Initially all he dreamed and wished for, eventually it became his bitter lot. Those who live for power are destroyed by power, those who live for money by money; service is the ruin of the servile, pleasure the ruin of the pleasure-seeker.” Herman Hesse, Steppenwulf

The hand dealt when bargaining away the sharper edges of one’s own mediocrity can’t help but reflect the irrational, drastic seriousness of aging into an era with neither clear-cut choices on offer nor any real widespread intellectualization of this greying world celebrated en masse. Dumbed-down determinism, intoxicated apathy and entirely cynical cults of combative personality make for dry bedfellows — At some point the mind’s incessant erection for inspiration should rightfully tire of these intensifying corpses no matter how thrilling they once were. Self-motivation is the natural reaction for the apt brain-in-a-jar type but it is self-directed learning that ultimately salvages self awareness, self actualization, and well… some measure of the honest artist beyond the bored and unengaged mind of the prole, set in place unwillingly. We see the fruits of an inspired exploration, a set of minds engaged in their preferred intuitive punk rock art form yet reaching for something more profoundly yanked from the introverted self, digesting all outer stimulus and knowing themselves better in response, in Vestindien‘s initial remarks on their first full-length ‘Null‘. The tip of the revelation is simple, “Exploring and expanding one’s mind is crucial to help us understand that we are not placed above nature. We are nature” and from this ~half-decade long stew into form we find what is perhaps the first cue towards the metaphysical naturalism that informs this gorgeously atmospheric yet not dryly modern interpretation of metalpunk herein.

For years I’ve suggested that the natural punk, the youth not yet irradiated by the bigger picture of long forsaken (societally girded) humanity, does not simply stumble upon enlightenment. The road may be tumultuous yet its result is as inevitable as death. Back in 2012 when they’d released their first widely acclaimed EP (‘We Are the Lords of Hellfire and We Bring You… Fire‘, 2012) Vestindien appeared to have been borne into a vortex of quickly built nostalgia for 90’s semi-melodic hardcore punk, the sort of barking-yet-tuneful New York hardcore spawn one might find just beyond early Sick of It All, Boston’s singin’ n’ drinkin’ era hardcore, and stopping short of the catchier melodic hardcore rift-crossers a la Kill Your Idols. There are pan European factors there too, of course, but I’d rather just stab right to the source in any case. Catchy and rolling-aggressive 3-4 minute hardcore punk songs free of mosh breaks but full of gang-shouts make for an entirely effective first blast, it was a somewhat basic nostalgic act overall but it worked as an underground presence nearby the heyday of Kvelertak, Okkultokrati and such. Starting to zone out? Well, at this point it really doesn’t matter what Vestindien were since they’d split up and rethought everything until some new inspiration came. I believe they’ve kept the name because it is the same fellowes involved and the vision is still fittingly applied but what we’ve been gifted with ‘Null’ is certainly not 90’s hardcore in spirit and instead presents a bit of 70’s heavy metal spirit, a hint of Amebix-founded dirging, and the shimmering, pained glamour of black metallic heavy rock. The end result is quite dramatic, an almost Quorthonian spiritus that should thrill fans of metalpunk, epic heavy metal, and the oddest commiserations between black metal and classic occult heavy rock.

A Venom inspired logo with a glorious sword attached, a nude figure standing possessed in front of a sealed serpent gate, and the suggestion of darkness and nothingness all clearly point us where we need to be before slipping into ‘Null’. A hint of retro metalpunk yet the serious philosophical implications of black metal don’t fully prepare for the patient Floydian dystopic entrance of “Mot dag”, a four and a half minute intro that seeks full immersion before the brilliant kick into the rock beat of “Beerenberg”. We’re just five minutes into this half hour record and Vestindien understand they’ve not much time to waste before hooking in the right minds with a witching wail and a stomping beat. The first lyric I’d pick up in the corner of my ear was “Enter the hole where all is nothing and nothing is all” and there the puzzle of meaning and the passion of the vocalist became a major interest on my end, though it was meant to be an cursory first listen. This dreamlike meld of proggy, heavy rock atmosphere and mystic proto-speed metallic punk cannot help but be engaging but does not insist upon being fully understood at face value. What is yet out of reach is actually quite obvious, ‘Null’ speaks to the dues of the participant in society as a generic actor, whom is fated as such because there is nary a willingness to speak to power, to disintegrate structures of leadership. You cannot pull the pin from a smarter, older punk and not expect the grenade to have diffused itself in any case. This expands to bigger, broader self exploration within the album as a whole but it bears some mention that ‘Null’ presents itself as a stage well set.

The second single from the album, “Meldrøye“, arrives first as a psychedelic mohican-flaring punk anthem that absolutely stood out as a stomping and rousing piece that feels ancient via its buzzing late 70’s distortion and determined beat. This is perhaps the first clear taste of ‘Under the Sign of Black Mark’-esque primitivity made glossy, turned back in time and well, the thought is nice and the song itself is memorably achieved. The first single and title track (“Null“) builds from campfire embers to wandering, sullen basslines which are properly evocative of themes as the song dirges somewhat hopelessly in a post-black/heavy rock sort of way. As a piece of music at the center if an album it feels transitional at first but in the broader context of the full listen it is vital darker emotional shading that clears the path for the shimmering piece that follows, my personal favorite track “Ormegard”. A ranting and impassioned song that’d surely had a few neck veins popping in takes, which ultimately completes amidst a distorted keyboard solo. From there I’d say the tracklist really peaks where it should, just at the end with the epic “Øst for sol” where I’d say you could’ve balked away my Quorthon references before but this one fits beyond some deeper aesthetic choices. I only wish “Ned” were a bit more memorable as it’d felt placed there for the sake of bridging the vibe of two more ‘important’ pieces in the running order. Though I did find ‘Null’ a brief and easy album to put on I’ve not been able to shake the feeling that they ducked out about three or four minutes shy of something profound. The high dramatic pulse of the album is yet sustained well and stops just short of overdoing its operatic, proggy metalpunk via post-rock spaciousness thing. I cannot stress enough how smart the fusion of sub-genre forms is yet how the “bite” of these origins is smoothed over by the atmospheric rock features that meld it all together. It isn’t so much a catch 22 as it is the reality of modern atmospheric play, even if all of the pieces that make up the whole are jagged they do ultimately interlock in a masterful way. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Dark Essence Records
RELEASE DATE:February 12th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Atmospheric Blackened Metalpunk

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