Let’s go ahead and clear something up right now. If you like your black metal on the more polished side, or are looking for frostbitten riffs from the howling fjords of Norway, then just go ahead and stop reading here. Don’t even bother with Revenant Marquis. However, if you want your black metal raw, weird and twisted, then Youth In Ribbons, the latest work from the mysterious project from Wales, might be of interest to your earholes.
I suppose this is the part where I should complain about having to sit through an intro, but the opening track does exceedingly well at setting the stage for the album. The faint keys and the creaking drums beneath the crinkle of white noise set the stage for something old—not ancient, medieval old, but more in line with the album’s cover—a tale of horror in a more contemporary sense. The music reflects the mystery of a sinister deeds of a time once past, the barely audible nuances of the rhythm guitar on tracks like “Ephebiphobia” create a noxious atmosphere in which the maddening din of the lead guitar wails and spirals its way around the soundscape. The drums pound like the panicked opening and slamming of shutters and doors to the point where the splinters flying from the possessed fixtures themselves can almost be heard. The vocals wail beneath it all like echoing screams through the barren halls of, say, an old school. They’re mostly indecipherable and largely just serving as a subtle addition to the washing, distorted sense of melody to the whole affair.
It’s not an easy listen. “Grave Lit Transmogrification” almost begs to be skipped with the way the abrasive dismelody of the lead guitar scrapes against the top of the mix in a battle of wills against the listener’s tolerance for pain. And yet, it beckons to continue playing, mesmerizing its way into the consciousness like a potent absinthe. Conversely, there are moments of uneasy peace, such as the unsettlingly soothing “The Blood Of Lady Tasker,” where the steady incantation whispering over the smoldering intensity of the drums brings an eerie calm.
What’s super-duper neat about Revenant Marquis is how well they manage to present madness in a coherent form. When listening actively, it provides a sort of grotesque misadventure through bizarre recollections. Recollections of a young soul tattered and destroyed—the memories seen through a lens of trauma and despair. The hopelessness simply wails against the abrasive wrongness of the music, particularly on “Taskermilward.” There’s some sort of distorted joy beneath the main riff—utterly twisted like the forced grin of a youth grappling with an unspeakable horror occurring, not unlike the devouring blackness represented by the midsection of the song.
While some may write off raw black metal as total noise, garbage, or unlistenable, there is undeniably artistic merit to be found here. Youth In Ribbons, with a bit of examination, is an extremely personal work. The album is the terror, the abject horror of abuse, a pure outlet of pain and aggression from the perspective of the victim. The song titles tell the story of the music: “Menstruation” is the coming of age, coupled with “Ephebiphobia” (fear of youth) and “Ephebophilic Wraith” (ephebophilia refers to an adult attracted to adolescents). “Ysgol” is a Welsh word for school, perhaps referring to the eighth track, “Taskermilward,” which in turn is almost certainly referring to the Tasker-Milward school, founded in 1978 with the merging of the Haverfordwest Grammar School and Tasker’s School For Girls, located in, you guessed it, Wales. The context puts a sinking weight to the pain behind the music, the aggressive rage and crippling sorrow distorted behind a wall of confusion. Youth In Ribbons is as raw as black metal gets—and not just in the production department.