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Sacramentum

Sacramentum
December 18, 2006, 04:11:29 AM
Sacramentum - Far Away From the Sun



Even in the insular world of black metal, celebrity and sensationalism often serve to shape perception in ways that obscure the actual nature of reality. A classic case in point is illustrated by the relative notoriety of Dissection when compared with other Swedish black metal acts of the mid 1990s (most notably Sacramentum and Dawn). Despite being considerably inferior to and far more conventional than their peers, Dissection is seen as the leading light of Sweden's melodic black metal movement, largely due to the relentless self-promotion of band leader Jon Nodtveidt (who spent much of the 90s making empty threats against Burzum's Varg Vikernes), as well as Nodtveidt's much publicized arrest and conviction for the brutal (and unprovoked) murder of a homosexual. The hype propelled Dissection to a deal with metal major Nuclear Blast at a time when its contemporaries were languishing on small European labels with limited (or no) access to British and North American distribution channels.

As a result, brilliant albums like Sacramentum's Far Away From the Sun remain quite obscure (or worse, simply dismissed as 'Dissection clones') while a mediocrity like Storm of the Light's Bane is widely hailed as a genre-defining classic.  This, of course, could not be farther from the truth.  Far Away From the Sun is no Dissection rip-off, and, indeed, not only far exceeds anything Dissection released, but must be counted among the very best metal albums ever recorded.

That isn't to say that there aren't some superficial similarities between the bands. Like Dissection, Sacramentum developed an approach that focused on the melodic possibilities of black metal, as well as bringing a level of technical precision hitherto uncommon in the genre. However, where Dissection offered a summary of several generations of metal technique through allusions to death metal (percussion), black metal (vocals and riff texture) and heavy metal (tonal consonance and Maidenesque guitar harmonies), Far Away From the Sun finds Sacramentum firmly rooted in black metal while looking back and forward to a more classically constructed expressive form.

Technically, this album is masterful. While the playing isn't showy or athletic, it is highly complex and pulled off with absolute precision by the band. Music like this doesn't just happen, it requires great skill to play and great intelligence and passion to create. Far Away From the Sun is like a Gothic cathedral, a towering monument to darkness and light that yields its secrets reluctantly, but rewards the patient listener with a work of ecstatic beauty (the mix is excellent, making use of a subtle layering of instruments that is both echoing and dense at the same time, while still leaving each distinctly audible). Flowing, labyrinthine melodies with a distinctly classical turn are the order of the day, and this sense is heightened by Sacramentum's frequent use of polyphony and counterpoint (both between guitar lines and between guitar and bass), giving Far Away From the Sun a decidedly ancient aesthetic weight.

Where Far Away From the Sun truly excels is in its ability to create and sustain a sense of unfolding unfolding drama, both internally within individual songs, and holistically, when taken as an album. A overriding tension between creation and dissolution dominates the album, played out through the clever manipulation of contrast: consonance wars with dissonance and ambiguous resolutions, long legato melodic phrases are deconstructed by frenetic bursts of blasting percussion, and the essential beauty of the music is set against the throat shredding vocal performance of singer/bassist Nisse Karlén. While none of the songs are particularly long by metal standards, Sacramentum's mastery of dynamic tension (which emerges not so much in overt variation of volume, but in the more subtle manipulation of riff textures, chord shapes and rhythmic patterns to create contrasts in intensity) renders each song a truly epic mini-opus driving toward a conclusion that is simultaneously hopeful yet ultimately tragic.


Re: Sacramentum
December 18, 2006, 07:47:09 AM
for reasons like that is one of the reason why this site exists, to cut through popularity to find bands that express true compositional skills and true artistic intent

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 02:08:44 AM
Everytime Sacramentum is mentioned on this site I go download Far Away From the Sun and then delete it after I have finished listening to it. This is definitely the last time I download it. I just don't get what is so great about them. I'd rather listen to Storm of the Light's Bane, which is crap too but is a more enjoyable listen.

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 03:20:39 AM
Your problem lies in the fact that you only give them one shot before deleting the album, which is admittedly a rather rash impulsive reaction on your part. (Your repeated downloads and deletions don't imply that you have the kind of constitution that rewards one for having the patience for art to reveal itself, regardless of whether it happens in the third or three-hundredth listening session. This is part and parcel of why great art isn't appreciated by everyone; not everyone has the eyes, or in this case, ears, to see/hear.)

If all you want is music that grabs you immediately without any need for digging below the surface so that you can enjoy it purely for its entertainment value, Dissection is the surface-level band for you. Otherwise, don't expect to "get" Sacramentum anytime soon, if you only have a six-second attention span.

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 03:40:59 AM
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Celebrity and sensationalism you say?  Varg came to mind.  It's a bit ridiculous to condemn Nodtveidt for the murder and then pardon Varg for instance, whose murder's provocation is debatable, while the provocation for arson isn't.



Arson =/= Murder

I thought you knew that...

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 02:14:03 PM
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Your repeated downloads and deletions don't imply that you have the kind of constitution that rewards one for having the patience for art to reveal itself, regardless of whether it happens in the third or three-hundredth listening session.


I agree that it takes many listenings to understand an album, but this thinking also allows one to argue that any album is great, if only listened to enough times to find its, "genius", or what have you.
One would need to go listening to an album with the knowledge that there is more to it than initially meets the eye, or ear, in this case. If not, they have just wasted a lot of time. You won't know that certain albums are great until you've already listened to an album many times.

Ultimately; each person creates their own limit as to how much patience they will allow themselves with an album.

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 02:21:10 PM
No, that isn't what is being stated. Great art isn't present in anything other than in great art. Mediocre products with aesthetic flourishes that con you into thinking something is worthwhile are very common, however, and they fool people into thinking that everything has a value, thus the democratizing equalization of all music into "just music, man". That's what you're telling me I'm arguing for, which is not the case at all.

More thoughts to come, gotta split.

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 04:56:51 PM
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No, that isn't what is being stated. Great art isn't present in anything other than in great art. Mediocre products with aesthetic flourishes that con you into thinking something is worthwhile are very common, however, and they fool people into thinking that everything has a value, thus the democratizing equalization of all music into "just music, man". That's what you're telling me I'm arguing for, which is not the case at all.

More thoughts to come, gotta split.


I get what you're saying, and it makes some sense.

But when I speak, I am speaking from the perspective of someone who is approaching an album on their own, not as a collective, who have deemed a certain album good or bad.

If Beethoven's 9th is considered a masterpiece by most, but I don't find it being the case, should I still consider it a masterpiece? I would think not, because I don't gauge art from the perspective of others, but with my own.

What I am trying to show is that there is no need to tell someone that they need to listen more to an album to finally understand it. Yes, listening to an album many times will reveal more to a listener, but whether it registers to this person to mean what is apparently, "supposed" to be understood is entirely out of the hands of the art, but solely on the listener.

Some people will understand certain things, others won't. Telling someone that they don't have the patience to understand something doesn't always make sense.

No one would expect a retard to understand quantum physics, would they?

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 06:38:54 PM
saying Beethoven's musical efforts isn't art is something i have trouble understanding, i can understand if you don't like it but to be so foolish as to disregard its artistic qualities seems ludicrous (after all Beethoven's music was the first classical music to be considered art).

To say you judge art buy what you think and not others is fair enough, but that example you gave is like saying i don't think Hvis Lyset Tar Oss has any artistic qualities, its almost like saying 2 + 2 = 3 because im not bound by your views on 2 + 2 = 4

after all if Beethoven's 9th isn't artistic, im anxious to hear your definition of art

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 08:16:31 PM
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saying Beethoven's musical efforts isn't art is something i have trouble understanding, i can understand if you don't like it but to be so foolish as to disregard its artistic qualities seems ludicrous (after all Beethoven's music was the first classical music to be considered art).

To say you judge art buy what you think and not others is fair enough, but that example you gave is like saying i don't think Hvis Lyset Tar Oss has any artistic qualities, its almost like saying 2 + 2 = 3 because im not bound by your views on 2 + 2 = 4

after all if Beethoven's 9th isn't artistic, im anxious to hear your definition of art


You say that it's ludicrous because YOU view it as artistic, but you don't see how someone else can see it as not being artistic because it's you, and you alone, who decides for yourself.

By the way, let me make myself very clear in saying that nowhere did I say that Beethoven's music isn't artistic. I think it is very artistic. I am merely approaching this topic through a perspective someone else may have. I said that one may listen to it and not consider it a masterpiece. We may find that hard to believe, but our opinions are ours, and ours only.

Hell, I can call crap in a toilet art. But that doesn't make it a masterpiece, even if one day it may appear in the museum of modern art.


Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 09:15:11 PM
Consecutively, you have stated:

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...should I still consider it a masterpiece? I would think not, because I don't gauge art from the perspective of others, but with my own.


And:

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Hell, I can call crap in a toilet art. But that doesn't make it a masterpiece, even if one day it may appear in the museum of modern art.


So, if the value of art originates in the individual, why is the second case automatically "not a masterpiece?"  You have made an assumption about implicit value and applied it externally, which is the very thing you seem to be rallying against in the first quote.

Re: Sacramentum
December 19, 2006, 10:16:37 PM
well i assumed (but assumptions have a tendency to be wrong) you meant artistic value as well as musical prowess when you said masterpiece (since there is no masterpiece that has no
artistic value)  

but again you don't have to enjoy it but what are you judging it against that prevents it from becoming a masterpiece? even when compared to Mozart and Bach it still very well holds its own and excels, its easily Beethoven's absolute best work

And just out of curiosity what do you consider a masterpiece among music?  


Re: Sacramentum
December 20, 2006, 03:18:50 AM
Help a brother out here, Stranger:

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I agree that it takes many listenings to understand an album, but this thinking also allows one to argue that...


Quote
What I am trying to show is that there is no need to tell someone that they need to listen more to an album to finally understand it. Yes, listening to an album many times will reveal more to a listener, but whether it registers to this person to mean what is apparently, "supposed" to be understood is entirely out of the hands of the art, but solely on the listener.


Which is it?

And this:
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Telling someone that they don't have the patience to understand something doesn't always make sense.  
In this case, my statement to this poster in question is incredibly sensible. He downloads the album, and after one listen, deletes it out of hand, because he didn't "get it" the first time around. Obviously, he hasn't the patience to attempt to appreciate what others are trying to tell him about the album, either because of his own delusion ("Great art should be immediately explicable and understandable to anyone, so why am I not getting it? Obviously, these knobjockeys at ANUS.com are full of it") or his own relatavistic inability ("What makes this album so great compared to something I already enjoy, like Storm of The Light's Bane? I've listened to it now at least five times, and I don't see any of the enjoyment I get out of that album. I guess it's all subjective.") to understand that some things in this world that influence our daily lives are in fact objectively grounded in their importance, regardless of whether or not the perceiver perceives it.

Re: Sacramentum
December 20, 2006, 03:54:02 AM
Is it at all possible to like every release listed in the "best ever" Black Metal chart except one? I'm sure Sacramentum is trying to put a good message out there but the sound does not appeal to me. Are you saying that if the message is appealing then it's impossible for it to sound unappealing?

Re: Sacramentum
December 20, 2006, 05:03:22 AM
Music and the message it expresses are inseparable.