Friday, 11 September 2009

Gnome - Under The Black Moon. 84/100.

Since my last series of reviews drew my attention to the Asian scene, given that I covered the Asian delight Zuriaake, I’ve decided to base this entire series around some of Asia’s best obscure bands, since this is a region of the world where metal is neglected in favour of bands from Europe and North America. The problem is, understandably, that metal is more developed in these regions of the world. It has long since established itself in these parts and Asia is only beginning to open its doors to metal after many years of being afraid to let it influence their listening habits. I’m not overly familiar with why this form of music hasn’t had the support that it has had in Europe and North America, but I assume it has something to do with the idea of censorship and stopping this “evil” form of music from influencing cultural listening habits. Given the global influence areas like Scandinavia had on the metal scene, particularly the black metal scene, I once again assume that Asian communities, which remain highly religious and spiritual, were not open to the idea of embracing this enigmatic style of music, which has, apparently, taken over the lives of a young generation of souls and sacrificed them to Satan. Ironically, our first stop on the Asian expressway to hell has taken a detour to one of the most enigmatic and evil sounding bands I have encountered in my time spent listening to black metal - Gnome.

This “dark black metal” band are, assumedly, a hybrid of the black and dark metal sounds. For those not familiar with dark metal, this is a genre that fuses a number of bigger and better known genres together such as; black, death or even gothic metal. Gnome, being at one with dark metal, are a black metal band that seems to fuse both dark ambient, and gothic influences into their music which thrives on creating an atmosphere as black as night and a sound as grim as death. The demo is split into two songs, first ‘La Forêt’, which is, essentially, where the positive opinion is formed based on the creative black metal musings and the second song, ‘La Mer…’ is an invocation of the dark forces of nature portrayed in a grimly produced dark ambient structure. Gnome, given more exposure, could have been one of the most influential black metal bands of the 1990’s. First of all, this is another early one man band, exhibiting the potential brilliance of one man acts given the free reign over the creation of the music. Secondly, with a sound that takes the Silencer styled screams, the Burzum style of dark ambiance with a increased presence from the predator that is the keyboards and the dynamism of the writing, this could have been something even more special with the addition of some exposure and full-length outings. Last, but not least, this band were a presence within the black metal scene early enough to have shown leadership qualities, in terms of portraying a sound that inspired a global revolution.

Gnome were created, presumably, in the early 1990’s and were issuing their best material around the same time that bands like Burzum, Darkthrone and Immortal were becoming the creators of a canonical stream of works that influenced the majority of bands that came after them. If Gnome had the same levels of exposure, this bleak style of visionary music that fuses keyboard based dark ambient and traditional black metal with a creative spark, could have been the master of the early game, when new sounds were being carved and set in stone for latter generations to emulate and mimic. Essentially, the make-or-break element of this demo, aptly titled ‘Under The Black Moon’ is the first song, ‘La Forêt’. This is the black metal “epic” that this region needs to inspire people to take an in-depth look at what this area of the world could potentially have to offer. Given the obscurity of the band, and the region as a whole in regards to black metal, this could be a gold mine for unheard of talents - Gnome seemingly prove this. ‘La Forêt’ is, in some senses, everything you’d expect from an atmospheric piece of the mid 1990’s. Tremolo guitars, which slight repetition, double bass blasts, again, with repetition, and torturous screams in the vein of Nattramn, the iconic Silencer vocalist who has set a trend in vocal style.

However, though this demo may lead towards a traditional vibe, it contains a fair amount of innovation in all areas - most notably, in the keyboard inspired underlay which coats the ground with a thick, but subtle, and consuming mysticism that enhances visual trips within the mind of natures darkest themes. The keyboards, to me, are an introduced to the dark ambient material present on the song second, ‘La Mer…’ which does, unfortunately, pale in comparison to the mesmerising first song with its long winded guitar solos and demonic vocal styling. Where most early to mid 1990’s bands were aiming for direction in atmosphere, Gnome found a middle ground between atmosphere, which seems to be inspired by the gothic region of music, and collaborative creativeness given the previously unheard of vocals, at the time, and the keyboard enhanced style that draws out a sub-genre - dark metal - that had only just been forged. When mixed with the dark ambient style, that depicts a sadness in nature, this nightmarish black metal style seems even more spectacular as the ambient sections sooth with piercing organ like sounds thanks to the keyboards and synths. Gnome are inspirational and vastly underrated in the grand scheme of things, despite the fact that those that known them, rate them highly.


  1. Great review man, raised some v. interesting points. I have just moved to Singapore from UK so I'm finding some great stuff by the local metal bands...head here if you're interested in an overview, hope it is of some interest.

  2. Thanks for the kind words and link. I'll take some time out later to have a look over it. :) I've only heard one Singaporean band and, much to my surprise, they were actually very good!