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Skáphe – Skáphe² (Fallen Empire Records, 2020)

The thing about chaotic and dissonant music with highly fluid nature and unconventional song structure is that it is quite difficult to memorize as a listener, and therefore to re-visit it in its absence. Whereas more conventional music forms can be easily examined in retrospection, the category in which Skáphe’s second album belongs almost requires it (the category specimen) being present in order for the examiner to draw any kind of conclusions more profound than “this band plays chaotic dissonant black metal”. More than the elusive riffing, it is the entanglement of the different parts that ultimately forces the listener to just experience the music, rather than pack it in his mind for a later occasion. It’s like trying to force concrete meaning upon pieces of wood drifting on a stormy sea, or rather, like trying to gather all those pieces in order to build a raft but end up drowning in the hopeless process, while you could be saved (or drown without so much wasted effort) by grasping on whichever piece was most accessible at the time.

Moving onwards, Skáphe’s sophomore album, “Skáphe²,” is a fine example of music created first and foremost to be impressed by the audience. It is a hazy, feverish entity, resembling a journey through paradoxically articulated catacombs and dream-forms, like a host of feathered serpents crawling upon the dried riverbeds of infernal streams. Just take a look to the excellent cover art to see what I mean. Elusive guitar riffs fade in and out with spectral eloquence, nevertheless not forgetting the black metal imposing majesty when things call for all-out assault. The album is mostly wandering in its character, guiding the listener through otherworldly vistas, but guide gives quickly way to adversary when menace is transmuted to concrete evil. The vocals of D.G. (Misþyrming, Naðra) are crushing with high-quality growls, peaking when they turn to ghostly howling (as in the almost psychedelic middle part of “VI”). The voice in many a part tends to transmute in shriek riffing, and vice versa, creating an organic fluidity between the two instruments. Rhythm section leans towards creation of framing volume, rather than taking the lead. The sad thing is that as with the Skáphe debut, none of the lyrics are available, and this time, we cannot even meditate on descriptive song titles, tracks being named just arithmetically (“I”, “II”, etc).

“Skáphe²” is a beautiful beast of an album. It stands way beyond and above the snoring boredom that characterizes most of the albums of this chaotic type, blazing as dark incense inside the listener’s mind during its 35 minutes of duration, guiding the audience in a grotesque journey through occult lands of non-Euclidean geometry. It is the audio equivalent of fever mentality, and thus it certainly is not an easy album to tackle, yet it rewards with an experience that keeps calling the listener back to it, more so because this experience is inaccessible outside the record per se. An excellent specimen of contemporary black metal.

11 Feb 2016

Tags: black metal   iceland   2016
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