Friday, July 9, 2010

Kaarmekristus - Ajan Lopun Alku

This is a pretty simple, straight forward review for a pretty simple and standard black metal demo. Ajan Lopun Alku (Finnish for "The Beginning Of The End Of Time - I assume) is the first release from Kaarmekristus, the sole energy of one Ophiuchus Caedo. The tape contains four songs and a long intro piece appropriately titled "Kutsu" or "Invitation." For an intro to a black metal demo, I find the three minute plus track exceptionally beautiful. A chant of sorts, almost Gregorian except for the accompanying orchestration, "Kutsu" beckons you in. It says, "Welcome to my sanctuary... feel at ease here... for a moment." The play between the multiple vocal patterns and timbres is captivating and very well done. It creates a sense that you are not merely listening to music but that you are an onlooker to a spiritual event of sorts.

The first two tracks here are the least impressive - not that either of four tracks are "impressive" but the first two are less impressive than not impressive at all. Though all the tracks sound like Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger, "Uusi Aikakausi" is the least hungry of the tracks. It offers little. It's like going to a fast food restaurant and getting napkins as an appetizer. Though the demo doesn't quite worship early Darkthrone, the influence is immense but fails to succeed in the most important part of the formula - the hypnosis. And without that all that's left is corpse-paint which Ophiuchus Caedo has down pretty well judging from the image on the insert. To be blunt, there is little impact on either this track or the slightly less interesting second song "Unohduksen Verhon Lapi." Between these two tracks there is little to identify them. While "Unohduksen Verhon Lapi" has more initial kick than the opener, it has a far less interesting structure and repeats for what seems like an eternity with no vocals, no change or variation in the barely audible drums...The two later tracks have more depth, and are more mature. Though the cyclical "Hanen Tyonsa" is slowly gain my interest, mainly due to a peculiar extended slow moody part, final track "Totuuden Etsija" is full of urgency. It has a purity to it that rekindles some of the feelings I have when I listen to Transilvanian Hunger - feelings of introspection a desire for solitude from existence during it's playing time. "... Etsija" feels like it is going somewhere, that it SHOULD be heard. This feeling is noticeable immediately. The connection between the instruments is stronger. The drums and bass and guitar fall on each other in a beautiful collapse. While other tracks sounded confused at times, there is no doubt on this track as to where to go next, what rhythm needs to exist for notes to ascend to a level above repetition. Vocally, I wish I had lyrics to follow along with his wall-of-static style of vocals in this track.

I get the impression that this was the first song Ophiuchus C. wrote and it means to most to him. One of the most enduring strengths behind black metal demos, specifically demos from single people is that, the are so personal. There is the sense that with this music, you are being allowed to witness it not just of your choosing but at the artist's discretion. One of the intriguing aspects to demos of this sort is that, if, for instance, Ophiuchus did not decide to release it, who would hear it? No one. It would be lost to time. His rituals and compositions would not exist to anyone but himself. It's a strange idea. Even if it is generic, mediocre and trite, it's honest and it means something to someone. Even with demos like this, we can discover the "one hit wonders" of underground metal. "Totuuden Etsija" is that kind of a song - a stand out amongst unnecessary tracks.

Final conclusion: typical demo, especially for black metal. Some added textural depth would help differentiate some of the rather monotonous melodies and rhythms but with a great intro and excellent final track, not all is lost. I'd be interested to see progression in the next release but more of the same just isn't truly necessary. A few tracks like "Totuuden Etsija" and to a lesser extent "Hanen Tyonsa" would make a decent demo. A less amateur guitar tone would also help a little though in this stage, production concerns are not important at all in my opinion. The production on this isn't BAD but it's definitely not for those unfamiliar with listening through demos. Polished is the last word I'd use to describe Kaarmekristus. I would use rough and rugged instead but smooth high-quality production doesn't fit Kaarmekristus' music anyway. Ajan Lopun Alku has charm but then again, when doesn't when something is this personal?

Perhaps this was once a dub of Thirst's Per Aspera Ad Astra album? Once again, a very personal release. More likely though is that it is simply a recitation of the Latin phrase "To the stars through difficulties."

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