The One – I, Master (2008)

Hailing from Rhodes, The One is a black metal project by the mastermind behind Macabre Omen, who, alongside Varathron, have been the most consistent artists in the Hellenic scene during the past few years. The One performs a style of black metal that draws from various influences such as Mayhem, Hellhammer and Bathory, yet it is filtered through the Hellenic prism of longer melodies and warm, ritual atmosphere.

This sound is shaped by multiple layers of guitars and distortion. The ensuing disorienting atmosphere resembles a maelstrom in the river Acheron, sucking the listener inside. Indeed, it feels like this was recorded in a cave; in the same way that subterranean noises can be distorted due to echo, the guitar parts are blended into each other, rendering the act of discerning riffs difficult at certain points. This is a great case-study in modern black metal production, because it helps the riffs hide on the first listen, in order to reappear on the next.

Following the title of the album, the senses are guided from freshly dug graveyard soil to the nebulous regions of the sky, so that through death and a confrontation with the violent forces that sleep in man, a feeling of mastery may be conveyed. The tools with which The One is trying to impose this effect upon the listener are chromatic riffs inspired by Hellhammer that provoke cyclopean headbanging and excellent vocal invocations to Mayhem. Truly, the vocals are resourceful and employ a wide pallete of techniques. The locomotive guitar parts taken from Mayhem lead to cryptic orientalist melancholic riffs in the style of Macabre Omen.

A natural mood pervades the compositions, in the sense that changes happen when they have to; nothing is rushed and there is room for the riffs to breath. They rarely outstay their welcome as they flow into the next riff. However, chromatics are used not to liberate the composer, but to evoke claustrophobia, thus there is not much harmonic movement going on, similarly to church and folk music. This fact interestingly tends to increase the value of such movements when they happen.

The listener has to meditate on the sonic violence, for things that hide and appear on the third listening session. Even the guitar solo which imitates Euronymous can be mistaken as a traditional pipe instrument for a few seconds because of the sound and bending technique employed. Proceeding from the Heracletian philosophical foundations that “All is One”, Byzantine chants, melodies and vocals are chocked in the midst of chaos and appear as a homogenous mixture that propels the song onwards. This atmosphere is very ritualistic and the compositions move with uniformity to reach the epilogue of the record.

For all the talent of its creators, I, Master might pose a few drawbacks on the more experienced listener. To begin with, due to the hiding of the riffs and all the finer details it appears that the album doesn’t want to be noticed. Verily, the hooks of the record are the noisier parts which rely on the listener’s curiosity, like a puzzle. Unlike Aosoth’s early work and other Greek bands, this release is more tempered and doesn’t aim for direct impact. This is not a drawback per se, as it is a really interesting approach to keep the uninitiated listeners away and is in alignment with the spirit of black metal.

The second danger, is that this record belongs to the tradition of occult black metal, which is often dominated by monotonous attempts to resemble a liturgy and subsequently the release flirts with wallpaper aesthetics. However, The One manages to navigate through those reefs by channeling quality melodies and intriguing vocal performances into the mixture, thus keeping the attention of the listener throughout the record.

Therefore, the degree to which The One falls on the above trappings is subjective and depends on the attention span of the listener. An equal case can be drawn for experimental doom rock band Universe 217, which creates a parallel cosmic vibe which escapes post-rock monotony through possessed Janis Joplin vocals and intricate 12-chord riffs that channel emotion so that the composition can move somewhere else. In general, when monotony may infiltrate a composition, a great riff and some fine details can save the day. As Ildjarn demonstrates, passionate performance stands above all and passionate performance stems from passionate composition, which in term depends on the artist’s intention. The One’s intention cannot be disputed.

In fact, the whole record has a personal dimension for many reasons; first of all, the “I” in the title; second, enigmatic whispers on the final track suggest the importance of “creating” for the artist; third, Macabre Omen has already taken a personal tragedy and projected it into historical events, in Gods of War. Therefore, there is a tendency of projecting the personal into the universal, which might account for some addictive elements in the record that assure its replay value. In addition, there is an emphasis on individualism, that can be also witnessed on the early days of the band.

To sum up, this album highlights:

  • How to create a dense cryptic atmosphere without becoming a sonic wallpaper.
  • How to use the asphyxiating production to hide messages, like a grimoire or an ancient artifact.
  • The importance of blood and/or culture, since The One is definitely inspired by the folklore, religion and traditional music of his country on the catchier passages, making those possibly unfitting influences sound honest, true and convincing, because they have been experienced.

However, the strongest part of the record is the translation of its philosophical underpinnings into music. A cosmic ambience resides on some tracks, a vibe of some greater universal force that drowns the individual and helps him reach his potential at the same time. An example where The One flirts with this ambience is on song V, which unleashes a Burzum interpretation of doomy ambience and contains a long melodic riff that covers “Temples in the Shape of the Sky” by Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. This riff is the high point of the record and hints at a possible ascension, a sort of spiritual illumination.

What is tragic is that when this theosis is attained, there is no escape into the great beyond. The song falls back to the Earth, back into the previous slow stratospheric riff.

This is exactly where The One and good black metal in general differs from the so called ritualistic, occult or “Orthodox” varieties: spirituality is acknowledged yet it complements the Earth and cannot be conceived without the Earth. After all, metal is not about escaping, it is about consecrating reality. The return to this previous riff may feel sad and definitely makes one hunger for more. However, it also creates a feeling of strength over reality, strength gained through experience and understanding. The listener was dominated by the music throughout, but now a sense of mastery is communicated. Albeit tragic, this can feel beautiful and the aim of The One is achieved.

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Septic Flesh – Temple of the Lost Race (1991)

It is not without good reason that the early 1990s are heralded as the golden era of metal music around these parts. In less than 5 years, not only did death metal reach its hitherto most mature stage, but in its immediate wake came the pinnacles of the by-then emerging black metal movement which remains unsurpassed to this day. (more…)

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Whispers of the Kábeiroi

Extending further into the past, and lying in deeper recesses of mystery, are the cults and legends of the ancient Pelasgians. Their symbols, gods and myths included precede, and in a way bring forth the Hellenic [1], while remaining in a relative obscurity even when the cults were known to be active [2]. Among these obscure cults was that of the Kábeiroi (a.k.a. Cabiri), a group of unknown but powerful beings tracing lineage to Rhea —The feminine Titan of Saturn [3]— and to the vast Sea [4].
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Varathron – Patriarchs of Evil (2018)

Article by Belisario

Almost four years after their previous full-length, Varathron is back with a new effort that meets expectations and offers a fantastic black metal listening experience in the distinctive Greek variety. The veterans from Ioannina have been able to maintain a difficult balance between respecting their classic sound and developing new forms, something they had already achieved on Untrodden Corridors of Hades. These new forms are slightly different and more modern, yet clearly related to their older albums.
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Heavy Metal Heroes: JFC Fuller and Alexander the Great

The British historian JFC Fuller brought a metal outlook to both his military career and his career as an historian. As clear-sighted observer of reality he was able to understand the physical and moral implications of the forms of human conflict. He was one of the leading minds in the early development of the theory of mechanized warfare. As a military officer he saw active service in both primitive and modern conditions – this gave his writings as an historian and military theoretician a solid grounding in real-world experience. His experiences with strange foreign cultures and his knowledge of the occult gave him a keen moral insight that shines through in his books. Fuller looks at history with a clear eye for effective outcomes; however, the men who had the courage and genius to effect these outcomes he romanticizes and lionizes as the heroes they are.

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Varathron Announce New Album and Canadian Mini-Tour

Varathron are preparing to go into the studio next month to record a new album that will be titled Patriarchs Of Evil. The title is Varathron congratulating themselves on being the forefathers of the Root and heavy metal influenced Hellenic black metal sound. While the album may or may not be good, Varathron are still a potent force live so Canadian fans of actual black metal should check them out.

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Kshatriya – Vsque ad Sidera Vsque ad Inferos (2016)

An album judged some of The Best Underground Metal of 2016 but hitherto had yet to receive a dedicated review.

Kshatriya‘s Vsque ad Sidera Vsque ad Inferos is a black metal album celebrating the prehistoric conquest of everything from Ireland to India by pastoral Proto-Indo-European peoples from their urheimat located in the northern reaches of the Pontic-Caspian steppe in what is now Russia and Ukraine. The Indo-Europeans were a martial race among the first peoples to domesticate horses, worshiped the sky father Dyeus Pater, and spoke antecessor of most European languages.

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The Best Underground Metal of 2016

2016 is over. The funderground mentality continued spreading forth, infesting metal over the last year just the same as it had in the decades past the genre’s artistic high-point in the early nineties. Rehashes of past greats pandering to a lowest common denominator audience continue to dominate the release schedules of metal labels all too willing to please the lemmings with music fit to safely ignore during drunken socializing. Ever-flowing streams of posers are desperate to be rock stars, pumping out plagiarism, and paying their way to record deals. File sharing and streaming reducing the cost of hearing new music to essentially nothing has led fans to constantly consume whatever is new regardless of quality. However the purging is at last at hand. The day of doom is here. The filth who have lied and corrupted the underground must be cleansed while the commendable elite few will remain.

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