Icelandic black metal is sooooo early 2016. I’m into the Portuguese shit now.
You probably came here hoping for something nice to listen to. Well, flushers, hold on to that hope with all your might. Or don’t. Either way you’re going to die one day.
Now that I’ve taken you down a peg or two, you should be in prime shape to absorb what I have for you today. Namely, Candelabrum, a Portuguese black metal band named after the plural of a device used to hold multiple candles (presumably “Candelabra” was already taken). Their debut album, Necrotelepathy, is named after a neologism referring to telepathic contact between the living and the dead or between the dead and the dead. With my expertise regarding the Portuguese black metal underground being what it is (a joke), if you were to slip me Candelabrum’s debut album under the pretense that it was the new album by a certain other Portuguese black metal artist, I would be none the wiser. All of which is to say that comparisons to a certain other Portuguese black metal artist will be inevitable, unanimous and not at all unfair. Candelabrum is the young pupil kneeling at the adept’s feet. The pupil opens his mouth; the adept vomits the black bile of her wisdom into it. The pupil then traipses (or mopes, probably) off to deliver us an album of harsh, depressive wizardry.
The first thing that will strike you upon listening, even before you can wrap your ears around the music itself, is the production value. It sucks. But it sucks gloriously. At first I thought maybe my awful computer speakers were contributing to all that crackling. But no, Necrotelepathy will cause all speakers to crackle. This is not simply lo-fi due to financial restrictions, and certainly not lo-fi for the sake of conformity. Candelabrum’s pursuit of a noisy, rickety, blown-out sound constitutes an artform in and of itself. Nay, a form of worship. It sounds as if the album was recorded in someone’s kitchenette (doubling as a rehearsal-space) using a single microphone placed on the floor behind the drumset. During a windstorm. With the windows open. One vocalist (maybe?) yowls wordlessly in the background, near one of the open windows, his voice fusing with the wind. The other vocalist is way up front in the mix, leading me to believe that he is lying on the floor near the drumset as he belts out his high-pitched manic caterwauls. The guitarist has fallen out or been sucked out the window and is blowing around in eddies of wind along with disembodied branches and dead leaves. If Candelabrum has a bassist, they should reveal to him that he has not been plugged in this whole time, then politely relieve him of his duties. (Note: I have no idea how many people are actually in this band. I’ll take an educated guess and say just one.) The only instrument which cuts through the howling storm of wind-battered instruments is a keyboard, or maybe it’s an effects-laden guitar. Whatever the case, the melodic leads generated by this instrument will be your only guide through the haze of barely discernible chord progressions.
These melodic leads, reminiscent of Burzum‘s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, are catchy and pleasing to the ear, a welcome counterpoint to the all the noise. The melodies invoke deep introspection on the cusp of sleep, where thoughts and memories bleed into voices and vistas from other worlds. For those of you who require music to induce sleep, Necrotelepathy would be a good choice. That is, until the second track begins. The album is comprised of two songs, each over fifteen minutes long. The first is repetitive, mesmeric, droning; it latches onto a certain wavelength and rides it all the way out until tantric orgasm or fatigued collapse. Come to think of it, black metal yoga enthusiasts could get a lot of mileage out of this one. The beginning of the second track is more of an upbeat onslaught: the harsh reality to which you wake after a tranquil dream; the rage-inducing drive home through oceans of traffic after your pretty chill black metal yoga class. In stark contrast to the homogeny of its predecessor, this song is full of ups and downs, twists and turns, things and other things. The award for Keeping Things Interesting goes to the drummer, who–while avoiding anything flashy in deference to mere competence–changes up the pace often enough to keep you from dying of sleep apnea.
Which is not to say that this album requires a whole bunch of your attention. It does not. Too close a listen will likely cause you to zero in on all the crackle and fuzz of the recording. Better to relax your ears, let your mind loose and just drift along. It feels strange to refer to Necrotelepathy as pleasant, but there you have it. It is neither grim nor nasty nor especially misanthropic. (Or it is all of those things and I am suffering a massive disorder of perception.) Garbage-pail production aside, I suspect the aspect most listeners will have a hard time swallowing is the up-front vocals. While one must give the vocalist credit for not always hiding behind scads of hiss and reverb like so many of these creatures are wont to do, for articulating using his mandible, tongue and palate, he also kind of sounds like a criminally disturbed muppet at times. It all comes down to how weird you like your black metal, and how much you are willing to forgive.
When it comes to black metal, my capacity for forgiveness is like unto that of a saint. But I do still have a few gripes, and they must be aired. Firstly, as mentioned above, Candelabrum sounds a lot like a certain other Portuguese black metal artist, which would not be such a big problem if that certain other artist were not the progenitor of a very unique approach to lo-fi black metal. Secondly, the same spacey synth patch is used for the melodies on both tracks; I would have preferred a bit of variety. Otherwise, what we have here is a deftly constructed album that will most likely appeal to those who prefer their black metal horizontal, pensive and dreamy–or those who fetishize bizarre production values and general obscurity.
Three Out ov Five Flaming Toilets ov Hell
is was out June 1st on Altare Productions [Editor’s Note: Richter wrote this review 8 years ago and I neglected to run it due to my incompetence]