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Since its inception, black metal has been on a quest for the otherworldly, striving to shed as many traces of the contemporary world as possible, it being a genre deeply in war with (and in fear of) everyday routine, the mundane, and the spectre of dominant society. This is embedded in the extremity of both music and aesthetics. What could be expected is the step beyond distorted vocals; namely the complete discarding of voice due to its central role in human experience. Yet, there are few instrumental black metal albums, none of which has really moved beyond negligible recognition.
Channeler is a new one-man project from Greece, formed by Diablery’s guitarist, Nimerius. The band is not an instrumental unit; yet, the use of sparse, faint vocals that are somewhat obscured in the mix, paints its first release, Conscience, with notions of instrumentality, strengthening its otherworldly character.
In its fulfilling duration of 25 minutes, Conscience is revealed as a specimen of ectoplasmic uncanny black metal discreetly donning a cloak of majesty. The bass-ridden floating sound is articulated on long-winded high-frequency riffs and hypnotic structures based on circular repetition, building up a strongly transcendental character. Interspersed throughout are some moments of brooding contemplation, which also happen to be the more vocal ones – in a clean, emphatic and overbearing way which brings into mind Bölzer as well as the spoken proclamations of the early Greek scene. The whole thing has an undoubted occult aura and a deeply meditative hue.
Composition-wise, the sweeping main themes are the pillars of the songs. The focus here seems to be on recurrence, not complexity, and the approach feels impressionistic with a strong emphasis on giving free rein to the subconscious. However, there are micro-melodies woven as frontispieces in several of the riffs, offering a layer of elaborateness (a good example is the first main part of Evocation III). As for influences, the first name coming into mind is Norway’s Vemod and their phenomenal Venter På Stormene. Channeler follow on this enchanting and highly otherworldly motif of ethereal quality and somewhat delicate melodies. Also, there is a more-than-subtle hint of grandeur in the songs, forming natural soundscapes of wandering beauty (the whole of Evocation IV is an exercise in resplendence), as well as something of the more incorporeal aspects of the Portuguese scene (Black Cilice, Candelabrum) as well as their French precursors (Les Legions Noires).
Despite a few shortcomings (some of the mid-paced parts feel a bit grounded and out of sync with the album’s atmosphere, the clean vocals are not always spot on), Conscience is a surprising debut of well-crafted and passionate raw black metal that feels arcane, presenting the listener with vistas of otherworldly beauty.