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On the fringes of extreme metal - 70%

we hope you die, December 11th, 2019

Paul Ledney finally returns with a new Havohej LP ten years after the ground-breaking ‘Kembatinan Premaster’ (2009). And if that album laid the groundwork for how the inevitable marriage of noise and black metal might actually work, then ‘Table of Uncreation’ moves us just a little further along this road. I understand that Ledney has been busy with sister project Profanatica, the more conventional front for his force-of-nature drumming, but ‘Table of Uncreation’ does not feel like an album ten years in the making.

It is but one logical direction that the Havohej project could have taken on the many paths that it opened up for the fringes of extreme metal. ‘Kembatinan Premaster’ was two parts aggression one part unique and oppressive atmosphere. Using a hum of static atop primal and organic drum-work, it built trance-like rhythms which droned into the listener ad-nauseum, and just before utter insanity is reached, he would play a chord on a synth-choir sound, and it would be the most glorious sound in the world. This is the power of contrast, and a pure demonstration of the need to build structure and direction into even the most lawless of musical forms.

On ‘Table of Uncreation’ the bare bones of the album are much the same, although the tempo sinks down in doom metal territory. Most of the album is replete with chasmic static, underpinned by cavernous sounding drums, minimal yet big. Ledney’s voice is deep and rich and distant. The pace does pick up here and there at unexpected intervals, and this brings me round to the album’s greatest strength and its biggest crutch: contrast.

Large parts of TOU are without percussion or vocals. The music simply devolves into structureless dark ambient, with some distant and indiscernible noises in the distance, only to throw out a barrage of heavy snare and more static (possibly a guitar line). This is great, but unlike KP, it does not seem to lead anywhere, there is no final catharsis and one wonders if it is an album of filler, getting by solely on those unexpected bursts of noise after extended periods of coloured silence.

So how could contrast also be a strength? There are hints of melody here and there. Distant guitar lines and small lights in the dark. They are utterly suppressed by the wall of open noise that dominates. But they are scattered throughout, and offer the listener a hope in music, juxtaposed against the wilderness of featureless noise they are otherwise faced with. Which leads me to believe that the seeming lack of payoff was completely intentional. KP was a crushing album, but it seemed to draw to a conclusion, there was a clear ending to the album even if it was not particularly happy. TOU offers no such solace. Much like life, there is no payoff, no punchline, just scattered moments of unrealised hope before a poorly timed ending.

With all that in mind, ‘Table of Uncreation’ walks a line, one that all music that teeters on the edge of music must walk. On one side lies utter nonsense for the sake of it, propped up as ‘art’ by people unwilling to face their own intellectual shortcomings. The other is a genuine assessment of the purpose, meaning, and methods of music, through destroying it altogether and tentatively offering thoughts on how to rebuild anew. Paul Ledney – through the medium of Havohej – has always been one of extreme metal’s finest champions of this cause. But I fear that TOU may have been the difficult follow up to KP that just doesn’t quite hit the mark. It is, however, a damn interesting album and well worth a spin, especially for those new to the work of this artist and the outer reaches of what underground metal is capable of.

Originally published at Hate Meditations