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Zyklon-B must be one of the shortest lived collaborations in the history of the black metal elite, with its collective output limited to 4 tracks total, all of which appear on the 2004 re-release of the original Blood Must Be Shed EP, and all of which were issued elsewhere on a pair of limited splits. It's unfortunate, because, well, I rather enjoy what is happening here, but understandable given the band's other attentions at its time of conception. Samoth and Ihsahn were busy conquering the world with their prime project Emperor, drummer Frost with Satyricon, and Draug Aldrahn probably hoping for the same from his excellent Dødheimsgard.
Formed in 1995, and releasing this in the same year, there is a clear dissimilarity to other 'super groups' like Wongraven or Storm in that Zyklon-B express themselves not through the sidereal excursions into the folk/ambient climes, but through beastly and straightforward black metal savagery. This is 11 minutes of fast, loose and lethal extremity, more expedient than Dark Medieval Times, more puerile than In the Nightside Eclipse, and more focused than Kronet Til Kronge, yet startling in its efficiency and not lacking in the melodic department, you simply have to survive the initial velocity of its opening charge, the unbridled eruption that is "Mental Orgasm". Scintillating, slicing walls of guitars channeled across several standardized but excellent riffing patterns, breaking around :45 into a grinding velocity that is heralded by a simple voice sample. The finale of the track arrives like a nuclear cowboy tossing his hat into the oncoming fallout.
"Bloodsoil" is one better, a more atmospheric piece with an almost jazzy ambivalence created through the streaming tremolo notes and walls of majestic synthesizers, but it too shows its repulsive, bestial heart, performed at lightning pace for the first 1:30 of the song, before the drum fills shift the piece into a brief, warlike segue. "Warfare" is about the same length as the other two tracks combined, 5:30 of storming disgust that once again uses the choral synthesizers to create this rampant mystery above the monotonous but beatific razor-din of the guitars. At around 1:00, it collapses into a purely 'symphonic' black metal bridge, Draug Aldrahn's barking the best here on all the EP. The final track, if you've got the 2004 re-issue or the limited split with Mayhem, is "Total Warfare (Sea Serpent Remix)", which mixes "Warfare" with various industrial and hip hop beats to mixed effect. It's completely unnecessary, but as it's not a part of the original release, I can't really fault it.
I like Blood Must Be Shed quite a lot, and at times I bear a curiosity as to what a continuation of its exploits might have manifested, but at the same time, it's so narrow and harrowing that it just sort of stands on its own, so I can understand why the participants might not have wanted to do anything further. Samoth would of course return years later with a band known simply as Zyklon, but the similarities are limited, since he transforms that into more of a modern, molten black/death hybrid. The mix here is rugged, but fitting to the level of manic rage being churned out through Frost's drumming and Samoth's guitars, and it's quite 'fun' to hear these four men making music together, though never underhanded or humorous. Really, if you're a fan of almost any Norwegian black metal of the mid 90s, from the works of the constituents to Kvist, Burzum, Gorgoroth or Immortal, then this is very much worth owning.
There are certain things, be it objects, or abstract feelings, or whatever you can express or describe with your language and actions which are very important to begin with. It takes time, patience and most of all, a form of reasoning and wit to deal with them. To fully comprehend what is going on on this desolate planet, we must first start to analyse, not with linear logic, but our thoughts must divide themselves into more and more, similar to the branches of a tree. One could read a whole lot more about these sort of things, but, that aside, it's time to focus a little more on this little EP, which has apparently reached cult, or almost legendary status amongst the heavy metal subculture. Why?
We have here a sort of "musician supergroup", banded together as "Zyklon-B", which is a gas best known for its primary use in German concentration camps during World War II to systematically exterminate human life. A both shocking and provoking band name, they themselves claim it has no political meaning whatsoever, it seems sometimes necessary to attract attention. Through these aspects Zyklon-B have gained a very special sort of attention and reputation. As short lived projects tend to be either excellent or completely bad, Zyklon-B floats in a kind of grey zone, where it simply is not possible to find the right words to explain what's going on on this EP. It is supposed to be the embodiment of pure hate and aggression pointed at the human race. The reasons why someone would feel this way is self-explanatory, yet it is still very disputable whether this little EP has what it takes to reach the reputation it possesses. It may be atmospheric, for black metal standards alongside its apparent speed and aggressiveness, but not too much for it to be allocated to the typical "black metal synth" crap with the overdriven keyboards. It also has various moments that remind the listener of some of the bands in which the musicians are involved, such as Emperor or Gehenna.
The real problem of this EP is not its length, but its overall expressive force. Yes, it may be authentic enough and overall extremely aggressive and hatefilled, but this EP solves nothing. It does not inspire to do anything positive and it overreacts into oblivion, while certain other bands in this subculture actually have a rebellious message to share or at least a path that can be viewed from a different perspective. This EP is the absolute negation of positivity and the most frightening thing is, that it's the bitter truth. It is fully understandable why this EP exists and by no means is it a negligible piece of art, but it is the most negative thing you will ever hear. The quotes from well known, yet dubious, artist/musician/whatever Boyd Rice are also strictly direct and without any compromise. "War is good, AIDS is good, mass murder is good, gang violence is good, crack cocaine is good. Anything that contributed to depopulating the Earth is good." These are facts, induced by "modern" man. We, or the ones who aren't completely stupid, have to deal with them or create a state of being, where they will disappear entirely. If we don't, well let's just say this EP is right and we can only hope that our imaginary "god" will send his army of angels or smurfs or whatever to save us from our own self-induced extermination and take us to his invisible heaven, where there are no animals or evil or stones. Overall a nice little EP definitely worth picking up, full of ideological negativity which will hopefully make some people wake up from their dreamy state and start thinking and acting.
This release is a massive holocaust. The soundtrack to the total warfare upon humanity. For me, if this was a full length album consisted of 7 more songs in the vein of the 3 represented here then I could talk about the "Reign In Blood" of black metal. I find it so "in your face" as very few times I have felt before.
The atmosphere produced by the keys of Ihsahn along with the nightmare lighting-fast guitar of Samoth is beyond imagination. You will not feel like this many times in your life listening to music. And of course I have to mention the sound clips that are scattered here and there. They give the extra bonus in the whole work. They give you the idea that war is coming. That you are in a difficult situation and an unknown enemy is approaching.
Aldrahn on vocal duties is as always fantastic. He (as always) feels the lyrics he is singing. Here his interpretation is full of desperation - a trademark of his voice in my opinion. One of the best vocalists of metal singing always with a feeling.
And for the end we have Frost behind the drum kit. There is not much to say about him. We are talking about a top class drummer that knows how and what to play in the exact moment. I like the way he plays in this release. Minimalistic but substantial. And I really enjoy the parts where he speeds up while already playing in blast beat mode. Listen and you will understand what I mean. Great!
About the sound there is not many I can write. It is perfect for the whole concept. You can say it is a black metal production but with clear and solid sound. The vocals, instruments, sound clips can be heard equally with none above or below in the mix. I am not a specialist. Just a fan of music and I say that the sound is just perfect and ideal to the recording!
For the end I would like to refer to the whole packaging. The cover art is exactly as it should be. I cannot imagine this release with another cover or layout in general. I own the first edition on Malicious Records. So I speak of it and I have no idea how the recent re-releases look like - except their front cover that is a bit altered and I do not like it. The booklet inside is just 2 pages. I would like more of it and especially I would like to contain the lyrics. The band photos and the paragraph above them are simply legendary.
A killer release that has only one disadvantage... it's duration. I would like more. At least one full length. Or at least a mini album. I've been an addict to this release. Recommended to everyone that likes generally black metal and all those who just "feel"... generally.
Victories do not simply happen...
I'm generally weary of rare EPs that have a cult following because I am convinced that it's their rarity status that makes people like them. When I first started to get into black metal, I heard about this EP and that was about it for a while. I don't download music, but when I randomly seen the 2004 re-release sitting in HMV, I decided to pick it up. And while I am not a huge fan of black metal, it is one of the best discs I own.
Zyklon B don't pretend to be doing something special here. They are not reinventing the wheel. This is 10:52 of pure fucking aggression. And that's it. It is one of the angriest albums I have ever heard. It's a one-trick pony, and it doesn't pretend to be anything other than that. This is just blastbeats, dissonance, and a slow keyboard section so you can rest your neck for a few moments before headbanging through the final stretch.
I honestly think the production on this EP is fantastic and suits the music perfectly. It's loud, distorted and dirty. There's no subtlety to be found, but then again, there's nothing subtle about hate-fuelled misanthropy. There's a bass guitar in there somewhere, but it's not easy to hear for the most part.
The music is simple and fast, with much of the guitar work being focused on the higher strings. It's dissonant, harsh and ugly, but hidden amongst the blastbeats and guitar tones that have no redeemable qualities at all are some fantastic melodies, and some great riffs. Isahn's uses some of the same keyboard patches as he used in Emperor, but that's about the only similarity between the two. His keyboard parts are simple and repetitive, and used to minimal effect.
The vocals are deeper than most black metal I've heard (I'm not familiar with any of Alrahn's other musical endeavours, so I don't know if this is what he usually sounds like), and the lyrics are pretty unintelligible, but it's fairly easy to realise the album is about hate without trying to work out the lyrics. Some noticeable roars from Warfare include "The more I'm with people the more I hate them," "I hate everybody," and "Creatures of the night - nightbreed - show no mercy."
If hatred had a sound, then by the gods that sound would be Blood Must Be Shed.
This little EP is awesome and happens to be one of my all time favorite albums. What I love about it is that it's very straight-forward, super aggressive and intense, but still manages to sound controlled, intelligent and even quite relaxing. The guitars play mainly on the higher notes as opposed to the lower ones so there's more of a sense of melody and harmony, instead of just growling dischordant noise that most black metal bands use to varying degrees of sucess. The simple, but effective keyboards always seem to come in at just the right moments to either make things more dramtic or give it a sombre, majestic tone. This works in a wonderful and unique way since the songs are almost always going at full speed. Aldrahn's vocals, Frost's fluid and rolling drum style (don't recall ever hearing him play quite like this on any other release) and the bass make it sound very schizophrenic and pissed-off while Ihashn's synth and Samoth's guitar make everything seem very mellow and almost nostalgic. (especially on track 2) It creates a sort of contrast of moods that I don't think I've ever heard to this extent and effectiveness elsewhere. Thus I think this EP is truly unique. A black metal essential.
An awesome collaboration of some of the finest black metallers of the time. I sense nothing but cold, and the colour black when I hear these only three tracks recorded by this line up. The guitar sound makes the riffs less clear but all the more searing, the keyboards add an odd ambient element to an otherwise aggressive output from the remaining members. The vocals lean away from the generic black metal shriek and instead the Dodheimsgard vocalist simply yells over the top of the instruments. Frost's drumming does not change from blast until halfway through 'Total Warfare' where a marching gallop takes place to soar the middle section back into the last half of the song (blast). There are a couple of interesting tempo changes from riff to riff, particularly one that sticks out when the blast tempo snaps suddenly much faster without warning. Whilst the sample at the end of the third track does have some agreeable sentiments, I find that samples cheapen this style of music and sometimes wish it wasn't there. A stand out release of 1995 - the year when the black metal phenomenon began to fade into the oblivion of what it is today.
Zyklon-B was an early collaboration between some of Norway's Black Metal founding fathers. And although the band became blinged out when they went straight downhill with Zyklon (and latter Emperor & Satyricon), the early works are hailed and honored by many black metal fans.
1994 and 1995 were years of change within the black metal scene. Euronymous was dead, and Varg was in prison. Many bands began to emerge, and black metal began to stray from it's death metal roots. With this grimly painted scenario, Frost, Samoth, Ihsahn and Aldrahn joined up to spawn one of the best black metal EPs to ever be released.
"Mental Orgasm" wastes no time, and starts things off with blasting drums, fast tremolo riffing, and Aldrahn's trademark yells. The tightness of the band is very prominent. Frost and Samoth are both very talented musicians, and perhaps that is what makes this release stand out - especially since it could easily be mistaken for Dodheimsgard material. "Bloodsoil" keeps the pace consistent, but Aldrahn's yells have been replaced with more of a growl. Samoth's guitar work is still excellent and crucial to the success of this EP. Ihsahn's contribution is much more prevelent on this track, and if you listen closely, you can hear some atmospheric synths not unlike everything he's done on early Emperor works. The release would still stand on its own without the keyboards, but they don't really ruin the music, so it's not a huge deal. Lastly, "Warfare" keep it fast and brutal. The synth is even more present now, but still not overdone. There is a nice solo part way through with, followed by a slow section with a sample. This is probably the best song on the record, and has a lot of good melody, while changing up the pace a bit more than on the 2 preceeding tracks.
There are a lot of instrumental sections to the songs, which is a good thing, because, as good as Dodheimsgard were, Aldrahn's vocals can get annoying after a while. This release marks some of Samoth's best work, in my opinion, and Frost's drumming is fast as hell and flat-out excellent, but is nothing new for him. Ihsahn's contribution here was minimal, and shouldn't even really be considered a real member of the band.
To finish it all of is one of the best samples i've ever heard in a song: "War is good, AIDS is good, mass murder is good, gang violence is good, crack cocaine is good. Anything that contributes to depopulating Earth is good." This sums up the themes of the music, as compared to those of early Satyricon and Emperor.
This is one of the best classic pieces to come out of Norway, and by the look of it, it seems to be overlooked by many, though this should definitely be remedied.