We Drown, …And Oceans Dry (The Jakobstad Chronicles, Pt. Zweihänder)
…Rejoice, for the time has come!
How long has it been since we left our three heroes to wander? If it feels like it was another time, and another place, it may just be because it sure as hell was another year. But the time has come now to turn our gaze north and once more accompany the three. Though, perhaps, they can wait a little longer, in the highly likely event that you’ve already forgotten where we began, and would like to catch up.
Nothing lasts forever, and so it was decided that things should come to an end. The two first full-lengths had dug deep into veins of symphonic black metal, and the mines had run dry. The side- project O had explored the rawest, most primal fringes of black metal and so the greatest appeal now was held by outsider influences. Of course, …And Oceans had never been content to abide by any rules, as their demos, previous bands and stage show had made a point to show. Vocalist Kena, he of many names, now Killstar, whose love of Ministry, Skinny Puppy and G.G.F.H had been re-ignited (if it ever had left), had acquired a number of samplers, synths and drum machines which he wished to incorporate into the band’s music. This wish was echoed by Anzhaar, now called Plasmaar, the keyboardist who had “grown tired of playing the same Cradle of Filth organs everyday”.
Nothing lasts forever, and so came to its end the first era of …And Oceans, and the second began like buckwheat sprouts from the slash-and-burned kaski. Allotropic/Metamorphic Genesis of Dimorphism, commonly known and referred to as A.M.G.O.D, represented a vein of blackened metal influenced by electronic and industrial music, carrying not the faintest note of their former symphonic tendencies.
A playlist of A.M.G.O.D in it’s entirety on Youtube, or on Spotify
Much of the album’s songwriting was centered around riffing reminiscent of their earlier work, occasionally still veering into the tremolo-picked strings and blastbeat territory; most songs had either returned to the furious-passages-of-chords approach of The Dynamic Gallery of Thoughts, or else emphasized guitars as the means to create texture and accent beats. “Of Devilish Tongues” breaks out melodic leads for its bridge and gives the lead to the six strings, but it’s clearly the work of a band moving away from their black metal roots, while “Esprit de Corps”, had it been arranged differently, could have been from the pen of a hardcore band. “White Synthetic Noise” flirts with their past releases before an electronic bridge, and alongside “Odious and Devious” and “Intelligence is Sexy” represents the last frontier of black metal in …And Oceans’ music. The latter and “Tears have No Name” come closest to the synth-laden dance metal all too commonly referred to as industrial metal these days and intelligence is sexy may as well have been the album’s motto.
The song compiled influences representing the past, present and future of the band alongside Killstar’s lyrics, which had never been the simplest or clearest in the way they dealt with the spiritual and philosophical themes of the songs. With A.M.G.O.D, a pseudo-artistic intellectualism had become an intrinsic value, as demonstrated by “Postfuturistika’s” first verse: “Opulent kinetic sculptures, visualized voices in motion, plastic puppet pictures, audial dances distortion”. It seems an oddity that Killstar was using a much narrower range of vocal styles before, when everything else was dialed up to eleven, but perhaps the contrarian nature of the man, and the band, demanded a crack to be made upon the album’s visage. After several conceptually sound records something had to fracture the facade. Linguistically restricted fans may have found some reprieve from the fact the entire album was sung in English this time, but I doubt it did much good for the majority of them.
A full playlist of Cypher on Youtube, or on Spotify
Soon after the completion of the record, Martex, the drummer formerly known as Grief, departed from the group, and after a time of deliberation would be replaced by then-unknown Sami Latva. The Ostrobothnian (may it fall into the sea) scene was, even by Finnish standards, less than a sizable one, so as bassist Atomica, previously Gaunt, recognized the newcomer’s talent, he asked him to join the ranks of Deathbound, a death/grind unit which he was a part of. The two bands would grow closer to each other as 7even II, born as Teemu Saari, once hailed as de Monde, one of the three men with whom it had started, left.
The reason for his decision, whether it was dissatisfaction with the previous record or the upcoming material or another reason completely, is not inscribed in any scrolls or tomes in my possession, or by a reliable scribe. It is, however, known for certain that his place was then taken by Syphon, a man known from his work in the aforementioned death/grind group to be a formidable choice.
Cypher arrived quickly on its predecessor’s heels. Continuing on the urbanization of …And Oceans’ sound, it had relinquished the last traces of black metal, and done away with the intellect of A.M.G.O.D. Featuring simple industrial metal songs with clear, linear structures, and making great use of repetition, samples and electronics, it often obscured the human element. The beat-heavy riffing had taken the center and the keyboards were left to fill whatever space remained, often utilizing different samples and noises instead of recognizable melodies. Kena, now Kenny or Kim Cum, approached his vocals through a scope narrower still than the one used on A.M.G.O.D, only this time the monotone, coarse shout fell thematically in place and cemented Cypher’s stylistic choices. Once again sung in all English, both the selection of language and the lyrics themselves sought to reflect the transformation towards simplicity. An easier-to-understand counterpart to the overt intelligence of its predecessor, which may not yet have been cracked.
A compilation in 2003 was followed by two splits in 2007—a remix-laden three-way cd, Synaesthesia – The Requiem Reveries, with Havoc Unit and The Sin:Decay and a 7″ featuring …And Oceans’ “Yerushalayim Erez haQodes”, a continuation of Cypher’s legacy, and Havoc Unit’s “With Discipline upon Mankind”. Effectively though, the band had come to an end between these releases, on the eve of its tenth anniversary—2005. Or rather, it could be written that to signify the changed direction, …And Oceans had decided to become Havoc Unit.
On that very same anniversary year, a split came into being under the name O.B.C., named thusly for the Ostrobothnian Black Circle, a group of like-minded individuals who comprised much of the local scene. It also extracted the first letter of the first, middle and last word of each respective band’s name – O, True Black Dawn & Enochian Crescent. O’s part, Manifest of Futurism, followed the twisted and primal vein and abstract themes of their earlier material, but with a much clearer and brighter sound and light use of electronic elements, while Enochian Crescent’s Citizen Cain provided somewhat avant-garde-ish black metal, and came off like a songwriting rehearsal instead of a finished record.
The most interesting part of the split would then be True Black Dawn’s Boogeyman Unbound. Featuring Wrath from EC on vocals and likely also …And Oceans’ Anzhaar/Plasmaar/Anti (goddamn, it is hard to keep up with these name changes) on bass, it saw the black metal band best known for its hyper-fast debut conquer new ground with prominent use of samples and an industrial undercurrent, not surprising then that as its primary songwriter had acted one Syphon.
And this is where we must cease, lest our already exhaustive story becomes too much so, as pedantic narratives often do. And from here, we shall soon continue. Their lines in shambles, their names in rotation and their side-projects multiplying. Until the next.