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I was on my way out the door one early winter morning in freezing Denmark. I got in the car to go to work on the hitherto coldest and snowiest morning this year, and like so many times before I was going over my CDs to find a couple to bring on the trip. I was going to go with some Entombed and Darkthrone, feeling like listening to some old school stuff, but then I found Okketaehm's promo "Stones" from Contaminated Tones Productions and thought I might aswell give a listen on the way to work. Though the total play-time of Stones is a mere 18 minutes of grey, wintry, space-like ambience and raw black metal the demo never left the car's CD player even though the trip is almost 40 minutes each way.
It was early, the climate was frosty and the road to work was long. Having only ingested some toast and a cup of luke-warm coffee I wasn't much in the mood for anything as I began my journey through the soundscapes of Okketaehm. The music that met me through the speakers was well befitting of the desolate roads. Stones consists of various parts of icy black metal, dark ambience and something that borderlines white noise mixed into one long track of 18 minutes, and all these parts in conjunction with masterful production lead my mind to things like the vast emptiness of space, void-like depression and mist-veiled frostscapes. Characteristics I normally attribue to bands like Darkspace, Ash Borer and Paysage d'Hiver. I admit I at this point wasn't much focused on my driving.
Let's not kid ourselves, ofcourse Okketaehm isn't perfect or innovating, but it sure as hell did make my drive to- and from work a lot more enjoyable. Okketaehm provides incredibly accurate atmospheres, and while you at times wonder wether the music is still on or someone is just vacuumcleaning in a nearby room it simply adds to the enormous impact the half-melodic black metal pieces of Stones presents.
Originally posted on http://gouls-crypt.blogspot.com/
Okketaehm produce a very rough style of black metal that, despite its outward roughness, shows a very high level of refinement. The atmosphere seems to be tuned finely, fitting the music and creating a vibe that creates the whole sound that the music needs to thrive. The riffing has a bit of a medieval flair to it, reminiscent of certain second wave black metal, especially early Satyricon. It is executed as well as many of those legendary bands.
The arrangement of the whole demo is an interesting choice - one track, just over 18 minutes, moving quite seemlessly between black metal and ambient, noisy interludes that keep the same atmosphere as the guitar-oriented parts. There are clearly quite a few sections, as it changes between styles several times, but it is all assembled into one very coherent and inseparable piece, and it feels like a very complete piece, flowing from start to finish. Part of the strength of the music is the cohesiveness which holds all of it together, something that seems difficult yet essential in this style. Simplicity is often key, but the nuances of putting the parts together into a whole embodies the art.
The piece opens with a majestic melody, comparable to a medieval trumpet anthem, the guitars offering the shrill feeling of a chorus of high pitched trumpets, and the triumphant tune and timing complete it. The huge, medieval sound lasts through the first riff, reminiscent of Satyricon's "Dark Medieval Times" - the atmosphere and the riffing remind me of this throughout. Soon, the piece moves into an ambient section, and there will be several more interludes. They carry some melody and feel very welcome in the lengthy arrangement.
The atmosphere completes the piece. Both the black metal/guitar parts and the ambient/noisy parts are unified by slightly foggy production - it obscures some of the minute details while emphasizing the shape of the whole. There is a mystical feel to it, a mix of Satyricon's DMT and Sacramentum's "Far Beyond the Sun". This lends itself nicely to emphasizing the neo-medieval vibe that is present from the start. While not being an "atmospheric black metal" band as that style is generally known, the atmosphere completes the composition and sound nicely. It takes away a bit of the unpleasant edge that often makes raw black metal nearly unlistenable and turns it into a very pleasant sound.
This is a really good demo and one of the few things of this quality to come from a US black metal band in recent years. The underproduction is beautifully done, the composition is strong, and it comes together nicely. Listen to this and keep an eye on the band in the future.