December Roundup: Urfaust, Joose Keskitalo & My Dying Bride
The releases do not stop. There is no end.
Urfaust – Teufelsgeist
Many a black metal band from the Netherlands has Hans brought to you, but one, ages old and stalwart, he has not touched upon, though a new album did they drop this very year. Though in their case black metal might not be the most descriptive; in the very least, it’s an inadequate marker, representing more a starting point from which the layers and layers of ambient, ritual music, musical rituals, keys and IX’s vocals twist to their purposes. I speak, of course, of Urfaust.
Their latest offering, the 5-song, 33 minute Teufelsgeist, bears the signs of an Urfaust record, but when it touches upon black metal, it does so mostly from the syllogism of a historic viewpoint. As in, “this sounds like Urfaust and they used to be a black metal band, ergo, this sounds like a black metal record”. Its roots are rather in the ambient half of Urfaust’s enduring work, but unlike 2015’s Apparition, it breaches the void between the two with the inclusion of drums, guitar and keys. Representing the stages of intoxication, it moves from the euphoria of “Offerschaal Der Astrologische Mengformen”, its wild keyboards and brief recollections of “Einsiedler” make it one of Urfaust’s finest singular offerings, towards a downward spiral of delirium.
While “Bloedsacrament Voor De Geestenzieners” isn’t far behind it, the third track fully focuses on the ambient side of the spectrum, on Teufelsgeist’s terms that is, still featuring some metal instrumentation, as does the closer “Het Godverlaten Leprosarium”. “De Filosofie van een Gedesillusioneerde” traverses these two worlds the best, becoming a sort of maladjusted, charred and blackened slice of doom in the process. It is both new and old for fans of Urfaust, and not the worst place to start your excavation into their discography, featuring more than one aspect of their sound in a compact and consistent tome, but it might not be the best either for the very same reason. It does open with two of their finer works as of late though, and I would hold it high among its peers.
Joose Keskitalo – Nukkekoti
Joose Keskitalo has the ability to make even a harmless thing sound threatening and delirious. The primal gospelfolk of Kolmas Maailmanpalo already married straightforwardly religious material the likes of which was largely unheard of in Finnish popular music with stories of death and the apocalypse that seemed religious in a very different meaning of the word—especially with the laughably absurd, in a way that didn’t make you want to laugh in the least.
Many of these absurdist tendencies were further fleshed out in side projects like the trip-hop-influenced Paavoharju and Harmaa Getto, both featuring Lauri Ainala. Lately he’s also ventured into stripped down, English-sung folk as H. C Slim, but it’s his (now finalized) solo trilogy that in my mind is his crowning achievement. Building on Kolmas Maailmanpalo’s ruins, but presenting a more secular storytelling of dreams and visions, Otto Eskelinen’s woodwinds/brass bring a world music flavour to the album, but there really is no genre that could readily claim all of Nukkekoti. There is as much early Leonard Cohen lurking beneath this rubble as there is Tom Waits, and plenty more besides. There is little like Joose Keskitalo, and even in his catalog, Nukkekoti claims a high place.
My Dying Bride – Macabre Cabaret
Recorded at the same time as their still fresh full-length, The Ghost of Orion, the new EP, Macabre Cabaret, both offers a fitting addendum to the full-length, and hints at possible future experimentations. The 10-minute title track sees the band at their most dramatic and majestic, plumbing the depths of desire and sexuality’s darker side, while the more palatable “A Secret Kiss” walks on their newly found, more accessible path at the hind of “Tired of Tears”.
The hints of possible future experiments come in the form of “A Purse of Gold and Stars”, which consist mainly of piano and synth strings ‘neath Aaron Stainthorpe’s recitations. Along with the addition of cello on The Ghost of Orion, similarly piano-led songs on Feel the Misery and the impending re-release of the orchestral album, Evinta, I can’t help but wonder if this is a side My Dying Bride will be more thoroughly investigating in the future, especially as the promo (and physical?) copies also include an orchestral remake of “Your Broken Shores”.