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Sjodogg are progressive but only in the sense that they aren’t worshipping the legendary Norwegian acts. “Landscapes of Disease and Decadence” is, instead, much more in line with the relatively new school of discordant black metal, made popular by Deathspell Omega. That doesn’t mean Sjodogg are copycats, however. The band simply knows the style they want to play and adhere to it in a focused manner. In general, cries of unoriginality, except when they raise questions of plagiarism, are almost useless. Nothing, after all, can be completely original, and when something does claim originality you usually end up with music as bizarre as Unexpect. In the end, Sjodogg’s debut full-length has a character to it that makes it stand out from the bland expanse of other releases.
“Landscapes of Disease and Decadence” opens with a more substantial intro than what is generally found on black metal outputs. Creating static-like noise, the guitars strum lazily before the vocals command the drums to fire off. With the discrepancy between the speed of the guitars and the speed of the drums, the intro sets the stage for what will be a discordant album that keeps to off-color melodies and strange compositions. In all of the album’s schizophrenia, there’s something grotesquely beautiful going on here.
“Landscapes of Disease and Decadence” is all about, well, disease and decadence, and this sickness is most captured in the vocals. Vulnus’ style is similar to that of Deathspell Omega’s Mikko Aspa, in the sense that it’s not quite black metal and not quite death metal, but somewhere between the two. Perhaps like Mortuus of Marduk, Vulnus has a throatier quality to his approach that really gives off a feeling of sickness, as though he’s on the verge of coughing up phlegm. Still, even though aided by frequent layering, he is somewhat tame and doesn’t go into deranged territory. Toward the middle of “Inglorious Fever of Antonius,” for instance, he showcases pained bellows, but they aren’t at all caustic to the ear. In a completely different approach, Vulnus, accompanied by no instruments, introduces the first thirty seconds of “Asphyxiation” with guttural croaks. Unless you can suspend your disbelief, it comes across as almost humorous, but, for the most part, the vocals fit the music perfectly.
The other musicians are more than able to augment the vocalist’s talents by providing a whole variation of compositions that retain a sense of discord. Sjodogg are not ones to keep to a tremolo wall of sound, and the production is so clean that the band has nothing to hide under low-fi fuzz. In all of the non-instrumental tracks, Dracunculus uses his guitar to capture patterns that are melodious but somehow ugly, while the drummer adds a heartbeat to the chaos or chaos to the fury. The bass drum may be a bit too high in the mix. Distractingly, it’s such that, once you concentrate on it, you can’t take your attention away from the kicking, but this isn’t a terrible drawback.
Acoustic instrumentals offer welcomed breaks from the chaotic main tracks, but they don’t depart from the grotesque precedent. “Brethren of the Weeping Corpse,” “Sentinels of the Severed Flesh,” and the outro track are not beautiful in the same sense that, say, Ulver’s Kveldssanger is but, on the contrary, take on a sort of disturbed minimalism. The acoustic guitar has a voice in the main tracks, so it’s not as though “Landscapes of Disease and Decadence” is structurally fragmented. “Mahapaatra” starts with an acoustic guitar playing over fast-paced drum patterns and whispers, and the acoustic guitar makes other frequent appearances in the background when Sjodogg return to minimalistic territory.
In regards to the album’s likeness to Deathspell’s Omega’s “Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice,” Sjodogg’s debut is much more approachable than anything Deathspell Omega has ever released. Deathspell Omega have a strange spirituality to their music that makes their albums, on one hand, interesting but, on the other, awfully difficult to listen to. “Landscapes of Disease and Decadence” has a captivating atmosphere, but it’s not nearly as dense as Deathspell Omega’s albums because the production is clear and does not incorporate distracting flourishes. Moreover, Sjodogg brought a character to their debut that is not typical of black metal. The music is certainly recognizable as black metal, but the album just doesn’t “feel” like black metal, and I mean this in a good way.
With track titles like “Kiss of the Blowfly,” you’re not exactly stepping into familiar territory, but Sjodogg do take the recently popular discordant style of black metal and inject their own personalities into it. Their approach is only subtlety innovative because discordant black metal is itself a recent innovation. Regardless, “Landscapes of Disease and Decadence” is good music through and through and ought to be seen as one of the better releases within a relatively new trend, though not an originator of it.
This has got to be some of the most outright plagiarism that I have witnessed in a long time. They say mimicry is the highest form of flattery, but I cannot concede this as anything to be taken seriously, let alone something of any artistic value or worth. This is not only disrespectful, it is also an arrogant and disgusting display of what this genre is succumbing. For a highly revered label as Osmose to have released this is even worse. They have, with or without intention, hoisted up this molested product and condoned the affects of it's representation and the further degeneration of art as a whole. This is not progressive! The title 'progressive' is indicative of 'progression'. This band is merely syphoning the sperm out of the French gutters.
Sjodogg started in 2004, it is no surprise, as this is the same year Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice cut through the ranks of the aimless tin soldiers. I can imagine Dracunculus, the brain of this outfit, picking up the album and shortly after lifting his fat ass to the pub and collecting some other fagots to erect what is now this band. It's no surprise really, the flame of Norwegian innovation died out many years ago.
Now in 2008 Sjodogg release Landscapes of Disease and Decadence. An album I've seen labeled as dark, mysterious, progressive, inspired and innovative. Well to cut it short they are none of these and whomever is reviewing them likely does not listen to this music or is too busy trying to market other meaningless albums and artists to have had the time to make themselves familiar with the content of this work.
Ok from the top down. Vulnus, the vocalist, tries his hardest to project a vision of plague and pestilence. He tries to be scathing and venomous, he tries to be hateful and tortured, he tries to be Mikko Aspa.
Dracunculus does a bit better in the guitar department as his job is from the start much harder. I will give him credit for being good, he definitely has talent, but not a talent for originality. He plays without remorse in the same exact style as Hasjarl of Deathspell Omega, the same sound, the same scales, the same tempo's, the same lead in's, the same rhythm, the same everything. Hell I wouldn't be surprised if he even went out and bought the same equipment he uses. There are a couple other elements in here, such as his thievery from great minds as Carl-Michael (Virus, Ved Buens Ende etc.), and this may be where the band is receiving this 'progressive' tag from. The only bit of originality I found with his work was in the few lifeless acoustic pieces scattered through the scenery. He adds one in the intro to the fourth song Mahapaatra, which is so fucking cliched it's not even funny.
From their own mouths...
"We believe that SJODOGG has something significant to offer the fans of dark metal music around the world- the "edge" that separates us from many of our contemporaries."
Dark metal music? So I guess they don't want to call themselves black metal, they crossed the line there, we are dark metal! It doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is just another lackluster attempt by uninspired musicians to make a buck. To try and jump on the bandwagon before the wagon is full. Anyone who praises this with even the slightest amount of credibility is a fool and anyone who distributes it, a petty thug of the capitalist undergrowth whose greed serves only to deflesh what little remains remain.