MESLAMTAEA – Weemoedsklanken (2022)REVIEW

Persistence in paling biorhythmic fluxion, all wretched cycles of despair weigh heavily upon the unwilling participant, a walled-in and weary soul who’d become too-aware of the destructive force necessary for life, and collapsed. A solemn requiem for the ambitious introvert’s stomped loose idealism in the midst of the post-apocalypse, this revivified corpse of horizonless ideation now reaches stage three of grief-stricken acceptance, wherein a now deepest grey world is nothing new. The tragedian uplift and weirding lilt of Netherlands-based melodic avant-garde black metal duo Meslamtaea‘s third album presents more than the melancholia implied by its name — ‘Weemoedsklanken‘ presents an internalized death eyed through twitching, amateur-filmic lens as a solar-burnt raw nerve sparks its last set of electrical impulses in a fade to numbness. Such a modern take on black metal’s post-music and heavily melody-guided pathways may not end up being your gig in theory but it may be difficult to resist the charismatic, focused immersion available to the scene at hand.

Meslamtaea sparked to life 1998 as an early avatar from Floris Velthuis as the artist pieced together an undefined form of thrashing and shredding avant-black metal nox with a sort of ‘Passage to Arcturo‘ meets a bit of early Ulver‘s romanticism with some melodeath-ridged leads on his first demo tape (‘Illusions‘, 2004). Arguably reaching for big ideas beyond their skill level at inception, Meslamtaea were uniquely adventurous from the start, even a bit progressive as Floris‘d attempt an emphatically stated melodic black metal style. That tape was soonafter given some proper restoration and released as a bonus alongside the meandering, seeming endless whirring of his debut full-length (‘New Era‘, 2005) when it’d released on CD. One of the earliest releases on the now quite popular Eisenwald imprint, in hindsight these might’ve been somewhat bare amateur recordings but this is still entirely charming work, a somewhat daring set of ideas for their time developing strong dual rhythm guitar interplay indicative of developing contrapuntal arrangements. If nothing else I’d suggest giving those early works a listen for their solemn melodic highs, a certain moodiness that’ll speak to the persisting voice and evolving personality of the project today.

Meslamtaea‘s name hadn’t rang any bells for me when they’d released ‘Niets en niemendal‘ (2019) as a duo with Ward, one of Floris‘ compatriots in Asgrauw, on vocals. For the sake of a bit of brevity here, that comeback was fantastic and is probably the most important reference to have when drawing a line between Floris‘ early ambitions and his realization of them years later in a more personalized form. If we can account for fourteen years absence, a lifetime’s worth of experience within several other projects in the space between, this worthy resurrection was all the more rare for its quality. Of course as we move onto their third album (‘Geketend in de schaduw van het leven‘, 2020) the mood and the stylistic modulation of Meslamtaea‘s presence shifts dramatically, resetting expectations somewhere between iteration and daring modulation of sub-genre forms. With greater capability and a well-noted debut in hand the possibilities had clearly been exploding around the artist and the direction they’d chosen was more abrupt declarative statements, emotionally driven pieces that were afire with both sadness and anger. In taking influence from various forms of modern rock and avant-black metal’s current state of post-everything expressionism it’d been another notable release that’d escaped plain iteration. For my own taste it felt rushed in terms of the actual render. The key takeaway stepping into the sea of ‘Weemoedsklanken‘ and out of the past (for our purposes today) is that Floris‘ work does not only pull from the world of black metal but from a variety of mood-specific references, each album seems to convey a lived experience with dire emotional resonance a major goal.

Right, so, what do they sound like? Atmospheric and melodic black metal with an avant-garde tangential bent and some glossy post-rock/post-black highs, something like that. We could describe Meslamtaea‘s sound as touched by early avant-garde black metal acts like Ved Buens Ende and perhaps certain records from the generations beyond such as Code as they explore post-metal and some hints of light jazz phrasing but, each record also reflects a love for the melodic side of 90’s black metal, complete with gorgeously streaming tremolo riffs and plenty of reverb-thickened keyboards buttressing their loft. The intended atmospheric immerse for this album in particular is that of gloom and unending existential crises, struggling with impermanence and (from my point of view) a bit of crisis of purpose explored in full. This is conveyed in new and frankly exciting ways in terms of the project’s foil thus far, arguably outclassing prior efforts with an album that feels like a best fit. If you’re not sure where that’ll land in terms of your own taste, consider ‘Weemoedsklanken‘ an album heavily guided by its rhythm guitar melodies most likely to please the atmospheric/melodic black metal ear whom also appreciates some lightly challenging angular movement, something like an slightly more urban-set ‘Heart of the Ages‘ and/or nearby Netherlanders Fluisteraars and Iskandr.

Though we are greeted by an entirely sentimental opener in “Weemoed”, sounding a bit like Unreqvited for a moment, this is largely in generation of tone as “Rad des tijds” sets us in most key mindset as it ponders the cyclic nature of time passing; Presenting the major theme of the record by way of stirring and aggressively paced melodic black metal this song is reason to get riled up for what’s to come, I’d particularly loved the “Cries From a Restless Soul“-esque beat beyond the atmospheric mid-song refrain. From there we’ve only just gotten a hint of the path forward and the more pronounced voice of this record lies in 90’s avant-black influenced movement a third elemental piece which Meslamtaea adds within the slithering chord-dragged riffs of “Grauwe muren”, a piece which emphasizes lucid atmospheric intent with spoken word from Fraukje van Burg (Doodswens) providing dramatic prose during a break in the otherwise aggressive action of the song. The rest of the album can more or less be summed as a events exploring the possibilities of post-black metal’s sentimental revelation, melodic black metal’s liquid force, and avant-black metal’s crooked ear for eclectic placement and memorable tirades.

Among a handful of highlights along the way “Verstoten” stood out for my own taste, a slower psych-haunt which reminded me of the gloomier parts of Witch Trail‘s final album. I’d definitely like to hear more of this side of their sound to balance out some of the more obvious atmoblack/post-black moments on the full listen, a certain ratio of sentimental and deranged tonality seems like it could have some interesting merit. My recommendation of this album ultimately boils down to the listening experience sustaining well across a three week span of time thanks to a fairly unique blend of sub-genre, an inspired and professional recording with plenty of depth available upon re-examination and an overall well-stated representation of melancholy felt in contemplation of the passage of time. ‘Weemoedsklanken‘ will likely appeal most to atmospheric black metal fandom at a glance but it’ll sustain best with folks looking for something a bit modern, a bit off-center and a lot melodic. A moderately high recommendation.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Babylon Doom Cult Records
RELEASE DATE:February 25th, 2022

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