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Dødheimsgard - Black Medium Current review




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Band: Dødheimsgard
Album: Black Medium Current
Style: Avantgarde black metal, Industrial black metal
Release date: April 2023


01. Et Smelter
02. Tankespinnerens Smerte
03. Interstellar Nexus
04. It Does Not Follow
05. Voyager
06. Halow
07. Det Tomme Kalde Morke
08. Abyss Perihelion Transit
09. Requiem Aeternum

I first listened to Black Medium Current on the day of its release, and since then it has eluded me putting it into words. More than a month later, I'm still fighting its elusive form, but eventually I did have to sit down and write about it. Now is that time.

For complete disclosure, I am not the first person to attempt to review this album. It swapped hands a bit, before ending up as a really well-written staff pick. When I first listened to Black Medium Current, I knew this is an album that had to be reviewed, and I hoped that said elusive nature would just be a first listen impression. I had to leave for Roadburn right after so I didn't really have the chance to properly take it in, and I hoped someone more apt than me would see this album as unmissable as I did. I specifically didn't add it to my queue because of that, and by the time I was back at the proverbial reviewing table, it seemed like it had found a home. Now, that the album still laid unreviewed, I am burdened not only with the task with reviewing such an elusive album, but also having to live up to how well that staff pick was written.

So the only way to really try to grasp with the hugeness of these expectation is to just "fuck it, we ball" my way through it. I discovered Dødheimsgard specifically through corrupt's review of A Umbra Omega, and while at that point I was not really a newbie anymore, it still filled me with that feeling that not all that can be done with metal has been done. I got to see the band live a while after, and I was pretty baffled that they mostly played old songs and no actual song from A Umbra Omega. That wasn't the catalyst for anything, but the band wasn't very active since, so me and them kinda drifted apart. Up until last year, when at a festival I got to see a whooping three different bands of Vicotnik (Strid, Ved Buens Ende, and Dold Vorde Ens Navn). I even got to stumble upon him and his other bandmates while they were exploring the Alba Iulia citadel and I told him about the time I saw Dødheimsgard and they didn't play anything from the album they were touring. I don't remember what his exact answer was, but it left the impression that I shouldn't expect a follow-up to A Umbra Omega.

Well, sort of correct. Black Medium Current is not A Umbra Omega 2. Partly because everyone who was in Dødheimsgard when A Umbra Omega was made except for Vicotnik are no longer in the band (Lars-Emil Måløy who is still in the band did get to record bass for some tracks on A Umbra Omega though). The band's lineup changing from album to album is not something new, but there is something specific about it this time. 2007's Supervillain Outcast, even with its renewed lineup still had some additional vocals from Aldrahn, and that was the only album at that point where he wasn't actually a member. Black Medium Current has none. Vicotnik gets to do all the vocal heavy lifting.

Let's finally get to the music. Black Medium Current is a pretty long album at nearly 70 minutes so there's a whole lot of it. It's also not as much a direct continuation to its predecessor due to how much more indirect and abstract the music on it is. An uncanny deconstruction of avant-garde black metal, its form that we were used to, into something more formless and atmospheric. It's still recognizably music, performed with standard instruments, and the compositional techniques aren't that unconventional, and yet it still ends up as a pretty hard album to talk about. The worst way to read this is that there isn't actually that much to grasp and the music ends up being so formless and leaving such an elusive impression because there's no impression to be had, and all the need for grasping more is self-imposed. And yet, as much as I enjoyed Dødheimsgard's other stuff, I don't have as strong of an emotional connection to them, and listening to Black Medium Current is an experience that I always find positive, even when I try to detach myself from expectations. It really is the kind of album where new listens reveal new aspects.

There's a lot of it that isn't really metal, like the bits that are metal were taken apart and the glue that holds them together is a lot of non-metal, mostly Pink Floyd-ish art prog rock with a healthy dose of electronica and a dash of jazz. Even though it's not necessarily as weird in a wacky way, the way something like Diablo Swing Orchestra would be, there's an inherent uncanniness to the way the album moves from sound to sound. Even with all the riffing, the blasts, the growls, the last two tracks do such a great job of washing it through hypnotic surreal psychedelia and especially melancholia that you do end up wondering if you're gaslighting yourself about there actually being any metal on this album simply due to the impression left by these two. I mean, how can you listen to the pianos and the choirs and the strings on "Requiem Aeternum" and not feel emotionally drained in a way that's uncharacteristic for black metal?

It wouldn't work as well if it felt like these psychedelic non-metal elements were forced into the album and they would contrast with the harsher metal elements, but because of the album's great sense of flow, and how well these two are blended even when not alternated, it all feels organic. The first two minutes of the album are not too dissimilar to the way it ends, inviting multiple circular listens, especially because of the way that moody floating feeling so seamlessly erupts into blast beats and riffing as if black metal was always meant to float. Vicotnik's growls and especially his moans might be a lil goofy sometimes, but the range on display here, especially in the softer singing and the choirs only enhances the emotional impact of this album. And make no mistake, this album is emotional. Even without going into the lyrics, the entire allure and presentation of the album with its surrealistic undertones just barges into existential dread. It's more inwardly bold than the previous albums, more introspective.

I feel like at this point I have to stop myself from dissecting this album bit by bit. But there are moments like how the piano interplays so well with the repeating riff towards the end of "Et Smelter", or the swirling synths in the middle of "Interstellar Nexus", the bass line in the beginning of "It Does Not Flow" that might be the only part of a black metal album that the actual members of Pink Floyd might like, the ambiance at the very end of "Halow" that scratches the same itch that Negură Bunget's OM does, and I could go on and on; there are moments like these that somehow have renewed impact with each listen, despite not being overly complicated in structure and layering. Just very well written, very well performed, and very well produced, and somehow all in such a way that it feels novel.






Written on 20.05.2023 by Doesn't matter that much to me if you agree with me, as long as you checked the album out.


Comments

Comments: 4   Visited by: 88 users
21.05.2023 - 22:58
nikarg
Staff
I am so glad you did it in the end. I also had trouble putting into words what I hear and feel in this album, but the "fuck it, we ball" approach worked fine. I love the review, thanks!
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23.05.2023 - 11:27
Daniell
_爱情_
Elite
Too bad you didn't rate it. which seems odd considering the overall positive spin on the review.

This is an album that is widely lauded as a masterpiece. Which baffles me, because, while I appreciate numerous moments that stand out, the song structure doesn't support the quality of these moments. I wish Vicotnik would have someone to bounce his ideas off of, who would say "get rid of these first 3 minutes, they do not gel with the rest of the song", or "this is really bad singing, it kills the song", or some such.

There is a great album there, but it's buried under too much redundancy and skewed song construction.
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31.05.2023 - 17:17
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Can it be your longest review?
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I stand whit Ukraine and Israel. They have right to defend own citizens.

Stormtroopers of Death - "Speak English or Die"

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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15.07.2023 - 18:34
Rating: 8
tintinb
That's a long ass review but really well written, especially for an album which is a bit difficult to grasp. Great job Radu.
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Leeches everywhere.
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