Friday, February 23, 2007


Had this pernicious little triple album-box for a year or so now, but only just noticed that for some strange reason I'd hoarded the plastic vacuum-wrap, which is spectacularly anal, even by my standards.

Fellow bloggers such as Loki have mentioned the Dead Raven Choir releases on Jewelled Antler , but over the years DCR has moved away from its original vision-statement of "creepy, barbaric folk" into more metallic, er, waters. DCR's own website describes the music as follows: "...a horrid blight upon Black Metal and does great damage to credible Black Metal artists everywhere. Or perhaps it's keeping Black Metal alive and interesting. DEAD RAVEN CHOIR doesn't care which it is, just plays excessively harsh Black Metal covers of country and folk songs. The instrumentation is built around bowed bass fiddle, distorted bass guitar, drums and screams."

Yeah, like the fabulous Funeral Folk guys (huuuge post n interview soon, I promise!) DCR exist at some unlikely interface between Folk and Metal.

Hmmm, okay, "Cask Strength" may be slightly misleading. Perhaps "Casket Strength" might be a better term as these tracks are soaked in a dark, blood-splattered cowl of 'guitar' muzzzzz. No explicit rhythmic pulse on most of these tracks...instead, a sort of spidery, hi-end, shattered-glass gauze of gtr treble hangs over the mix. Smolken's vocals are surprisingly accessible; they have the smokey (cask-matured?) cracked-varnish burnish of, say, Alice Cooper after a packet of Benson & Hedges and a bottle of brandy (rather than a round of golf). At points, the fracktured remnants of the melody-line of some forgotten trad. East European drinking song or wedding march leaks thru the layers of fuzz and it starts to sound like a distant relative of Eugene Hutz who never got out of Kiev and who grew up listening to tape boots of Celtic Frost. Anyway, it sounds murky and gleefully raw; far less heavy than you probably think it does. I'm not saying it's easy listening, but it will prob. appeal to all the closet middle-aged Goffs out there who wanna impress their teenage kids with how 'dark' they are.

The box contains a bunch of tasty black n white photographic prints of tangled undergrowth, thickets, clumps of thorns, etc wh/ is a nice way of roping-in & updating that whole lost-in-the-dark-woods fairy-tale psychosexual thing, not to mention East European Catholic Guilt/Orthodox's a short jump from The Brothers Grimm to Grim Metal. Like Prurient, Smolken is also fond of the word 'Grim' wh/ interests me, as he comes from Poland originally, so I'm guessing English wasn't his first language...has the word 'Grim' somehow evolved out of a language-specific context into a Global Metal Meta-Context?

Smolken's other big project is Wolfmagler, which is more, I dunno, Doom-influenced, I guess, and (like a lot of other cool stuff these days) carries the J. Cope seal of approval...I've just found the Wolfmangler MySpace and there's some nice darkdrone pieces here that very much tickle my own peculiar fancy. Go check out. (I've just seen that he describes Wolfmangler as "shambling Doom", wh/ is a desciption that I very much like...I love the occasional bum or hesitant note; its the perfect antidote to the too-perfect digital sheen of some of the Darkwave/Black Ambient stuff that's doing the rounds right now) There's something kinda strangely liberating (and uplifting) about slothful, sludgy (, quasi-medieval ) chord sequences that slowly drift ever downwards like a procession of hooded figures descending down a stone staircase into a crypt.

And I was always a sucker for kettle-drums.


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