Black metal, by its very nature, thrives upon the darker aspects of life. It is not meant to be comfortable music, and nor should it be. It is important that there are artists who challenge your ideas and conceptions, whether that be to do with music, visual art, and writing; or the bigger questions of politics and philosophy. Übermensch by Örök is a prime example of this. With music that draws strongly from Burzum, the bleaker parts of USBM (Leviathan, Xasthur etc.), and with strong shades of discord, as well as obvious Nietzsche influences, it is a deeply unsettling piece of black metal art that challenges your initial conceptions, but rewards the listeners efforts. This is music that cuts to the core Nietzsche’s philosophies, striving towards the goals so neatly summarized in the album’s title.
This is not black metal for the hordes of grim and kvlt corpse-painted pseudo-Satanists out there, rehashing second wave riffs and blast-beats; this is black metal for those who look for more than just music in their listening experience. Right from the first moments of introductory track “I”, it is clear that this will be an introspective, solitary listen, as much a challenge or a lesson as it is an album. Discord and dark ambiance fills the air, with a clean guitar melody standing strong against a backdrop of buzzing guitars, before “Will To Power” begins the journey in earnest. Crashing drums and a tremolo melody accompany an oppressive backdrop of feedback and guitars, but it is the vocals that really cut through. Summoned from the very depths of the soul, all but indecipherable in their pain and sincerity, not to mention distortion, they are incredibly powerful and striking, and a definite highlight.
Whilst much black metal influenced by Burzum relies simply on repetition, Übermensch has enough variety and movement to stay interesting. It is not long before the density of “Will To Power” drops out and is replaced by a passage that makes effective use of space and tension, for instance, and the keyboards around the ten minute mark are very effective. The build-up during “Death Of God” is superb, and the full-on assault that follows is exquisitely monstrous. Meanwhile, the closing title track takes its time, setting up the contemplative, punishing atmosphere for over five minutes, before releasing it with stunning violence and force in one of the albums’ most impressive moments. For sure, there are moments of heavy repetition, as would be expected with songs of this length (“Death Of God” is the shortest, at 10:36), but it never feels uninspired or lazy. Rather, repetition is used as a tool to draw the listener in, to have them focus on the lessons that are to be learnt.
But chiefly, the atmosphere is what Örök so successfully create, and it is so very oppressive and intimidating, so unsettling yet compelling, that it is almost impossible not to be impressed by it. This is comparable with anything the likes of Leviathan or even Deathspell Omega have produced, drawing from that same well of inspiration that goes beyond the everyday and in to something that is more than simply human. Such transcendence – as musically horrific as it may seem – means that Übermensch more than lives up to its title, as this is black metal art that is beyond, searing itself upon the soul and mind of the listener, leaving them breathless in its wake and in awe of its power. Needless to say, this is a remarkable album, and adds to the already high tally of superb black metal albums released thus far this year.
Übermensch will be available to stream via Bandcamp. A CD limited to 400 copies will be available via Signal Rex; a cassette version, limited to 50 copies and containing an additional track, will be released by Bisnaga Records.
A final, additional note: if I believed for one moment that this record were fascist in nature, I would not review it. As it is, a quick bit of work shows that the Facebook page for Örök is a follower of the RABM blog; and it is worth remembering that the connections between Nietzsche and fascism are not as clear-cut as many would believe.