What Austrian J.J. (the artist formerly known as V. Wahntraum) does is a mouthful, but what the one-man Austrian band calls himself is not. He dabbles in ambient-oriented, post-atmospheric black metal but he simply calls his project KARG.
Weltensache is his fifth full-length studio album and is the first to be completely performed in the dialect J.J. grew up with and which is spoken around the mountains of his hometown. Being gloomy and emotional, you’ll pick up subtle hints of Alcest and Lantlôs in here.
Take, “Crevasse”. It’s an 11-minute opener that lays bare his tonal calling card. Part-ambient, part-aggressive, the construction is detailed and invites introspection. It’s steady opening and resplendent chiming background is quickly obliterated by a viciously shrieked vocal that repeatedly drowns the softly-spoken underscore whilst the introduction of massively-distorted guitar scrawl kicks it fully into submission.
The rhythm bucks and shakes as the drum patterns shift constantly making it tough to grab a firm grip on proceedings. The juxtaposition of rough and smooth creates an antagonistic power play but the overall sense of drama is unerring. Melancholia envelops all – easy-listening this is not.
By the end of third track, “Le Couloir De Ombres”, we are already well over 30 minutes into this beast with the promise of at least another 45 minutes to go and already the abrupt key changes and panicky, affected nature of the song-writing is causing heart-palpitations. Grinding on as I must I find the shackles tightening and crave freedom. It becomes beyond oppressive, I start to writhe, burn, itch and fester. Not due to the extreme nature of the music, but the incessant, imposing structures that obliterate one another. It makes no sense.
It’s a tough one – these could all be special places to the right ear, but to mine the levels of perseverance required to fully engage the bronco requires me to strip my psyche to the bone. Each vast piece takes us careering into uncharted territory. Through NWOBHM, 80s kitsch, recordings of blazing rows and into incendiary spots of classical music.
Ultimately it is the dull, recycling chord structures that kill it. This is J.J.’s own all-consuming psychosis, not ours. It’s just too easy an album to walk away from. Without rules, there is only chaos and this is what miserably deliberate, self-absorbed chaos sounds like.
(5/10 John Skibeat)