Locrian & Christoph Heeman - Self Titled [Handmade Birds - 2012]Ambient black metallers Locrian have teamed with prolific avant-ambient collaborator Christoph Heeman for their self titled debut (as a collaborative project). It is a brooding, regretful vigil over a forlorn, ashen landscape, a wind blasted desolation containing no peace or sustenance.
The opener "Hecatomb" starts with some bold strummed chords which briefly reminded me of the wall of sound generated by Michael Gira and SWANS. Rich, searing distortion tones coaxed from the guitar using an e-bow dominate the second half of the track, giving way to a gentle but insistent murmer of toms and sustained piano notes.
Perhaps most indicative of misanthropic despair is "Loathe the Light". For the opening minutes, in which we hear a clamour of mallets upon cymbals and glimmering hints of drone, there is a certain transparent inactivity to the sound, like a cold cave in which no life resides. The rasping, mummified vocals which enter in the second half are pure anguish, pained howls which never quite form into intelligible words, giving them a sort of primal meaning.
"The Edgeless City" is a soupy, impenetrable fog, the faint echoes of directionless souls, forever lost beyond the beyond, fated to sluggish wandering, purpose forgotten. The longest, slowest and most minimal piece on the album at 15 minutes, it is also my favorite.
I find the final piece to be more sympathetic, composed mostly of voices singing drones in a plaintive, yearning tone, the sound of joining forces and gathering strength. The voices are joined by a minor key chord progression from the guitar in the powerfully emotional ending, tugging at the heartstrings in that final, apocalyptic sort of way the best Godspeed You, Black Emperor songs do.
In contrast to the usual blackened skies, gnarled tree branches and symbols found on the covers of most grim ambient material, here we have a perplexing digital smear, a pleasing pink to grey on the front, and a striking lime green on the back. As a result, the album feels a bit more foreign, inhuman.
The musicians do take themselves quite seriously, and this record certainly does a bit too much wallowing, but for the most part it does so tastefully and expressively. If you enjoy bleak, malevolent soundscaping, glorify sadness or simply worship the devil, very likely you will find a lot to love on this album. The pieces compliment and balance each other quite well, and the album is easily listenable, particularly at the end of a long, cold day, in the dead of night.Josh Landry