Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Zakhm - Inner Depression
Another Thorn Laceration Records release, Zakhm's Inner Depression, the first release from this one man Iranian black metal band, is an invigorating listen with a sound unlike anything else I've ever heard. The whole demo is steeped in a black-and-white-movie-soundtrack graininess. I've always imagined Iran to be a desert wasteland with endless sandy landscapes and dunes, a thermometer which doesn't dip below ninety degrees and a couple million people with an unimaginable hatred for western civilization. It's a depressing landscape no matter how you look at it. It's no surprise that Zakhm's lord has chosen the pseudonym "Sad." Four songs, a little under seventeen minutes of textural candy and Zakhm have planted some interesting seeds which may grow into quite the twisted wind-tortured charred tree.
Opening track "My Name Is Sad" creates for us, a way to enter the soul of Zakhm sadman*, Sad, through his unique music. I would expect that this song is the music to his average mood and, thus, I don't know if Sad is a man I would like to hang around often. Unlike a lot of black metal, particularly what passes as depressive black metal, I don't think I would be so fast to call this black metal. There are elements of black metal in the vocal delivery which doesn't appear until second track, "Don't Worry For Others," but the general style is ambient. The guitar is more of a synthy sounding affair on these tracks, especially opener "My Name Is Sad." Ideally, for my own purposes, I would label this as ambient though with a strong amount of black overtones. It would be appropriate to say that only "Don't Worry For Others" and "Illusion of Emerna" have vocals and drums at all.
So what does this Zakhm sound... sound like? "My Name Is Sad," as assumed above, is a melancholy instrumental, keen to remain in the minimalist style, relying on repetition to pound home the song's purpose, that Sad is sad. That he is caught in an unchanging repetitive situation and hoping for something new. I get a hopeful but pessimistic emotion from the melody, as conflicting as that may sound. A slow pulse moves the song, though not in a percussive way, like waves cresting and the main melody, played with a wavering, distant and relaxing tone, bubbling on the surface. It's like a lo-fi black metal Jesu tone with serious bouts of Isis movement but lacking the pretentiousness and artsy mentality of both those bands.
"Don't Worry For Others,".. the strangest thing about about this track is that it sounds like there is a helicopter idling outside the room Sad recorded in. I can't figure out where the sound is coming from. It's something do with drums as far as I know. Sad's vocals on the song are the expected mediocre though emotional. He is truly focusing his energy into them and though some may disagree with me, are a strong and befitting aspect to this release. Though the highlights are definitely the guitar tones and some of the sampling work used on the title track, his vocals are also enjoyable. Though slightly bassy for me, they compliment the smooth guitar tone by adding something rough and gritty. "Don't Worry For Others'" acoustic interlude is a smart addition, breaking up one and a half tracks of repetitive ambient. The break doesn't contrast at all melodically, but the change from the weird tone to something more normal is comforting momentarily. The peculiarly captivating and foamy guitars return shortly along with the helicopter convoy.
"Inner Depression" relies on samples more than any other track. It's interesting enough with several layers of sound building atop each other like a musical dagwood. Slight synth and keys create a melody for the "story" that Sad may be telling to accompany. It is a dreadful melody though the most integral element is the spoken words, possibly funeral rites or another Iranian custom I have no knowledge of. Though not remarkable, "Inner Depression" is successful in it's assignment - creating an ambiance that fits with the other songs' melodic themes and provides new textures for the listener to bite into. Ambient noir would be an appropriate term for Zakhm's stylistic approach to this track. There are elements of story telling, cynicism and a general graininess to the track. The synths are a little too upfront in this track for my personal taste. Zakhm's final offering takes the noirish feel of "Inner Depression" to lead into the most black metal of the tracks on the release. "Illusion Of Emerna" is the weakest track on the demo. At first it didn't seem to mesh with the other tracks, possessing a sexuality and raunchiness which, until now was not shown elsewhere. The bizarre sensuality though may just be another way in which Sad is displaying loneliness, in a reverse, envious way. A sloppy break midway through and more helicopter drum effect simply becomes bothersome at this point. A bit of a weak ending to one of the strangest musical experiences I've endured. It will be interesting to see where Sad takes his music next but I hope he leaves the Iranian airforce out of the recording.
*See what I did there?