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Back in 1995, when black metal was only in its nascence and was not yet secluded in the creative quagmire that would generate almost an industrial flux of identical sounding bands imitating one another, several releases have managed to both garner some attention and bring revolution and reconstruction into the medium. Some were not as inclined to the avant-garde, but did bring outside meanderings and motifs into the style, such as Rotting Christ with their "Triarchy of the Lost Lovers“ or Moonspell with their "Wolfheart“ or were strongly embedded into the respective culture as to introduce the folk segues into the sound, this happening with Ulver, In The Woods, etc. However, some dissatisfied with such minor minute variation and derivations have opted for a more mature approach of sheer magnitude in evolution and execution that would bring shame onto the most black metal artists of today.
This is precisely the case with Ved Buens Ende, a sadly one-shot band that has managed to functionally and effectively retread the very foundations and fundamentals of the genre in search for those minuscule, microscopic distinctions that could be evolved into a matter of greater scope and scintillation. And they have done this with their insistence on these minor chord, jazzy, syncopated, and discordant notes and intonations that convene between spastic and erratic drumming and guitars that insecurely perambulate the wistful dimension of somniferous pastures and more jerky and jaunty, almost convulsive and demented delivery. It is with uneasy and almost haunted chills that one anticipates the next progression and permutation, as they happen in the most convoluted and clandestine of fashion, the authors obviously being intent of painting a twisted, turbulent image of their vision, and the palette of guitars and the persona of the drums commissioning quite the extraordinary range of emotions and eloquence in both style and its presentation.
Naturally, with such a distinct and digressive stylization and saturation of the very basic tropes and tinctures within the genre, a sense of underlying, unified cohesion is achieved and the songs have a flawless, seamless composition and connection between their segments, so picking something more stand-out and exemplary is eliciting some ardor and behalf on the listener's side. However, with all those transgressions and transformations so evident in their creative clamor, one cannot admire those of the more engaging, grasping duration such as "I Sang for the Swans“, "Den Saakaldte”, "Coiled in Wings”, and "Remembrance of Things Past”. There is also an instrumental piece, “Autumn Leaves”, with some of the most bewitching and beauteous female vocals in the genre’s chronology and is a well-placed, appropriate respite and recuperation from the preceding and successive troubled and coiled dissonance.
Overall, this is a munificent offering of juxtaposed, interpolated influences and inundations with the least suspecting springs of inspiration for a black metal band, and it welds them quite well. The production is organic and natural, providing a steady unswerving backdrop of all the resonations and timbre enriching and edifying the melodies, and the musicianship is tight and talented, being equally technical and tireless as well as more resulting on illustrating emotion and eeriness. Needless to say, in the tradition of the genre heavily focused and recreating and institutionalizing the scraps and dregs of its forerunners, such a rejuvenating, reinvigorating, and reconstructive rendition is a welcome change.
Ved Buens Ende a band that very few people in my experience are aware of, yet this band are the archetype for 'avante-garde' black metal, following this band's release, the avant-garde style became popular amongst many of the Norwegian 2nd wavers and as such masterpieces by bands such as Borknagar and Arcturus where issued forth. In some ways similar to Mysticum, a band that people seem to be conscious of, whilst also not knowing In the Streams of Inferno which paved the way for industrial black metal as a sub-genre in later years.
Written in Waters was released in 1995 and was a collaboration between a 'who's who' of prominent and highly influential members of the Norwegian scene, the most prominent and in my opinion most influential musically - Carl-Michael Eide; who would go onto be part of bands that have helped revolutionise black metal in different aspects; Aura Noir (a progenitor of heavily thrash oriented black) and Dødheimsgard (an excellent industrial black metal band, that helped define and give strength to the genre far beyond Mysticum's initial spark). You may have heard of him through his current band Virus, which is very much like Ved Buens Ende minus some blasts and black vocals; Virus is another brilliant band, stylistically more akin to post-rock than black however it is still possible to find the correlation between the musical influences/genres of his past endeavours, particularly so when a band like Ved Buens Ende is used as an intermediary between the genres.
Incidentally 'Written in Waters' is in my top black metal debuts of all time (along with Thorns' self-titled & Ascension's Consolamentum), it is an album that even after a very short time of black metal existing as a pure genre; when black metal had started to develop into it's own easily identified style as opposed to the prototypical aspects recognised from death, thrash, doom, etc., that 'Written in Waters' completely changed the field on how black metal could be perceived sonically. The name 'Ved Buens Ende' translates to 'at the end of the rainbow', this phrase makes reference to the Bifröst bridge in Norse mythology, connecting the different worlds of Asgard and Midgard; just the name should raise a few eyebrows - when this was released so many people were obsessed with grimness and filth, Ved Buens Ende is at a polar opposite to that idea, who the fuck would associate rainbows with black metal, regardless of any esoteric connotations? Even on an aesthetic level the cover is extremely surrealist and colourful, at complete odds with album art that up to this point had been very dark, fantastical or mildy 'blasphemous/heretical'.
'Written in Waters' is very strange, it is full of jazzy drumming, weird dissonant riffs, extremely odd time signatures, song progressions and vocals styles. Admittedly when I first heard it, there was something I liked about it but it took several intense listens to really appreciate it and the intricacies involved within. The songs often go on long winding journeys, many miles from where they started, almost similar in ways that Opeth can unfold a song before you and carry you away from where the song started off and yet still leave you feeling extremely satisfied. The musicianship is highly intricate and detailed, each instrument has an integral part to play in the composition of the songs, with each instrument doing something vastly different from the others, yet still managing to gel seamlessly; something that illustrates the true artistry of the composers. The guitars use a nice jangly, jazzy sound with little distortion, utilising lots of strange chord shapes and classic black metal tremolo pieces few and far between. The bass is beautiful, it has lovely long, meandering lines, that weave and wind through the guitars somewhat erratic progressions; the bass is what ties everything together on this release, because you are faced with two instruments that possibly wouldn't fit (so well) if it was just drums and guitar but the bass unifies everything. The drumming is without reproach and technically is comparable to what Hellhammer tries to achieve on Winds and Arcturus releases but never manages to realise, the drums are constantly shifting, evolving, even when a 'simple' beat is played, there is always something interesting happening with the right hand as it moves about the kit, issuing small but highly moving cymbal rhythms. There is an extremely jazzy feel to the drumming, often feeling like it lumbers along, speeding up and slowing down, falling in and out of an expected time signature/rhythm. Carl's vocals are something that may take some getting used to, it depends on how keen you are on strange singers, fans of Garm and Vortex should be able to find something to enjoy, there is a lot of 50's style crooning, whilst not a stellar voice, Carl's voice is unique and strangely hypnotising. Occasionally the band will break out into a blast and black vocals will be employed ('Den Saakaldte' for example - an excellent slice of black, yet still retaining the strangeness of VBE) but in all honesty they're somewhat superfluous to the bizarre qualities of his clean voice as his black voice is pretty standard.
The album makes it's way through different sections of black metal and often departs completely from the standard black metal ideals, the song 'Autumn Leaves' is the perfect example, an acoustic ballad(!?) I guess you might call it, with a duet from Carl and Lill Kathrine Stensrud whose vocals are beautifully ethereal. The outro 'Remembrance of Things Past' features an accordion in a somewhat abusive fashion, it sounds decrepit and mournful, resolutely leaving you with the sombre last notes of an extremely peculiar album.
I can find no fault with this album, it is a pinnacle in the evolution of black metal, it gave birth and inspiration to bands that would change the course of black metal for evermore, I find it of little surprise that La Masquerade Infernale and Archaic Course, by Arcturus and Borknagar respectively came out following this album, with both bands revising and changing their sound a great deal from their debuts. It is important for those that are interested in tracing black metal's roots and as mentioned before they are an oft forgotten band; additionally for anyone interested in any of the above bands that I have mentioned, should check it out, fans of Borknagar, Ulver, Arcturus, Sigh, Vulture Industries, Solefald, Korova(kill) and Chrsyt will love it.
I realize that I probably sound 'fanboy' as all get-out about this but it is an album that for me is beyond reproach, so you can suck my hairy plums.
(Originally written for baileysmmcreamy.blogspot.com)
Ved Buens Ende is a legendary band in the Norwegian black metal scene. Although not coming too far after the pioneers of the infamous second wave of Norwegian black metal, they had a sound that was vastly different, going down a much more experimental route, while keeping all of the same eerie atmosphere that makes the genre of black metal so appealing to some. Although this band eventually revived in the form of Virus, Ved Buens Ende only ever released this one full length, 'Written In Waters'. Although the career of this band may have been very short, it is massively influential, and seen as the album that largely laid the groundwork for avant-garde black metal. With that information laid down as a precedent, it is understandable that the music here is quite challenging to get into. However, there is method to this madness, and while I found myself having to revisit it many times to really 'get it', 'Written In Waters' is an exceptional piece of Norwegian metal.
Let it be said that Ved Buens Ende were years ahead of their contemporaries. Their sound is somewhat related to the more recent work of Deathspell Omega, and Blut Aus Nord. The point I should bring up is that those two bands made their mark even a decade after 'Written In Waters' was released. In other words, it was a real pioneer, doing things for black metal that were pretty uncomfortable at the time. Most of the vocals here are cleanly sung in a gloomy baritone, with only a few traditional black metal rasps to go around. The guitars are very percussive and dissonant, often alternating between very abrasive black metal riffs and sombre moments of dark psychedelia. There are plenty of echo and reverb effects to go around here, and gives the whole thing a very otherworldly feel.
The songwriting here is made even more challenging by the somewhat muddy production, which obscures parts of the sound to the point where a listener might even hear things that aren't necessarily there. As far as the writing here goes, Ved Buens Ende are masters of making melodies that can be plenty memorable, without necessarily being pretty or beautiful. Although a track like 'Autumn Leaves' gives the listener a respite from the darkness and frantic feel, these human moments are fairly few and far between. The majority of 'Written In Waters' revolves around strange, percussive textures, and a very bleak atmosphere. The vocals here are particularly distinctive, although they will certainly take some getting used to for some listeners. Czral's delivery is not aggressive, but it is unsettling, perhaps somewhat akin to Maniac's vocals on Mayhem's 'A Grand Declaration Of War', except much fuller in their sound.
The real jewel here are the less traditionally 'black metal' elements of this album. The speedy passages are energetic, but admittedly little more than what I would typically expect from a Norwegian black metal band of this era. However, it's Ved Buens Ende's vanguard experimentalism that makes the album so great, and keeps the music engaging despite its somewhat bumpy production.
This was disappointing on first listen. I read a lot of reviews before finally picking it up, and they all talked about its jazz influences and general weirdness.But I was disappointed by how flat it sounded, I couldn't hear much in the way of dynamics or anything to get my ears around. It all went by in a nondescrit blur. In short, it bored me. After a few more listens, though, I realized how very wrong I was. I now think of this as the black metal version of Gorguts' Obscura--an unsurpassed groundbreaking album for its genre--and there is no higher praise from me. Bands like Deathspell Omega are great, but the best, most experimental parts of their sound are only approximations of VBE. Same goes for all the other avant-garde black metal greats--Dodheimsgard, Fleurety, Blut Aus Nord, Lugubrum, Mayhem (I won't include Arcturus here, since I don't care for them)--all have done groundbreaking things, but none compare to VBE. It's hard to believe this was recorded 13 years ago. The rest of black metal hasn't caught up yet.
Supposedly, VBE borrowed a lot from the arty hardcore band Slint--I can definitely hear the resemblance, although I haven't listened enough to the former to really know. Voivod must have also been an influence. The thing that really sets VBE apart are their dissonant, jangling chords. They use them relentlessly and the riffs are mostly mid-paced--unlike a band like Deathspell, they don't mix it up with faster sections--which gives the album a somewhat monotonous feel at first. The vocals are mostly a gloomy moan, and although they get on my nerves, I think they fit the music well. The drums use a lot of off-kilter patterns straight of prog rock. They're not overly busy, though, and although they're complex, they have a stumbling, lurching quality to them. Same goes for the bass, which is audible most of the time, and often does its own thing. All of these elements contribute to a certain feeling of lugubriousness that emanates from the music and puts a lot of people off, I think. I've developed a taste for it, though, and I have absolutely no trouble getting into it. Like the best music, it takes a number of different influences (jazz, prog rock, black metal) and integrates them seemlessly into a coherent and singular whole.
This album does not perform as advertised. I wanted jazzy, arty black metal. This is more like a prog rock band having a go at black metal. Weirdly, they manage to come across as both random and predictable, the songs sounding like a series of related segments stitched together end-to-end, each ending exactly on its preordained cue. In that sense, it reminds me a little of early Opeth. You may find that harsh, but I'm only being honest. It feels a lot like rock music without choruses (i.e. it does not rock), a fact made more apparent by hearing Czral's later band Virus, which sounds like this only with the last traces of black metal extracted.
The moaned vocals are not welcome either. There are a couple of other post-black metal bands that have used a similar dramatically-spoken style and achieved a comparable level of listener discomfort.
I used to think this was an album that I might eventually grow to enjoy more, but weathering some of the other more â€œartistically-inclinedâ€ bands to come out of Norway since black metal's ignominious death has put it in a new context, and I've grown less sympathetic. Instead of being an obscure and avant-garde exponent of the classic Norse scene, they look more like a prophecy of the spazziness to come. This is pre-post-black metal. Not to be too predictable, but I prefer the parts that sound the most like normal black metal.
I can't say that I don't like it at all, since they mutate the old style of cold Thorns chords in some pretty interesting ways, but I still don't like it all that much. No proper songs, stitched composition â€“ maybe a bit too postmodern for me.
Reissued in 2002 by Candlelight Records with revised artwork, this album was recorded in 1995 by past and future members of Arcturus, Satyricon, Virus and Dodheimsgard among other bands, and apparently it's not at all like the music made by these groups. Though the basic style of music is black metal, it's shot through with many influences from jazz, Norwegian folk and prog so in a sense you could call this post-rock BM or just post-BM. The delivery is clean apart from the noisy guitars with a clear production so you can hear the bass lines (which are often very different from the guitars so sometimes the bass plays rather like lead guitar) clearly and the singing is not only natural but sometimes also mannered and theatrical, as on tracks like "You, that may wither". Actual BM elements are present in the rhythms which are often so precise and impeccable in their timing that they are almost like death metal, and the overall ambience and the theme of the album, which on one level could be considered existentialist and on another level relates to regret mixed with nostalgia for things past and lost opportunities perhaps, stamp this recording as BM album as well.
The songs are all very strong - there are nine tracks that stretch for nearly an hour but there's hardly what I call "filler" though some tracks stand out more than others. The opening track "I sang for the swans" is a solid piece with a long intro, varied rhythms and somewhat off-key singing that gives the song a sea-shanty feel. "You, that may wither" is strongly rhythmic and urgent with very outstanding drumming. In fact, all the musicians are more than just competent at what they do and you can really hear them giving all they have to the music. "Den Saakaldte" also has a long intro in which drums and bass are at odds with the vibrato guitars before being overcome by multi-tracked singing; six minutes later, a cold blizzard blast of pure BM including harsh grim vocals finishes off the song.
Over the halfway point of the album, "Coiled in winds" features passages of splendid running music that jumps key and back again, and is the first of two consecutive songs to feature female backing vocals. The lyrics have vivid imagery and at the end, like a number of songs here, contain a parting line with a strong sting. The next track "Autumn Leaves" is the most folk-like and melodic song on the album with clean strummy guitars and a fresh cool ambience. "Remembrance of things past" is a mixture of moody ambient rock, angry and aggressive death metal blasts and dirgey near-operatic singing filled with sadness and longing, leading into a purely improvised section of psychotic stuttering piano, bleating instruments that sound like children's party toys and other noises. The outro "To swarm deserted away", sounding rather like the final acoustic section of "Remembrance ..." and perhaps an extension of that track, is very bleak and sad; the song is treated in a way that makes it distant and unreachable, reinforcing the desolate theme and closing off any further developments.
This is the only full-length album the trio ever made - unless of course they can be brib ... I mean of course, persuaded to reform to make another recording! - but I imagine VBE would've found it hard to continue on from "Written in Waters" unless they changed direction so radically they'd have to call themselves something else as the album conceptually is complete in itself and doesn't allow for a follow-up, plus the music is of a standard and variety that would be hard to top. Salty sea ditties, folk melodies, precise jazz-influenced drumming and rhythms and elements from BM, prog, improv and maybe death metal are all interwoven into a fine tapestry. The musicians are confident in their playing which is fluid and always spot-on no matter how fast they go or how many twists and turns they pack into the one song. Probably the one weak spot is the singing which gets a bit theatrical and which seems detached all the way through the work from the emotions and feelings evoked in the lyrics but you could argue that this detached-ness creates a fatalistic attitude necessary for the album's theme.
You'll certainly check out this record if you consider yourself open-minded and prepared to hear anything once ... and those party toys were useful for once!
The post-black metal movement is a small one, dominated by the more recognizable bands such as Arcturus, Solefald, and Fleurety. Characterized by the useage of electronics and the incorporation of other genres of music such as jazz, rock, pop, and even classical, post-black combines these with more traditional second-wave black metal to create a new avant-garde sound; a counter-movement to the raw, minimalism of second-wave black metal. Many metal fans view post-black metal as a shallow movement with a pretentious aesthetic that reflects the emptiness of modern society or even as a genre of metal for metal fans who are ashamed to admit that they're listening to metal. I can't say that I agree; I listen to as much black metal and death metal as I do Solefald.
However, Ved Buens Ende, one of the pioneers of the post-black movement, has released post-black metal that I think even those who aren't a fan of post-black could enjoy. Contrary to more recent post-black, "Written in Waters" doesn't feature any electronics that might deter anyone from the metal aspect of the music. Black metal techniques haven't been lost in this album as it still relies on tremolo picking and black vocals. But also found in this album are clean, singing vocals, dissonant and jazzy passages, and rock-ish clean guitars. The album's production is clean, as is all post-black metal, and perhaps one of my favorite parts of this album is the clear, audible bass. This isn't to say that any bass that can be heard in metal is good but the basswork in this album is brilliant, bringing forth jazzy moments and nice passages but nowhere is the bass over-the-top. It doesn't drown out the guitars or vocals nor does it demand your attention at all times.
I recommend this to any metal fan, though I think most purists will steer clear of this album, especially if you're a fan of other post-black metal bands or dissonant metal.
When I first heard this album I asked myself "What is this shit?" and forgot it, until recently when I gave it another chance. I regret that I did not do it earlier.
Ved Buens Ende was a trio from the Norwegian scene, and it feels like this was one of the "forgotten" gems, even though it's not quite black metal by standards.
Anyway, it's pretty obvious that these guys are talented musicians when you hear this. Drumming is superb, guitars atmospheric and basslines very good. Even though it may sometimes sound as a mess, remember; it's intentional.
After a while you realize that it is all really under control, and that makes this album very interesting to listen to (even though some may be scared off at first, like I was).
Musically, this album is very diverse. There are the experimental "math metal" kind of parts, doomy parts, black metal parts and on the song Autumn Leaves there are even hints of neofolk and pop. To swarm deserted away is a quite disturbing song with accordians and a piano that sounds out of tune... Very atmospheric, as everything else on this album.
I'm about to complain here though... Vocals could be better, but they fit the albums atmosphere very well, so I won't. They're sung in a monotone kind of way, which fit some moments just perfect. I can't imagine this album without those, so it's probably for the better. There are also female vocals on the track Autumn Leaves, which is a nice change as they're beautiful.
"Written in waters" manages to be both dissonant and melodic, heavy yet very fluid, experimental, but very dark. If you want to find a treasure that simply is not easy in nature, but so much more when you LIVE it, pick this up.
This is the story of a decaying world, left to rust like a long-abandoned factory in a derelict industrial area, as the repercussions of a neglectful past start to take hold. A decadence that is wrought with sorrow to those who notice; yet is unimportant, distant and bound to be met with passionate human resistance – but only when the needed time comes – to the passivity and ignorance of the common man. Nothing remains to succour the situation, nor is there anything to appease the sufferance, as man, overcome by callous machination, gasps for breath with all life deteriorating and sinking further and further into its self-made mire. He hopelessly watches as the earth slips away into the awaiting grasp of melancholic doom.
Far detached from the standard aesthetic commonly prevalent in the Black Metal genre, “Written In Waters” largely concentrates on lessons learned from old blues and jazz compositions, presenting such curricular fashioned by principles of avant-garde progressivism. Sorrowful whisperings seep out of the approaching abyssic dimension as minor-key melodies are formed over the pentatonic scale, giving heed to the plight of mankind that is thematically focussed upon. These melodic forays drift across the soundscape, etched in tales of oblivion as they continue to spiral deeper into hopelessness with every riff change. The compositions evolve eloquently, often displaying several dynamic shifts per song, combined with a neo-classical spirit that entails subtle evolutions within. The opener “I Sang With The Swans” is an excellent example of this, starting with a minimalistic melody surrounded by subtle atmospheric drum-beats before slowly progressing and building up to climatic proportions, before settling in back to the original tempo. This is only the first three minutes, before a vocal has even been sung - the start of a recital of epic proportions.
Not phased or drawn into all out aggression or relentless tempos, Ved Buens Ende build long and winding songs around lurid grotesques that creep along, quite fitting of the overall theme of a society in the throes of a barely noticed collapse. This motif is contrasted against charismatic and fluent jazz-inspired drumming that not only propagates the mood by accentuating the despondency found in the contrasting guitars, but also gives character and a stature to the looming downfall being communicated within. There are also times when the guitar plays second fiddle to the complex and often jazzy base lines, which is quite effectual, helping bind the songs in a mournful and reflective melancholy. The songs “You, That May Wither” and “It’s Magic” are great proponents of this technique, juxtaposing slow lamenting guitar against a dominant that could feasibly be compared to Varg’s emotively capativating bass-lines on “De Mysteriis Dom Santhanas.”
Although, this album largely revolves around a sombre feel, there are instances when the real storm is unleashed and nature shows its predatory claws. The pedestrian tempos are momentarily forlorn for precisely paced fits of raging tremolo and crashing symbols as traditional Black Metal sections with riffs in the vein of Burzum circa the “Burzum/Aske” album are brought to the fore. These acerbic bursts magnify the internal rot of Western society with potent swarms of razor-edged gales that are a prelude, or a damning notice that the end will soon come.
Quite converse to the downcast feel of the majority of this gloomy endeavour, is the el ninoic portions that contain a bright or vibrant tone, which reminisce of a beauty in life long gone. Songs like “Autumn Leaves”, with its clean blues-inspired guitar, almost up-beat at times, remind us of soft sunshine, picturesque forestry (now lost in the decay), and a spirit that captivates entire cultures into working as one with nature to make a better world. At the same time an effigy of nature’s amorphous and capricious existence, when contrasted against the major implications of this album as a whole. The sorrow is never far from view, as man withers away, nature bearing down on him like a furious avalanche for his disrespect of her soul. These vast changes in mood are an excellent indication of the flowing and omniscient thematic sound of this album, never failing to surprise with its effervescent composition.
Vocally, the album is fair different from the normal Black Metal affair, with monotone wailing that instead of ruining the effect, further accentuates it. These tortured howls are of a lone wolf, disenchanted by the sullen future his species face, mesh in with the music, not overbearing nor undermined. Occasionally there are banshee screams to compliment the fits of rage described earlier.
The closing two tracks exemplify the typical feel of this album, with “Remembrance Of Things Past” making use of Arabic-styled scales and moribund riffing to build up for a incoherent cacophony of piano and violin that prophecies the final doom. Yet, instead of a massive bang, man falls with a whimper, the slow deterioration ends with a mournful harmonica with piano backing that Abominatrix described perfectly in his excellent review.
An album such as this that so effectively defies archetypical “scene” standards to obtain something unmatched, unique and downright special is to be applauded. This is a hidden gem that one has to dig deep down into the frightening truth to appreciate. Not conventional, not straight-forward and definitely not mere mimicry this album forever stands tall amongst giants in one of the most provocative art-forms to exist – Black Metal.
It's only recently that some outsiders have come to take the phenomenon of black metal somewhat seriously. This has been due to several factors, not many of them positive, unfortunately. Among them, a sort of dissolution of what was once the underground spirit of the genre for certain bands, gaining them respect and notariety but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Of course, the underground still exists in abundance and is host to some quality music...something which should never be forgotten. however, another reason for the near acceptance of the artistic merits of black metal comes from bands that step outside BM altogether and venture into unexplored musical territory, the sort of thing that is often frowned upon by many in the so-called scene. Incredibly, a few of these bands can even step outside the genre limits and maintain complete credibility, even with the sceptical underground insiders. Examples of bands that have done this ..without losing a hint of respect it seems, are Root, Sigh and Ved Buens Ende. Of course, Ved Buens Ende was technically speaking a side project, which excused them somewhat...even though the main band, Dodheimsgard, has ventured into even more wild musical territory of late.
Ved Buens Ende started out with a more or less black metal demo, "Those Who Caress the Pale", with a few unusual touches and a rather original album. On this album, they have taken some of the formula from that demo, and incorporated so much more, creating an album that is filled with musical complexity, diversity and unbridled emotions. The overall feeling is one of despondency and ocasional outbursts of rage, of feelings cold and distant, somehow alien, as if the subject of these songs is so far removed from us but somehow able to communicate with our psyches in this obscure fashion. The rhythm section lays the foundation for the band moreso than in most other cases. The drumming is intricate, technical and unrestrained by rock or metal conventions. It glides and enfolds the music, almost beautiful in its rhythmic syncopations and rolling tempos, forcing the whole puzzle of the music to slide and fit together despite its oddities. The bass is equally technical, seeming to possess a life of its own as it almost playfully dances over the music, adding subtle melodies and counterpoints with an obviously jazz inspired flair. Guitar often is given more of an atmospheric role, playing slower and more drifting and contemplative phrases and broken dissonant chords. For the most part, the tempos remain at a slow to medium pace, but in several of the songs, the band breaks into blasting sections of a decidedly harsh nature, not because they are incredibly fast or brutal, but because the combination of the instruments playing deliberately simplified patterns of rage and anguish and the thin, somewhat eerie and simultaneously raw black metal vocals (reminding me of some of Big Boss's harsher moments on Root's "Hell Symphony") create a very painful aura. Most of the time, Carmichael's vocals are clean, sung in an almost monotonous fashion, seeming cold and detached and somehow inhuman. Every track is a surprise unto itself. The opener, "I Sang For the Swans", would impress any prog metal fan with its technical approach and clear jazz touches, along with the harmonized, almost robotic clean vocal approach. "You, That May Wither" combines strange off kilter sounding riffs with vocals half spoken, half sung in a near delirium, to suddenly break into a hillarious sounding almost 50s rock n roll sounding riff partway through. "Den Sakaaldte" is incredibly doomy at first, ponderous and crawling, with slow hints of a further musical development creeping like snakes slithering under the carpet into the mix, and then pausing before exploding into one of the aforementioned blasting sections. "Autumn Leaves" is a beautiful acoustic track with Carmichael's singing backed by a very etherial female voice. The penultimate track, "Rememberance of things past" is a soundtrack for a personal apocalypse if ever there was one; mysterious and somehow deadly in its slinking intro, raging into full on chaotic heaviness, then descending into an utter cacophony of screeches, wails, scrapes and assorted miasmic sounds and finally returning to an earlier riff to close out the song acoustically. The epitaph for the album is a short piece that sounds like it was recorded with a megaphone, and seems dead, hopeless, consisting of a mournful accordion, oddly out of tune and jangly sounding piano and lifeless singing. This is perfection. This is art of a sublime and achingly heartfelt nature. It seems to tell the tale of the demise of a world or being far distant, removed from our most pedestrian existence. yet there is the definite sense that humanity will no longer be the same either. Tragic, and ultimately powerful, this is an album that will continue to impress on consecutive listens; and you will still be probing it, attempting to pick out its secrets long after familiarity has set in.