Indie Recordings – Out Now.
How many bands can you name which have recorded a live album at a festival as prestigious as Wacken Open Air before having released even a single note under their name? Chances are that, apart from the Norwegian Black Metallers God Seed, no other name will come up and that makes sense as no other duet has created more interest and has courted more controversy than the former Gorgoroth members Gaahl (vocals) and King Ov Hell (bass).
Four years after losing the battle for ownership of the Gorgoroth name, the duet decided to invest their energies in a new project and thus began the birth of “I Begin” – the band’s first album under the Oslo-based label Indie Recordings.
Gaahl and King Ov Hell built their reputations as defenders and promoters of the second wave of Black Metal and therefore references to the strict rules of this genre should be expected in their debut release. Luckily for us, however, the duet decided to follow a musical route that was less predictable and safe in “I Begin” and in the process created nine aggressive, atmospheric and emotionally varied pieces of music which somehow manage to gel exceptionally well under a not so easily identifiable theme.
Riffs are harsh and heavily distorted, drum and bass tunes are dominant and physically challenging and, when not spiteful and urgent, Gaahl’s vocals indulge in choral chants and dark themes reminiscent of those used in his Nordic Folk/Ambient project Wardruna.
If the opening riffs of “Awake” give you the impression that “I Begin” is yet another typical early 90s Black Metal album all you need to do is be a little bit patient, as the nine-track release shortly presents you with all its beautiful variations and musical complexities. The follow up “This From The Past” starts in an equally explosive manner but soon presents an array of emotionally charged themes, paving the way for the exceptional piece of music that is “Alt Liv”.
In this four and a half minute opus, riffs turn groovy, keys acquire a more dominant role and, together with Gaahl’s chants, will remind you of a time when Tiamat’s “Wildhoney” was the most exciting musical proposition around. There isn’t a single Black Metal band that has not been influenced by the mighty Bathory and “From The Running Of Blood” further reinforces this trend, while the magnificent “Hinstu Dagar” finds the band successfully using 70s keyboard themes and sounds; further, “Aldrane Tre” looks towards the Orient for inspiration.
Keys are a highlight of the album, as “Lit” would not have sounded half as good without them, leaving “The Wound” as a testament to the band’s musical diversity and the instrumental “Bloodline” as a fitting ending to this truly impressive album.
I have to admit that, even though I always had great faith in the duet Gaahl/King Ov Hell for producing good quality Black Metal, I was not prepared for something as impressive as “I Begin” – undoubtedly one of the most surprising and fresh-sounding extreme Metal releases of 2012.
This album ticks all the right boxes and should really be appealing not only to fans of Black Metal but also to anyone who likes their Metal dark and sinister. What’s left to see is whether the genre’s staunchest supporters will leave any negative preconceptions aside and embrace this gem. A great debut album indeed!
Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)
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