Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Angst Skvadron - Sweet Poison (2010) 70/100.

The word “special” can be used in two very different ways. The first is to describe something that is out of the ordinary, something sublime. The second is a slang term used to describe something that is extraordinarily retarded. When I used the word “special” to describe Angst Skvadron’s discography, including their two full-lengths, I use this word to mean a little bit from column A and a little from column B. Angst Skvadron are a completely wacky invention, totally off-the-wall, bat-shit crazy. ‘Flukt’, the full-length debut from this three piece Norwegian creation was, as the title for my review suggests, an “unusual alien themed metal” album. I’ve never quite experienced anything like it and still haven’t come across a band who supplied such an odd vibe with their brand of music. Spacey black metal isn’t something new. Take bands like wall-of-sound artists like the Swiss Darkspace.

They’ve pioneered, with the help of certain others, a spacey sound in the black metal genre for years, but nothing can compare to the zany ways of Angst Skvadron and how they implement atmospherics that wouldn’t be out-of-place in your standard Aliens inspired horror movie where human beings are being stalked by a creature from out of this world. From the use of the eerie piano build-up on songs like ‘Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome’, an aptly named song, to the haunting female vocals incorporated into the background on the earlier song ‘Valium Holocaust’ which reminds me, as some of the soundscapes from the debut did, of the old Star Trek series from the 60’s with William Shatner. These wacky features don’t just come in sparse quantities, they’ve thrown onto the album at every turn with each feeling different from the next, given the album an incredibly detailed and vivid descriptive quality with each song sounding rather like the title suggests it should.

‘Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome’ is an anxiety filled affair with lots of uneasy atmospherics and ‘Fucking Karma’ is one of the more aggressive songs with guttural vocals and heavier instrumentation. Even the aesthetics of the band remind me of all things spacey and not to mention the unusual instrumentation on songs like the brilliant ‘Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome’ -- a song which really does live up to its title. The keyboards are especially excellent on this song, particularly half-way through when they dazzle and twinkle in the way that alien spaceships are portrayed as sounding on a number of old films and television programs. This album is not something that can be taken in all at once. It needs time to develop and set in because it’s incredibly detailed with layers upon layers of instrumentation and even the vocals tend to transform like some sort of dastardly mutation from the beyond. The album doesn’t tend to fixate too much on one specific sound, with songs like ‘Sweet Poison’ becoming slowly more rock orientated than those before it.

Though this is a short instrumental song, it deals well with its allocated time by filling it with soothing synths and a mesh of bass and guitar based progressive musings. It also happens to be a very fitting end to a highly adventurous mix of black metal, progressive music and your post-whatever genre. From the typical vocals we’re used to hearing from Angst Skvadron, which are portrayed in a rasping fashion, though certainly not as overpowering as most black metal vocalists, to the clean vocals on the other worldly ‘Dolcontine Blues’, a song that uses a lot of cleaner instrumentation alongside the spoken vocals. Although the songs feel like there is an individualistic effort on show, this full-length, entitled ‘Sweet Poison’, does resemble the debut in many ways. From the stretched feeling of the languid guitars and atmospherics on songs like ‘Fucking Karma’, to the progressive structures and bass orientated sound on a number of the songs. The entire projection still feels as eclectic as it did before and the general texture of the atmospheres, produced mainly by the guitars on songs like ‘Rivotril Matja’, which features some muted and distant solos, is as weird sounding as before.

It can feel very aquatic at times, with the bass piping up through the accessible production job and the keyboards occasionally dangling their haunted vibes. Many people say the ocean is like another world beneath ours anyway. As far as conveying the albums themes go, ‘Poison’ is very convincing. This rich environment supplies the listener with something more than your run-of-the-mill black metal affair. The soundscapes are full of life (both of this world and others) and the experimentation is an eye-opening experience which teaches us that unusual themes and heavy variation can make the most unique listening experiences ever, especially when the two are intertwined in such a manner that makes the theme almost more important than the music itself but, strangely enough, this is because the instrumentation is genuinely very good and the musicianship handles the two very well. As with most avant-gardé acts, I do find I have to take this album with a pinch of salt and never too seriously, otherwise I’d never enjoy what a completely fucked up album this truly is.

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