Finland's Kaarmekristus has been active recently with a tape release in 2017 and a CDr demo in 2018 which surprised me as I once again revisited Kuolen Kusta Virta. Back in 2015 Ophiuchus had sent me the demo tape, and I have been listening on and off coming to some opinion on the material over the course of two years. Why it's taken me a long time to develop an opinion is partly due to occasional conflicting opinions on the music as well as just simply being overly busy outside of endless reviewing. I felt it best to wait to review the tape. I have been in contact with Ophiuchus since the debut demo tape and have felt somewhat protective over reviewing the material. Knowing how personal Ophiuchus has made the process - hand-dubbed tape runs, all instrumentation done by himself, lyrical content that is a window into his deep personal beliefs, entirely DIY off-line presence - I wanted to approach everything from a similar level of respect and acknowledgement which I don't always afford modern acts. It's done me well. The patience I took to come to know the previous two releases has been somewhat instrumental in my own overall opinion on lo-fi black metal and what music can represent to it's creator.
Not much has changed between Cosmic Satan and Kuolen Kusta Virta. The raw, lo-fi, underground production of early Black Metal is still on display with skillful usage. The ambient, yet aggressive rhythms are once again at the forefront, this time with additional melodic focus and movements. Ophiuchus' vocals are once again deep growls and and snarls layered with reverb. The guitar tone is a tinny static distortion with little low-end. The bass and drums are integral in melodically driving songs along while the more subtle shifts in emotion are left to the guitar. The drums sit far back in the mix with the vocals, with the kick and cymbals most prominent. The production is strongest when played loud to compensate for the lacking low-end and allow the kick drum to 'punch' through the mix. Played at a lower volume, the tape is not impressive sound-wise. Burzum is a close go-to comparison, especially the rawer material, or some of the early Polish acts like Arkona.
Opening with "Tie (A Road)" Kuolen Musta Virta starts out extremely strongly on all fronts. The song has a big, swelling build-up with long ringing notes and then launches into consecutive false starts. The song eventually truly gets going though. The main body of the material is based around a somber mixture of notes and ringing guitar notes. A tremolo melody line is added that gives a more monumental air to the track at the four-minute mark. I have come to really like the track. Initially I thought the multiple false starts detracted from the intensity which naturally explodes during the first fast riff. I go back and forth between still feeling this way. "Matkani Kosmoksen Syvyyksissa (My Journey Into Depths Of Cosmos)" follows with a descending main chord progression through the majority of the song. In this way, it is the most minimalist of the entire demo.
"Muum Siipeni Palavat (My Wings Are Burning)" has an interesting melodic movement shifting between two riffs throughout most of the track until the middle section enters a song which reminds me of a lo-fi take on the melodic experimentalism of Taake or Thestral. It is dreamy but strong. It is a memorable track for this reason. I also like the lyrics to this song, particularly the final few phrases, "And what higher I get, that strong my wings are burning, and eternally I will burn too." It's a rough translation to English, both original Finnish and the translation accompany the tape in the J-card, a nice touch proving how important the lyrical content is for Ophiuchus. Final track "Monumentii (A Monument)" is a bit less focused than the others and for this is kind of passes me by when I listen to the tape. It is the sole track I would consider filler but it still has some strong elements like the snare rolls mixed throughout.
Kaarmekristus / Ophiuchus - has a strong sense of what he wants to accomplish and what he feels Black Metal should represent. His songwriting is strong. The effort he puts into the project is greater than a lot of bands that walk this planet and somehow get notoriety. For these reasons, I truly enjoy this elusive project. With all the focus now on the Lords of Chaos movie, I have been going back and re-reading parts of the book. Euronymous was adamant that Black Metal be more than merely music, that it represent something dark, personal, and evil. Kaarmekristus may not be 'evil' in the manner which Euronymous intended, however it is extremely personal and individualistic. In my opinion, that is more important and what truly separates Black Metal ideologically from other genre's in which the music and content is a sum of it's parts. The singular philosophy and creation of Kaarmekristus is that of one man, and one mind. It is a more faithful homage to Black Metal than most and Kuolen Musta Virta is a good example of what and how Black Metal can still be.