Articles by James Kopf
Hailing from the hinterlands of South Dakota, Green Altar deliver up an excellent slab of sludge with their second album ‘Heavy Side of the River’.
I’m only on track 2 of this album, and I’m going to assert that this is one of the most important albums that will come out this year. Let me explain.
If so much music associated with “ritual” is unnecessarily baroque, Inhumankind serves as a sort of corrective. The music here is not overwhelming, it doesn’t foist modern melodies onto an imagined past, and you won’t find bizarre odes to pagan ancestors.
This music is drawn out, roomy, and spacious. It’s certainly not the type of black metal you put on when you’re in a blastbeat sort of mood. But it is an elevating, elegiac performance.
In this sense, they follow a long lineage of Swiss intellectual culture; in this album, with its festive folk meanderings, its lauding of tradition, while simultaneously breaking with it in a sometimes violent way, Ungfell travels the same path as (the perennially ignored) Jeremias Gotthelf and Robert Walser.
This album occupies a neat little niche between post-rock, desert rock, and an Ennio Morricone soundtrack, with wide open spaces that nevertheless allow you to feel the claustrophobia of an old growth forest.
This is the jazz album that you play for your friends who are really into Om, and this is the metal album that you play for your friends who are really into Bill Evans.
There are so many great ideas at play, so many moments of genius, which seem truly special and really sets this band apart from the rest of the scene that they are clearly being lumped in with.
I’m just coming off watching Blade Runner 2049, so reviewing this album makes perfect sense. The songs here on Neraterræ’s The NHART Demo[n]s soundtrack the vacant listlessness of the various empty and lost spaces and people that one encounters in that sort of futurist dystopia.
This is truly a symphony for patience. It won’t hold your hand or soundtrack your yoga studio, and it doesn’t have any patience for your impatience. This is slow and long and methodical and beautiful.
I don’t want to write this album off based on a single song, but, in this instance, it’s hard. I can’t see a way of making this forgivable. I don’t want to hear ‘Todesfuge’ being read by Celan over lilting guitars. I don’t want to hear it after a solo. I don’t want to hear it transition into a guitar-driven piece. None of that makes any sense to me.
You’re in the realm of Crowley, then, but does the music itself sustain the sort of excess that the occult seems to call for? The short answer is no.
We can understand certain works of music as engaging in a relationship with nature, a relationship that is both mimetic and complementary. ‘Le Passage des Glaciers’ is one of those pieces.
This album is not just a playing with tropes, though, but a tropology unto itself, studying the various traces of movement, paths taken and paths forgotten.
This album is not just interesting as an historical document or a great example of lo-fi black metal, but it can and should also be appreciated as a philosophical statement – even if Enslaved did not intend it as such.