Friday, May 21, 2010

Peccatum - Oh, My Regrets

Peccatum - Oh, My Regrets
2000, Candlelight

This band is going to be a source of interest for most of you based mainly on the fact that it includes Ihsahn of the mighty Emperor, and doubtlessly you've heard of Peccatum in that relation before: always connected to Emperor, always as a side-project (the black metal kings even took this unholy union of filial ties out on the road with them, as I'm sure you also know), and always on a lower level of priority. Listening to this three song EP makes me think that this is mainly a vanity project, since the three members (except Ihriel?) have other bands, and Peccatum has never really had a strictly defined style of their own. Mix elements of Emperor with Source of Tide outtakes, melancholy violins, slow drums, warped soloing, and some of the more left-of-center ideas floating around in Ihsahn and Ihriel's brains and you will find yourself immersed within Peccatum's sound. Of course when Candlelight was promoting the first album, Strangling from Within, the initial single release was a song that sounded a lot like Emperor - those of you who bought the album discovered to your chagrin, I am sure, that the rest of the record did not live up to that first single. Either Emperor just has a huge fanbase that buys everything connected to Ihsahn, or he is forcing every one of little projects out on Candlelight for ego's sake (probably under the threat that Emperor will fly over to another label) and not a single Thou Shalt Suffer or Peccatum unit is being moved. I wonder. This EP will probably offend a great deal of you based just on the operatic vocals and the inclusion of techno beats and a Judas Priest cover. Normally I would probably praise a band for including things like this in their music given the conformist nature of the metal scene, but my laudatory remarks would center, for the most part, on the band's courage or tenacity - not the fact that elements such as these are 'needed' in metal or extreme music. I will praise this band, however, because I think they have finally crystallized the musical essence of sheer pretentiousness, and I am thankful for that because in the future when I am looking to compare some album to a work of high pretense I can just point to Peccatum. It makes my job easier. Pretentiousness, just for the record, is not synonymous with 'high art'. That is a mistake that stems, I believe, from metal musicians equating Wagner with the summit of melodic creation. They couldn't be farther from the truth. The day that Wagner finally slips into obscurity will be a happy day for me. His music is still very much a touchstone for artists seeking 'elitist' influences, as much now as it ever was (even poor Nietzsche came under his spell, and have you heard his piano music?) and elitist 'philosophies' have never mixed well with truly creative endeavors. Why? Because I believe the true artist is always humble in the face of creation.

My feeling is that Ihsahn's ego is probably so large now that it takes up a sizeable portion of Norwegian real estate (you wondered where all those Emperor royalty checks were going, didn't you? Rent, I say) and he no longer cares what people say about his music because he is 'above' all of that. This is a great situation if the musician with this attitude takes his/her new-won freedom and puts it to work by composing novel, legitimate music. On the other hand (and this is the way it usually turns out, in my experience) musicians who have had their self-editing apparatus removed start to quickly lose any 'edge' they might have had and will put out almost anything - they lose their perspective, their drive.

But what about this EP? I realize that I am not the most knowledgable critic of 'operatic' vocals, but Lord PZ's voice just grates on my ears...he sounds horrible, to tell you the truth. His vocals are so annoying to me that I could not even attempt a review of the Source of Tide album that Candlelight sent over earlier. Ihriel is at least tasteful when it comes to the control of her voice, but you know when the bio for a release calls for a 'sensitive understanding' of the album being offered, that it is sure to offend someone on some level. 'Great!', I say, but if it is going to offend, can it not be based on its own well-developed style and an original vision? When did 'original' start to mean that you just include musical elements from other genres outside extreme metal? If a work is going to offend, can't it be because it breaks with established tradition and not because it is actually physically painful to listen to? I am guessing the first Peccatum didn't meet with critical acclaim outside of the mainstream press, where everything even remotely connected to Emperor is praised to high heaven (sycophants, history will judge you) - thus the defensive stance of the record company. Listening to this makes me fear the next Emperor album, and that's a bad thing. To be honest, I would like to just hear Ihriel do something on her own...