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Uneven quartet of epic ambient BM space pieces - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 6th, 2015

More black metal and less glitchy noise than the "Op. 16" EP which I reviewed elsewhere on MA, this album comprises four instrumental ambient BM pieces. Unusually they're numbered in a mixed backwards sequence so that the first track is "Op. 21", the third track is "Op 18" and the last is "Op. 19". Each piece appears to delineate a different part of the BM universe as conceived by Epäihminen, and where isolation, darkness and hatred reign supreme throughout.

The first track gets off to a strong and energetic start, powered by hostility and rage, with fuzzy guitars and an unearthly malevolent space atmosphere forming the backbone of the music. The second track is more varied in speed (slow at times, faster at other times) more melodic and influenced equally by doom and BM but the guitars are even more blurry and fuzzed up. The harsh ratchety singing is hard to make out - Epäihminen (the man) sounds as if he's stuck in a tin-lined coffin and barking through a ratty megaphone - but the vocals tend to be sparse and pushed back in the mix so they are clearly not a very major element. Synthesiser melodies bring a more melancholy and chilling edge to the music which becomes more frenzied and intense towards its climax.

"Op 18", like the first track, is a more straightforward minimal BM piece but with passages of cold frigid space: it's a good track on its own, full of fury and energy, trance psychedelia-like in one ambient section, but not as complex as the second track. "Op 19" presents a much more doomy and introspective side of Epäihminen.

Overall the music is varied but the range of instrumentation is very limited - Epäihminen, playing all instruments, relies heavily on guitars and synths - and as a result the album's sound isn't as good as it could be. At this point in his career, Epäihminen might consider including some guest musicians and using live instruments to substitute for synthesisers where he can; the synth sounds that appear on "Epäihminen III" are hindering the music by making it sound generic. A live drummer on a drum-kit could give the work much more power and Epäihminen could concentrate on experimenting with his guitar sounds and layers and create a more complex style.

Most tracks end very suddenly, dropping into a hole of nothingness, and while this works for one or two tracks, when three end the same way, I wonder if this way of concluding long pieces of music isn't compensating in some way for not being able to round off ideas and bring down tension to a proper exit.

Of the four tracks, "Op. 20" is the best - Epäihminen has poured his heart and soul into this track - and while the rest of the music isn't bad, it doesn't quite match this particular piece for intensity and inventiveness.