Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Kvlt of Hiob: Thy Kingly Mask (2012)

Funeral Mood

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, etc.

Kvlt of Hiob are a German black metal duo who released their debut album, Thy Kingly Mask, in May of this year. It is therefore unsurprising that this was my first encounter with their material.

First off, these guys are nothing like your typical underground black metal group. The dark, evil sound is quite clearly present, but they lack the rough, utterly unpolished ferocity of many other young black metal bands. Instead, they experiment a great deal with their song structures and they place most of their emphasis on atmosphere (but not in a "let's rip off old Burzum" way). The songs tend to be fairly slow paced and spacious, with effects and audio clips that create strong images of a dark medieval dungeon. The vocals through many such stretches are essentially the echoing, unintelligible screams of some prisoner being tortured in a distant, unseen cell. The unusually clear production allows all this to be audibly distinguishable, which I personally like but which may bother more purist black metal listeners.

The guitar work shifts through different approaches, often more open and prog-rock influenced than most black metal, with creative riffs that shift and flow throughout the song. The unexpectedly audible bass actually ventures into some really interesting jazzy territory on tracks like Sacrament. The drumming is well attuned to the music and capably played, but it does relatively little to grab specific attention. The entire affair is laced with reverb-drenched howls from the vocalist.

While this album is clearly still black metal, it lacks the usual feeling of palpable coldness and hostility, substituting in a darkness and despair that feels temperamentally similar to a funeral doom record. This, along with the experimental/progressive nature of their sound makes the album a little hard to judge, since it's not an easy record to get a firm grasp on without extensive exposure. On the whole, I think it is really well composed but that it didn't totally click for me personally. It is an album, however, that I can easily see certain listeners really falling in love with.

I'll definitely keep my eyes open for future releases from this band. They have enormous potential, and I have a feeling this will grow on me over time.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Blut & Eisen

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