Monday, July 18, 2011

Circle of Ouroborus - "Eleven Fingers" (2011) [Handmade Birds Records]

There is no other band that sounds like Circle of Ouroborus. Hell, half the time they don't even sound like themselves. From their onset, this mysterious Finnish duo made their mark with a unique, almost complacent-sounding take on the "punkier" side of black metal, paying homage especially to the immortal Joy Division. Already prolific in their early days, recent years have shown Circle of Ouroborus releasing near-obscene amounts of work, a good handful by themselves. Delving deeper into obscurity and on a steady departure from black metal with each new release, Circle of Ouroborus has created a sort of "legendary" status about themselves. With recordings on all sorts of formats selling out within mere hours or days after being released, the duo of Antti Klemi and the enigmatic "Rauta" have created quite a bit of demand for their more limited releases (read: most of them). Having heard a good chunk of their recordings (maybe 85-90%? That's a lot), I can safely state that I have been consistently impressed, if not completely blown away by Circle of Ouroborus's recordings.

Set to be released in the next few weeks, Eleven Fingers is a clear, almost calculated culmination of Circle of Ouroborus's erratic genre experiments. While still as raw and muddy as their more recent releases, one can make out the more scathing, traditional black metal influence seen on the MatterEther tape or the split with New York's Roman Cross, but this is undoubtedly one of their more atmospheric, melodic, "post-punky" albums for sure. From the moment labelhead R. Loren received the recordings for this album, he would not stop telling me that the guitars sounded like keyboards and, until I heard Eleven Fingers for myself, I had sort of doubted him... but he's absolutely right. The riffs are there, don't get me wrong, but the way they're recorded gives them a strange, almost gothic vibe, like one would hear on a Lowlife album, albeit less crisp and infinitely more mournful.

Circle of Ouroborus's vocals have always been a bit of a deciding point for people. I've heard them compared to "a depressed Homer Simpson" or "some drunk guy who happened to stumble into the studio," but I've always been drawn to their charm. Yeah, they aren't necessarily on key, but the overall do-it-yourself, "amateur" vibe that consumes this album calls for this sort of vocal style. Everything is laid back: the drumming never leaves a mid-paced crawl, guitars meander, creating gorgeous, harmonic walls, and the vocals never leave their sluggish comfort zone. As I said earlier, this album oozes complacency; Circle of Ouroborus is really the only band that I can honestly describe as "comfortable black metal," if I can even call them black metal anymore. Yes, you can call them "black metal" solely due to their previous releases and the occasional burst of harsh vocals, but in the end Circle of Ouroborus is clearly something new, unique and different. Find me another band that sounds like Circle of Ouroborus and I will call BS immediately.

As they have so many times in the past, Circle of Ouroborus has completely floored me with Eleven Fingers.  I've heard the phrases "best album of the decade" and "my favorite album of the past twenty years" thrown around and I almost have to agree. Unlike other bands who stick to the black metal norm with slight experimentation and call themselves "the next evolutionary step in black metal," Circle of Ouroborus quietly ascends the genre, swiftly filling CD, record, and tape racks with their revolutionary music.

Be sure to preorder the Eleven Fingers LP, along with releases from one of the coolest label rosters I've ever seen, from Handmade Birds here. It is imperative that you own such an important record.


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