Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Simple Existenz - Das Leben Vor Dem Tod (2010) 78/100.


Simple Existenz appealed to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Simple Existenz have been singled out by usually exquisite Ván Records, a label whom I admire a lot and have found a lot of wonderful bands through. Secondly, I discovered this one-man project through Nagelfar, a well respected and downright brilliant defunct German black metal band of the highest standards. Zorn, the bands only member, provided both bass and guitar for Nagelfar from 1996 to 2002, a year before the bands final ever EP was released in 2003. His performances were impeccable for Nagelfar, but always overshadowed by my fanboyish love for one of his fellow band members. I decided it would be a good decision on my part to check out his other projects, though I will always admit that I’ve been more inclined in the past to heap praise of his fellow Nagelfar member, Alexander von Meilenwald, the bands former drummer and mastermind of The Ruins of Beverast. Given the brilliance of von Meilenwald and his various projects, although especially The Ruins of Beverast, I listened to Zorn’s other project, EgoNoir, in the mindset that they, too, would be brilliant.

However, I was let down by the debut album from EgoNoir and haven’t yet listened to the sophomore due to my apprehension. Despite this, I decided that because EgoNoir was a collaborative effort between Zorn and another musician, that perhaps listening to his solo effort would be wisest because, after all, this is a project he has sole rights to and complete creative control over. I wasn’t disappointed. Some of the music even seems to draw influence from the old Nagelfar material, which wasn’t exactly a huge surprise given Zorn’s massive involvement with the band. Their reputation as one of Germany’s finest black metal acts was bound to sway his mind towards taking influence from his previous band as they were simply brilliant at writing songs, riffs and drawing everything together. Whilst I don’t entirely get the same impression that Zorn is as accomplished at pulling songs together in such an extraordinary fashion as Nagelfar did as a whole, songs like the magnificent ‘Auf Der Jagd’ prove that he can write mesmerising songs with use of really adventurous elements like clean female vocals.

Even his own vocals don’t seem to fit the bill of a regulated black metal band. He doesn’t rasp, but tends to sing in a fashion that is somewhat inspired by screams and a cleaner style of chants. The screams which appear on songs like the aforementioned are incredibly demented, but a sparse aspect of this feature so they don’t really detract too much from the usual style of play. The vocals usually stick to the cleaner form of singing, rather than those insane screams, or shrieks of ‘Auf Der Jagd’, whilst also incorporating the soft female vocals that add a lighter feel to the atmosphere. Zorn’s vocals have been likened to those of Attila Csihar, but don’t have the same sort of charisma as his vocal stylings, particularly when I think back to his performance of the well loved Mayhem album ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’. There’s a very natural sound to the band, occasionally reminding me of the glorious side to the black/Viking hybrid with an epic feel coming through on songs like ‘Harren Und Hoffen’.

Songs like ‘Helden dieser Welt’ reveal a depth to the song writing as synths slowly reveal themselves during the slow to mid paced sections. Alongside quirky aspects like the clean female vocals and even the male vocal approach, the song writing appears as being rather dynamic. Particularly when ‘Im Frühjahrsschnee’ kicks in with the acoustics, dark and dreary clean vocals and the howling wind samples in the distance. Though it may sound rather clichéd, this introduction to ‘Im Frühjahrsschnee’ is one of outstanding beauty amidst utter desolation and hopelessness which can be found in the building distortion of the ebbing guitars and the solemn vocals. The song writing is the real enhancement of this album as it prevails time and again. It shows a maturity in Zorn which perhaps wasn’t visible when he was with Nagelfar because they were just so overwhelming. The production feels slightly under-developed, but it doesn’t appear to hamper the lighter elements of the album, like the acoustics. It gives the album a rawer edge when the vocals fail to live up to expectations by not rasping their way throughout the album. It also makes the percussion sound more bombastic. All-in-all, this is a well written, well performed and expansive debut album from Zorn.


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