Friday, May 21, 2010

Nokturnal Mortum - To The Gates of Blasphemous Fire

Nokturnal Mortum - To The Gates of Blasphemous Fire
1999, The End Records

The most astonishing thing about this record is the sheer amount of space that it seeks to embrace - or present, as it were, to the listener in its initial opening of musical atmosphere. While most atmospheric black metal bands are content with presenting an evocative space that will fill your mind with visions of enclosed areas - rooms, buildings, groups, crowds or specifically designated areas (usually nature scenes or spaces that are located in the midst of natural elements) - rivers, forests, deserts, mountain landscapes, etc. Nokturnal Mortum are one of the first bands I have heard whose music transcends the limits of such atmospheric locales in seeking to create a horizon effect of infinite evocation. Their music expands dynamically in the course of a listening to cover, define, and color entire vast regions of soundscapes or sound spaces.While listening to this album you are not reminded of specific eras of history or definite locales (and their corresponding visuals) as much as you are made to feel that you are witnessing events that are happening on a global scale. The sound is gigantic, varied, multi-layered, chaotic, and multi-textured, filling your head with the absorbed air of a dark realm that breeds, breathes, and lives (crying out in its agony) just beyond the range of your senses. It is not the direct presentation, again, of such an atmosphere, but rather a numbing succession of allusions to the fact of its existence. The result is catastrophic - this becomes the music of the infernal spheres, or rather the exhalation of a single blackened sphere that pulses with mystical powers of attraction.

The only other atmosphere I could compare this effect to would be the utter silence of the night in uninhabited areas: the combination of subtle nocturnal stirrings, the caress of the wind, the muted whispering of tree branches, the enormous stillness of isolation that is translated in your senses to a recognizable (yet never realized other than as an abstraction) intense feeling.

This group has six members (including two keyboard players) and they work together in a mutual search for the most elaborate and effective (emotionally, thematically) musical passages possible - never directly competing with each other when the greater good of the music (and the power of its evocative abilities) is called into question or at stake. While all the different elements of sound that make up their lengthy compositions are assembled and placed according to idiosyncratic methods of arrangement, you are almost immediately aware that everyone here is striving to create from the seething cauldron of musical creativity a unique sound that is not only clear and powerful in its impact but also a direct expression of their own convictions concerning the art of black metal.

Once past the atmospheric elements, and after stripping this band down to the core of guitars, bass, and drums, you find at its heart a lethal killing machine that grinds away at the center of the maelstrom - sucking in poisoned bodies, eviscerating them and gnawing at the bones, and then burning them in a grisly funeral pyre where the ash and smoke of cremation drift upwards to form the outer layers of their sound. Swift tornado blasts of insane riffage are swirled in the center before being spat out to circulate higher beneath the keyboard heavens. The bass stomps and lashes, smothering in its fanatic wolverine rumbling, the drums become the apocalyptic sound of a forest falling tree by tree, crashing down to bury themselves deep in the dark earth. The vocals are inhuman cries of lust, rage, and pain, echoing through the sky like swift trumpet blasts of thunder, and then screaming downwards to disappear over the edge of the world.

I have heard in a few circles that this band from Ukraine is now being hailed as the 'new Emperor', or as successors to the throne that the Norwegian band has decidely left behind, and I don't think I can find that many ways to dispute such a claim. These musicians are on an original path of their own making, and are creating new territories for other bands (lesser bands, you must admit) to explore with each song on this album. I wish them the best, and I hope that they do not forsake this path in the near future: there is still so much to be investigated, so many realms to be summoned, and so many worlds to create.