“The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding, but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence.” If we are to examine the primeval musical goals and oft-ambitious philosophical examinations of black metal in line with the most classic German and French schools of overtly complex existentialism the disparity becomes immediately obvious. Devolved and nihilistic anti-music purporting a Nietzschean worldview is the most common misalignment folks might struggle with but as we look to the conflations of Derrida and Lacan the chasm, between philosophical theory and musical art as a representation of those ideas, becomes immense. Intense complexity for the sake of egoistic ownership of language and theory, that which cannot be altered without returning to the originating authority, speaks to the ‘high society’ goals of philosophy within a certain era of powerful, world-damning ideologies. The only way to resolve raw, broken and deviant punk-spawned black metal nuisance such as Ildjarn or early Darkthrone in line with the intellectual social-climbing pomposity of classic theorists is to craft increasingly sophisticated black metal or, to essentially rescind the less convoluted Satanic, apathetic and nihilistic aspects of the music in practice. To embody the needled obscurantisme terroriste mindset the rate of fired off ideas must be overwhelming enough that one may be justified in suggesting “If you didn’t get it, you’re the idiot.” I’d argue that true black metal orthodoxy makes its bed far from this realm of thought in its most bumbling, fucked and “feel” based motions that… probably shouldn’t exist in an “age of information” beyond feigned or desperately trendy nostalgia. I’d argue that a certain interpretation of primitivism is the right dated philosophical echelon to align black metal with today and to be fair, it becomes more prevalent in more intellectual (not so self-serious, non-nationalistic) and increasingly effective amateur/naïve lineages year over year. Belgium-based quartet Alkerdeel seem to have had this right from their start in the mid-2000’s, plumbing deep what doom vibrations were articulated on albums like ‘Under a Funeral Moon’ and crafting extended, rehearsal length black-doomed pieces from the dire sonic primitivity resultant. Evolutionary time, skillful improvisation, and a quest for personal satisfaction have drawn in somewhat more sophisticated textural feats and influences in the span of several full-lengths but this fourth record, ‘Slonk‘, threatens to be oddly sentient beyond their typical sole-scuffing tar black noise cavern, and especially planted in its directed stream of consciousness as it whirrs past.
Whipping through this Flemish-regional anomaly’s past we find their early musical resumes touching upon early 2000’s grindcore and brutal death metal such as Leng Tch’e as well as the bassist’s involvement in somewhat underrated Thee Plague of Gentlemen and its spiritual succession. There is no certain logical progression intended from those projects toward the formation of Alkerdeel in 2005, seemingly as an experimental black metal side project toying with raw black metal and slower doom breaks on their first demo tape (‘Luizig‘, 2007), a proof of concept via one fumbling 28+ minute rehearsal track. The project would certainly benefit from their friendship with prolific musician Maurice de Jong since their earlier days be it artwork, production/rendering and even some intro/outro tracks on certain albums; This meant the early magick of Alkerdeel aligns closely (in my mind) with the raw and inspired feeling of early Gnaw Their Tongues. Stylistically speaking they’ve been a cohesion of shared traits between drugged ‘evil’ sludge atmosphere a la Burning Witch and Meth Drinker and the punkish, ripping side of early second wave black metal mentioning some notable early Finnish and Norwegian groups on any given occasion. Although I’d rarely hear folks chattering much about their material before their first broadly noted record ‘Lede‘ (2016) all of it is worth revisiting. The first album (‘De Speenzalvinge‘, 2010) essentially collects and refines their first four years of emergent songcraft in three parts including a new version of their first demo and the title track from their first EP (‘De Bollaf!‘, 2008) all of them considerable in length. ‘Morinde‘ (2012) was the proof positive needed to establish just exactly what Alkerdeel were, a modern interpretation of raw black metal that dove into blurry blackened sludge temperament for their version of black/doom metal. I’ve emphasized this suggestion of doom infusion for the sake of it feeling largely ousted on ‘Slonk’, opting for a thick flaked wintry night’s atmospheric blackness within an rusted industrial park rather than the opium smoke-stained basement sized blown circuit one might expect.
The four songs comprising the ~37 minute length of ‘Slonk’ flow together with some sense yet the band break this up via some very clearly written and honed pieces versus some that are brutally simplistic in their movements. Opener “Vier” is clearly on the side of thought as its gloomed over Metroid: Prime buzzing sci-fi intro before hitting their scum generators and boosting the 13+ minute opener with a fatly protruding psychedelic belly wobble of a bass guitar tone. Distant yet alluring, ominous yet warmly lit, this is one of the most intentioned entrances Alkerdeel have managed between their four records and it was a major point of ingress as I was feeling ‘Slonk’ up. It does take roughly five or six minutes for the guitars to shoot out the lights and reveal the dark space they’ll be conjuring throughout the album’s greater length and sure, about five minutes beyond that to strike into the screaming sludgy, punkish raw black metal push the band are known for. The major statement here is that harshened aggression and thickened atmosphere characterize ‘Slonk’, presenting a more profound yet still irreverent and primitive Alkderdeel. From there we dive directly into “Eirde” which I’d taken in as a very simple equivalency of a song like “Slottet i det Fjerne” from ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, a folkish chord modulation repeated into satisfying delirium. This classic black metal simplicity in generation of mood and genre-specific atmosphere had been the major fuel for my thoughts on what this band are able to bring to black metal in 2021; An extended moment of hypnotism that was perhaps posited as a necessary movement on the record without any unreasonable depth applied to its creation. For “Zop” we hit upon something a bit more timely as a very satisfying tomahawk chucking black metal/punk piece that feels like an amplification of the energy a project like Raspberry Bulbs brings; Ancient raw blackened forms with a divergent crossover of style within their boom-bapping fury, atmospheric and floaty in its trancelike persistence yet fully spiked and spitting stuff in reflection. It is the right way to kick into Side B which allows the middle two pieces on ‘Slonk’ to be the energetic peak and fury of the record’s greater statement.
“Trok” would seem to be the make-or-break moment within the full listen at this point. Are they going to hit upon blackened sludge/doom antics or drone around at all? No. Oddly enough it turns out to be a slightly more deadpan extension of the dark hypnotic thread that “Zop” emphasized. As such, ‘Slonk’ is a churning and writhing full listen characterized by its most dissonant and harrowing moments. Just as there was no need for clunky Celtic Frost-isms to interrupt the flow of ‘Under a Funeral Moon’ there is no need for a plunge into doomed thunder here beyond the tripped out opening number. The momentum this level of focus creates is addictive and until I’d been implored to return for several more listens I wasn’t sure why this record had taken much time to chunk out. In reflection these repetitious moments aren’t simply profound because they’ve presented each riff as a set of 8-12 repeats, though it does bear the same effect of a Hate Forest record (or similarly focused textural raw black metal artist) where subtle motions become evident once the greater malevolent buzz of the machine is assimilated into the psyche. A plethora of smaller details and memorable riffcraft eventually retained great value in my mind. That isn’t to say Alkderdeel are peddling pure mood here, there are effective “guitar music” moments throughout, but rather that what is presented is affecting and engrossing when given a chance to present its subtle melodic language beyond the (initial) brutally beaten-in absorption. Primal and heaving raw black metal persistence that eventually chips its cerebral touches in without feeling overtly performative or pretentious. A high recommendation.
Babylon Doom Cult
|RELEASE DATE:||February 5th, 2021|
|BUY:||Consouling Sounds Store|
|GENRE(S):||Raw Black/Doom Metal|
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