Label: COF Records
It might be best to take such things with a grain of salt, but the influences list on Enqige Schlangenkraft‘s Facebook page tells you a lot about the mindset behind this band. It might also lead the listener to suspect that Enlightened Violence would be black metal as high art. If that’s the case, then this is art as primitivism – cave drawings created from blood, sculptures carved from bone and flesh, a fist to the face as the apex of human expression. Comparisons to the likes of Bone Awl are as apt as Les Légions Noires references. It is murky, low-fi, full of violence, and one of the best black metal releases of the year.
Containing 7 tracks and lasting a little over 11 minutes, Enlightened Violence leaves little room for subtlety. The guitars are a wall of distortion with stabs of melody and the corpses of riffs breaking through, the drums are primitive and barbaric, whilst the vocals are growls, shrieks, and shouts that are stripped of almost all sanity. But such descriptions hardly do the EP justice. There is real skill and cleverness to how the songs are structured, with plenty of distinct movements, changes of emphasis and tempo. The guitar playing is especially note-worthy, the ultra-raw production giving just enough light to the melody buried in the riffs for it to be visible. Likewise, rather than blast away in a crude Ross Bay Cult imitation, the drums know when to tone things back and give the music a bit of space to breathe – it’s still suffocating, pulling you in to the darkness, but it’s not the one-dimensional blast-fest so much other raw, punk-influenced underground black metal is. There are twists and turns, each one drawing you closer to enlightenment/damnation. And make no mistake, this is a compelling record, that reveals more of its secrets with each listen.
One point that is worth highlighting is about how the record has been presented. A sheer black cassette, the sleeve containing little more than the song titles, it is a superb example of how less is more. Likewise, that the accompanying mp3 download puts all the tracks together in to a single file seems telling, as if the band want you to listen to them as a whole. More than most records you will hear, final track “The Ever-Retreating” certainly has a feeling of something profound coming to an end, with a dizzying, repetitive guitar line creating a feeling of finality.
There’s not a whole lot of room for evolution within this style of black metal before it becomes something entirely different, but Ewige Schlangenkraft have demonstrated how to stay firmly within the paradigm of punked-up raw black metal whilst simultaneously expanding upon what the genre can achieve. It has that certain extra something that all great records have. Their previous recordings were good, but this is exemplary, and I could not recommend it more.
Enlightened Violence is available from COF Records on cassette, limited to 50 copies. Each cassette also includes a download code and patch.