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Old-school BM vs. genre-bending strangeness - 70%

drengskap, April 20th, 2009

This split release from English label Grief Foundation seems, on the face of it, a pretty odd pairing. On the one hand, there’s the veteran American black metal band Krieg, with their first new studio material since 2004. Krieg have been around since 1995, and can fairly be described as old-school. And on the other hand, there’s Caïna, the up-and-coming solo project of young English musician Andrew Curtis-Brignell, who has been getting noticed over the last couple of years for his innovative ‘post-black metal’ with indie leanings, although he’s recently announced that there’s going to be just one more four-track CD on Universal Tongue / Bubonic Productions, and then he’s going to take a break from Caïna to concentrate on other projects, among them something called The Red Cathedral, which also includes members of Krieg, so evidently he discerns some common ground there.

Side A belongs to Krieg, with a track entitled ‘Photographs From The Asylum’. For this recording, Krieg consisted of HC on guitar and the band’s founder Imperial doing everything else. Krieg temporarily disbanded between 2005 and 2007, and reviews for what was supposed to be their swansong album, Blue Miasma, were damning, with many people writing off Imperial as a spent force, amid rumours of his increasing mental problems. ‘Photographs From The Asylum’, though, is nothing if not energetic – the song hurtles along with necksnapping velocity, Imperial’s rancid croak rising out of a blizzard of guitar, all the notes blurred together in approved raw black metal style. There’s a slow ambient interlude before the carnage resumes, and the song ends with a weird little keyboard flourish. I must confess I haven’t been paying too much attention to Krieg in recent years, so I can’t really say how this stacks up against the Blue Miasma material, but on the evidence of this song, there’s still plenty of life in Imperial’s project.

Caïna’s side of the record contains ‘Anung Un Rama’, which was originally recorded for a compilation album that never saw the light of day. This starts off fast too, with trebly guitar and a generally cleaner sound than Krieg. The vocals are harsh but intelligible – ‘Deliver us to Satan!’ In the middle of the song, the black metal is juxtaposed against a more melodic impulse, with picked tremolo guitar notes spaced out over snare drum rolls, justifying Caïna’s MySpace page self-description as ‘Black Metal / Shoegaze / Experimental’. This part of the song reminded me of Nadja, or even post-rock acts like SonVer or Bleeding Heart Narrative. After that, the song gets really, really fast, almost like hardcore punk, before ending amid warm, seeping hums of modulated feedback. This is the first Caïna I've heard, and it’s certainly not run-of-the-mill black metal. I don’t really understand the abrupt transitions between very different musical styles several times in one song, but maybe it’s just the shock of the new and I need to hear some more before it all makes sense.

One minor technical problem I noticed with this record – neither side would stop automatically, it seems like the run-off grooves are set too far out.

This EP is available in both green and black vinyl, with the green ones going to the first customers, and the record comes wrapped in a colour card sleeve, with quotations on each side, Charles Bukowski being Krieg’s misanthropist of choice, with Caïna opting for dear old Aleister Crowley.

This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: