ALBURNUM – Buitenlucht (2022)REVIEW

Waaraan uw hooge zee van starren beidt, / Leid gij mij uit den afgrond van dit heden, / Genees gij mij van deze werklijkheid / En nood die rij van eender zielen mede, / Die zoeken naar eender vergetelheid. / Zacht rijst het zeil en laat uw adem sturen, / Zacht vallen sterren: de vergeten uren.” Carel Steven Adama van Scheltema, De Tors

Approached at face value with little more context than a project name implying the bulking yet still comparably soft new growth on the trunks of trees Netherlands-based atmospheric black metal duo Alburnum appear to have tapped into a common sort of arboreal ardor chiefly touted by paganistic and majestic folk melodic black metal traditions, if only by virtue of aesthetic communication alone. This turns out to be a half-truth, an intentional projection of scene and surroundings which vitally allow the emotional torsion of ‘Buitenlucht‘ to exist within the peace of the natural world and, more importantly, create a vessel of detangling movement for the mind to explode apart its depressive congestion ’til self-actualization. You’ll likely have heard records like this before in terms of easily read, stylized voicing yet if you’re not prone to diligently seek the soul of this sort with a bit of translation and personal projection it may very well hardly graze you with its internalized experiential trip, yet it is a trip which I’d argue bears some substantial affirmation (or reaffirmation) that a simple walk in the woods can in fact inspire the restoration of lost humanity.

There won’t be a ton to glean from any practical, theme-seeking behavior in approach of this project beyond its title and a tight few ‘associations by staff’ which includes the fellowe from Faceless Entity (among other projects) R.v.R. whom features as a drummer here (but also in several moderne atmospheric black metal projects largely of his own make) and a mix/master from W.D. of avant-atmospheric champs Laster. Yet we can take quite a bit of liberty from that jumping off point and make a mad dash into the air with it, well, enough to rightfully suggest that Alburnum maestro D.B.‘s vision fits well enough alongside the oaken magick of nowadays perceived leadership in the realm of auteur-minded Nederlander black metal, that of the complex naturalist mind, idealistic yet adventurous atmospheric agents whom tend toward the beauteous and often earnest poetic ventures representative of their own romanticist idyll.

The literally experienced tone of ‘Buitenlucht‘ is not quite as progressive, paganistic and/or modernist as some of Alburnum‘s peers, though there are hooks and it will sound “pretty” and inspired to most. This may be a curious thing to resolve in parsing the intended meaning of the act, wherein we are set within a fellowe’s mind in process of self-actualization while also experiencing the theatre of nature and its amplification of self-driven insight. If you’ve any latent or lost love for folken/pagan black metal grandeur the senses will be primarily stoked and awakened by this combination, likely due to its realist ear and simple, communicative sound design. Well, that and some stunning strands of expertly, or at least expressive, arc’d melodicism. In this sense we’re greeted by a granola-baking, minimalist cousin of a band like Fluisteraars, a passionate and meticulous vision from the sort of fellowe who already has tickets to the next Wiegedood show, probably plays in a raw black metal band under an alias, and especially loves pre-‘EstrangementDrudkh or nearby.

Opener “Ik Kan Niet Zien” speaks more to Netherlands-specific nowadays influences in refinement rather than the early-to-mid 2000’s awakening of paganistic atmospheric black metal’s most popular expansion but black/folk metal nudges do creep into the song via D.B.‘s use of the accordion, largely in order to accentuate the rhythm guitar arrangement and its subtle turns along the way; This is probably the most Valfar-esque moment on the album, and I wouldn’t emphasize this aspect of Alburnum‘s sound too heartily but folks familiar with ‘1184‘ will continue to find clear hints of this influence as the album progresses.

Hashing through depression and wounding grief rather than becoming a stewing mess of it. — You might feel a bit of empowered soul-wrangling and a healthy dose of an in-motion yearning search for words in description of the vast natural beauty which aids the unraveling b/w reconstruction of the ‘self’ herein but you shouldn’t get even the faintest hint of ruthless attitude, outwardly destructive tendency, hatred or even frustration in these works. If anything the pains of growth and gloom seem to be the major reality forged in the buzzing, determined movements of this debut; There is some resolve attached to the full listen, an experience of processing existential trauma in a way that is not helpless, or pooling in performative shlock which I’d appreciated. That might sound like a lot to read into a sombre half-hour black metal record but even the song titles taken in order indicate clear enough statement of mental progression as “Ik Kan Niet Zien” finds the protagonist breaking-through in realization of a blockage, the morose confinement of their mental state. The ‘exit of the cave’ from that point is simple in its allegory, in fact there is no reasonable way to describe it in colloquial English without managing a terrible cliché that’d distract from the work itself, but either way darkness’ acknowledgement is followed by the epiphany of change, of flux as the possibility of relief from suffering becomes inevitably realized within this exposition, or, on the way to “Fluisterend Water”.

Though I might appear to be flopping all over this record like an excited fish loosing its milt mid-spawn it wasn’t such an easy sell to start, as I’d found the major melody for “Eeuwig Licht” cloying fixation away from the resonance of the opening piece, a bit obvious and overstated per a 7+ minute song. This was less of an irritant once the full album had sunk in and immersion was built enough that the song made sense in the full listen as an intentionally evocative, sort of simmering up emotional realization. The scene either imagined per the lyrics of “Eeuwig Licht” surely counts for something substantial within the greater whole though I don’t know if I’d reach for it over any of the three others if pressed for a favorite piece. Side B opener and title track “Buitenlucht” (“Outside Air”) is instead my preference for the peak of the main argument made by artist to listener, its major progression manifesting as a sort of droning-unto-life before a strong head-bobbing vikingr/folk turnabout produces a weirding beat ~2:49 minutes in recalling a vague shade of the transitional blurring ‘Mare‘-era Kampfar had experimented with a decade ago. This thought is essentially finished within the extended length of the aforementioned closer carrying its own resolution again to the point of a somewhat overstated, or perhaps just simple and infectiously climbing melodic progression.

Though evocative, easily read compositional strokes and a certain personal moodiness in process offer the core strength of this album its guitar driven voice and reserved, understated oeuvre make for an experience where quite simple melodic ideas become either wonderfully captivating in the moment, or a bit of a repetitious captivity dependent on momentum to remain interesting on repeat or, return listens. It’d make sense to recommend this album for the sake of whatever value its themes provide first and then in secondary appreciation for the walk it takes through pleasant, folkish atmospheric black metal. It’ll certainly resound with folks already engaging with Dutch black metal’s softer profundity of late. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Babylon Doom Cult Records
RELEASE DATE:July 8th, 2022

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