Thursday 8 August 2019

Calvaire - Nodus Tollens (2019)

Country: Singapore
Style: Post-Black Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 21 Jul 2019
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I've reviewed a couple of post-rock albums here at Apocalypse Later in 2019. Sparkle and especially Ogmasun explore the post-rock mindset of not writing songs in a traditional form but creating soundscapes by playing traditional rock instruments. I've also reviewed some post-hardcore, which sadly doesn't share that mindset. Fortunately, post-black metal does and here's a quality example from Singapore's Calvaire, presumably named for the Belgian horror film with Vincent Cassel but maybe for the novel by Octave Mirbeau.

Now, black metal has often leaned towards the verbose, so songs of eight or nine minutes in length is nothing new. It's often mixed with ambient music, so the quieter side of this album isn't surprising either. Even when it's at its loudest and most raucous, black metal enjoys a wall of sound approach, a further step into soundscape territory. And, of course, black metal shrieks have always been an instrument in themselves.

In other words, it's not much of a step to go from black metal to post-black metal. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to find that a good deal of what I'm used to calling black metal genre was really post-black metal, merely before the term was ever coined. This album knows that it's post-black metal but it isn't too far adrift from its parent genre with five full tracks that total just shy of forty minutes, a further two minute collection of sounds called Liberosis nudging it over that mark.

To my thinking, the best tracks are the opener and the closer, but what's in between doesn't slack any. Aokigahara is the opener, named for the so-called Suicide Forest on the lava slopes of Mount Fuji. This seems appropriate, as Calvaire are often listed as playing depressive black metal too, and suicide is about as depressive as depressive gets. The album title might prompt that because it refers to the realisation that you don't understand the story of your own life, as if you're a character in the wrong book. Flowers of Fixed Ideas is the closer and I have no idea to what that refers.

I should add here, however, that I didn't find either of these tracks to be depressing (and I've listened to plenty of depressive black metal that is). I found them to have a melancholy to them but the bell-like guitar work has both a ritual aspect and an uplifting nature. Aokigahara is more deliberate, so I wonder if it's about someone (usually a young lady) visiting the forest to take her own life but Flowers of Fixed Ideas is about her returning home having not done so.

By comparison, Lacrimae Rerum is harsher, more brutal and more incessant, a sort of assault that presumably brings on the tears mentioned in its title. It does quieten down at points but it's always more black than post-black. Liberosis, the experimental two minutes that follows it, is more post-black than black, so the album does swing back and forth. The Celestial Dog has a lot of each side, as does Open Grave Dialogue, which combines blastbeats and shrieks with a slow melodic guitar line floating over everything, as if it's a spirit leaving a body.

This is interesting stuff. It's not for those who want their black metal to sound like the product of a cluster of demons celebrating their evil works. It's for those who appreciate the idea of post-rock but also believe in the idea that evocative soundscapes can be harsh and brutal.

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