Dodecahedron – Dodecahedron – 4/5
When perusing metal reviews as my usual bored self often does, this is a name that cropped up quite often with even those who seem to hate everything and anything remotely different to their usual pleasures going 'this actually isn't bad.' Very few seemed to actually agree on why they all liked it, but nonetheless they all did, and so naturally, I felt it only right that I give it a spin myself to see what all the fuss was about, because on the surface it doesn't seem as though they're doing anything particularly different. After all, it's still just black metal; it's still got the tremolo riffs and highly distorted guitars, the blast-beated aggression from the drums and those high-pitched growls we've all come to know and love. Unless you aren't a fan of black metal of course, but then I wonder why you're still reading this anyway. The thing is, they actually do manage to do something different; it's Norwegian Black Metal “Plus,” or “Extreme Progressive Black Metal,” if you prefer, because without the 'Extreme' in there it doesn't quite seem to get the point across strongly enough. They've simply managed to perform it so well that at first glance you can't figure out what they've done that's so different.
The 'progressive' part of their genre ought to give you the first clue. No, they won't start spouting about some elaborate concept (or at least, none that I can discern) or try to mix up the pace with experimental interludes from outside genres as part of what progressive often implies, except of course their outright defiance in refusing to adhere to one singular strain of the infectious black metal virus, straying between Ambient Black, Norwegian Second Wave, DSBM, Industrial Black, whatever the likes of “Deathspell Omega” play, and probably some others I'm missing in the process. In this case the term is a little more literal, the songs simply progress as it unfolds; what happens in one part of the song is unlikely to be what's happening two minutes later, and as a result you never quite know what's around the corner. Even after a few listens, seeing as there are no catchy chorus lines or distinctive points where it suddenly breaks out into a repeated melody that makes you suddenly remember where you are in the album (save for one point which I struggle to call some form of ambient interlude, separating the two halves and preparing you for the monolithic 3-part finalé). Put on repeat, the inferno almost seems endless, which is rather fitting for music intended to sound like it arrived from the bowels of hell.
But their inspiration doesn't quite end there, the actual notes used in their composition displaying an innate dissonance as though they learned the rules and then systematically tried to play the complete opposite at every opportunity. Arpeggio's for what seem like fictitious chords psychedelically collide with out of sync thicker bass lines and tremolo riffs, and polyrhythmic interludes often seem par for the course in making sure your mind can never quite get too comfortable with any particular passage. The drums follow much the same pattern, slowly playing jazz-inspired grooves during the slower passages, blast beating at their peak intensity, frequently showing much love for the art of playing on the downbeat and otherwise flailing frantically when you least expect it. Surprisingly, given the inherent anarchy going on within the music, it still manages to find itself being quite melodious at times and not altogether unpalletable to the awaiting ear, though I must confess I still haven't quite figured out how.
It is all these factors that ultimately go into making this release so remarkable; it's taken the genre that has begun to become formulaic as we've become accustomed to it and then thrown vital rules of composition out the window, making it so we have no idea quite what's going to happen next. Even in writing this review every time I mention something it doesn't do, I then remember that it actually does do it at one point and feel the urge to go back and point it out. It gives it a new sense of life and originality to the music, eliciting much the same sort of initial response as though you've been listening to Green Day all your life and someone just handed you a Gorgoroth CD. It's dissonant, chaotic, demonic, abrasive, purposefully disharmonious and unpredictable; basically, it's everything black metal should be.
Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 27 July 2012