If half of the Absolutum roster sounds familiar to readers of these pages, it’s because Christian Kolf and Jan Buckard make up two thirds of the mighty Valborg (with Kolf also doing time in Island, Owl, and about 1,000 other Zeitgeister bands). That level of pedigree ought to pique many an interest, not to mention the fact that this debut EP is the most ferocious form of black metal ever to come from the two musicians. Kolf’s riffs are razor-sharp and persistent in their delivery, while Buckard’s bass rumbles and provides some of the EP’s more notable bits of melody.
Label: The Crawling Chaos Records.
The music resulting from this conglomeration of talent is the simply-titled I, a sub-15-minute burst of blasts and riffs that often hints at larger spaces but uses the dense wall of black metal to keep them just out of reach. It sounds a bit like In the Nightside Eclipse, if you stripped away all of the neoclassical elements and the blanketing comfort of the raw production; or the 10 percent of a Darkspace album that is pure space destruction, eschewing the vast passages of bleeps and bloops. It’s the kind of cutthroat mentality that makes the brief, atmospheric intro seem out of place. Sure, it’s mood-setting in a way, but if there’s one thing the rest of the EP makes clear it is that any kind of atmosphere or vibe is secondary to punishment.
In this way, the EP is a tease both musically and metaphorically; it’ll leave you wanting more, while also creating that great black metal battle of an uneasy mood attempting to burst forth from behind the great wave of violent catharsis. On one side of the guitar/drum wall are the vocals, crying in desperation and rage to the elements on the other, those made by Buckard’s bass and Kolf’s keyboard flourishes (which likewise meet in the middle of Emperor and Darkspace). Tracks start and finish on a dime, making the whole thing feel less like separate songs than merely movements of the whole, and further driving home the gripping tension.
Could the band use more shifts in dynamics or general stylistic variation? Perhaps, but only if they decide to release something longer than I. At fewer than 15 minutes in length, this EP is as direct, violent, and unrelenting as one could wish for. It’s an unceremoniously persistent little explosion of black metal, one that more than shows off the pedigree of its makers while hinting at a broader scope in the future.