Monday, 5 April 2010

Angst Skvadron - Flukt (2008) 70/100.

I have an addiction to finding surreal bands, particularly black metal bands, whereas I used to be drawn to the run-of-the-mill types who produced records akin to the notable suspects of the main movements in black metal history. That includes your Burzum’s, your Darkthrone’s and, to a lesser extent, your Immortal’s. As with any addiction, my life is consumed by my attempts at trying to fulfil my cravings of anxious, surrealist and other worldly music. Alas, as with any journey to the other side, where dime-a-dozen bands don’t thrive too well, there is two different sources with which artists sprout from. Unusually, I find that bands who attempt an outrageous melding of genres tend to be either good, or bad, whereas bands influenced by the usual early to mid 1990’s types mostly tend to be mediocre in a modern light. Norway’s Angst Skvadron just about scrape into the category that can be deemed as, overall, a success and this is due to the first half of material presented on the debut full-length, entitled ‘Flukt’.

Trondr Nefas, or T.B. on this occasion, is a name I know well. Not through his endeavours with Urgehal, but instead with older bands like Kvist and the more recent In Lingua Mortua. He is a man well known to black metal circles quite well, in actual fact, and this was something that calmed my nerves when approaching the enigmatic style of Angst Skvadron, a spacey black metal band that revolves around a strange theme of aliens and that likes to integrate the stylistic approach of 70’s progressive music into their controlled structures. With bands like this, song writing is of great importance because melding outside influences such as 70’s progressive rock isn’t easy when we’re dealing with genres like black metal. More often than not black metal is cold and calculated. It doesn’t accept outside factors easily, or with affection, but the solid song writing from T.B. in particular means that Angst Skvadron have no real issues when it comes to combining the two styles together.

That doesn’t mean to say the band don’t run into problems because, unfortunately, they do. The intro and outro to this odd record could be stricken from the history books as they play only a small part in the make-up of the record, with the outro, entitled ‘Satan’, being a particularly weird affair. Samples of a woman immensely enjoying sex sounds ideal to a red blooded male like me, but not when the song is called ‘Satan’ and gives the record little class. The outro is a sore spot for me. It’s almost completely ambient, aside from the silly samples and instrumentation which comes into play over half way through the song and this gives an unnecessary feel to both the introduction and the outro. Although the title of the introduction, entitled ‘UFO’, do relate to the themes of the band, it doesn’t relate well to the instrumentation which follows it, despite the electronic vibe supplying some vague images of life on Mars. At times, the full-length begins to feel more like an EP due to the filler songs ruining the flow of the material. They stick out like a sore thumb and reek havoc with the somewhat established feeling that the material is well thought out.

Most of the material which features of the “proper” songs is slow to mid paced, with a controlled sound that isn’t typical in black metal. The drums, in particular, feel very solid. There is little material which comes across as especially fast with double bass blasts featuring sparsely, if at all. Spacey black metal is usually defined by its chaotic feel and breathless pace. Bands like Darkspace, for example, use suffocating atmospherics and distortion to drive their listener to the brink of insanity, but Angst Skvadron, perhaps due to the psychedelic influences of the 70’s style progressive aspects, have a controlled feel to them, especially on songs like ‘A Song to the Sky’ which appears to make use of the minimoog, played by integral member L.F.F.. The minimoog, which is a new instrument to me, is defined as being “a monophonic analog synthesizer”. This instrumental, which looks rather like an old school keyboard, is responsible for the spacey vibes, alongside the slow moving and sluggish bass, on songs like the aforementioned. Although I find songs like ‘The Astroid Haemorhoids and the Drunken Sailor’ just a bit TOO quirky for my tastes, the minimoog and repetitive black metal riffing strangely makes this sound like a soundtrack to an obscure Sci-Fi series, or flick from the 60’s or 70’s.

The use of such an instrument adds to the quirkiness of Angst Skvadron and gives them a certain quality which most other black metal bands don’t possess. It also makes the themes of alien life forms more believable and respectable because the atmospherics conjure up images of space ships, intergalactic wars and planets unlike our own. The imagery conjured up by the simple use of dreamy bass and the minimoog is stunning. Not only this, but the use of clean male and female vocals -- which were seemingly added by former member T.L.A -- adds to the sense of dynamism through the clarity of the clear production. There are, of course, typical moments, such as the rasped vocals, but these don’t play as significant a role as I had expected and that was a delight, especially as T.B is capable of providing more notable moments, including the use of a haunting piano on ‘Negativitetens Kveletak’. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, the second half of the record lacks the integrity of the first, but that doesn’t detract from the facts and those include that this is a generally well written, performed and creative piece by a talented bunch of musicians. 70’s progressive meets a spacey black metal style in this unusual affair.

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