Review Summary: This is nowhere.
Among the many and far between ancient civilizations and their osmosis that established the foundations of modern world, Greeks have always been an important part of the process. Long before their plummet to decay during the Roman/Byzantine era, the universal trait culminated in the region, was the perpetual (not always peaceful though...) loop of improvement through moderation and review. Apart from critical sectors such as the rule of law, the pattern extended to social interactions between citizens. For example, wine making and drinking were imported from Asia and the Middle East, but ancient Greeks introduced its dilution with fresh water prior to consumption. Technical avails aside, the process secured civility and spiritual expansion among symposia attendants through drinking with moderation (sic). Excluding the Dionysian festivities where a more energetic behavior was expected from participants, the consumption of crude or diluted wine in excess, was considered a barbaric habit, as it increased the possibility of uncontrolled inebriation and disorderly, criminal even, conduct. Now, if someone were to believe what the Finnish black metal purveyors Förgjord posit in an interview for their latest album Ilmestykset
in Occult Black Metal Zine blog, the aforementioned “cause and effect” dipole, duly condensed in the term “perkele” (herein translated as “possessed by evil spirits”), has been rather frequent in Finland throughout the 20th century.
The cabin on the album cover could legitimately point to US “rural” black metal, although of late, European black metal outfits with an avowed admiration for mountainous landscapes (France’s Hyrgal are highly recommended), have recently started to follow suit. Rather, it is a snapshot of a murder crime scene from the early '30s, related to the aforementioned Finnish excess drinking folklore, in which perpetrators and victims were in no position to remember how everything lapsed to the point of no return. Lyrically, the album concept is casually attached to the “revelations” (“Ilmestykset”) of Finnish self-proclaimed, “in a state of sleeping trance” prophet Ida Maria Åkerblom (one of several in the region). A virtual precursor for individuals such as Charles Manson, she emerged in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, during which the Finnish folk, being subject to the crumbling Czar, was struggling/striving for hope and spiritual guidance, thus cramming the congregations of her own and similar local movements.
Referencing a verse from Neil Young’s song (Everybody Knows) “This Is Nowhere”, both afflicting settings in which Ilmestykset
is shrouded – alcohol-driven and religious extremism – can be safely characterized as such. In terms of the actual music, the Finns claim that the “(this is) nowhere” notion bodes with their album-to-album evolution; the present is king, the past is as if it never existed, what’s important is the spendthrift of whatever stock of spontaneity and inspiration are available for the song writing process. In hindsight, this is partially true for their back catalog, as various idiosyncratic imbalances are evident in terms of sound work, arrangements, individual performance etc., that gradually form more structured material, as the releases pile up. Leitmotifs inherited from album to album, are the lo-fi production, the melodies that persist in spite, the completely “torn” vocals, the disparity between the atmospheric, ritual, rock n’ roll and pure black metal parts of a song, the initially unreasonable pivoting between the mentioned segments which becomes slightly more comprehensible with stacked listens, the short temporal duration of every track list and so on.
constitutes a singularity in Förgjord’s overall work due to the excellent development and integration of the traits that surfaced therein, especially the immediate predecessor Uhripuu
. The texture of the sound work is coarse grained as always, but it consciously allows for the body of atmospheric lead guitar (bordering post metal at times) melodies to form a worthwhile contrast. The album is salted with samples of eerie cinematic echos, which rouse the spirits and amplify the lyrical content written in the band’s mother tongue. Despite the sound’s nominal black metal imprint, genre-specific elements such as blast beating and tremolo riffing, have been largely pushed in the rear, whereas they are blended with seemingly alien elements. Prevalent for the first time, is an intriguing progressive/hard rock/rock n’ roll hybrid, which manifests itself through prolonged temporal durations (“Orjahuoran Laulu”), “calm before the storm” interludes (“Pohjolan Soturi”), and arrangements whose components consist of the previous affair Uhripuu
, Mercyful Fate, Motorhead, Better Off Dead
-era Sodom, and hard rock in the progressive vein of the sophomore The Devil’s Blood album. What’s important is that Ilmestykset
can be heard back-to-back or in piecewise binge sessions; the author of this review recalls having “Maailma Palaa” on repeat, when it was released as a single. In general, if black metal, concept themes and fruitful experimentation with other genres are demanded from a single release, Förgjord’s fourth album is a critical choice for the current year and beyond.