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Receiving this new release from Cold Spring gave me distinctly mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s a lavishly produced collector’s item, a 10” picture disc with beautiful artwork, limited to 777 copies, with no re-pressing. On the other hand – well, it’s Skitliv, with all that entails.
Skitliv, for the uninitiated, is an experimental noise/metal project headed up by ex-Mayhem vocalist Maniac and guitarist Niklas Kvarforth of Shining. Bloodletting is the fourth Skitliv release, following a demo in 2007, the Amfetamin EP released by Cold Spring in 2008, and 2009’s Skandinavisk Misantropi album on Season of Mist. Every Skitliv release after the first has incorporated previously released material or reworked versions of older tracks, and Bloodletting is no exception. The record features no completely new material at all, so its sole raison d’être would appear to be its collectable status – which is admittedly considerable.
The A-side is illustrated with a painting by David Tibet of Current 93 renown, a vivid, childlike image of a face rendered in red and black pastels. The first track is not in fact by Skitliv at all, but ‘Who Will Deliver Us From Gold And Planets?’ by Current 93, an ‘introductory collage destruct’ used for opening Skitliv’s live shows. Current 93 in this instance consists of David Tibet and Andrew Liles (also of Nurse With Wound), and ‘Who Will Deliver Us…’ is a disturbingly neurotic assemblage of tranced-out, looped folk violin, a bit reminiscent of Velvet Underground tracks like ‘Venus In Furs’, deep drones and multi-tracked layers of Tibet’s unmistakable shrieking vocals, the result sounding markedly different from the live version of this track which appeared on Amfetamin. The second track is the Cold Spring mix of ‘A Slow Pain Coming’, which as far as I can tell is identical to the version on Amfetamin, a trudging Sabbathesque riff leading into raw black metal sections with truly horrifying throat-rending vocals by Maniac laid over queasy waves of squalling distortion and noise.
The artwork on the B-side is a detail of a 1907 painting by Edvard Munch called ‘The Death of Marat’, one of several variations on this theme painted by Munch. This morbid image, depicting a naked femme fatale standing over a male figure lying prone on a blood-drenched bed, refers to a disastrous love affair that Munch had with a wealthy bohemian woman called Tulla Larsen. What Munch would have made of his compatriots Skitliv is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible that he’d have had an affinity with the tortured, obsessive nature of Skitliv’s music.
The B-side of Bloodletting is occupied by ‘A Valley Below’, taken from the 2007 demo Kristiansen And Kvarforth Swim In The Sea Of Equilibrium While Waiting. A version of this song has appeared on every Skitliv release to date. It’d be easier to regard Skitliv as an actual band rather than some kind of pathological syndrome if they didn’t keep picking away at the same few tracks like infected scabs, but given that that’s just what they do, what does this version of ‘A Valley Below’ sound like? The version on Amfetamin recalled the fucked-up bluesy noise-rock of bands like Pussy Galore, but this is denser and more industrial sounding, with Maniac’s rusty-saw vocals ripping through a wall of feedback, muddy drums buried low in the mix and a greasy, coiling bassline. It’s less unashamedly ugly than Skitliv’s live recordings, but still a very dirty, abrasive listen.
As far as I can see, listening to Skitliv is a bit like self-harming – normal, well-adjusted people are just not going to find it enjoyable, but there’ll always be a few tortured souls who manage to derive some kind of tainted, masochistic satisfaction from it. You know better than I do whether that sounds like your kind of thing. And, reluctant as I am to align myself with the normal, well-adjusted people – God knows it doesn’t often happen – I’d recommend seeking medical attention if it is.
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: