Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Leraje - Congeries In Viam Lemniskate (2009) 76/100.

Normally I would associate this style of black metal with the aggressive French front. Bands like Satanic Warmaster come to mind when thinking of comparisons. There isn’t a direct relation to the material of Satanic Warmaster but, as with ‘Carelian Satanist Madness’, for example, Leraje, a strong two man band from Germany, manage to incorporate a subtle beauty into their debut full-length, entitled ‘Congeries In Viam Lemniskate’ which is mostly masqueraded by a harsh, raw aggression in the instrumentation and vocals. Although bands like this aren’t as frequent as flat-out raw black metal bands, they are by no means a rare breed in the field of black metal music. Another notable band I can compare this style to is Pestilential Shadows, a Australian based act with three different type of records. The first was a dissonant, lo-fi brand of black metal, whilst the second was a generic, but well produced number and, finally, the third was an aggressive, distorted and penetrative record full of hidden melodies behind the repetition. In regards to this record, ‘Congeries In Viam Lemniskate’ has more in common with the latter Pestilential Shadow record given the fact that it discreetly blends melody into its atmospherics whilst still pertaining to the raw brand that features predominantly in the French scene.

This is a feeling that occurs throughout the duration of the record, not just on one or two songs. For example, ‘Infernalischer Sturm’ begins slowly before unleashing a fully blown assault on the listener in the form of repetition, repetition and more repetition before those hidden melodies feature beneath the scarred surface. The beauty begins to slowly seep through the cracks in the façade of the record and, although initial impressions would have us believe that this is simply another by-the-numbers band in the vein of old school Darkthrone, there is more to it than meets the eye. Though the guitars like to remain consistent in their approach, usually based on an onslaught of tremolo riffs, one after another, a few of the other elements, like the drums, try to remain varied, as shown brilliantly on ‘Infernalischer Sturm’. The guitars like to keep an infectiously raw appearance, but the drums, as aforementioned, like to throw in some added dynamism by not just resorting to blast beats, but varying the approach to leave the listener with a confused impression given that, from the outside, this truly does seem like just another branch of satanic black metal with hate to spare.

The lyrical themes, whilst mentioning satanic beliefs, also touches upon ideas like mysticism and spirituality. Though a lot of the personality traits of this record would suggest a heavy influence from the likes of Darkthrone, particularly during the ‘A Blaze in the Northern Sky’ and ‘Under A Funeral Moon’ eras (perhaps two of the most profitable eras of Darkthrone, it must be said), there are hidden qualities, as shown perfectly on songs like ‘Soul Annihilator’. With the lyrics being in English (though this may only be partially), the vocalist takes a breath from rasping his lungs out in order to squeeze all the hatred out of his soul and resorts to a deep spoken voice during a brief slow section of the music. Though elements like this are infrequent, they show an experimental side to Leraje that may not seem apparent in the beginning. With songs like ‘Rex Satanas’, I am almost certain that there is a second wave influence, particularly from Darkthrone. The guitar tone, the atmosphere, the slow build up of the introduction and sudden burst into life all point to those two aforementioned Darkthrone records as a source of inspiration for this band.

Whilst I do feel that supposed “Darkthrone clones” are too many in number these days, there is a sort of modernity to this record, though this is supplied mostly by the feeling the atmosphere provides me, as opposed to the actual instrumentation with its use of old methods like tremolo riffs, a back-up bass (which is often buried beneath the other aspects) and even the occasional rasped cry of “BLACK METAL!” (harking back to the old days, drawing out a nostalgic feeling in me of those old timer vocalists who worshipped the scene). There is a respectful, consistent sound to Leraje’s debut that doesn’t seem to come across in other bands of this nature as they come across as lacking in originality and a poor man’s Darkthrone, or whoever they’re trying to imitate unsuccessfully. As I said, with the depths that the atmosphere plunges into, showcasing a subtle beauty along the way, Leraje set themselves apart from a lot of the generic acts in a similar vein. To me, due to the catchy nature of the guitar based melodies, as highlighted in the terrific ‘Rituel Des Armageddon’, this record boosts its reputation with me. However, there is only so much one can do with an unrelenting style such as this, so it definitely lacks in accessibility.

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