Style: Ambient Black Metal
Release Date: 5 Jul 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives
I get a real kick watching genres grow and morph and especially merge with other genres that don't seem to make sense. Who would have thought that new age would work so well with funeral doom metal? Well, check out the one man project called Roaring Empyrean and see it work. Here's another: Sieghetnar, another one man project that plays ambient black metal, a concept that isn't new but which bemuses me every time because it shouldn't work.
If you haven't heard ambient black metal before, let me introduce you. Yes, we're talking black metal, with its blastbeats, shrieks and corpsepaint, not to mention its traditionally muddy production. And we're talking ambient, an attempt to discover the music in all sound, even if it occurs naturally with no orchestration. You know, Bathory meets Brian Eno, that completely obvious merging of styles.
What it really translates to is the wall of sound approach that often shows up in black metal, but without the dissonance or too many ominous overtones, rendered in long form and combined with quiet acoustic material and samples to create a sort of classical piece with rock instrumentation. Gebirge runs just short of three quarters of an hour, but it's still only one track with sections that are quiet or heavy but always melodic. Add in birds, fire and rain and we might grasp where all that light is coming from on the gorgeous cover, taken from Albert Bierstadt's 1868 painting of Yosemite Valley.
The man behind Sieghetnar is called Thorcraft and he's the entire show here, writing the material and playing all the instruments. He clearly keeps busy, not just because he's knocked out a dozen Sieghetnar albums, seven of them in the last five years, but also because he's also a black metal band called Harsgathyr, much of another called Todesrune, and a few more besides. What's more, he runs both Kristallblut Records and Nordsturm Productions, neither of which are restricted to his own material.
This is my first experience of his work and I'm impressed. This single track album runs along patiently but effectively. It's less cinematic than I might have expected but it's very evocative and immersive. I felt less like I was looking at the landscape Thorcraft aims to conjure up and more like I was in it, camping out and watching the scenery. Sure, I'm hearing those birds and that rain but there were points when I thought that I was smelling flowers too and I'm pretty sure my speakers only handle audio.
Interpreting a piece like this is highly individual, so I'll avoid too much of what I got out of it, because I'm pretty sure that you'll hear something else entirely. I will say, though, that Gebirge, which translates from the German as "mountains", played to me as both a passage of time, the mountains a backdrop to the weather that performs in front of it, and a mood piece, a set of reactions to that show of nature. Some of the most effective sections have a pastoral tone to them but it's becoming overwhelmed by something dark rolling in.
I liked this a lot and now have plenty more from Thorkraft to go and find. I see that the first Sieghetnar album featured vocals, but the rest have been entirely instrumental, except for some of the reissues. I like this without vocals, because I don't think they would have added anything, whatever style they were in, but think they would have detracted from the experience.