Solypsis by BleakwoodRelease date: November 9, 2017
There has been a long history of one person (no, not just men) black metal outfits, including the likes of Burzum, Leviathan and Myrkur. In other musical spheres the idea of a single person writing for and playing all instruments seems likely to result in a sub-optimal output; however, in the realms of black metal, where atmosphere and feelings of isolation and desolation are often at the centre of the music, the idea of a record entirely crafted by a single solitary person makes a lot of sense. It is also refreshing to be able to experience one person’s creative output in its purest form and unadulterated by the compromises inevitably present in collaboration.
Bleakwood is a one man black metal outfit from Canberra, Australia. His debut album, Solypsis, finally landed late last year after various splits and EPs going back as far as 2008. Bleakwood’s music is generally described as ‘abrasive atmospheric black metal’. In one sense this is spot on, but I also think that this moniker does him a disservice, since the contents of Solypsis are more expansive than this classification would suggest. The album opens with ‘Narthex’, a straight up assault of down tuned guitars, rolling drums and tinnier, more conventional black metal picking. The vocals are growling of the deliciously evil sort. Partway through this first song its direction changes, becoming a slowly evolving soundscape, layered, complex and dense. These changes in style are very much the hallmark of this album; Bleakwood never falls into the trap of just finding his comfort zone and staying there. The album’s second track, ‘Compilers’, is another good example of this, switching between harmonic driven riffs and second wave wall-of-noise black metal throughout.
Going further into the album it becomes apparent that these quickly shifting patterns and song structures are not going away. There is generally no waiting around and as soon as a given section has been established Bleakwood will turn a corner and we’re suddenly travelling in some completely new direction. This keeps things interesting and means that these is a lot here to dig into and appreciate. Discernible influences and styles lying outside of straight up black metal include prog, pagan and folk as well as some down-tuned death metal crunch.
Overall this is a great album which has been put together by someone who knows what they’re doing and who is happy to break the mould and explore new ideas.