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Extraordinary - 90%

Thamuz, March 17th, 2005

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.