Circle of Ouroborus — Viimeinen Juoksu
You thought the romance was over. You might be done with black metal—but black metal will never be done with you.
I thought I’d heard it all before. I was ready to pack up all my shit, throw it in the Toyota, leave an insulting breakup letter and move to a new state very, very far away. I was sick of everything. Everything. Every new day brought more of the same. Stagnation, apathy, beige. I’m talking about my relationship with black metal, of course. I was just about to drive the final nail in the coffin when Circle of Ouroborus went and surprised me with flowers and a lovely card from Hallmark (and a bottle of French rosé—not that sugary Californian shit). Circle of Ouroborus did not want me to leave. Circle of Ouroborus wanted me back. Circle of Ouroborus was sorry for how shotgun-swallowingly tepid and boring and predictable and un-torrid the romance had grown. Circle of Ouroborus was ready to wine and dine me and carry me to a bed covered in rose petals and coo sweet everythings into my ear while patiently undressing me and then ever so gingerly touching me in that place where it had so cruelly neglected (refused) to touch me for so, so long.
I’m talking about my heart you fucking pervert.
The non-metaphorical version of this intro is that one day—today in fact—I was wondering if I would ever be truly touched by a new black metal record ever again—you know, just allowing pervasive pessimism to laser in on one of my favorite things in the world, like every other Thursday of my life—and then the Toilet’s tenured Fin, Karhu, alerted me to the surprise appearance of a new Circle of Ouroborus album on Bandcamp. I was not optimistic. I’d assumed CoO (from here on out “Circle of Ouroborus”) had lost the plot. Based on what evidence? Based on Exhibit A: The Final Egg, which had taken the revolutionary avant-garde sounds of Eleven Fingers and The Lost Entrance of the Just and…done nothing. And on Exhibit B: A rumor that the band would return to straight black metal from this trilogy’s foray into extremely un-black and otherwise indescribable weirdness.
Please forgive me. And forget it. I was wrong and I admit it. (Why can’t we talk it over? Why can’t we forget about the paaaaaaaaaaaast?)
The new Circle of Ouroborus album is called Viimeinen Juoksu and happily I can report that it is neither a repeat of the mistake of The Final Egg (the sin of blandness) nor a full-fledged regression to straight black metal. And while Circle of Ouroborus’s’s’s brand of “straight black metal” as exhibited by earlier albums was never all that straight to begin with, it never did appeal to me. It was only really the radical shift of Eleven Fingers (discussed here)—a bleary, goth-infused fog of utter signal confusion—that first made me pay attention to the band.
Viimeinen Juoksu succeeds in weaving some of the off-kilter magic of the Eleven Fingers template into recognizable black-metal-isms, yet is more notable for the simple fact of just being a damn fine black metal record regardless of context. It’s ramshackle and lo-fi and deceptive in its apparent lack of ambition and utterly unpretentious and ultimately elevated by an ineffable sense of personality on the one hand—of unbelabored genius—and by beautiful guitar leads on the other. The guitar leads are the stars of this album, catchy and honed and irresistible—hummable even. If Iron Maiden were a shoegaze band, they might produce leads like this. Hell, one of them—from the chorus of “Raunioita Ja Oksanlehviä”—sounds like a lead from motherfucking Smashing Pumpkins circa Siamese Dream, and the first time I heard it I almost wept because it reminded me of something I’ve forgotten that I never should have forgotten because forgetting it means that I am basically already dead (Are you having a rough week, friend?).
At points, Viimeinen Juoksu‘s creamy lead melodies seem to blend with or play counterpoint to other melodies that sound like they are produced by synthesizers. It’s difficult to say; if memory serves (when does it ever?), the band claimed that the blown-out ethereal sounds of Eleven Fingers were all created by guitar, not synth, so…? At other times the melodies are upstaged by bizarre tuneless clean vocals crying out to no one from solitary confinement in a prison cell the size of a single pixel from a digital transfer of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. If you did not enjoy this vocal approach on Eleven Fingers, you might enjoy it here instead but probably not, and if not, then you are basic. There are plenty of harsh vocals to satisfy your harsh-vocal needs. Deal with it.
I think I’ve wasted enough of your time. The cover art really says it all. The romance is alive and throbbing. We’re going to make a mess of this bed.
A Single Frame from the Fabulous Criterion Edition of
Aki Kaurismäki’s Shadows in Paradise
Viimeinen Juoksu was released on 29 February by His Wounds (whose wounds?).