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Urfaust - Ritual Music for the True Clochard - 90%

filthgrinding_scum, November 1st, 2012

Recently I have been starting to find quite a few beacons of light for Black Metal heralding from the Netherlands, in all honesty this is one of the last places I would expect to find challenging Black Metal from; I was under the impression they just smoke dope all day, wear clogs, smell tulips
and eat sandwiches with only one side of bread, to my pleasant surprise there has been a nice amount of filth flowing forth recently with bands such as Nihill, Dodecahedron, Gnaw Their Tongues, De Magia Verterum and Urfaust.

This is the first release I have heard from Urfaust and assume that it is a good place to start with their catalogue of releases, as 'Ritual Music for the True Clochard' is a compilation from their previous works. Urfaust say they play atmospheric black metal, now, when I think of atmospheric I have two immediate thoughts on where the music will go; either the depressive, suicidal black metal route such as Xasthur, Trist, Leviathan, etc. or it will go into the nature loving realms like Drudkh, Fen, Burzum, Wolves In The Throne Room (and the rest of that Cascadean, Starbucks loving, hippy 'black metal'), etc. and from the cover that was exactly what I thought it was going to be, so it's pretty damn surprising when I can't immediately draw a close comparison to any of these bands.

When it comes to atmospheric black metal my preferences almost always fall into the former group, as the claustrophobia of those kind of releases sit much better with me than the playing in the woods with the imps, nymphs and trolls that the latter black metal bands with themes about nature conjures up for me. So where do Urfaust fall? I guess somewhere between the middle and also completely out of the equation altogether, some parts of this offer up reminiscence of avante-garde bands such as the wondrous Ved Buens Ende, Ulver and Arcturus.

In some ways this album is quite hard to review in the sense that there isn't anything particularly progressive, new, exciting or original in the way the album is executed but only from the microcosmic perspective, when one draws back and appreciates the macrocosm it's something rather special. To some extent you know this band already, you have heard the simple, slow repetitive drumming with little flourish or exuberance, you know the slow winding guitars followed by snaking basslines but something happens when it's all put together that is simply brilliant. I can't confess to saying that there are any memorable riffs or parts to the album because it's not an album of riffs, it is slow, methodical and hypnotising. In some ways it's not even a black metal album, there aren't really any 'evil' sounding riffs, no harsh tremolo riffs, I can't recall a blast beat and very, very little black vocals and thus, for these reasons it shows exactly why it is a masterful piece of black metal, it is breaking conventions and dogma of the genre, the music is still very oppressive, hostile and quite frankly strange. There are bizarre uses of electronics, what I think is a steel drum or xylophone is used at one time, and finally the thing I have saved for last to talk about, the vocals; they're not singing, they're not rasps, more like tortured wailings and noises that a deaf person makes when they try to speak....I realise that doesn't seems like an attractive prospect but it just all manages to work and create a complex of tapestry of sound throughout the songs. One thought that keeps coming back to my mind is the similarity in feeling that the vocals create on this release to how (I wade into filthy territory here to retrieve one enjoyable facet of this abortion-made-music) Marianne Faithful's voice sounded on the end of the song 'Memory Remains' by Metallica off 'Reload (and shoot it again to make sure the fucking thing is definitely dead and gone)', as much as 'tallica do nothing for me, the ending to that song was always enjoyable, strange, droning and haunting, the vocals for Urfaust remind of that somewhat.

Ritual Music for the True Clochard is a triumph, instead of the 2 categories I mentioned before for atmospheric black, this goes beyond both, it's not your vocally centered depressive black, focusing on caustic tortured screams at the despair of existence, nor is it the existential nature-fest of the tree-hugging crowd, this album is almost a complete paradox; exceedingly simple yet highly intricate, oppressive yet airy, dark yet light, derivative yet very original.

My only foible with this album is that as brilliant as it may be I don't know if I could put it on at any time and enjoy it but I do see it as something to be revisited fairly often not just for the enjoyment of the music but also the appreciation of their idea of black metal.

I look forward to venturing further into their catalogue and seeing more of the interpretation of black metal they have spewed forth.

(Originally written for baileysmmcreamy.blogspot.com)