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Album Review: DØDHEIMSGARD Black Medium Current

10 Reviewer

Dødheimsgard's Black Medium Current is a portal to another universe. There are so many outstanding creators in the genre. Yet, I certainly hold the opinion that DHG's co-founder "Vicotnik," Yusaf Parvez, is one of the movement's greatest artists.

Although Dødheimsgard has been a revolving door of musicians over the years, Vicotnik clearly has the right team of reliable men around him at present. The maestro is currently joined by three incredible talents: Lars Emil Måløy of If Nothing Is; "Tommy Guns," or Tommy Thunberg, of Kirkebrann; and Øyvind MyrvollVicotnik's partner in crime in Dold Vorde Ens Navn and a collaborator of Mayhem's Teloch in Nidingr.

Black Medium Current is an intensely personal work that requires an open mind. That isn't difficult because the album's radical honesty is actually disarming, though there are moments of seductive guile and playfulness. One of the reasons why Black Medium Current is so rewarding is because it's a very "giving" offering. It holds your hand with paternal warmness and sagacity — not exactly your norm when it comes to black metal.

Black Medium Current gives you the unnerving yet exhilarating sensation of being swallowed by a black hole. It allows you to look squarely into the abyss, with which it converses. Although a confrontation with the abyss is both a danger and a blessing, one beneficial aspect is that this album demonstrates the meaning of creation from the void. It opens up new spaces, which it quickly fills and also empties.

From the dark backdrop, all kinds of variegated shape-shifting images arise with the brightness of supernovae. Because it shines with all colors of the rainbow, this planetarium of an album sometimes turns into the sonic equivalent of white light. The compositions impart the sensations of floating in outer space, swimming with the bioluminescent creatures of the deep sea, crawling amidst the lushness of the rainforest, walking through the imperial buildings of the city, etc. Everything about Black Medium Current feels larger-than-life, larger-than-death.

This album is a journey that just needs to be experienced and constantly re-experienced firsthand. Despite the album's more modern and futuristic aspects, we hear riffs that sometimes position us at the heart of the '90s. Retro vibes creep in at times as well. This works nicely to increase the harmony and dissonance between the present, past, and future.

The songwriting is pure genius. Each instrument is used brilliantly. In addition to the usual suspects, Black Medium Current features cello, theremin, piano, and flute. Electronics are incorporated in a masterful manner that adds texture and frequently enhances the glittering intergalactic feel. You might assume that a black metal offering would lose some of its integrity and become a bit artificial due to the combination of such varied elements, but it remains purely organic, palpable, alive.

You never know where the current of this magnum opus will lead. Songs can change completely and at the drop of a dime, yet this is accomplished with grace. The fascinating thing is that you always know when a song has ended, though their inner threads may not always be perceptible to reason. Black Medium Current features mostly long compositions, the lengthiest of which is nearly 11 minutes.

DHG's other vocalists have been exceptional in the past: again, Aldrahn; Kvohst; and yes — we've even heard some additional vocals by Fenriz as well as lead vocals on a couple of tracks by Apollyon. Nevertheless, the dirty truth is that I was really happy that Vicotnik handled the vocals this time around. Vicotnik has a finesse and theatrical flair that place him on a level above even the finest thespians. In addition to making choices that are brilliant from an analytical perspective, his performances seep into the darkest corners of your soul and allow you to feel intensely connected to the music! His vocals on Black Medium Current are heartful perfection.

During the course of the album, Vicotnik adopts a variety of vocal approaches and often gives you the impression that he has morphed into someone else. The layers make you feel like you are seeing doubles, triples, roomfuls of Vicotiniks. He forces you to stay in the moment: A syllable or sound can begin in a way that evokes one emotion, maybe joy tinged with amusement, and completely transform, let's say into feelings of despair or emptiness.

The Norwegian language throughout Black Medium Current engenders a special intimacy and sense of atmosphere. However, when English first appears on the third track, "Interstellar Nexus," it pops off the canvas of the music in an extraordinarily bold way. The album has a superhero feel at times that the English language certainly enhances. Black Medium Current's mix of Norwegian and English is appropriate for a philosophical record insofar as it constructs a bridge between the particular and the universal.

Black Medium Current represents black metal at a high stage of evolution and a return to the primordial waters of chaos from which the movement arose. During the first song, "Et smelter," Vicotnik mentions Dronningens gate, or "Queen's Street," twice. Dronningens gate was an important meeting place for members of the scene. On the last track, "Requiem Aeternum," we hear: "The king is dead." This could possibly be a reference to Dødheimsgard's first album, Kronet til konge (1995), "Crowned to be King." In any case, we feel that some noble passage has taken place, which makes sense because Vicotnik is the phoenix who keeps rising in order to surprise us with new artistic triumphs.

Black Medium Current is an important album that speaks to the fact that we are eternally traveling homeward "in defeat" to Dødheimsgard.

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