Label: Blackened Death Records
Regular readers will probably be aware by now of my affection for the raw end of the black metal spectrum, where atmosphere and intent matters more than everything being clear. As such, the demo from one-man UKBM act Lykankult, re-released by Blackened Death Records as Children Of Wotan, is something I’ve been spending a lot of time with. Packed full of violent, corroded riffs and inhuman vocals, all wrapped up in a raw, bleeding production, this is a prime example of the charms of vicious, uncompromising black metal.
It’s not an especially complicated record. Most of the riffs are fairly simplistic, with a Burzum-esque, hypnotic quality at points, best demonstrated during the opening of “Blood And Earth”, but it’s an element present even on shorter tracks such as “An Oath For A Thousand Years.” The drums are a furious battery, conjuring remorseless devastation and war, whilst the vocals are full of pain and hate, their intent and emotions clear even if the vocals never are. Subtle keyboards underpin the black metal blitzkrieg, adding extra texture and character in a manner reminiscent of bands such as Drowning The Light or Satanic Warmaster. Yet even if it seems like a maelstrom of pure fury, there’s more to it than that, with a slight restraint in the riffs that demonstrates a control that could easily slip away. It also means that the intensity is intentional – the rawness and crude nature of the music is by choice, not a result of poor musicianship.
Of course, there’s every chance listeners might not pick up on those aspects; even by the standards of raw black metal, this is an uncompromising, at times almost painful listen. It can seem overwhelming at times, as there’s very little here that is accessible or easy to latch on to, and repeated listens really are required in order to get through to the charms of the album. Such effort is well rewarded though, as there is real quality here, buried amongst (and, to these ears, enhanced by) the raw production.
The exception to all of this is closing track “The Realm Of Desolation And Lust”, a ten minute dark ambient journey, filled with haunting, pulsing drones and the ominously gentle sound of rain. It’s a brave ending to such a violent album, most remarkable for the fact that it actually works and makes some kind of sense. It could hardly be more different musically, but the same kind of atmosphere and hate is kept as on previous tracks, ensuring it fits in with the whole. It would be good to see more bands playing raw black metal take risks of this nature.
Of course, this only adds to the demo’s uncompromising, inaccessible nature; it’s one thing to record 6 tracks of spiteful, raw black metal, but it’s quite another to top them off with ten minutes of insidious dark ambient. That this seemingly contradictory move ends up working only increases my respect for an already bold move. It all adds up to make Lykankult one to watch, as Children Of Wotan is a fine demo indeed.
Children Of Wotan can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp.