Yarek Ovich’s Introversion: A Response (Plus Some Thoughts on Lifelover and Other Things)
This album doesn’t really deserve a review, but I’m doing it anyway because F U Karhu.
Earlier this month (maybe even last week if this gets written/published in time), our dear prolific writer Karhu introduced us to a new “DSBM” album from Ukranian one-man act Yarek Ovich. In Karhu’s estimation, Introversion is “pretty good.” In Karhu’s estimation, the songs exhibit “skill and finesse.” In Karhu’s estimation, to paraphrase, this album is not terrible.
And maybe it isn’t. But being not terrible is a pretty low bar to clear these days, especially if you’re trying. It could be argued that Yarek Ovich is trying to be not terrible, and so on that account Introversion is a smashing success. But is it a success, smashing or otherwise, on any other account?
The intro track, effortfully titled “Intro”, is a pretty yet pointless little symphonic blip reminiscent of, say, Theater of Tragedy. With only one minute and 13 seconds wasted, we’re off on “Gone with Autumn Leaves,” an evocative title for a plodding, symphonic, tremolo-y song that takes up far more of your time without really accomplishing anything exciting enough to put it into words. Or, well, there’s a guitar solo. But you can hear those anywhere.
Honestly, I couldn’t finish this track. About halfway through, I skipped to the next song. Another sluggish, synth-laden thing. Only two proper tracks in and already those trollish vokills are grating on my nerves. They’re quite naked in the mix, which only serves to highlight how unappealing they sound—more like a muppety parody of black metal vocals than the real thing. This song is also boring. And yet, for your sake, or for the sake of masochism, I hung in there just long enough to be hit with some blastbeats. Nice. Oh, and now they’re gone again. Skipping on.
Track 4 (feels like 7). Oh hello there. You’re nothing more than a template for depressive black metal devoid of idiosyncrasies, scandals, or anything indicative of originating in the soul of a living human being. How cute. We begin with the obligatory four-on-the-floor loping Xasthur beat. Add some distorted guitar arpeggios. Some double bass that somehow fails to make the song feel like it’s moving faster. Or am I describing track 6? Can’t tell anymore. It’s all blurring together. Skip around at random to any part of this album and you’ll hear the same thing: synths, trems, slow-and-steady-wins-the-race drum programming, maybe a stray piano line or a clean guitar…and those inflectionless croaked ogre burps defacing the wistful poetry of the lyrics.
If this is what your depression sounds like, take some Ibuprofen and get on with it. And I’m not sure where Karhu gets off dropping an “S” into the “DBM” tag because the only thing suicidal about Introversion is me after listening to half of it. I can’t take any more of this aggressive mediocrity and I would rather be dead.
The only reason I put myself through any of it was this:
You’d have to actually be high on valium and quaaludes to hear a single lick of crapshit AC/DC in Lifelover’s sound.
But who is Lifelover—and why does Karhu hate them so much—and did I actually, upon reading this, suck shit?
I’ll take the second question first. If Karhu thinks that Introversion is “pretty good” and contains more than one idea, then it is easy to see why he would be confused by the genius of Lifelover. Some of Lifelover’s albums are crapshit through and through, I’ll admit it (I’m thinking of the one-note post-punk album Konkurs (2010) and the one-note chuggy-chuggy album Sjukdom (2011).) Some, however—and despite a religious devotion to crapshit production and musicianship—are just excellent.
2009’s Erotik is the inarguable pinnacle of Lifelover’s career, and as such, the only album I am going to bother addressing, although there are others worthy of address. What is Erotik? A slapdash collection of stylistic noodling that is likely to drive you mad if you listen too long. An anthem for dropping out of life to sit home collecting welfare checks, eating uncooked ramen, and jacking off to animated stick-figure cartoons of clowns making balloon animals. It’s metal, kind of, sometimes. It’s not metal, I think (although certainly not black metal, so I’m not sure why Karhu pulled them out of his hat (or butt) in contrast to Yarek Ovich). It’s depressive and suicidal with its lyrics about isolation, addiction, and firearms—and yet it’s all kind of hilarious, too, because the depraved minds behind Lifelover are in on the joke that is this mortal coil, as the throbbing sarcasm of the band’s name suggests.
With its multiple-genre disorder and effort-free drum programming and (often) sloppy musicianship and vocals that are (mostly) a tuneless, moaning mumble-croon, Erotik exhibits at every unexpectable turn a sort of bargain basement avant-garde chic. Not the elevated avant-garde of the Surrealists; more like the low rent avant-garde of some Dadaist dropout whose performance art is going to be forgotten just as soon as he musters the energy to throw himself into the Seine…
Aggressive, kooky, nostalgic, childish, sarcastic, wasted, nihilistic, panic-stricken and self-loathing: Erotik is a dumpster fire of clashing adjectives burning behind a Wendy’s in the affluent suburbs of Stockholm (I’m assuming that the Swedes have welcomed Wendy’s superior quadrilateral processed-beef patties into their cities, hearts, and stomachs). It is the asinine smile of the jester in the noose, about to be hanged for insinuating through mimesis that the King’s manhood hooks rather drastically to the left.
I’m getting weeded here. (This is the part where the serious reader can click on something else.) I only meant to vindicate Lifelover in the wake of Karhu’s flippant smear-campaign, and perhaps vindicate myself in the bargain (I do sometimes “suck shit,” but only on the most sacred night of the year). And, of course, to cast Karhu’s shit-sucking taste in “DSBM” into eternal disgrace.
(In Coetzee’s conception of the state of living in disgrace—that is, without recourse to atonement—one generally ends up euthanizing stray dogs, so let us hope Karhu finds something a tad more constructive to do with the years of disgrace he will soon have to endure. I don’t know if dogs can be properly milked, but with the recent consumer craze in non-bovine milk—soy (passé), almond, cashew, coconut, oat—maybe he can cultivate a market for dog milk instead of just euthanizing all of the strays like a son of a bitch?)
Music: If (almost) every other musician on the planet is busy trying to make it, why bother? All of the other lemmings are straining against the current to cross the river. Conformists! Why not turn and, as Captain William Adama so eloquently put it, ride the current out to sea? (He was talking about foxes but shut up.) You can live a little while, riding a current out to sea. But how long can you live struggling perpendicularly against it? Lifelover, riding with the current (toward a watery grave) turns to howl mockery at all the other lemmings who will perish quickly in their doomed and foolhardy perpendicularity. You can’t cheat the river; but you can buy yourself a little time.
Without hope, you can live a little while yet, nourished by obsessive suicide plots. But to live with hope, and when those hopes are definitively dashed (as they always will be), suicide becomes not a nourishing fantasy but an immediate necessity. No one seeking to cheat the river for a little while would swallow a whole bottle of poison. No, you’d take it drop by drop, acclimating to the discomfort: dying a thousand fractions of death over the course of a thousand days rather than dying a whole death all at once.
Why? Because the River wants you. And you excel at sewing disappointment. So fuck the River, and fuck its Mother while we’re at it (the Rain?).
What the fuck was I supposed to be talking about?
Oh yeah. Yarek Ovich. Introversion. Album review.
Who’s sucking shit now, Beargod?
Forget about Yarek Ovich and go buy Lifelover’s Erotik.