Review: Jute Gyte – Ressentiment
Jute Gyte, the prolific black metal/noise/dark ambient/drone alter ego of Missouri’s Adam Kalmbach, has once again unexpectedly released a new album. Combining black metal riffs with classical compositional techniques and the aggressive skronk of noise rock, Ressentiment incorporates new elements along with the classic Jute Gyte sound to create a defining artistic statement and one of the best albums of the year so far.
From the clanging first notes of “Mansions of Fear, Mansions of Pain”, Kalmbach sets up the listener for a journey through Ressentiment’s seasick, contorting Hell. Opening with a wall of distorted guitars freely sliding around the scale before taking a riffier turn with the introduction of a chugging 5/4 motif that pops up throughout the song. Jute Gyte’s sound has always been characterized by a dichotomous combination of blasting black metal and crashing doom, but Ressentiment introduces a crushing new element of blackened death metal heretofore unheard of in Jute Gyte’s discography.
Still present, of course, are Kalmbach’s trademark twisting leads, reminiscent at times of the spindling, architectural musical constructs of Xenakis or Stockhausen. A welcome surprise, though, are the almost-modal progressions found in the openings of “Oh Soft Embalmer of the Still Midnight” and “Like the Deepening of Frost in the Slow Night”, an interesting divergence from Jute Gyte’s usual discordant approach to harmony that borders on accessible. The moment is fleeting though, and the song develops into a classic Jute Gyte track in no time.
Kalmbach describes Ressentiment himself as “microtonal experimental black metal with four-voice canons, extended technique industrial riffing, polyrhythmic process music, and a final collapse into despondent mise en abyme.” When calling Jute Gyte canonical, it’s important to note that this album is far from the stately works of Bach or Beethoven. The twisting counterpoint of “The Central Fires of Secret Memory” is undoubtedly closer in spirit to Webern or Schoenberg than any pretty Baroque tendencies.
An important note to make, however, is that for all the high-minded pretentiousness this review may have injected into it, Ressentiment is possibly the most emotionally direct album in Jute Gyte’s catalog. Moments like the serpentine clean guitar break in “The Central Fires of Secret Memory” and the chugging riffs of “Your Blood and Soil are Piss and Shit” are given stunning emotional heft by Kalmbach’s gasping snarls.
Though far from Jute Gyte’s shortest songs, “Your Blood…” and “Like the Deepening…” both feel more forthright than much of his other material, though both still manage to pack in more than enough twists and turns to keep them interesting.
“Like the Deepening…” opens with a rush of blast beats and chiming guitars before the walls come crashing down and a (relatively) simple section takes over. The riffs at the end take on a character almost like early Morbid Angel, trudging along at a slow-yet-cacophonous pace before cutting off abruptly in a whirl of high-pitched guitar squeals.
The ringing riffs and expansive walls of sliding harmonized guitars that open “The Grey King” call to mind Sonic Youth by way of Gojira, Kalmbach never sacrificing riff-driven brawn for high-minded brains. For an album chock full of unexpected oddities, the truly off-time drums around the three and eight-and-a-half minute marks, the genuinely frightening howls around the six-and-a-half minute mark and the scraping leads throughout the track all still manage to surprise even after repeated listens.
Though the flawlessly-executed dynamic shifts between migraine-inducing black metal and queasy clean guitar interludes are incredible in their own right, the real star of this album is Kalmbach’s ability to masterfully switch from blasting walls of sound to chugging, visceral death metal riffing without missing a beat. Tempos and time signatures change constantly but in a manner so fluid the listener is left completely unaware without careful listening. In this way, the album is enjoyable both as a “casual” listen and one that merits in-depth analysis.
My one complaint with the album is the production. While the overall mix is fine—the drums, for one, could be louder—and at times complements the music in an unassumingly natural way, the mastering is a bit problematic. While nowhere near as bad as some recent offenders (ahem), the master is still as a whole too loud, and the impact of the sudden switches between loud and soft is blunted. There also appears to be some persistent distortion throughout the album. As a one-man project, though, I can’t fault Kalmbach, and the music is so fantastic I can largely overlook any meager technical errors.
Ressentiment works, ultimately, as one of those rare albums that begins with a bang and manages to sustain its initial momentum all the way to the end with nary a misstep to be found. Though not a “pretty” or “pleasant” album by any means, Kalmbach’s genuinely alien approach to harmony and composition coupled with a greater emotional weight than much of his previous work makes Ressentiment one of his best albums yet, and one of the best this year.