Vardan - _The Woods Is My Coffin_ / _Enjoy of Deep Sadness_
(Moribund Records, 2014)
by: Dan Lake (6 out of 10)
Xasthur is no more. Scott Conner promised very different musical pursuits, but as of this writing, we haven't heard them. Striborg has been silent for more than a few months, so that front's not promising. Nortt haunts the edges of the community as more of a grandfatherly idea than a fount of material. So where can we go to get the one-man depressive suicidal black metal we crave in our bleakest hours?

Enter Sicily's Vardan to fill that most gaping of voids with his own gaping void. In just the past few months, Moribund Records has released two joy-raping relics by the Catania solo project, though these artifacts of wintry despair are just the tip of a prodigious iceberg that includes seven albums in as many years. Vardan specializes in the familiar hiss-gritty production of morosely repetitive guitar work tossed with dispassionate drum slaps, all of it meant to drag your spirits into the greyest doldrums where you'll be stranded to sicken and shrivel in the poison smog of your own hatred of self and life. Anyone looking for metal to act as an empowering agent of self-aggrandizement, look elsewhere.

Vardan's approach on _The Woods Is My Coffin_ is as mid-paced and monochrome as you might imagine, though the sound is neither as harshly noisy as Striborg nor as gothically hollow as Xasthur. And not everything shuffles like a despondent emo kid down the pristinely wood-paneled hall toward his father's study. "Luciferian Assault" and "Goatcraft" even squeeze out a bit of forced anger, and some of the former's chord progressions are positively hopeful, in a dreary wish-I-could-get-my-cell-phone-back sort of way. The two-part "Dawn of the Followers" makes good work of summing up the album's trundling bleak purpose as the album comes to a close.

_Enjoy of Deep Sadness_ arrives with a new set of teeth altogether. The three songs, clocking in around twelve minutes each, seem to have been mastered more loudly than on _The Woods Is My Coffin_, and the result invests the later record with a stronger sense of purpose and confrontation with the world around it. The pace remains aloof, the disengaged shuffle that never settles into the doom range but never feels more attentive than necessary. Not that we wish any differently -- resigned disgust was only ever intended to come in one color. It's the plaintive guitar lines, though, that remind us what the value of this music has always been: to encounter such atavistic disdain for civilization and its norms and demands at the basest, sourest, most barrel-scraping level, to engage it for a time and understand it, then walk away feeling more like ourselves and less like hollow societal projections. It's the one way we can, in fact, enjoy of our own deep sadness.


(article published 22/7/2014)

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