man BM / dark ambient act Njiqahdda who has already released four albums, an EP and a split release. "Mal Esk Varii Aan" is a short album at about 40 minutes long and features mostly instrumental ambient music with vocalisations that are meant to be part of the tapestry of the music. The four tracks have strange unpronounceable titles that suggest Njiqahdda is able to communicate only in a secret language known only to himself and perhaps a few (a very few) others.
First track "Zuun Infer Maktasalubara" is a repetitive track that breezes along and sprawls about with an acid sheen that creates a desolate mood. In spite of the activity going on, the track has a very spacious quality. Droning vocals combined with other voices that sound like desert sand eddies add to the barren feel and help turn the track into something of a mini-soundtrack for a Western. Though "Zuun Infer ..." is long and repetitive and not a great deal happens in the music, it does retain listener attention with that lost-in-the-desert ambience. The same can't be said for "Somnfaa", a plodding and sullen piece with clear guitar and percussion banging out the same riff together over and over while a vocal soaked in reverb swirls around in the background - this is a very relentless track and pretty dull after what's been before it.
The title track has more of a melody and there's more variety in the music. Now the voices swirl around like a malevolent storm cloud in an otherwise empty night sky. The guitar is gritty but isn't distorted in sound and you could say there's a rock or post-rock feel there. Most of the activity and evil vibe is actually in the vocalisations rather than in the music. Last track "Oom Vortiign" is the most BM-sounding track with a raw tremolo guitar sound, a militaristic rhythm and raging voices drenched in reverb giving a mood of cold anger and hostility until the track becomes quiet about halfway through.
Overall the album is not bad though Njiqahdda sticks to a narrow style particularly with the treated vocals that rage in the background. "Zuun Infer ..." is the best track out of the four: it's more layered and has a more definite soundscape identity than the others. The tracks that follow "Zuun Infer ..." tend to be more conventional rock-oriented pieces and the middle tracks in particular sound accessible enough to appeal to an audience that prefers alternative / indie music and which occasionally dips into the underground music scene. For this reason "Mal Esk Varii Aan" would be ideal listening for someone who's not yet familiar with Njiqahdda's music. If you're already familiar with Njiqahdda, there are few surprises here and you may want to consider getting one of the other albums he has released in 2008.