Record Swap – Black Metal Porkins Vs. Rolderathis
Welcome back to Record Swap, where once more, kvlt kreatvres flaunt their most exalted albums to bedazzle the opposition. But how does it work? Listen up pleb, it’s really quite simple: no foreknowledge of the assigned records, and also, no mercy. Two animals enter the ring, but only one will reign when the dust settles. Will it be the Satan-adjacent swine? Or the truculent Tyto? In this edition, Black Metal Porkins and Rolderathis are at loggerheads with albums from Squalus and Ved Buens Ende.
Black Metal Porkins’ Assignment: Squalus – The Great Fish…
For Porkins, the turmoil shall never end. Some would call me cruel, but as soon as BMP returned from his pirate escapades, I decided to send him back out to sea (we’ll call it a “probable boating accident”). We all know how much he loves these aquatic anthems! Beyond tormenting my friend, I do have a soft spot (a scar left by serrated triangles) for The Great Fish… Any album that can skip guitars entirely and riff this hard is doing everything right. Did I mention there are minutes-(minutes!) straight spoken word segments that not only don’t make me turn the album off immediately in disgust, but actually add wrenching drama to the songs? From beautiful piano rock to the crushing depths of the deep ocean, Squalus coats each song with memorable moments like remoras on the body of a Great White. -Roldy
By all counts, I should not be the intended audience for this record. Squalus is (from what I understand) a kind of continuation of Giant Squid, and The Great Fish… is a concept album based on Jaws where tongue firmly meets cheek. This is where I start behind the eight ball. I have listened to maybe two Giant Squid songs and I have never seen Jaws. Even worse, I am firmly in Team No Fun when it comes to metal. As the trve among you know, metal is serious and dangerous and is only for the serious and dangerous Chosen Few trve enough to navigate the waters of extremity, seriously and dangerously. Combined, this should be a disaster. Should.
After initial listens, my deep ignorance and prejudice won out. Just as I suspected, I was an outsider on an in-joke. The long spoken-word and spoken-word-ish portions seemed a parody of parts of Jaws. Having never seen it, they fell flat. And since there is so much of it, there was a lot of flat to fall. Then there was the keyboard. Lots and lots of keyboard. It makes a particular sound that I can only describe as synth-kazoo. I didn’t care for this sound. I’m unsure if the synth-kazoo is rooted in Jaws or unearthed through some other unholy means but it is forefront in the mix, very assertive, and it offended my strong and tough metal sensibilities.
Yet with all the momentum pushing me back to shore, a riptide kept pulling me out to sea. I couldn’t stop listening. And not in a can’t-look-away-from-the-trainwreck type of way. Over the course of a dozen or so spins, this intensely weird record bore a cave into my heart and made a home.
Describing The Great Fish… is not easy. Stripped to its bare bones, I suppose the album is progressive post-sludge. The vocals range from gruff, sailor-inflected, half-sung spoken word to early-Mastodon shouts, with some “Us and Them”-style female vocals belted out for good measure (“Town Meeting”). Pace is split fairly equally between mid- and slow-, toms playing a central role, pounding in semi-“tribal” fashion à la Neurosis. But The Great Fish… cannot be reduced. It cannot be contained. It mocks your shark cage of genre signifiers and tears it to pieces.
Curveballs and changeups abound as the record evolves and drifts through atmospheric piano or keyboard passages into brash, dirty sludge gutters to drive a dramatic narrative about a rogue shark rending flesh at will among an unsuspecting populace. The dramatic success runs through the dynamics, the key to, and greatest achievement of, The Great Fish… Each track represents a scene in the overarching narrative, and within each scene, a mini-arc—calm but pensive introduction followed by tension, sometimes exploding, others slowly building depending on desired effect. The dual bass employed (there are no guitars on the album) adds to the menace, rumbling as the ocean itself, from placid, lapping ripples to massive, breaking waves carrying the story’s Great White directly into your ears. Everything about it works, even the lengthy spoken-word passages and synth-kazoo that earned my ire through my initial voyages through these waters. The Great Fish… just would not be denied.
Even having never seen Jaws, The Great Fish… made me feel as if I had with its meticulous and lovingly parodic trip that eventually swallowed me whole. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to create a metal concept album consisting of so many different elements with a complex narrative structure and not only pull it off but succeed in making something consistently engaging. It has no business being good and it has no business brightening my blackened metal soul. But it is not just good; it’s great. And I love it.
Rolderathis’ Assignment: Ved Buens Ende – Written in Waters
Written in Waters is a desert island album for me. For its time, and even now, it’s an endlessly creative and bizarre record with nearly every aspect unorthodox (save the black metal portions). At the same time, I know it is imperfect. Among many other issues, songs can be bloated, the straight black metal passages are not high quality, and the vocals are an acquired taste. But these flaws only magnify its perfection for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This is a difficult assignment for Roldy—or anyone else, for that matter—so the chances of him liking it are pretty low. But who gives a shit. I force this record on people every chance I get anyway. – Black Metal Porkins
The instant I start streaming Ved Buen Ende‘s Written in Waters, I find (lose?) myself in a field of deepest scarlet. My confusion manifests in an acidic dissonance that rings out underneath the sky. It’s more gray than I remember. There’s no portal to return through behind me; I walk towards the vanishing point in search of answers.
They prove to be elusive, as the music that travels through the air (and the strange landscape that passes beneath my feet) provides few clues to the time and location of their origins. The twangy and sinister guitars in “I Sang for the Swans” offer me my first handhold on the familiar. I’m reminded of Mastodon‘s riffing style—those southern-fried licks from Leviathan that straddle the line between accessible songwriting and repulsive atonality. As I make this connection, an ivory sculpture (in the form of a whale’s flukes) bursts from the ground beside me, and an odd voice speaks in my mind. You’ll want to watch out for that, it’s magic.
The speech is unsettling, a mixture of a carnival barker’s theatrics and Warrel Dane’s dispassionate cadence. As I continue through “I Sang for the Swans” and “You, That May Wither,” the repetitive vocals begin to erode my patience, as they’re a nearly constant mantra—one that rarely strives for melody. My concentration falters. Have I been to this spot before? Where is north? Does this land respect the compass rose?
Luckily, there’s a consistent rumble from below that helps to guide me. The rhythm section is never lost beneath the surface, and the drumming in particular adds nuance to the proceedings. A vaguely folksy triplet riff gallops by halfway through “You, That May Wither,” followed closely by black metal blasting of the most original order. Rarely have I heard a single concept dissected and rearranged with such finesse; cymbal accents drop in and out, drums switch places in the beat, and every hit shines through unmuddled. The ground is once again thrown into disarray as shards of another sculpture pierce the soil. I watch in disbelief as the crumbled pieces shift and climb, reforming in the shape of the mysterious Cormorant, diving into a towering whitecap.
It’s at this moment that the dismal, sunken atmosphere of the place seeps into my marrow in earnest. “Den saakaldte” opens with dreary mid-paced black metal that quickly hypnotizes; I only realize time has passed when a heinous screeching drags me back to consciousness. It’s a bleating sound, like somebody flapping together vocal cords made of beef jerky, like Abbath after being left out in the sun for too long. Truly frog-like. While not my favorite sound ever, these stretches of blackened vocals and tremolo riffs have been the most memorable in my journey so far. Looking ahead, I see nothing but the endless crimson.
Lactic acid burns in my legs. It’s been a long march through “Carrier of Wounds” and “Coiled in Wings,” with nothing standing out in memory but that persistent bellowing voice. At long last, something looms up in the distance, a disturbance in the red. Drawing closer, I see it’s a massive sycamore made of stone, and as I approach, I realize it’s singing. Her tone is soothing, ethereal; it files down the edges of the groaning man’s narration. This duet, along with the overall acoustic sound of “Autumn Leaves,” marks the first sign of beauty in my travels. I wish I could’ve stayed longer.
A single leaf plummets, and as I catch it in my palms, an invisible force compels my feet to march. My eyes catch on a faint glow on the horizon. As I walk, the source of the light grows—it’s an enormous pyre, and I can feel its warmth already. “Remembrance of Things Past” wanders along uneventfully until some quick double bass drums raise the tempo. As the song accelerates, the leaf cradled in my hands begins to moan, louder with every step, shrieking now, accompanied by stabbing piano clusters. The heat grows. I feel feverish; there’s a sheen of sweat across my skin. The volume swells, overwhelming, and at last, I’ve reached the flame. I cast the leaf into the inferno; its veins are traced in fire, and as it disintegrates, so does my flesh. There’s no pain. This feels right. My ashes swarm deserted away.