Blacklodge - _Solarkult_
(End All Life, 2006)
by: James Montague (7 out of 10)
Although End All Life Productions may do things the old-fashioned way -- eschewing the faceless convenience of one-click Internet shopping in favour of mailing lists and dollar bills stuffed in envelopes -- their roster is often surprisingly revolutionary. While bands like Atomizer and Lurker of Chalice squeeze previously-unheard rock subgenres into the traditional black metal mold, Blacklodge have launched themselves headfirst into black metal's industrial new age, with unprecedented levels of electronic beats and heavy machinery producing a hectic cacophony that'll make your old Mayhem records seem a soothing alternative.

Of course, the black / industrial blend is not an unheard-of phenomenon (although the band claims that their 2003 tour with Aborym was the first in the genre). What separates Blacklodge from contemporary outfits like Axis of Perdition is that their noisy nightmare is still listenable, suggesting that the style may be more than the disastrous laboratory creation I thought it was. For at least half of this 67-minute CD, the band maintains a grip on the concepts of melody and rhythm, enhanced rather than impeded by the ubiquitous electronic wash and throbbing techno pulse. The band also employed a human drummer for this release, his fleeting moments in the spotlight heralding a nod to the more familiar black metal style of the Scandinavian second wave. These passages seem surprisingly groovy when isolated from their chaotic surrounds.

This is the kind of music you could imagine hearing at a rave in hell; a derelict warehouse full of frightful, contorted souls, full to the eyeballs with the latest chemical sundae concocted by apocalyptic cult scientists, dancing manically and stomping aggressively to their demented soundtrack. Actually, that's not entirely unlike a real rave. But this one is infinitely worse.

Regrettably, there are some down sides to _Solarkult_ that I must mention. Firstly, the album tends to drag on a bit towards the end, as the melodic sensibility displayed earlier in the piece yields to the increasingly repetitive industrial noisescape. Secondly, and more pervasively, the vocals just don't fit the music, in my opinion. It starts with standard black metal screaming, but ends up all over the place, as the singer feels compelled to change his pitch and phrasing every second line. Really he just ends up sounding like a bad '80s thrash metal singer; it provides a weak link in what might otherwise be a merciless, futuristic killing machine.

Minor quibbles aside, Blacklodge get maximum points for originality and sheer sonic terror, carving out a niche far less accessible than traditional black metal, but no less worthy of your attention.


(article published 2/3/2006)

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