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CD Feature/ Nordvargr: "In Oceans Abandoned By Life I Drown/To Live Again As a Servant of Darkness"

img  Tobias

The debate about whether or not Nordvargr is heir to the throne of Merzbow is not exactly a fruitful one in my opinion. For one, Masami Akita is still very much in the business, continuing to take his style into different territory. And secondly, the two have already collaborated twice in the past, proving that their relationship is not one of competition but of mutual understanding and possibly even friendship. It also seems to assume that the prominent use of distortion alone qualifies for filing these musicians in the same cabinet, regardless of their obvious differences in approach and tradition. While Merzbow is the product of a transfer of the “art trash” philosophy to music, Nordvrargr has applied the sound-characteristics of Black Metal to the experimental genre. On his latest release, however, he takes his project to new grounds – potentially ending the comparisons once and for all.

But let’s first spend a few words on the artwork, for Brazilian outfit “Essence Music” must truly be the place Digipacks go when they die: The CD comes packaged in an envelope of smooth black paper, which in turn slides into an oversized six-pannel heavy cardboardsleeve with artwork by Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O)). It is the dream of becoming a Vinyl record when it grows up that seems to have inflated the lungs of this album, which also comes as a superspecial edition inside a handmade wooden box. The label is right in assuming the extravagant outward appearance merely reflects the extraordinary nature of the music contained within: The aggressive nature of previous releases has faded, as has the dichotomy betwen Ambient and Industrial – “In Oceans Abandoned by Life I drown/To Live Again As a Servant of Darkness” is both at the same time and even more than that. Heavy guitar drones are now in the limelight, crunching potently and majestically. Nordvargr reduces his entire cosmos to the waves of white noise contained within the rhythmic pulse of only one or two chords and their slight metronomic variations. In two tracks, each around the 25 minute mark, he probes both the listener’s stamina and his own will: How long can he keep churning out the same slowmotion riff, the same mood, the same patterns of fluctuating harmonics layering themselves over the violent maelstrom like choral voices? The magic of this release lies not in the supposed hypnoticism of the material, but in the subtle mindgame of establishing a groove which could go on forever or end at any given moment – the tension never leaves, even though, on the surface of things, hardly anything changes.

The inclusion of resonating poundings and ambient passages in between the monolithic hammerings adds timbral shades to an album which enjoys bathing in the complete complete absence of light. And yet, “In Oceans” is not just another depressive dirge. Heavyness and blurr are not excuses for a lack of ideas, but open up fields full of associations and images. Until to now, Nordvargr music has often been extreme and provoking in a positive way, but hardly ever minutely detailed. That has changed, turning this into quite a suprising release with the potential to win over more than just Merzbow fans.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Nordvargr
Homepage: Nordvargr at MySpace
Homepage: Essence Music

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