I really hope Vardan is getting some sort of recognition for all his work, there’s simply no way you can say he is not trying and he has such a huge body of it the real problem is that someone wanting to listen just won’t know where the hell to start. Take what we have here for example. This is a triple album and follows on as the second part of a previous triple disc release. Yep a sextet, you don’t find many of them knocking about, certainly not in a day and age where people (thankfully not so much in metal circles) rely of dipping in and out of things and picking random tracks to listen to on an MP3 player. You simply couldn’t do that here, it’s fair enough to listen to an album at a time I guess but the best way I found is starting at the beginning and listening to all 3 albums back to back. Sure this doesn’t always work and indeed on 1st attempt I fell asleep by the second track, back to the drawing board went I
So we have tracks entitles Nostalgia IX through to XVIII here, 3 per album and over 2 hours-worth of music. The musical embrace is instantly identifiable, both frosty and warm in various degrees as it wraps itself around you with slow repetitive and mesmerising intensity. One thing I found here is that if you took away the strange, alien, necrotic whoops of the vocals you may not even consider this as black metal to a large extent in all but atmosphere. The Sicilian does sometimes play around with genres beneath a bedrock of fuzzy guitars and mournful melodies. The piano that comes in on the first number and continues occasionally throughout for example has an almost bar jazz sort of melody about it and there are some definite folky motifs particularly noticeable on my favourite number out of all these part XVI.
It would be churlish and frankly a headache to sit here and write as I go along listening to each track in turn. I kind of did that to a large extent on the first trilogy. Tracks here are long and involving, lots goes on at some points, at others not very much and things such as cold atmospheric synth slowly broods over a few minutes, making you shiver as it coldly turns your spine to ice. 13 may well be unlucky for some but for Vardan it is the chance to really indulge himself and lay out shimmering guitar work over a 22 minute running time. Seriously though it is a pleasure listening and the way he allows things to develop is masterful and takes roots back to Burzum at Varg’s prime. The nostalgia is all here in feeling, a yearning for the old ways and the fact that this is from Sicily is not something that anyone listening to for the first time could ever guess. It sounds like Vardan is paying complete and utter homage to the true second wave of Scandinavian artists who put black metal on the map in the first place.
It is rather difficult to review this without repeating myself after detailing things in depth with the first three discs. In contrast I found these albums to be slightly mellower (hence the falling asleep). There are no parts of sudden savagery to be found in the music, vocally it’s a bit different as his booming reverb laden strange and sinister tones are something completely unique. I probably enjoyed the first three slightly more to be honest but there is so much here that it would take a month of Sundays to truly digest it all. My next task is to settle down and just lock out the world and listen to all 6 albums back to back. There I have said it now, it’s just finding the time to do so and experience the music in the way it was no doubt intended to be fully heard.
After that the intention is sensibly to take a step back and leave this alone for a while or however long Vardan allows me to do so before the next release arrives. I’m almost afraid to go and check on Metal Archives and see if he has sneaked anything else out (he hasn’t). Perhaps he too will consider this his magnum-opus and take a step back to do whatever else he does with his time. Perhaps he is working on topping even this achievement with a Decalogue of releases. I’m not sure if I would be happy about that or run away from it screaming. One thing is for sure, Vardan is fast becoming one of my favourite artists within the expansive world of black metal. Now if only I had the money to go and buy all his releases physically.
(8/10 Pete Woods)