“Bloody Vardan,” are words I found myself muttering a lot in 2015. It seemed like every time I reviewed one of the Sicilian artist’s albums another turned up almost immediately and to say he is prolific would be an understatement and a half. It has been very quiet since I last penned words to ‘From The Pale Moonlight’ back in September of that year although it would seem he released a solitary split with Tundra in 2016 and 2 albums on Self Mutilation Services, which didn’t get to me earlier this year. Now he is back with Moribund and a triple disc album ‘Nostalgia: Archive Of Failures parts I-to III’ and just now after giving it several listens in entirety I read the small print and discover that another triple, parts IV-VI is following in January. Bloody Vardan indeed!
Luckily this is the type of black metal I really like, repetitive and highly atmospheric music that you can settle down with and immerse yourself within completely. Hell you certainly have the time to do that here as we have over two hours-worth of the stuff spread over a whopping 9 tracks. Alternatively you could cook and serve a three course meal to a dinner party as this plays but I tend to favour hiding under the duvet with a good book and hoping I can just about stave off the frosty chill of the music. The intro takes a bit by surprise with strident guitar and booming drums and almost neo-folk etched clean vocals. It may have set me up for something a bit different but as we settle into Nostalgia Pt I tracks I-IV the sound that I have come very accustomed to takes shape. Sharp icy strumming cuts like knives, drums clatter away and the sound is full of nostalgia for the old uncomplicated ways, when black metal was just that, emerging from the forests in a horrifying and mysterious fashion. It’s cold and shivering terror far removed from its composer’s homeland and his hideous necrotic shrieks temper the music perfectly. There’s a massive sense of melody here and guitar work shimmers in near gothic fashion (think The Cure at their best) with reverb on vocals giving it an almost alien flavour. Moving on into a more sombre and mournful style, this very much borders on the depressive side of things. I guess with the repetitive yet never boring rhythms the likes of Burzum and Xasthur would be a fair reference point but Vardan has always been instantly identifiable in his own right and really puts his own stamp on things. Near medieval flavours, some classic guitar work and other textures seep in as things slow down to this more ponderous pace, you can almost see this as being a natural development from classical music itself (it’s certainly as long). Another motif employed are some slow and captivating keyboard pulses that illuminate the journey and really catch attention along the way. By the time they enter the music is completely hypnotic. A sudden burst of energy shows him at his most feral and embittered as the music ups the ante on the last part and everything giddily charges off. Well it will teach anyone listening to get completely complacent.
Another Italian artist Talv recently took into a wintery soundscape but Vardan’s freezing cast reaches far beyond this especially on the latter two albums both containing just two massive tracks on each and developing over the average running time of 20 minutes per number. It could be looked upon as pure indulgence but once in the grip of these numbers the epic journey is a fascinating one. Naturally it would be impossible to narrate them fully, the only way you can possibly experience the full majesty of it all is to listen for yourself. Luckily those wanting to can find all 3 albums on stream at the Vardan Bandcamp page. Personally I can’t imagine listening to these in any other way as in entirety when you have a full uninterrupted 2 hours but for anyone wanting an idea the massive grasp of ‘Nostalgia p. 2 V’ comes highly recommended. There’s a cold expansive atmosphere but also one conveying a huge sense of beauty about it all. One thing that has to be said is that this is music for thinkers and dreamers made by one of “our” own kind. Sentimental, longing and an affection for the past are all descriptors as far as the word Nostalgia is concerned and the 2nd track on album 2 really conveys these emotions in musical form to me. The keyboard is used more here and almost weeps away with a feeling of loss at heart. Again the depressive mood is quite gorgeous and totally easy to lose yourself in, the pronounced bass parts tugging at the heartstrings and the guitar melody slowly drowning as the necrotic vocals cry out from the darkest tomb imaginable.
You can probably work out the names of the songs on album 3 but what you probably won’t be expecting is the accompaniment to the shivering riffs, nocturnal cries and natural flow of the music. That’s what can only be described as some soulful piano playing matching the melody over the top of it in places. It’s dare I say a bit Jools Holland but damn it works so well. The somewhat elongated vocal effects are also in again here and contort and echo away making strange shapes within the music as they boom out and pretty much fly off into the night sky like floating beacons. As the final piece majestically but slowly rises full of mood and emotion this has certainly been one hell of a journey but one that’s been totally worthwhile keeping me captivated over 4 massive listens so far, with more to no doubt come over the cold winter nights. This could well be Vardan’s magnum opus and it’s only half way done so naturally I am looking forward to the second triple album arriving in the new year. If you are new to the Vardan cult it’s as good a place as any to start and you have a massive back catalogue to explore too. The wooden box set containing all three albums is certainly tempting
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)