Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nokturnal Mortum - The Voice of Steel

Black metal from eastern Europe has been typically plagued by two main points of sickness: (1) the inability to transcend the politics of any which ideology (National Socialism being the obvious villain) and (2) its incompetence in the proper integration of a folk tradition with the black metal aesthetic. The results of most efforts to do so may indeed incorporate 'folkish' elements and some nice, soothing melodies, but the synthesis ultimately falls flat due to the blindness in regard to the true nature of metal itself.

The Voice of Steel is a clear and shining exception, and that is mostly because it is not actually 'metal' as we formally know it. Sure, the instruments and the technique are unchanged, but what's different is that the music is imbued with a spirit altogether foreign to its foundation. Whereas metal has been essentially of a Dionysian nature, id est one of impulse and rebellion, of darkness and fire, Nokturnal Mortum has somehow managed to create something of which we might call Apollonian, or something pertaining to authority and tradition, to light and order. 

The musical elements found on this album are many and diverse; there's the folk instrumentation, of course, but there are also bits of rock to be discerned, even some 'psychedelic' solo sections reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Now, usually when a band tries to merge numerous styles into a single composition, the attempt fails utterly; modern popular music is littered with countless barren graveyards testifying to this truth. 
The Voice of Steel, on the other hand, is, metaphorically speaking, a polygamous marriage of several female entities cohesively married to the central Apollonian principle; that is to say, multiple forms are neatly combined and organized by the album's artistic vision, which evidently results in something that is as varied as it is unified. Furthermore, as a note of interest, nascent legitimate genres of music seldom arise spontaneously but are instead effected by a number of prior traditions; heavy metal, for example, was born out of Classical, rock music, and, one might argue, the blues. 

One of the most appealing aspects of 
The Voice of Steel is the strength of its structure, of its compositional organization; the entire album (and the duration of which is over an hour long) flows with a special clarity that makes it a truly singular listen. Every song is markedly different from the other, and yet every song is tied tightly together by this unifying bond that runs throughout the album; the resultant impression on the listener is that he knows without question that each song is a definitive component of the entire work. Moreover, much like the surprisingly similar Belus, the album really sounds like a Classical symphony: a theme is presented, then developed, then presented again with a new understanding of it. These themes, along with their corresponding melodies, are dramatic and profound, and they are all the more so given their specific context in the album proper; and, while we are admittedly unaware of the lyrics so far, they (the themes / melodies) presumably accord with the conceptual framework, which is indicated not only by the music itself, but by such song titles as 'By Path of the Sun' and 'White Tower', two striking examples of a distinctly Apollonian nature. 

Much like the aforementioned 
BelusThe Voice of Steel expands upon a tried and tested form with a relatively novel idea; the effect is something that we have never heard before, something that we are not quite able to recognize. There is a difference between this album and Burzum's new one, however: while Belus is at once the final nail in the coffin of the original Norwegian black metal movement and the potential seed of an art from still to come, The Voice of Steel is simultaneously the synthesis and transcendence of two historical genres, and, while it may not exactly be that possibly incoming art form, it nevertheless aggrandizes the evidence that it is indeed coming.

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