New Genre Alert!: Blackwave
Indefatigable one-man black metal artist Striborg has invented an entirely new genre called Blackwave–and Maurice “Mories” de Jong isn’t even mad about it!
But I’m totally gonna be a dick about it anyway. The air to a bird, the sea to a fish, etc.
Striborg: Prolific, grim, Tasmanian. But what do we really know about this reclusive artist? Thanks to Noisey’s 3-part documentary on one-man black metal bands, we know that he owns a cloak, does not want his redneck neighbors to know he makes black metal, and is a giant nerd. While personally not a fan of Striborg’s strain of black metal, I used to keep vague tabs on his career, mostly via the charmingly effusive reviews of his albums written by the employees of Aquarius Records (RIP). They loved Striborg over at the ol’ aQ–and I loved their love of Striborg. I wanted to love Striborg too. And maybe I would have if most of his songs didn’t sound like the single-take improvisations of a black metal enthusiast with no musical training. To be fair, it was mostly his inability to keep time behind the drumset that always threw me off; some of his chilly, moonlit atmospheres were actually pretty cool.
Who could have foreseen that 2017 would be the year that Striborg would throw in the black metal towel and pick up another towel of a slightly different color and thread-count? Imagine my sense of betrayal and cluelessness when I had to hear about it from someone who is not even especially aware of what Striborg has been up to for the past twenty-some-odd years (W.). These days, it’s not all that shocking when an artist suddenly changes direction. As often as not, it is both refreshing and rewarding–even if it comes at the expense of an old direction you loved. Ulver (for instance) pretty much broke that mold back in 1998, and extreme metal artists have been trickling away from extreme metalness ever since. In the case of Striborg, as with so many of the other absconders, he’s fidgeting around with electronic music now. There has been a long-standing flirtation between black metal and electronica (after all, wasn’t Fenriz famous for throwing LSD-laced raves back in the day?), and so in a very real sense Striborg’s move is practically a lateral shift.
The difference being that Striborg claims, on new album Instrumental Trans-Communication, to have invented a whole new subgenre:
From the horse’s mouth:
“This is the first album in the new pioneering style of Blackwave.
It incorporates from the electronic spectrum; Black Synthwave, Gothwave, Ghostwave, Darkwave, Coldwave, Black EBM / Electro, Dark Ambient, New Wave and Synth Pop.”
I don’t know what size rock Mr. Striborg has been living under for the past decade, but there is nothing novel about an artist combining the dark atmosphere and shrieked vocals of black metal with synth tunes and beats. And I don’t think the fact that he is asserting the contrary is even the weirdest part. It’s weird that he feels there is more than a semantic distinction to be made between “black synthwave” and “blackwave”. It’s weird that he thinks “gothwave” is a thing, and that it is somehow distinct from “darkwave”, and that using two different “-wave” words to describe the exact same sound is not at all redundant. It’s weird that he thinks “ghostwave” is a thing for the exact same reasons. It’s weird that his new album is the only one which appears under these newfangled genre-tags on Bandcamp. The fact is that, even if Striborg did coin the term “blackwave”, he certainly wasn’t the first to adopt the aesthetic concept.
Or maybe I’m just not down with the latest whateverwave trends. It may be the case that there are subtle distinctions to Striborg’s approach. If so, they are too subtle for me, because if for example you stack Intstrumental Trans-Communication up against any of Caput Mortuum‘s earlier albums (listen), the prevailing difference is that Mories’s work is more evocative of horror cinema–and oh yeah that it has more actual black metal DNA in it too. So…how much black metal is too much black metal for blackwave?
I kind of get it though: When you’ve been making obscure music in a vacuum for as long as Striborg has, you’re bound to end up with a distorted perception of yourself or your art–specifically regarding how your art relates to the work of similarly sequestered weirdos from all around the globe. And, in the end, perhaps the strangest thing of all about Instrumental Trans-Communication is that it ain’t half bad. While it is clearly an unseasoned attempt to merge the ideals of black metal and dark electronic music, many listeners–especially those who are new to the band–are likely to find it the most palatable record Striborg has ever produced. The first half treads familiar blackwave territory, and then from there Striborg begins to muck around with straight-up darkwave (clean sadboi vocals, gasp!), ambient and noise. If any of this is in your wheelehouse, you may find much to recommend the album; you may also find some goofy stuff, which at this point is par for the course with Striborg (his self-awareness remains as up-for-debate as ever).
So, Blackwave: New genre?
Okay, but can Instrumental Trans-Communication still be Blackwave?
Yeah, sure. Why not?
(And if it happens that I have misinterpreted the ambiguous diction in the first sentence of Striborg’s Bandcamp statement, thus rendering this entire article pointless, I apologize in advance.)