Originally written by Doug Moore.
Black metal today can be divided (very roughly, mind) into two camps.
One camp consists of traditionalists. Darkthrone’s Fenriz is their chief spokesman, and stalwarts like Immortal, Gorgoroth, Watain, and Inquisition are their field generals. The other camp consists of the much-ballyhooed new wave: genre-benders like Nachmystium, Cobalt, Deathspell Omega, Alcest, Krallice, and so on. These bands blend some portion of black metal’s original vocabulary with outside influences in an effort to create something new. Whether that new thing remains black metal is, of course, up for debate.
Finland’s Jumalhämärä is skipping gleefully through the demilitarized zone between these two camps, beckoning members of both to join them.
This enigmatic band spent fourteen years releasing demos and EPs before finally spitting out Resignaatio, and you can hear the years of labor in this diverse but seamless listening experience. Though it draws from outside the original black metal milieu as much as any new-school act, this album channels all of the paradoxes that typify black metal’s prime movers. Resignaatio can induce trances and headbanging at once; it’s earthy but mystical, speedy but trudging, and inaccessible but enthralling.
It’s difficult to adequately sum up just what Jumalhämärä is doing, but towering opener “Ecstasy In Blood—A Ballad” presents as good of a starting place as any. At first, it doesn’t seem too different from any traditionalist BM tune. An icy, repetitive guitar motif blazes away over a flailing blastbeat while vocalist T. Lind declaims a tale of moral degradation in his stentorian bellow.
But about halfway through the cut, things get…weird. Fluttering guitars become keening single notes, which in turn recede into an increasingly oppressive melodic droning that might be keyboards, vocals, or some combination thereof. The song’s metal components are gradually subsumed into this sonic singularity until the blasting drums finally collapse, leaving only a few searing, gigantic tones.
Resignaatio uses this metal-dissolving-into-psychedelia motif a number of times, but the album manages to cover a shitload of unrelated ground as well. “A Storm Is Coming” is built around a gnarled, bitter guitar stomp; “Haul” veers into black’n’roll territory behind H. Talvenmäkl’s bombastic drum rolls; and the title track is virtually pure, rending black metal. Jumalhämärä doesn’t miss a beat between these radically different cuts. Each song flows into the next almost imperceptibly, like episodes in a night of dreams.
But the remarkable alchemy that characterizes Resignaatio is most evident on closer “Of Enlightenment and Righteousness Pt. 2.” It’s a terrifying echo chamber of a song. Everything—from Talvenmäkl’s inexorable cymbal-bashing to Lind’s desperate howls to the countless layers of guitars, keys, and chanting—seems to come from everywhere at once, except when they’re coming from nowhere at all. But in spite of its bizarre compositional properties, “Of Enlightenment and Righteousness” feels like a black metal cut. It marries ritualistic repetition, rhythmic barbarity, and an air of inescapable menace, just like the old masters do…and with barely any of their tricks.
Of course, in splitting the difference between these two camps, Jumalhämärä runs the risk of alienating both. Traditionalists want to hear Immortal or something that sounds like them; new-schoolers want to hear Neige talking about his feelings. But that’s what makes this disc so daring—it doesn’t pander to either side of the debate. This is not a trend or an aberration. This is the sound of black metal looking to its future, rather than its past. Resignaatio is one of a handful of must-listen black metal albums in 2010.