Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wurdulak - Ceremony in Flames

Wurdulak - Ceremony in Flames
2001, Baphomet/Housecore/Relapse

This album sort of came out of left field, at least for me...I hadn't heard that much about this project before the product of the union of these six (!) musicians was here on stage, ready for all to peruse, and left to speak for itself. Wurdulak is, for the purpose of this recording, members of Mayhem, Gorelord, Immortal, Bloodthorn, Soul Forsaken, Perished, and Necrophagia coming together to write and record an older style of death metal, I'm assuming just for the fun of it. So, for all intents and purposes, this really isn't an 'official' band in any way, but rather just another in a long string of Killjoy-involved project bands, set down to have a good time together and come up with some music for their own consumption and (aren't you lucky!) your own eager ears. It's difficult to take material like this seriously, as Killjoy seems to get around so much these days, and is appearing in so many 'bands' (watch out for him in your band next!) as he travels around and collaborates with different musicians. Some of the results of his wanderings have been interesting to listen to, some haven't. For Wurdulak, I think the material here sort of slips into a middle ground in terms of what I really want to have in my stereo at this time. The music isn't at all atrocious, to be sure, even though they only seem to use two or three riffs through the course of this entire (eight song) record, and three or four rhythms, sort of sticking to a traditional Motorhead/Celtic Frost/early thrash framework (mixed with constant allusions to Norwegian black metal) that I'm sure everyone involved also felt comfortable with, being the kind of style that is amusing to 'experiment' in, and yet not difficult enough to warrant long periods of thought. It's interesting how easily musicians today can write music like this - the kind of music that only a decade ago (or, actually, fifteen years in the past) bands were seriously turning over in their minds as 'state of the art'. The only way I can explain the number of people involved in this recording is in guessing that its creation must have taken some time, and different people came in at different times. Either that or they just thought 'the more the merrier', and went for it.

It is interesting to hear Maniac sing outside of Mayhem, and to hear that his vocals are still in fine form, even though he makes this simplistic thrash sound at times a little too eerily close to early Gorgoroth. Listen to 'Satanic Utopia', for example. Also, because of the number of hands/minds involved in this recording, it tends to slip almost schizophrenically between different styles, all while retaining its essential simplicity (I'm not going to fall into the habit of equating simplicity with 'purity') and straightforward honesty of approach, almost as if many parts were composed on the spur of the moment. It should also be mentioned that this style (and, really, the entire situation of this band) does not offer many opportunities for real creative depth in the music. In 'Cauterizing the Wounds of Christ', for example, the two main riffs in the first two and a half minutes are not really related to each other at all, and there aren't any transition melodies that prepare you for when they change - almost as if you were listening to the radio and just moved the dial between two different stations. 'Containment of Inferno' starts out like a prime slice of early Norwegian black (again, essentially akin to Gorgoroth), tremelo picking/fast strumming very much intact, but then the grinding muted chords and simple one-two-three progressions of primeval punk and first wave thrash make their appearance (this is the characteristic that has many people - including me - referencing Celtic Frost) and completely ruin the effect of the starting melody. Oh well. Maniac saves the day with his screaming, yet again...

I do like the slowed-down agony of 'Buried Beneath Perversion', the sort of dissonant colors the doom ending of this song offers, almost as if it were trying, finally, to break new ground and reach into a novel category of expression, and yet...just when it is moving outward to explore the reverb-drenched sludgecore landscape this last riff opens up for it, the song ends...also, in the title track, for example, they slip into a short thrash section which has a rhythm beneath it that really reminds me of Anthrax (irony of ironies), and yet this relationship between the past and the present isn't explored any further. For me, at least, just the expectations I brought into my first few samplings of this music ruined the entire experience. Imagine the beautiful cacophony that would have resulted had these six men (or five - I'm not sure that Frediablo and 'Ihizahg' aren't the same person) had just let loose in the studio while letting the tape run? The process of composition has pigeonholed and unduly compressed their freedom to experiment, especially in the rhythm/drumming department. This album could have been so much more...

The art on this release is probably the best part, being an eye-catching collection of blasphemous photography/painting collages by Patrick Tremblay featuring a nun being impaled in various locations with splinters of crosses...very nice. While I don't exactly know why it's considered erotic to murder and 'defile' the female cenobites in the world (I would much rather see 'perverted' eroticism or 'controversial' art tossed aside for a few real dead priests), the clash and distortion of the colors in the artwork is expertly done, especially the middle panel in the lyric booklet which shows the dead nun on her back amidst the burnt and collapsing ruins of a church, a veritable orgy of desecration. I wonder if there are still people out there who would be offended by something like this? I don't know.

I'm not going to say that any of these people should give up their regular bands and go full steam ahead with this project. Wurdulak can be diverting at times, and I'm sure it was a learning process/situation for all involved, but ultimately it can't be compared to the more original work that these musicians are coming up with in their 'normal' situations. What else did you expect me to say? This is a good offering for Anselmo and Killjoy's latest incarnation of Baphomet - not only because it involves their personal efforts, and ties in with their history so far of appearing in two different places at the same time, but because it creates further ties between their musical creativity and the work of other contemporaries in this country and abroad.

Perhaps they would be content in taking some of the ideas here back to their real bands? Working on them there? We can only wait and see...