The One – I, Master (2008)

Hailing from Rhodes, black metal project The One comes to us from 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 palette 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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4 thoughts on “The One – I, Master (2008)”

  1. grass roller 69 1488 says:

    Why would a grimoire or an ancient artifact “hide” a message? The point of books and symbols is to express something.

  2. Bill Hopkins says:

    (editor’s note: This idiot literally created his own involuntary SMR)

    I would like to review this.

    https://daily.bandcamp.com/2018/08/13/neckbeard-deathcamp-interview/?utm_source=footer

    “Let’s be real: Most of the time, “funny” bands don’t work quite as well as you want them to. Either the “funny” isn’t funny, or if the funny is funny, the music doesn’t hold up. This is not the case with staggeringly great anti-Nazi raw black metal band Neckbeard Deathcamp.

    Credited to KRIEGMEISTER HATESTORM (vocals, piano, noise, production), SUPERKOMMANDO UBERWEINERSNITCHEL (guitar, bass), and HAILZ KOMRADEZ (drums), the trio’s album White Nationalism Is for Basement Dwelling Losers appeared on Bandcamp on July 21, 2018. Effective equally as anti-fascist political commentary and anti-fi black metal, White Nationalism became, within a matter of days, a viral smash and, for a while there, the best selling album on the site.

    Sporting titles such “Incel Warfare,” “Zyklon /b/” (/b/ is the notorious “random” board on 4chan), the dick pic anthem “Please Respond (I Showed You My Penis),” and “The Fetishization ov Asian Women Despite a Demand for a Pure White Race (Outro),” White Nationalism is a debut EP as brilliant of vision in its own way as Fugazi’s self-titled or Mission of Burma’s Signals, Calls and Marches. Which is to say that the music itself works brilliantly, buzzing like house flies over a bloated Nazi corpse while HATESTORM bellows “HI, FEW THINGS TO START OFF. YES, I ADDED YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE A FEMALE GAMER. ‘TIS AN AWESOME THING TO SEE. I’M BRIAN. DON’T BE INTIMIDATED. I’M NOT A STEREOTYPICAL GUY. IF ANYTHING, I’LL BE THE ONE IN THE KITCHEN. PLEASE RESPOND. PLEASE RESPOND,” or “HAIL KEK VAPE NATION GOD EMPEROR CARGO SHORTS, HAIL TRUMP, VALHALLA AWAITS US VETERANS OF THE MEME WAR.”

    The album also bills itself as “Fedora Crushing Militant Black Metal,” which really needs to be on a T-shirt. Like most metal, the band’s graphics tell a vital part of the story, whether it’s the Nazi eagle flag with a penis where the bird head should be and Pepe the Frog where the swastika goes, or the SS Death’s Head featuring Rick Ross in place of the skull.

    Bandcamp spoke briefly with the increasingly busy trio via email. Yes, they answered in all-caps, screaming and in character.

    Neckbeard Deathcamp

    Talk to me about the band’s origins and your relationship with black metal in general.

    SUPERKOMMANDO UBERWEINERSNITCHEL: I MET KRIEGMEISTER THROUGH ART COMMISSIONS AND CHATTING ONLINE ABOUT POLITICS AND BESTIAL BLACK METAL. HE ASKED ME TO JOIN THE PROJECT ON GUITARS TO PERFORM SONIC ONSLAUGHT AND THE RITUALISTIC HATEFUL DESECRATION OF FASCISM. BLACK METAL RUNS THROUGH THE BLACK BLOOD IN OUR VEINS. WE TOOK OATHS TO RESPECT THOSE THAT ARE TRUE AND SEEK OUT THE DEMISE OF RACIST POSERS.

    HAILZ KOMRADEZ: SUPERKOMMANDO AND KRIEGMEISTER WERE IN NEED OF REINFORCEMENT. I HAVE DEVOTED MY LIFE TO THE DEFENSE OF BLACK METAL.

    Do you have particular favorite black metal albums or artists?

    KOMRADEZ: SUPREME LEADERS INCLUDE WOE, YELLOW EYES, SPEKTRAL HATCHERY, ARCHGOAT, GHOST BATH, FALSE, AND ANYTHING LIEUTENANT LEV WEINSTEIN IS AFFILIATED WITH.

    KRIEGMEISTER HATESTORM: I THINK KE$HA IS THE MOST POWERFVL EXAMPLE OV CONTEMPORARY MAINSTREAM BLVCK METAL. ADDITIONALLY, I LISTEN TO BOTH SADNESS AND DRAGGED INTO SUNLIGHT.

    UBERWEINERSNITCHEL: BLASPHEMY.

    I can’t imagine you thought this record was going to catch on the way it has. Why do you think it has resonated so much?

    KOMRADEZ: THE MASSIVE SUCCESS OF OUR DESECRATION OF NECKBEARDED NAZIS CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE OVERWHELMING NEED FOR AN ALBUM PROPERLY SATIRIZING THE FAULTS OF THE ALT RIGHT AND NATIONAL SOCIALISM.

    Have you heard from NSBM folks about this, or looked for reactions on Reddit?

    UBERWEINERSNITCHEL: THEY ARE TOO DUMB TO REALIZE THEY ARE JUST PROVIDING US WITH REALLY GOOD PR AND PERPETUALLY PROVIDING MORE MATERIAL TO EXPLOIT THROUGH THEIR MERE EXISTENCE ALONE.

    What do you think is it about black metal that it developed this particular white nationalism streak? One doesn’t automatically leap to racism when one thinks about death metal or metalcore or, say, EBM.

    KOMRADEZ: BLACK METAL IS AN OUTSIDER ART FORM. NAZIS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED IN ANY OTHER COMMUNITY, SO THEY STARTED CIRCLE JERKING IN BLACK METAL, WHERE THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD STROKE THEIR EGOS AND MASK THEIR INSECURITIES IN PEACE. BLACK METAL WILL NO LONGER STAND FOR RACISTS. HAIL BLACK METAL, HAIL VICTORY.

    -Joe Gross”

    1. Flying Kites says:

      I noticed those fags while at the bottome of the page too, while listening to Eremita Produzionies.

      These dudes must think theyre hardcore communists. I’d like for a gang of Aboriginie Nazis to gangrape their aϟϟholes.

  3. Belisario says:

    This sounds to me like a darker, more muscular yet closely related version of Macabre Omen’s music. The balance between melody and obscurity is quite achieved, and even brevity is worthy of merit here, since many occult/esoteric black metal albums with less than half the ideas and content often spread through 60+ unbearable minutes.

    Thank you for unearthing and commenting this good stuff!

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