Black Medium Current

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Et Smelter
02. Tankespinnerens Smerte
03. Interstellar Nexus
04. It Does Not Follow
05. Voyager
06. Halow
07. Det Tomme Kalde Morke
08. Abyss Perihelion Transit
09. Requiem Aeternum

Even today, after 24 years of remorseless, avant-garde experimentation in the black metal underground, DØDHEIMSGARD's 1999 masterpiece "666 International" still sounds righteously batshit and light years ahead of its time. Ultimately, you've either got it or you haven't. The Norwegian mavericks have "it" in such abundance that every subsequent album they've made has been equally unique: each one a formidable benchmark for the very notion of doing things differently. The band's last album, "A Umbra Omega" took them further out and away from black metal's restrictive myopia than ever before, and DØDHEIMSGARD's true calling as a progressive rock band with malevolent tendencies became clear. "Black Medium Current" continues that journey toward heavy music's outer limits but sounds very little like its predecessor. That's just the way this band operates.

You can also expect plenty of depth. Founder and chief driving force Vicotnik has always been a philosophical entity, and here he delves into notions of "authenticity, free will versus determinism, and what this implies for our moral responsibilities". Quite what his eventual conclusion is remains unclear, but the music he has conjured to express these complex, angst-ridden thoughts has more than enough grace and gravity to withstand such weight of meaning.

Audacious and grandiose, "Et Smelter" is a sublime piece of glacial, blackened prog that is skillfully adorned with the sparkles and whooshes of space rock. It ends with an extraordinary detour into futuristic funk-rock that is as bewildering as it is glorious. Next, something entirely different: at first, an icy black metal hammer attack with a haunting melodic core, "Tankenspinnerens Smerte" veers off track with thrilling disregard for the consequences. It lands gracefully in ambling, multi-layered symphonic prog territory, before gradually reverting back to full-on blackened fury. Every time the transitions are both seamless and startling. "Interstellar Nexus" begins as a vaguely familiar barrage of dark riffing, but soon mutates into an insistent, syncopated disco-rock, slowly dissolving into a FLOYD-esque cosmic throb, with rolling waves of synth and a jarring squall of industrial clanking and hissing ripping the sonic rug from underfoot. In contrast, "It Does Not Follow" offers an enthralling blend of elegant, reverb-heavy prog and twisted, tormented extremity, before the bittersweet comedown of its somber, electronic finale.

After the noirish, quasi-classical mischief of "Voyager", DØDHEIMSGARD really start to let their collective hair down. "Halow" is superficially redolent of certain moments from "A Umbra Omega", but this time the cinematic elements in the band's sound have become perfectly assimilated. Full of dramatic chord changes and occasional leaps into perversity, it fills its nine minutes with a very pure expression of the DØDHEIMSGARD experience. Exactly what kind of film this mind-bending music could be a soundtrack for is another matter, but "Halow" is a deeply visual piece of music nonetheless, with both dark and dazzling colors on prominent display.

And yes, DØDHEIMSGARD are still fundamentally batshit. The likes of "Det Tomme Kalde Morke", which begins at full, frenzied pelt and swiftly turns into a magical, synth-rock fantasia, and the closing piano pacifier of "Requiem Aeternum" are gorgeous, immersive things that gently disavow any affiliation with black metal in its traditional form. Instead, just as they have done since the end of the 20th century, Norway's premier eccentrics are dealing with bigger ideas and grander ambitions than most. Exemplified by "Abyss Perihelion Transit" — 11 minutes of vivid, ingenious and blissfully liberated heavy music that sounds like nothing else available to human ears — this is a ferociously intelligent and intuitive piece of work, and if your attention span can take it, it might just blow your mind.

Author: Dom Lawson
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