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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.