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What is new is old again - 90%

iamntbatman, June 6th, 2017

It can be really difficult for me to get past really stupid things that put me off from listening to things that could very well be fantastic. I avoided listening to Weigedoood for years because their name made me think "wedgie, dude" like some sort of mashup of The Dude himself and Bart Simpson that just put this big dumb block in the way of being able to take a band like this seriously. And clearly, this is serious stuff. Eventually, mental block removed, and music appreciated.

Before you even turn this on (or the previous album, which this is a sequel to), there are clues as to what it sounds like. Two of the three guys are the rhythm section for blackened neocrust band Oathbreaker, though Gilles Demolder sticks to guitar in this bassless outfit. Second, the band's symmetrical logo is very reminiscent of that of their American contemporaries in Young and In the Way, the lashed together sticks photographed in some sad Belgian marsh indicating that this is most assuredly a more nature-oriented approach than the bleak suburban-industrialisms of YAITW or other similar artists. So, musically, it's not really a surprise that this winds up in a similar ballpark to Ayr, a YAITW-related black metal project that ejects the urban crustiness in favor of a more depressive, pretty, romantic blackened sound. Being European, though, this is a few steps less minimalist than Ayr, adorning the trebly shimmers of tremolo ice-sheets with more overt lead melodies and vague, distant hints of things like Taake or Gorgoroth.

That sort of Norwegian influence isn't one-note, either; it's present both in the "let's wring as much despair out of a couple of lonely chords as possible" parts as well as the scalding acid vocals and blastbeat scaffolding around the scorched-earth violence of the most aggressive riffs. Whether the guitars are playing in one mode or the other, they have this tendency to kind of sound like a droning army of horns or pipes playing a mesmerizing cacophony that is forced into coherence by simple effort of massing them together so densely and folding the layers over one another to immeasurability through the echoes of whatever grand cave or sepulchre these sounds originate from. Even with this gargantuan and ubiquitous thrumming, higher notes slice and swirl underneath, forming melodies out of the ephemeral bits of guitar that stab like points of light through the billowing black wall of sound.

Letting that blackness engulf you, while constantly searching out those stabs of light, gives this album a distinctly ritualistic feel, not wholly unlike that I get from Urfaust (in fact, the vaguely carnival-esque pounding of the title track does have a definite Urfaustian vibe to it, even if the clean vocals here are deep Germanic massed choirs rather than wailing houseghosts) though the volume and intensity of the guitars, and the unshakable aggression present throughout much of the record brings that ritual about in a much different way. I might even say it's of a kind with their Dutch neighbors in Fluisteraars, another band that blends distinctly Norwegian elements from deep within the genre's traditions with over two decades of continental reworkings, refinements, pushes toward minimalism and incorporation of outside elements. Such experiments are, as we're all aware, far from always success stories, so a band so obviously working such tried and true approaches from black metal's greats into a more modern context shows me that not only is this a band that understands what works in black metal and what doesn't, but gives my ears the opportunity to hear how great such an approach can sound.

So, whether it's another short burst in the form of De doden hebben het goed III, or a longer and more varied follow-up (I can definitely see these guys doing something really good around a one-hour mark), consider my wedgie dude aversion fully obliterated.