Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Stagnant Waters - "Stagnant Waters" (2012) [Adversum]

There is clearly nothing stagnant about what is performed on the debut self-titled album by 'Stagnant Waters'. This is a spastic glimpse into a grimy dystopian realm; the blackened manifestation of our self-engineered chaotic end. To me this takes place in the same universe crafted by Dødheimsgard's 666 International, yet it instead transports us into the horrible, further drug infested, rat strewn underworld.

Among those responsible for the album is Zweizz, otherwise known as Svein Egil Hatlevik. Known for his work with avant-black metal pioneers Fleurety, participation on the aforementioned Dødheimsgard album, and more recently his noisy 'head in toilet' electro-mutations. Zweizz is on vocal duty, with the international group being rounded out by Aymeric Thomas and Camille Giraudeau from 'Pryapisme' and 'Smohalla' respectively.

Presented herein is avant-garde, synthetic and mechanical black metal that slams against the tatters and scrapes of industrial and noise with concerted force. Themes thrash and bounce around one other with a rabid intensity. The blistering movement of a piece is, at any point put to a halt to be enveloped by some extra-terrestrial noise. Minutes later, a melodic respite may confront atonal glitches reminiscent of Aphex Twin. All the while, the vocals embody both the wails of a people waddling in their own filth, as well as the commands of the domineering sentient AI that perpetuates their destruction. The thing is that this mess all works very well. This international entity manage to somehow maintain very clear control over dynamics, an element that is essential to retaining a foundation for such am inconsistent listen. That doesn't mean it won't hurt your brain.

The work is an example of hyper-active genre crossing that retains just enough atmosphere to grant it just the right amount of cohesion. Some of the more eyebrow raising moments span from the symphonic trip hop in “Of Salt and Water”, to the warped groove/tech metal in the tapped out “Castles”. Bebop-y chaos is exemplified in “Concrete”, which appears to contain the most clear example of the 'dadaist improvisation' mentioned by the record company. Hyper-digital 8-bit meanderings pulse in and out of the album and crawl to their pinnacle in the 10 minute epic “Axolotl”, where they meld with disconcerting shouts and soaring synths. The album ends on a remarkably serene note and I'm honestly shivering with joyful confusion.

As an aside, I'm going to extend a limb here and say that this album conjures images of the kaleidoscopic cyberspace in Gibson's Neuromancer, of the jazzy depths of Midgard in Final Fantasy VII, and the vast atmosphere from Blade Runner. In a way, it's a musical manifestation of our modern conception of Science Fiction.

Uncompromising and sadistic, whimsical and maniacal, Stagnant Waters tells the story of both the junky under the pipes and the mumbling rag-clad oracle who foretells of a possible future beyond the end. An absolute success for this industrialized 'school' of black metal, and certainly for fans who seek beauty in the waste. As the final chord rings out on the album I realize there are in fact stagnant waters here: sewage that is a robust shade of brown, littered with syringes, in which we can glimpse the distorted reflection of our filthy little selves.


1 comment:

  1. Great review! The science fiction angle definitely occurred to me as I was getting familiar with the album, especially the processed clarinets/sax and the chip music sounds that are all over the album. In a way, it almost feels like "post-avant-garde metal" or something ridiculous like that because it totally changes the use of the sound palette and tools of the standardized avant-garde metal sound, which to me has become somewhat boring in the second half of the first decade.


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