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A name, an entity, an authority within the world of black metal. Also, two different people. Yes, this is the duo responsible for the free black metal/black noise/experimental whatever wonder that was Abruptum, a project I hold in high esteem for their daring experimentation and discovery of new ways through which assault both the ears and the soul within the spirit of black metal. It's strange, but simultaneously predictable, how something as unique and, dare I say, revolutionary as were the early Abruptum full lengths can create such a contradictory opinion in the community. Most people disregard everything the duo has done as either a practical joke (which is, in and of itself, respectable), or as a failed attempt to appear edgy and darker than a thousand black dicks covering the sun during a snowstorm in the middle of the night. Or something. Yet there's no divided opinion when it comes to this, the first and only full length release by Vondur, "black metal" band from Sweden, which makes no shy use of what I can only assume (with joy) is poorly translated Icelandic. I mean, they didn't even have Google translate back then. Just imagine. Imagine these two fucking pranksters unleashing a huge joke of an album into a still relatively young, extremely self-important and srs bsns scene, with the wit and mindfucking imagery (you know what I'm talking about) that would define the latest and most widespread (for better and for worse) type of humour as of yet practiced: This is an anachronistic vignette of Internet Humour. I dare you to prove me wrong. This is the black metal album for the troll generation, and it was released all the way back to 1996, only a few years out of the "kill people burn churches fuck bitches" period of classic second wave black metal. That, my friends, much like the highest levels of internet trolling, takes three things: Big balls, the ability to hide the fact that every single horrid, stupid, fucking inconceivable thing you see and hear is done entirely and consciously on purpose, and finally the intelligence needed to develop such an intricate ruse, rise it to a crescendo of shitfest and flamewars and finally deliver a colossal punchline, visible only to those who didn't get their head up their own arses in the process. It's a fine art, the art of trolling.
Before I move onto the album itself I'm going to come clean right here right now: Jesus Fucksucking Dickrat Christ this album is bad. O Lords of the Ultimate Void this is bad. This albums is so bad. Like, shit-in-mouth bad. Worse than mid-era Marduk and Dark Funeral. Worse than that French fuck Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh, worse than anything you can think of, even if it sounds better it's still worse because of it. And I fucking love it. I love every moment of it. I love it like I love terrible grade-Z science fiction movies. I love it like I love mid-60's Godzilla. And it's not accidental hilarity that makes this album. The main point is that there's nothing "accidental" about this album. These two swedish fucks are Loki incarnate, and they were on the scene to absolutely confuse and irritate everyone they could. Seeing as that tradition holds to this day, I'd say they were successful. The music, they say, was written between 1984 and 1995. Hah, holy shit. How the band started writing material before they formed is beyond me, because it doesn't seem like some tracks are borrowed from older projects. Even the slower paced tracks seem all in perfect tune with the same immediate, impulsive composing and recording that surely, adorned with muffled laughter, ensued between 1995 and 1996. Maybe it's yet another piss, taken at the audience.
Now, I'll go into the music. I can't assure you this will be brief.
Were any band, for reasons beyond that of a logical human being's comprehension, to release an album exactly like this one today, it'd go at best unnoticed and at worst appreciated by this newfangled school of tr00kvlt bois who wear their Burzum shirts to their shitty local bands' concerts (bands which only play covers of Burzum and the odd, Darkthrone-clone "original" track) where stupid, braindead, clownish clones of a long lost idea gather to imitate those who made a name for themselves twenty years prior thanks to their talent and vision. But I digress. The point is that this album would pass as yet another decent raw black metal revival album by yet another barely acceptable bedroom black metal duo. People would buy it. I personally know people who look out for that kind of shit.
What does that say of the music? Oh man. It's terrible. It hurts so good.
A massive ensemble of tribal drums, a cheap 8-bit trumpet and a deep voice pronouncing declarations no doubt grim and cold in nature welcome you into the realm of this, the highest authority of self-awareness in black metal history.
The guitars are all out of tune, as the album proudly proclaims in the liner notes. They have two gears: Monotonal tremolos ad nauseam and seemingly random and lifeless mid-tempo chugs. They all sound dead and soulless, like a personal insult from a drunken former friend who now has a few teeth missing since he's been doing meth for quite a while. And the keyboards (midis?), while not exactly out of place with its time (and I suspect the duo realised this, hence their use), try to inject the music with, alternatively, an epic and a mystical feeling, failing miserably each time. The closer to either objective they come is when they sound like they could be the background music for a final boss in The Legend Of Zelda or the inbetween-stages music of (arcade) Street Fighter. It's so deliciously terrible I want to blast it from my car in the middle of the night until people throw rocks at me. The drums! I'll be damned if they're not a machine. Not because of their precision, mind you, but because of their shitty, flat, tinny sound and remorseless mediocrity. Imagine Minas Morgul-era Summoning but without the talent and good taste. The drums are completely obscured by the loud-as-fuck keyboards and strange, random FX that pops up every now and then. The bass is not a thing that exists. Instead you can hear the faint reverberation of a metallic coil strung like the metal equivalent of a jug/spasm band's "bass". Vocals display a valiant effort to sound as average and non-threatening as it is possible within the genre. I suppose old grannies still believing in the communist threat would probably piss their diapers over them, but otherwise most people, even people outside of the metal world, will have a heartily chuckle.
From time to time the utterly random will make its appearance. Clean vocals singing only like a drunken Scandinavian can on a Friday night walking down the dark streets of Fuckknowswherebjörn with other, equally drunken friends until an annoyed neighbour decides to call the police. Rock and roll of the lowest category, something that makes Darkthrone's black punk explorations sound downright elegant and sophisticated. They do nothing but rise the average level of utter evil genius needed to craft this album. I am in no doubt that this was a joke band, but it's the depth and real nature of this joke that fascinates me, that resonates with me. Remember that humour is the ultimate rebellion against the status quo. Sure, burning churches and dressing in threatening (and slightly homoerotic, Euronymous) ways is a good way to start, but it's in the sardonic pool of laughter-propelled saliva where the real revolution is cooked. I'm not trying to say that this is a revolutionary album, even though it is, but only because this sort of revolution is more of an individual one in nature. But I'm trying to say that this album is a very important voice. A voice that carries an important message. That message might hurt those who still hold onto idols and ideals, but it is the uttermost truth: Nothing is sacred. Nothing is sacred. Nothing is sacred.
There are dozens of elements that go beyond the mentioned above. Samples of fire, of Icelandic chanting (of course), and mysterious bursts of noise and perhaps even feedback, thrown about the album much in the fashion of a lonely bachelor living in a smelly flat adorning his lonely Christmas tree with eyes closed, shining pieces of plastic hitting the tree at random places and often failing to both attach themselves to a twig and giving the tree any meaningful aspect, other than a perfect visual example of the age old formula that tragedy plus time equals hilarity.
This album is fifteen years old. I think it's time to laugh.
From time to time they'll churn out a catchy riff or clever passage. This works as further evidence that this is a cold, calculated effort to take a huge, steaming, yellowish shit on everything that the Scandinavian (and, by that time, international) black metal scene held sacred. Because make no mistake. Whenever someone revels against whatever they perceive as establishment (that is, when Euro and co. revolted against death metal by ways of black metal) and succeeds, they become establishment.. It happened with blues. It happened with punk. You name it. Whenever someone breaks free of that which is the norm, they create a new norm, and people follow, thoroughly beating the purpose of the rebellion itself. Black metal and punk have much in common. They both started as a serious, respectable and well thought idea and immediately developed into yet another fad. They're plagued with kids who insist, 25 or 35 years after the fact, that they are TRUE PUNKS or TR00 KVLT KIDS and will go to great lengths to prove it. Destroying is the activity of choice for most enthusiasts, whether that destruction is bestowed upon public buildings or their own bodies and minds. They love to be the same as everyone else. They wear the uniforms that were given to them and pretend that their uniform makes them different. Unique. Individualistic.
Tell me this is not the greatest practical joke you've ever witnessed, and I'll call you a shit eating cunt liar.
There is beauty in this. Not just the almost Greek irony that covers them like black clouds ready to spit acid tears of laughter upon their unsuspecting arses, but there is beauty in works like this one. This big, ugly, laughable piece of shit. This mirror. Look at it. This album is the big, ugly, laughable piece of shit mirror upon which every single person who still holds foreign, implanted ideals old and dead as important will have to gaze. And what will they find? They will find truth. Ugly, laughable, piece of shit truth. These people know, that's why they're scared. Fear leads to the good ol' fight or flight mechanism. You can see how people either fight this album, or run away from it. I won't, for a number of reasons. I don't think I'm better than anyone, Fucking Sugartits Christ am I not in any way better than the average person. But I do know I am more true to myself, in my bland, nothingface image and stupid, weird opinions and my non-aggressive stance (remember, fight or flight, fear, insecurity, the math does itself like your mom does when I'm not home), than these self-righteous enemies of individuality will ever be. The uniformed clowns that plague not just black metal, not just all of music (the more confrontational the better), but all of the elements that, ideally, are bestowed upon us in order to help us construct our own identities instead of simply conforming to the life of a photocopy.
And that concludes the strictly musical aspects of the album! Even though there wasn't much to say and I ended up spewing a bunch of ideological gobbledygook.
We now move on to the conclusion, starting with yet another disclaimer: I love black metal. I guess I don't need to tell you this since even stumbling into this album requires at least some level of appreciation for the genre, but regardless, I really do. I love classic black metal, I love experimental black metal and everything in between. And, like most, I also at one point became enthralled and almost enamoured with the almost folkloric tales that surrounded its origins. Yes, I wanted to roll with the gangstas. I wanted to be part of the kill people and burn churches clique, disregarding females and acquiring currency like a good Nordic pagan little soldier. To this day the fact that all of this happened at the very least inspires wonder, and personally, it is justifiably worthy of reverence. But there's a harsh reality we all need to face in order to evolve and improve, both our individual minds and this collective organism we got ourselves into without reading the fine print: All that is past. It's done. We're not in the early 90's anymore. Fucking stop living in a past that you were most likely too young and/or too far away from to even experience second hand from a newspaper, or a friend of a friend. It happened and it was good. It is now time to move on. And I, for one, think that the best way to get over a chronic gripe is humour. And I think these two fuckhead swedes realised this. Black metal was a long term relationship that ended. Bergen was a death in the family. Holding onto these ghosts is decidedly resigning and giving up on life. If that's your cup of tea then I implore you, please, please kill yourself as quickly as possible. I wish you no pain. I just want you banished from earth as quickly as possible. For those who would like to move on (keeping in mind that moving on does not equal forgetting or discrediting), we know what the best medicine is. That is half of what makes this album, this terrible, awful, almost inexcusably bad music so special, so important. This is the album equivalent of "y'all think you is all that but you ain't".
As I said, this album is but a harshly real mirror upon which people who cannot let go of an ideal that is long gone and far distanced from their own realities will have their own reflection looking back at them. And unless they're able to snap out of the almost cult-(kvlt?)-like trance they put themselves into, enamoured with realities that either were completely alien to their own or simply became stale and died, like all things, good and bad do, they will see exactly what I hear when I listen to this album: An utter joke. A fucking hilarious piece of shit, a complete disaster, a clownish, purposely cliched and predictable, bland and annoying cunt of an album that has only that going for themselves: The reality that they're but a walking joke for those who didn't let anyone put their brains into a jar and their bodies into a uniform.
Humour is not just the best medicine, it's also the strongest ideological weapon. And that's why, even though I'd love to give this album a 0 (or a negative number, an imaginary number, even!) I'll give it a perfect score. Why? A couple of reasons. Because in its own funny little way, this album is absolutely perfect, enjoyable and even essential. Aaaaand because it'll piss people off.
Come on lads, let's have a laugh.
Oh I just wanna go ahead and tell nothing but fucking Darth Vader jokes and Star Wars references such as who shot whom first, Hans Solo or Gweedo, or even discuss how bounty hunter Boba Fett escape what appeared to be his death in "Return of The Jedi", and how "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best sequel of all time. I want to show every bit of Star Wars nerd in me. But then that wouldn't leave me with enough room to talk about the biggest joke of all; Vondur.
Vondur is what is considered to be a joke in the black metal scene. And how much more ridiculous can you get where you have fucking Darth Vader on the cover of your album. Vondur is the brainchild of the two jerk-offs from Abruptum; It and All. Yeah they just couldn't stop fucking around and generally pissing black metal fans off so they put the biggest stake in it's black heart and watch the body wither away in not death, but in sheer embarassment. The corpse of black metal just doesn't want to be associated with this and it's understandable why it's both equally loved and completely hated album of all time. But this is not to say it's terrible. No, like the movie "Troll 2" it's so bad, it's actually good.
The tracks from the gamut from straight-up nothing but blastbeat-filled black metal songs such as "Dreptu Allur", "Fjórdi Ríkins Uppgangur", to two-stepping-3-riffs-per-song "Uppruni Vonsku", chanted vocals over horror movie synths in "Kynning Fjórdi Ríku", to kooky funeral-esque pianos and fire crackling with "Kirkjur Skola Brenna" to pounding tribal drums on the opening track "Kynning - Einvaldnir Er Her". So you DO get black metal, but it's done in a way to take the piss out of the genre. I find myself completely bored shitless with their little jokes.
Oh and last but not least, Darth Vader. Um...yeah, I don't quite understand what the concept or connection about Darth Vader and black metal is, but it's hilarious. Funny haha. Oh well, Darth Vader and his Stormtroppers are way more evil than Satan and the black metal fans and musicians who worship that sad dolt.
VONDUR - Stridsyfirlysing
Black metal psycho's Vondur are an interesting sound to say the least. These two guys are actually playing some original black metal here. The production is just plain weird with high treble-ish guitar, distorted to the hilt bass guitar, and drums that sound like a drum machine. Now the vocals take the cake, high pitch cackling at it's best. Though vocally there are a couple songs that feature almost out of tune style of Kindg Diamond (no, not the high pitched parts), which I really like. Also thrown in amongst the blackness are a few atmospheric and dialogue vocal numbers, and there's a nice keyboard tune with some of those nice vocals. You know A lot of people think this is a joke band because of the (very cool) Star Wars cover art, but I'm not really laughing myself. While I admit this isn't great black metal, it is original and actually fun to listen to. 17 tracks and 49 minutes of a total black metal assult. And the cover fuckin' rules!
The review-title sums up most or all of the positive aspects of this album basically.
Of course, you can have a joke band and all, but please, at least make the music SEMI-interesting! Heck, I'll settle for mediocre, or even knee-slapping.
The band gets 5 extra points for the overpompous intro with 'epic' drumming and the 'dark voice intro'. After that, in the next couple of tracks, several (all?) cliches of black metal pass along in mostly (purposely?) bland, repetitive and uninteresting tracks.
I hate this album. Maybe it's because the possibly very funny lyrics are totally lost on me because they're in Icelandic or something similarly unintelligible to me. More likely it's because I could've done without the 10 tracks past the first 7 (7 is enough to let all black metal cliches pass by don't you think?), and without the rubberband bassguitar (it's worse than I make it sound), and without the guitar-fuzz that gives me a headache after 4 minutes (which gets worse and worse as the cd progresses). Oh christ, and those guitar-peeps in track 8. Track 8 is definitely the worst track on the album, in it's attempt to mock wall-of-sound black metal.
Mehh, I don't want to waste too many words on this. There's a "Haha!" here, but then a headache and utter boredom appear.