I could go on forever about my massive love of all things Nordvargr, from the militaristic folk of Folkstorm, the martial industrial sounds of Toroidh, the bleak black ambience of BM legends MZ412, to the various recordings and sounds perpetrated under his own name, pretty much everything he's touched has turned to black gold.

But no matter how much I love everything Nordvargr, my heart will always belong to MZ412. When I first discovered that band I was totally thrown for a loop, I was already loving the sounds of black metal by then, and here was a band with a cryptic monicker, amazing album design, burning churches on their record covers and the band members in full corpse paint. I was ready to be totally blown away, and I was, just not in the way I expected. Their sound was not metal, no buzzing guitars, no shrieking vocals, no blast beats, instead, theirs was a dark world of mysterious blackness, bleak and barren, frosty and and grim, and impossible JUST AS HEAVY as any of the other black metal I had been listening to. This was ambient music, but it was intense, and brutal, and scary.

The band ceased to exist and Nordvargr moved on to the above mentioned projects as well as numerous collaborations and projects under his own name. Then a few years back, a strange thing happened, a record surfaced credited to Nordvargr and Drakh, who just so happened to be Nordvargr's partner in MZ412, and as far as I was concerned, it was the rebirth of MZ412 in everything but name. Several more releases followed, all delicately balanced between dark ambience and buzzing blackness, culminating in this, the brand new record from the duo that once was MZ412.

The two have some dark chemistry together, weaving elaborate worlds of black sound, not just ambience, not just drone music, but songs, with parts, and riffs and melodies, lots of guitars, occasionally trudging glacially like some slow motion doom behemoth, other times buzzing like some disembodied ghost of black metal, and at others, glistening and drifting in vast expanses of shimmer and whir. The Betrayal Of Light was originally meant to be released on several well known dark ambient labels, who all rejected the record for being too heavy, and for having too much guitar, and that's pretty much all I needed to hear. Nordvargr, Drakh, too heavy, too much guitar.... Thus it ended up on tUMULt, quite possibly where it belonged all along, fitting quite comfortably amidst a roster of black metal and drone musicks, embodying at least a handful of descriptors that seem to apply to most things on tUMULt, dark, droney, and fucked...

The Betrayal Of Light is one massive sonic event, a black cloud of sound, separated into movements, the first, begins as a slow beautiful crawl, a murky soundfield supporting a delicate web of softly plucked guitar strings, until a wall of downtuned buzz swallows it whole, a massive mournful dirge, stately and majestic, classic old school funereal doom, but super dramatic, and strangely melodic, sounding a bit like Earth or SUNNO))) playing the procession at a funeral or the royal march for some ancient court. Minor key and so gorgeous, a lonely lament rendered in amp buzz and smeared riffage, but completely nestled amidst a sea of churning low end, and that ever present minor key guitar line...

Not long after, the duo explode in a frenzy of buzzguitar, moving as close to black metal as they've ever gotten, after a slow building shimmer, the track coalesces into a furious buzzing riff, with what sounds like some buried demonic vocals, no drums, so it's a sort of unmoored black metal drift, the riff cycling hypnotically while all around low end roils and whirls and in the distance the landscape is peppered with reverberant subsonic booms, and low level rumbles...

The album's centerpiece is the nearly eleven minute long "Vessel", a lengthy, meditative guitarscape, delicate minor key melodies unfurled over a web of strange whirs and buzzes, the melodies occasionally being overwhelmed by waves of oscillating industrial detritus, before drifting back to the surface where they are joined by rumbling guttural throat singing, or heavily reverbed monklike chants, all the while, a constant ominous drone, grinds and crumbles just below the surface, culminating in a bizarre symphony of processed guitars and grinding insectoid vocals, simultaneously epic and intense, and weird and disturbing.

The rest of the record is a harrowing journey through the dark woods, through a warren of underground passages, through a vast wasteland of barren frost and black sun, thick coruscating guitars buzz and howl, sheets of thick riffs one after another, create an ever shifting wall of crumbling distorted sound, voices drift ghostlike beneath a murky swirl of distant feedback and warbling whir, tones and notes and bits of muted melody are stretched out and blurred into gorgeous hazy smears, pulses and barely audible throbs shift and shimmer just below the surface... everything creeping and slithering through a constant cloud of drifting damaged drones.

Finally, the journey comes to an end, a gorgeous low end lurch, a thick serpentine shamble with gorgeous bits of backwards guitar, and shards of minor key melody. The low end is lopped and pulses like some mysterious machine, the low end growing in intensity, like some black star about to implode, dreamy backwards vocals drift in, like some reverse angelic chorus, until a deep voice, drenched in reverb and distortion, intones a mysterious apocalyptic warning, and then suddenly... it's done.

An intense and overwhelming sonic journey, as heavy and brutal as it is delicate and beautiful. Doomy and blackened, drifty and drone-y, soft focus and hazy, dense and devastating...



Nordvargr / Drakh reviews

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