Sunday, 21 March 2010

Blood of Kingu - De Occulta Philosophia (2007) 82/100.

From the ashes of the defunct Hate Forest rose a phoenix in 2005 by the name of Blood of Kingu. They say fortune favours the brave but I don’t always agree when that expression is applied to black metal music. Occasionally, depending on the right developer behind the music, sticking to a similar path can often pay dividends, too. Take the new Burzum record for example. ‘Belus’, although recorded many years after Varg’s last black metal piece, sticks to similar themes projected on his earlier works, particularly that of ‘Filosofem’. Admittedly, there are some alterations, but a fair chunk of the material can be related to that of his older works, including certain ones not mentioned previously. Whilst Varg didn’t totally neglect the expression “fortune favours the brave”, he definitely kept to sound which respects olden day traditions, morals and values. Whilst the black metal scene is bolstered by its fair share of modern day innovators, a large portion of its audience still craves traditional sounding bands who stick closely to their roots.

This is where Blood of Kingu comes into the equation. I’m no expert on Hate Forest, the band which this act evolved from, but Blood of Kingu isn’t too different from them and some of their sister bands, including the likes of the illustrious and largely adored Drudkh, one of Ukraine’s greatest exports. Although it is more likely that a reviewer will reference Hate Forest’s demise as a key inspiration behind Blood of Kingu’s debut full-length, entitled ‘De Occulta Philosophia’, I find the earliest Drudkh records a stronger point of reference, though Blood of Kingu, as with Varg’s recent efforts on ‘Belus’, don’t allow themselves to be viewed as a simplistic carbon copy whereby the material present here is merely recycled from the cuts that didn’t make it on the numerous Drudkh, or even Hate Forest records. Even taking into account the unusual lyrical themes adopted by the band, or the enigmatic vocal style, one can easily conclude from an assessment that Blood of Kingu do differ somewhat, despite the fact that the backbone of this record is largely similar to that of the sister bands combined.

Taking into account Hate Forest’s wintry imagery of glaciers, icicles, blizzards and other such adverse conditions and connotations of the season of winter, mixed in with their sheer aggressive repetitiveness and blend it with Drudkh’s sense of overwhelming melancholy and we’re close to what Blood of Kingu offer, as shown perfectly on the majestic ‘Stronghold of Megaliths, Thorns and Human Bones’. However, given the wall-of-sound approach that the guitars appear to adopt, ‘De Occulta Philosophia’ tries to add some flavour to a dish that tastes like something I’ve had and enjoyed before. Although I wouldn’t call the approach a fully blown wall-of-sound depiction, akin to something like Darkspace, I would say that the atmospherics benefit from the extra added dynamics of the guitars biting distortion, though the bass does tend to suffer at the heart of this portrayal as it is only just distinguishable amidst the chaotic, furious stylistic approach of Blood of Kingu, as shown well on songs like ‘Lair of Night Abzu’ whereby the bass is just about audible enough to be taken into consideration.

However, with the vast majority of black metal bands, especially those who adopt such heavy distortion, the bass isn’t meant to be a central figure within the songs and the song writing doesn’t revolve entirely around the bass as if it’s the most pivotal element of the depiction. With my affection for bass, I do consider its sheer lack of involvement a downside, though there is more than enough to make up for this disheartening element of the record, namely found in the guitars and vocals which choose a less than predictable, or traditional way of showcasing themselves. They’re difficult to describe as they’re unique to the band and unlike most other vocals on black metal records. They’re not rasped, nor are they shrieked. They don’t adopt death metal guttural growls and they don’t entertain the idea of proposing melancholic doom like growls either. Instead, what we have here, is a rather unusual piece of juxtaposition in the texture of the vocals. They’re both soft and heavy simultaneously which perfectly combines with the textures of the instrumentation, particularly the guitars. Although not exactly like them, Roman’s vocals remind me of Wrest’s during the self-titled Lurker of Chalice effort.

If I were going to assess what kind of record this would be based on the filler tracks alone, I’d be left amazed and astonished at the final outcome as the short instrumental fillers do very little to describe the flow of the record. Having said this, they do give the lyrics, which haven’t been supplied by the band, more value because the mythological feel of the instrumental songs brings the themes to life while the rest of the record focuses on the ancient, archaic feel through repetition. Whilst the instruments supply the record with an eclectic tribal sound, particularly that of ‘Slaughter of Shudras’ with its clean drumming, the remainder of the record is anything but clean. However, areas like the drumming force their way into the limelight, despite being overly repetitive and cyclical for most of the records short duration, during songs like ‘Chambers of Inpu-sub’ and, especially, towards the end of the wonderfully majestic ‘Stronghold of Megaliths, Thorns and Human Bones’, when they begin to sound cleaner in comparison to the guitars and take of a more infection style, rather than putting an emphasis on repetition through blast beats. With its electric atmosphere, ‘De Occulta Philosophia’ has begun the life of Blood of Kingu well.

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