Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jumalhämärä - Resignaatio (2010) [Guest contribution]

Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson, my main man and the main man behind the impressively updated and super righteous blog Halifax Collect, which I've been invited to collaborate and write for currently and in the past. After all these years, the basterd has finally succumb to my nagging and has imparted us here on SHOM with a post of his own…  BK has been a real pal to me; getting me into sold-out shows in Toronto, getting me on board with The Reykjavík Grapevine people, giving me a place to stay in Iceland, countless reach-arounds and introducing me to some really radical human beings that have humbled me down to ground level.
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Words by Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson

It was around two years ago, me and Chris of Severed Heads Open Minds met for the first time… On a stormy day in Iceland, one of the first things we spoke of was Jumalhämärä, as I asked him if he knew the band… He didn't. Most people don't. I then went into an aimless and poorly articulated description of the album's opening track "Ecstasy In Blood - A Ballad." I tried to explain that the song's arrangement didn't make any sense, how the blast beat was a foundation for at least two guitars and a bass, all of whom play the same riff essentially but not aligned and synchronized. Which means, they all harbor the same notes but "start" (for a lack of a better term) at different junctions in the bar of riff they are playing, overlapping each other, yet never negating one another.
It's hard to explain, but this cacophony of chaos, this wall of sound is absolutely beautiful. We're not talking odd time signatures and technicality, but a cascading stream of melancholic aggression. And when the "second part" kicks in and all riffs are played in sensible unison, the power of it all is exhilarating. The song ends in a cathartic mess of yells, yelps and screaming, like in an apocalyptic ritual and there's no stopping this song. Like falling into a never ending abyss. Humongous floor toms plod along in the back like a giant's heart beat. Stunning.

Chris - "Who do they sound like?"
Me - "No one."

Is the following song similar? Not at all. What the hell is going on here? The Neurosis like opening would have you believe you are in a familiar territory (more on that here) but the slide guitar is an omen to be taken seriously: This song will also not behave. But it takes a while for it to go off the beaten track, thus "Storm Is Coming" is probably the song that will not scare anyone away, for the rest of the album is no fast food for the non-adventurous.
The impossibly perfect "Haul" kicks in with its "march onwards" snare drum and twangy guitar. Yes twangy! Something one isn't used to associate with black metal (not that these Fins can be lazily written off as black metal-anything). I had no idea what to expect when I heard this one the first time but when the noise-punk like drumming kicks in topped off with the black metal screaming and those irresistible twangy guitars I was incredible excited. This leads into a semblance of a chorus with howling and yelling men and a haunting single strong guitar melody that hasn't left my thoughts since I heard this album in the winter of 2010. This is magic time. You'll be on the edge of your seat awaiting an explosion, that never happens. Oh the tease! Leave them hanging, I say. Leave the audience salivating for more.

But again, the gears shift in "596" and even more melancholia and wistfulness takes the stage, like being slowly walked to one's death. The tone here befits a funeral. Keyboards, accordion, and a lead that is obviously improvised, so much so that the player performing it is testing frets as he goes, clumsily, but the effect is as charming as it is imperfect. This sounds like a terrible idea but it is not. It is incredibly refreshing and arresting.  Somehow this resonates with me strongly in an age of fix-jobs and perfection. These sort of moments are strewn all over Resignaatio. Another, more composed than earlier, choir enters the fray. I imagine a forsaken flock of men, abandoned in deep mines, awaiting death - longing for it. So yeah, this is music that stimulates the mind. Such a rare thing in metal these days.

The title track conjures more menace and when picked a part, all its movements would fit a more conventional black metal song but in the hands of Jumalhämärä, and this deep into the album, one anticipates something wild, untamed and unhinged around the corner… And that eventually happens in the album's closer "Of Enlightenment and Righteousness: Part II."
This review is nearing a track-by-track analysis. I’ll forgo that. When an album reaches heights and harmony while sounding utterly untamed, archaic, primal, tribal, loud, crashing, frantic and downright insane, you know something special happened.You know, every madman has moments of calm, serenity and beauty. That's Resignaatio for you. It's unique experience that will grow with you and haunt you for a long, long time.
… You're welcome.

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I've had a hell of a time trying to find this album for myself, but I've finally stumbled on a download link for you guys, so listen up.