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This is... something. Something indeed. - 90%

Noktorn, April 10th, 2010

A few notes on how to listen to this, to begin:

1. I've listened to this at about every general point during the day, and 4 AM is the winner. It's too late to just be a late night and too early to be an early morning; it's a total no-man's land of time. Having a fucked up sleep schedule seems to help too; it has the best results when you're listening to this at that time but just woke up, also. I think listening to this while you're still kind of groggy lets it sink in better.

2. You have to be alone, of course. Darkness is an option but surprisingly enough not really necessary. Feel free to have a lamp on.

3. Do something else while you listen to it; only give it half your attention. It's a little too thin musically to pay complete attention to and the music seems designed to seep into the subconscious anyway more than be actively listened to.

This is, understandably enough, a departure from 'Dethrone The Son Of God', but completely understandable in the long run. It's not like when you listen to Havohej's first full-length you get all wrapped up in the intricate riffcraft and subtle melodies; the whole appeal of the album is its borderline incoherent nature and insanely rage-filled delivery, so with that in mind, it seems inevitable that Ledney would eventually just abandon the idea of playing 'normal music' altogether with this project. In short, anyone who really got what was going on with the first album could see something approximating this coming from miles away.

A lot of people seem to like this, which is nice and all, but I'm pretty sure a good 75% of the people who like it are missing the point entirely. 'Kembatinan Premaster' is not black metal; it's just inarguable and seeing people refer to this as black metal makes me really wonder what the hell set of standards they're using. The central, most crucial facet of this release is that it does not use guitars. If it does use guitars, they are so pitch-shifted, distorted, and warped with any number of effects that the fact that they were guitars to begin with is completely irrelevant, as is if they're playing actual riffs as everything from them is reduced to whirring, chirping, grinding noise underneath the drums (Programmed? Real? Who knows) and vocals. Yes, this has screechy vocals, occasionally thrashy drumming, and a dark atmosphere, but I have trouble imagining a black metal album without guitar, bass, or any actual riffing or melodic structure whatsoever.

What this most closely resembles would be the much maligned 'Ordog' by Black Funeral, which predates this by several years and essentially employs the same musical style but doesn't get a tenth of the appreciation that this does. Admittedly the composition and aesthetic choices are better and more streamlined on this, but not so much that it completely changes the game of 'Ordog' and I'm not convinced that the metal scene just suddenly caught up with this style in four years; I think everyone's letting Ledney (and Hell's Headbangers I suppose) off easy due to celebrity status. Anyway, I guess the best way to characterize this would be to call it 'black industrial', a term I use for bands like Roadkill Sodomizer or Ordo Tyrannis where the general essence and aesthetics of black metal are applied to a base of pure industrial/electronic music. 'Kembatinan Premaster' fits the bill here perfectly, but in a rather different way than one typically hears.

Now when people talk about music being amelodic, I generally scoff, but 'Kembatinan Premaster' is perhaps as amelodic as it gets without descending into full-fledged noise. There are no melodic voices anywhere on the album; the central noise layer of the maybe-guitars has no tonal properties, Ledney's vocals are delivered in a monotonous snarl, and there are no synths or any melodic effects to speak of. To make this more curious is the fact that, in the central feature that separates this from 'Ordog', the production has none of the album's synthetic coldness. Just the opposite: 'Kembatinan Premaster''s sound is very warm. Uncomfortably hot, actually, with every voice on the album seeming to be a little too fast, too rich, too loud, too everything, managing to pass the safe boundaries of just about every sonic feature just enough to make the listener uneasy the whole way through.

The really funny thing about this album is that despite the essentially major shift in style, the compositional structure of this album is pretty much the same as on 'Dethrone The Son Of God'. Contrasting shorter, almost randomly arranged tracks with much longer, ultra-repetitive and droning compositions, song structure which appear to be arranged while sitting in the studio, an offhand and seemingly improvisational style of delivery; all of Havohej's weird little idiosyncrasies are present in full force. The difference here is that this sort of style seems much more comfortably at work in what is essentially a full-fledged noise album rather than something kind of black metal; not having any melodic voices that get confused in the random structures is a big help to giving the music the sort of linearity and perplexing, unquantifiable feel Ledney is clearly going for.

As you can guess this is an album all about mood, and it certainly does have that, and more impressively, one that I haven't heard before. It's post-occult; Ledney doesn't bother reading the Necronomicon or studying Satanic mythology because he's making his own mythos as he goes along, arbitrarily flipping Christian mythology upside-down and creating things out of whole cloth as he goes, resulting in music that at times seems like the exact antonym of, say, Gregorian chant or any form of traditional religious music. It has a hyper-medieval quality despite its industrial leanings which makes this appear to be the soundtrack to farming dirt outside a castle as you watch black plague victims get carried away on carts. It goes with something I've heard in a few other albums that I refer to as 'ultrarealism'; it's portraying something authentic and real, but in an unnervingly extended and intensified way, like it's a higher-resolution-than-reality image of something that actually exists.

It's hard to talk about how this music is actually set up because it all seems so random; a race of programmed or possibly real drums just slams away at thrash beats or 'close your eyes and click randomly in FLStudio' rhythms under the churning, repetitive noise drones (however they might be generated) and a layer of too-loud, probably programmed bass, with Ledney periodically interjecting with too-loud, too-clear oldschool USBM snarls. Things just happen; there's no structure to speak of. Tracks will open with full minutes of literally nothing happening but churning industrial noise before drums and vocals just crash in without any build-up or resolution; everything just stops or starts with not a hint of dynamics or elegance at all. It makes for something very immediate and highly unnerving; 'Kembatinan Premaster' is so distant from what people typically regard in music or even black metal that it can't help but be unsettling in its unflinching, wide-eyed, willfully monotonous delivery.

Ironically, while this is wholly removed from black metal in all but the most basic aesthetics, I can't help but think it's a leap forward for the genre; 'Ordog' kind of felt like a one-off experiment, but this feels like a more calculated move in the direction of post-black metal. Ledney clearly knows exactly what he's going for on this release; it's very precise in its randomness and the sole member of this project seems dedicated to smashing what we knew of black metal with this album. It's chillingly effective; Ledney has abandoned everything we thought as necessary in black metal, metal, or even music and just made this piece of sonic art that abandons human elements for something from a completely different world than this one. Something is afoot here; the real question is where Ledney goes after this.

So what would be an improvement on this admittedly new and interesting sound? Oddly enough, more structure might help; the random nature of this music is part of its charm but also prevents it from completely ensnaring the listener. If the elements at hand on 'Kembatinan Premaster' were a bit more codified and defined I think it could be something completely genre-changing. As such, it's just a very excellent album that can be listened to again and again. It's transcending the conventions of metal but I'm not sure it's setting something up for the future, which is why I'm curious to hear Havohej's next release. Something very new can definitely be made from this and I want to see what Havohej and other artists do with the style at hand.

I recommend this massively while at the same time being completely unsure of who to recommend it to; a lot of people seem to like it but I'm not sure they grasp the significance of it. It's atmospheric and dark but those are really sort of minimal concerns when facing the sheer compositional audacity of the album. Any way you slice it, you have to listen to it; this is massively forward-thinking music that isn't making something new cobbled together from already existing elements. 'Kembatinan Premaster' appears to arise from nothing and promise nothing, and in that regard, it's truly something to be impressed by and afraid of.