Righteo, cards on the table, this is the most difficult albums I’ve ever had to review. Previously, that title belonged to albums that were either by bands I really liked but who had managed to give birth to a musical turkey, or cases where I had known the band members as friends, and didn’t want to sound like I was just being sycophantic and showing favouritism by giving a good review. No, ‘Droner’ is the hardest album I’ve ever had to review as time and again I’ve started to listen to it and had to switch off, having been bludgeoned to submission by the dense wall of sound battering my brain through my headphones!
If you are not aware of Opium Warlords, it is the one man project of sonic alchemist Sami “Albert Witchfinder” Hynninen, perhaps best known as vocalist for Spiritus Mortis, and with this project he stretches himself beyond the confines of just abusing the microphone by doing all writing, instrumentation, and I’ve no doubt, working the dials on the machine into which he poured his musings. ‘Droner’ really does stand as an example of the theory of nominative determinism (look it up for yourself folks, I’ll only pad a review so far), in so far that it surely does drone on and on, in a fashion that at times threatens to make Sunn o))) sound like one of Lemmy’s offerings after a particularly high quality line. With a running time of an entire hour, the listener is subjected to just three tracks, each arguably darker than the last, starting with the slow grind of ‘Year of 584 days’, the music lumbering like a tank with frozen tracks grinding through the snow of the Finno-Soviet Winter War, the desolate lyrics delivered in a dark growl like Peter Steele reading his own eulogy.
Next up in the parade of misery is ‘Samael Lilith’, starting with eastern tinged chantings and simple percussions, which are soon drowned out under a slow moving tsunami of feedback; it’s hard not to imagine the middle 5 minute guitar “solo” required just a single strum of the strings, and then the application of a massive bank of effects and pedals to to create a one note soundtrack to the apocalypse, all before his dark beseeching cries are rejoined at the end of the song by the funereal pounding on whatever inanimate objects could not escape the wrath of the composer.
Finishing off this trilogy of gloom is the aptly named ‘Closure’, an offering that starts with surprisingly gentle singing set off by medieval strings. A closer listen to the lyrics however reveal the darkness of the song, being a magical incantation of death and murder. This surprisingly gentle, stripped back, idyll continues for over 10 minutes, before inevitably a wall of distortion piles in, as if the invocation of he song has finally worked and a creature has risen from some unknowable dimension, screaming its fury at being dragged into this reality, before the whole fades out to the chiming of Tibetan cymbals.
‘Droner’ is not an easy listen, and if you’re looking for a gentle listen, or a tune to accompany a relaxing walk or a cup of tea, it is definitely not what you are looking for. I honestly had to force myself to sit and listen to it to get to the end, and the temptation was always there to just click a fast forward to get to the end. That said, finishing the album becomes almost an achievement in itself, and here’s where the schizophrenic nature of the album sinks in. Looking back at the experience I genuinely could not tell if I’d just been listening to the unsubtle offerings of some black clad gothic student who thinks the world bores them and had been given access to a studio to share their angst, of if I’d just listened to the incantations of a musical wizard, steeped in dark imagery summoned from the core of a truly tormented genius artist. If the former, ‘Droner’ should be ignored by all except said goths who want to wallow in misery; if the latter, it is an album that so many should be prepared to listen to in a single sitting, and absorb its majesty. Me, I honestly can’t make up my mind, hence my bizarre score. Maybe you should take the plunge and make up your own mind?
(2/10 or 8/10, depending on a mental flip of the coin! Spenny)