Monday, 22 November 2010

Chelmno - Horizon of Events (2010) 70/100.

There are two clear roads with a few obscured paths around the edges when it comes to Italian black metal. The main roads in which the majority of bands take is split into two different distinctions. The first is heavily gothic inspired black metal, which seems to be the most adored form of black metal music by Italian musicians. The second is a raw brand of black metal, one which harps back to the olden days of fast, monotonous and repetitious music which was evil incarnate. There are a few obscured paths, as I mentioned, but these are only options to the bold, brave and sometimes ridiculously stupid. Italian metal, let alone black metal, seems to harbour much love towards gothic aesthetics and they take the opportunity to litter their music with it at every turn. However, as mentioned, there are bands who prefer to stick to the old school rituals and traditions and ignore this much loved gothic aesthetic by stripping their music down to the bare bones. Chelmno, a band I’ve known for long enough but never checked out until recently, are one of these types of bands.

They completely ignore Italy’s fascination with gothic music and embrace the aggressive, primal and ravenous styles that most black metal bands of the early to mid 1990’s adopted in their quest to be the best. On the face of it, I had expected something a little different from Chelmno. Their artwork, song titles and even the title to this sophomore full-length, ‘Horizon of Events’, seems to suggest that they’re a lot more astral and cosmic sounding than they truly are. Something along the lines of the legendary Germans Lunar Aurora, if you will. However, what I was faced with was a lot different from what I was expecting. The approach from Italy’s Chelmno isn’t all that atmospheric in an astral or cosmic sense but it still remains atmospheric in different ways, perhaps ways that are better suited to the musicians whose influences seem to be rooted in the second wave with bands like Darkthrone and Mayhem coming to the forefront as possible inspirations for Chelmno. In fact, Mayhem are mentioned, alongside Clandestine Blaze, as a reference for what this album sounds like according to the label. At times, the band also begin to remind me of modern old school acts such as fellow Italian band Murk, with the dense catchiness and Scandinavia’s answer to the old school sound, Avsky, both are bands I tend to enjoy.

I’ll happily go along with that, particularly early Clandestine Blaze albums with that dense style of distortion from the guitars and how the atmosphere chokes the life out of you the further it progresses. Like an Italian war machine, this album isn’t afraid to roll over you with pummelling blast beats or heavily repetitious tremolo riffs but it also doesn’t exclude the possibility of slower passages and catchier styles of riffing, as shown wonderfully on songs like ‘Into The Fog’, a song where the dense production really works its magic, embracing the idea of becoming a voice for weather conditions like fog and wrapping itself tightly around us, constricting us and making breathing difficult in the heavy atmosphere. I have some experience with one member of this band, Vidharr, a man whose performance on this album is single out by critics, fans and even the record label because he has been in some very notable projects down the years, including a personal favourite of mine, Beatrìk, who have seemingly, and sadly, split-up. Not only that but he has also worked closely with acts like Tenebrae in Perpetuum and Near, a relatively new band whom this bands bassist and vocalist is also in.

His experience at performing at the highest level in Italy is unquestionably a great asset to Chelmno, a band who aren’t afraid to embrace more experimental sounds on occasions with mid paced and slower segments to alleviate some of the monotony that may build from time to time. These passages are sparse and Chelmno remain a highly primitive band for the most part but the inclusion of these sparser elements is still important and goes a long way to making this a more fulfilling listen as much of the album consists almost entirely of elements that some may argue have been done to death. Songs like ‘Astral Journey’ and ‘Into The Fog’ are particularly important to the album in cases like this because the sheer level of intoxicating musicianship makes it a worthwhile listen in the end as the riffs continue to produce startling moments of infectiousness that will have you nodding furiously along to the pace and speed of the album. The guitars, as per usual, are the center piece and rightly so. The bass tends to follow it without question and the vocals are very typical and quite bland, if truth be told, so the guitars have an even more important role as they strive for memorable riffs. The song writing is key as it does manage to produce some truly memorable moments despite the lack of originality. ‘Horizon of Events’ isn’t ground breaking in the slightest but it does what a lot of bands of this nature fail to do and that is to create catchy hooks and elements that will draw you back in time and again. Solid, if nothing else.

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