Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cacodaemon - Fullmoon Ritual

Cacodaemon - Fullmoon Ritual
2001, Self-Release

For whatever reason (there are always many to choose from), the music from Finland just pleases me...I know that there are many others who feel the same way, and a legion of critics who have stated similar things, but I almost always feel like mentioning this when I begin a review of a Finnish band - maybe just to be trendy, or to cast my vote along with everyone else's. I haven't heard that many Finnish bands that I didn't like, but, to maintain a sense of perspective about all of this, I'm sure they're out there somewhere. Finland seems to give rise to a musical aesthetic in the underground circles that is just very compatible with my personality...enough so that I have thought, many times, that it must express some trait or black thread in the 'national character' (if there can truly be such a thing) that I would find very gratifying if I were to visit that Northern land. I hope to in the future...but for now all I have is the music, and my imagination.

Seeming at first to borrow liberally from both early Bathory (the first two albums, primarily) and Beherit (once again, the first two releases), this Finnish band are very firmly entrenched in a style, sound, and ethic that rose from the '80s, when thrash metal was first beginning to metamorphose into some of its darker second forms, and at a time when there weren't really any kind of concrete barriers between the various subgenres of metal. Cacodaemon could, it is true, be called 'black metal', but there is a lot more to their sound that what the modern understanding of that term would inspire in the majority's minds. Initially taking cues from the above bands (Bathory: image, visual aesthetic, some of the rougher aural moments here; Beherit: the vocals, the production, their entire attitude) and then probably not feeling like they have to stay very close to any one type of the various subgenres that have evolved over the last twenty years - a refreshing attitude in the underground at the present - Cacodaemon, throughout this tape's nine original compositions (the tenth is a cover of a Mortuary Drape song, cult) are typically trying to build the darkest atmosphere they can possibly summon in one's consciousness, and they don't see the point in always staying close to, say, post-'94 Norwegian black metal to do so, or to the proto-death scene riffing that bands like Sodom first started displaying much earlier. If you are having trouble with this, think: 'Obsessed by Cruelty', 'Drawing Down the Moon', and 'Under A Funeral Moon' (yes, the moon plays a large part here), stirred with a melange of random, chaotic elements. They blend all of this together, playing almost purely out of instinct, one feels, and in the process shattering a great number of terrible scene clich├ęs that would limit their power otherwise. Because of this, and because of what I hear on this tape without knowing a great deal about the band or their principles, I can't help but feel that there probably wasn't a great deal of forethought in the manufacture of these songs, even though they are structurally sound and the guitar playing is more than adequate all the way through. I seriously doubt they sit down with slide rules and calculators and plan all of this out...they probably just improvise on certain melodies or riff patterns until songs come together. But this is the strength of this material, besides its grim and infernally malevolent atmosphere: the immediacy, the anger, the melancholy that breathes deep here, the inspiration that hasn't been bled dry by a concentration on technicality...like most of the best black metal bands, Cacodaemon, one thinks, would rather concentrate on feeling rather than a technical display...

The notion of 'obscurity' is the very essence of this group, from their name, a cacodaemon being a form of a 'lower' malign spirit, from the pits, buried far beneath the earth in the deepest regions of Hell, to the insert art and aesthetics on this cassette (beautifully dark, gloomy, and ambiguous, barely there), from the sound quality of this recording (a little more on that later) to the music itself, which effortlessly references albums that were released fifteen years ago. Especially noticeable, or attention-gathering, is this band's abysmal heaviness, their guitar sound being a massive wall of lead-gray distortion, beating and battering in colossal rhythmic punches as slow motion muted chords in league with the bass drums, or as a black tornado of grinding abrasiveness, like a goliath sandstorm flying past in the dead of night...

Another atypical characteristic of this material is the excellent, well-played solos...they add a completely different dimension to the music, often rising above the rhythm guitars in wailing, bitter tones of bereavement or as apostles of a morbid melancholia. Trebly, thin, ascetic, clean, but impassioned, they add another plane (verticality) to the two-dimensional monochrome of the surface rhythm guitars...

In fact, it has been quite some time since I have heard solos this good on a black metal recording...very impressive.

And now: the production. It's terrible, the one undeniable fault on this release. Sounding most of the time like a tenth-generation dub of a rehearsal captured on a portable stereo, it is the one thing that holds this demo back, in my mind...if you have heard this, you know what I mean. If you haven't...well, be prepared to use that Dolby B button on your tape deck, the one you've never used before. Without some kind of noise reduction filter, the tape hiss becomes one of the instruments...and it's a shame, really, because the music is blatantly fantastic. I understand the appeal of necro recordings completely, but sometimes a sound like this is much more detrimental than positive, and 'Fullmoon Ritual' is such a case...for everything that the necro production here adds in atmosphere it takes away in terms of being able to access the inspired guitar work that is going on beneath it. A pity...and frustrating to me...

Having said that, this is still a mandatory recording to track down...my copy says that it was only pressed, or produced, in a limited edition of seventy, but you should be able to either find this or have the band make you a copy if you try hard enough. It's definitely worth seeking out. I wish this band the best of luck with their music, as I believe they have an original voice...maybe on the next recording we'll be able to hear it a little better...

U. Amtey