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Let it be clear – with this album Skitliv composed a soundtrack of suicide, a misanthropic blast filled with raw sewage of a worn-out soul. From the very beginning this album is scary and makes you feel uneasy. On the first track there is a strange voice speaking with all kinds of suspenseful noises in the background. It almost sounds like some kind of audio-recording where a suicide-note is being read. This uncanny track melts into the rest of the album which contains varied musical styles and unique concepts. The beginning of some of the tracks sound like old-school rock, especially “Slow pain coming”, while some of the other tracks sound like progressive rock. The vocals are mostly raw, screeching and tiring – it almost feels as if the vocalist is directly speaking to you as an individual and tearing your soul piece by piece because of something you’ve done wrong.
Most people describe this album as straight-up black metal, but I personally think that there are varied black metal styles at work here. The slow pace of “Slow pain coming” and “Hollow Devotion” reminds me of some strong Black Sabbath elements, mixed with a bit of funeral doom, which is then thoroughly drenched in depressive black metal. Yes, you guessed right – this is a recipe for the raw sewage of the soul; a map which leads to a phantasmagorical landscape filled with emptiness and desolation. This idea manifests itself very strongly in the title track that contains lyrics like:
“In this age of splintered glass / In this ripping of living souls / In this moment of deaddeathdreams [sic] / In this scattering of self-restlessness / Scars of my everdrowned [sic] condemned spirit / Shall I travel to worlds unknown then? / I probably shan’t. Pray / I am stuck in this world of shitstained [sic] tears / I swallowed the swimming horses / I engulfed the sleeping winters owl / I gave birth to the last beast in the sky / And at worlds end I laughed out loud / I crucified my dreams with passion”.
The rest of the album is a constant roller-coaster ride between slow despair and fast-paced aggression, escorted by basic rhythmic guitar riffs, repetitive lead guitar picking and rhythmic drum beats. No matter how basic this stuff is, the aesthetical features are not smothered by it, but rather brought forward and strengthened. Now and then some keyboards and synthetic samples are used very effectively, which contributes to a general melancholic atmosphere. I found the lead guitar solos on “A Valley Below” to be very uncanny, in the sense that it almost sounds as if the guitar is going to break out in song anytime and scream with the vocalist.
Finally there are some raw black metal material woven into the mix, which breaks off into a mixture of experimental rock and pure noise. I think that this album is very unique in the sense that it addresses so many varied sub-genres and contains such a strong outsider-art kind of poetical image.
SKITLIV (shit-life) are probably best known for being the main project of Maniac (ex-MAYHEM), although you won't find much resemblance to his earlier endeavors here. Together with Kvarforth (SHINING) he has taken a cathartic journey to the darkest corners of the human psyche. With a series of demos already being unleashed, "Skandinavisk Misantropi" is their first proper album, and some of the songs will already be familiar to followers of the project.
The music of SKITLIV might have sprung from Maniac's Black Metal roots, but with a myriad of other influences, including Neofolk and Doom Metal, the band is slow and ugly enough to both engage and alienate. Sludgy riffs coupled with vicious raspy vocals serves as a basic formula, heavy enough to purge both soul and bowels. The vicious crawl and crashing pain of every repeated riff brings apocalyptic and despondent atmosphere aplenty, like a soundtrack to the deterioration of mankind.
Maniac has also brought along some companions to this celebration of misery, including Gaahl (ex-GORGOROTH), Attila Csihar (MAYHEM), and perhaps most interesting, CURRENT 93's neurotic weirdo David Tibet. The latter's contribution comes in the form of a characteristically haunting vocal-performance on "Towards The Shores Of Loss", which really pushes the music to its limit with his uncomfortable howls. This strong sense of dread and discomfort is also the main strength of SKITLIV, and turns what could otherwise have been a mediocre Doom-performance into a cathartic and cacophonous experience. When the pace picks up, a certain melodic darkness shines through, and the effect is immense.
This brand of tortured music is definitely not for everyone, and it seems obvious that SKITLIV is a profoundly personal venting of Maniac's own demons. If you can stomach the often sickening distorted riffs and general uneasiness, "Skandinavisk Misantropi" will wash over you like a wave of despair. My only major complaint is that half of the songs have already appeared on previous releases, as more new material would have been welcomed with careful reluctance.
(Online March 27, 2010)
Written for the Metal Observer
By now, most have probably already heard of Skitliv (i.e. "Shit Life"), the latest Norwegian super group, which is primarily a collaboration of Maniac (ex-Mayhem) and Sweden's Kvarforth (Shining, etc), with some other dudes. Skandinavisk Misantropi is the first full length offering, and it exceeded all my expectations. The style of Skitliv consists of painful, crawling doom metal which is lathered in Maniac's black rasp, with injections of noise and whatever else the band can use to weave their tales of depression and futility.
The purpose of this album is to make the listener uncomfortable, and it succeeds to that extent, with each track another piece of a suicidal puzzle. While the riffing itself is quite mediocre, the slowly crashing drums, over the top vocals and various noise and effects the band creates as a subtext all combine into a dreadful and punishing statement. Tracks like "Skandinavisk Misantropi" and "A Valley Below" are stark and sad, but not for any loss of melody. And the band have not forsaken the black barbarity of their repertoire: "Densetsu" bursts into some blackish and even thrashing rhythms, and the 10+ minute "Towards the Shore of Loss" breaks into a great mid paced black metal rhythm deep in the middle. It's also one of those rare records upon which the lengthier tracks are the most effective.
The album has numerous guest spots, from David Tibet (Current 93) to Gaahl and Attila Csihar. I was worried from the live footage I had seen that this band would wind up a noisy, chaotic mess to succeed only on the strength of its line-up, but Skandinavisk Misantropi is quite the focused effort, an elegy of controlled chaos that is fucked up and ready to die.