Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Tyhjyys - Tyhjyys (2010) 65/100.

By definition the term “occultism” is described as being the “belief in the existence of secret, mysterious, or supernatural agencies”. Tyhjyys are a Finnish atmospheric black metal band who live and die by this definition. As you can see from their page here on Metal Archives, there is shit all information about the band. There isn’t even the obligatory MySpace link at the bottom of the page where all will be revealed in a cheekily modern way. Having tried to track down an interview, or any sort of background information on this obscure, secretive Finnish band, I have come up unsuccessful and without any leads whatsoever. They truly are a breath of fresh air in the sense that they continue the black metal traditions of mystique in this, the 21st century. Whilst a lot of bands could be accused of shameless self-promotion, Tyhjyys do the exact opposite. In fact, unless you’re a member of one of the many social networking websites, or you’re an already established fan of their rather unknown record label, chances are you’ll never discover this band without the help of a reviewer, or word of mouth.

This self-titled album, which also happens to be the first of any sort of material the band have publicly released, is a decent first effort at atmospheric black metal with a few raw touches here and there. As I have no idea how many people are behind this band, or even if it’s just the one solitary member, I cannot begin to imagine who plays what, or even if there is just an awful lot of layering by the same musician as, in fact, this self-titled piece is very layered, particularly when it comes to the guitars. As songs like ‘III’ will showcase, Tyhjyys have two guitars operating within the same song. One plays the distorted, repetitious riff which lies buried beneath the soundscapes, whilst the other plays a much more adventurous second guitar that deviates a lot more than the first. In fact, this is a regular occurrence across the board, as songs like ‘VI’ suggest. Throughout the course of the album, one guitar will play a primarily lo-fi type of riff, which can be very monotonous and rather uneventful, whilst the other plays a more expansive style over the top of the first guitar, the one which establishes the tone for the album on the whole.

The album is very simplistic, despite the use of multi-layering. The approach is quite formulaic besides the intro and outro, the latter featuring really eerie chants akin to the vocalist of Blood of Kingu, a haunting piano and some tingling ambiance. I assume the use of keyboards, or a synthesiser comes into the operation here and though it doesn’t play a major role throughout the course of the album, the short intro and outro do successfully divert the mood of the entire record towards a more thoughtful beginning and ending. The cleaner use of instrumentation, something which occurs more positively in the intro, is an element I would have liked to have heard taken forward into the rest of the display but, unfortunately, the lo-fi sound, with its edgy and raw qualities, dominates this piece from the start of ‘I’ to the end of ‘VI’. The approach, as I said, is very formulaic and often dull, but there is the occasional period of interesting musicianship due to the multi-layered facets within the atmosphere. The guitars are pivotal to this success, as expected, but the entire album could have done with a cleaner base to work up from because the distortion creates a clear divide between the instrumentation.

Occasionally the music will resemble something along the lines of Blood Red Fog, but the generally mysterious appearance of the band gives them more of an individualistic feel. Songs like ‘I’ especially remind me of Blood Red Fog given the ambiance the distortion provides, but there are obviously clear melodies to be spotted from the guitars and even the audible bass, though this appears to follow the guitar patterns quite rigidly. The melodies, which are prominent and vibrant despite the lo-fi feel to the production, are certainly likable, particularly on ‘I’ and ‘III’, perhaps the two most memorable songs on the album. The lo-fi feeling does tend to make the guitars appear weaker than they actually are though and given the clean feel of the drums and the buried bass, the guitars appear to be rather abnormal given their fixation on heavy distortion. The vocals are also very mediocre. They’re not rasped. They’re more screamed in a depressive black metal sort-of-way more than anything (given their tortured quality), but they lack the thrust to penetrate the distorted layer the guitars leave behind on the soundscapes. They’re like a flimsy bird trying to fly through a chaotic storm. They don’t have the power to punctuate the distortion, though they can be make out in the distance of each of the songs. Lacks a really distinctive quality, but is decent enough to listen to from time-to-time.

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