We last heard from one-man, anonymous, London based black metal entity Kassad with debut album ‘Faces Turn Away’ back in 2017. The project intrigued me then and does so all the more now. London Orbital takes a ring-road around our concrete city and naturally at first along with its striking black and white cover art makes one consider all those places we slowly pass whilst stuck in a never-ending traffic jam on the M25. Abandoned buildings are left in disrepair, unloved and falling apart, neglected and awaiting for a developer to come along and build new designs on them and fill them with people hemmed in side by side in this ever increasingly busy world. Kassad are with this album apparently not looking at the now but the future, when urban conglomerations has exploded filling up every bit of space, “one where the city’s monoliths of glass and concrete have come alive to assert their malevolent control over the millions of people that live and toil amongst them.” Naturally it is a place that is pretty bleak to confront and has been replicated musically in this fashion along with words and statements such as “repair, rebuild, resist” and track titles getting straight to the point and painting a JD Ballardesque vision of dystopia.
“Mind the gap”, it feels like all gaps will be packed with no space as bustle faintly takes us in via ‘TheBoundary’ and a weeping guitar line emits a cry of pain. Tortured blackened cries fit in behind things as the music picks up pace, howling in misery. There is definitely beauty in the darkness here and musically there is the space that the subject matter has deprived us of. This is an album that envelopes the listener and takes in a lot of moods and emotions. There are long instrumental passages entwined with the poetic yet indistinguishable lyrics that move between adroit and post blackness. The city calls out and again literary influence from the likes of authors such as China Mieville fills my head. A bleak almost gunslinging Western tone pervades the ever present ‘Concrete.’ You can imagine perhaps covert cells of eco-terrorists planting bombs to bring the ballast back to base level and destroy all that is invading and destroying any wide-open spaces we used to take sanctuary in. The poeticism of wanting silence within this “inhuman virus” is evident within sudden barrages of caustic tremolo picking beneath the main maudlin melody. Although I am a “citizen” of London and this fills my heart with the longing to a return to simpler and less convoluted times, this could well be any city on this overpopulated planet and the sense of pathos from tracks such as ‘theHope’ will speak out to you wherever you shall dwell. Whoever our explorer of this tumultuous city is you cannot help but be at one with them as they move like a shadow through the night and the monochrome hues of their palette should definitely speak to the listener.
You can of course ignore all these distractions and just find yourself listening and going with the flow of gorgeous acoustic parts, thick bass lines, post metal raptures and sudden abrupt surges. An alleyway of piano or bleak haunting harmonica may open up suddenly and find you escaping from the crowd and darting down it looking for sanctuary but it is not long before you will find yourself called back into the thrust of a modern city once more. Hope will lead to ‘theHopeless’ there is no real escape apart perhaps the sound of wind between two tracks. The artist has backed up the music with a couple of excellent visual interpretations that are well worth seeing, the one problem I have is that I only need to look out the window in front of me or step into the street to see them myself and this is all too true to life. That should not put you off though as this is powerful intelligent urban black metal for the present and perhaps a warning that the way things are going they could get far, far worse. Perhaps something such as the Coronavirus could ultimately be our salvation and redemption from it all?
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)