Word has it that grim epicness meets transcendental aural darkness. What this means is that this is a split from Vuur & Zijde from the Netherlands, and the German-US combo Impavada.
So first we have Vuur & Zijde, I’d heard of Vuur, which seems to be something different, but I didn’t know this band, whose name is Dutch for fire and silk apparently, but my eyes lit up when I saw that this band derives from Terzij de Horde, Nusquaam and above all Laster, who were responsible for my favourite album of 2019.
What is in these people’s heads? Whatever it is, I like it. Recorded in the bleakness of the Frisian coastline, the first thing we hear is the haunting sound of a female voice disappearing in the wind. It’s as if she is standing in the valley of a windswept mountain, admittedly highly unlikely in Frisia or the Netherlands in general. Accompanying this and dominating the piece is a relentless blizzard of black metal. ”Zonnestorm’ (Solar Storm) is imperious and hypnotically atmospheric. From this we go to the quieter and sinister “Ocean Cumulonimbus”. The riff is simple but threatening. The vocals are distant and distorted. All is not well. This strange little ode spreads its wings. Desperate appeals are made. The instrumentals expand in sound but have no sympathy. The desperation of the vocalist is now acute. Like “Zonnestorm”, ‘Ocean Cumulonimbus” stopped me in my tracks. “Noordzee” (North Sea) sounds like a cold place. The start smacks of isolation with indistinct sounds around as you might hear if standing on a bleak sea shore. The merciless strains of black metal invade the scene, but with obscure foreign sounds heightening the tension. It’s dark, cold and frightening. Vuur & Zilde confound the fear as the storm stops and we hear a haunting voice appear mystically out of the gloom, as the world continues its obscure sonic course. I haven’t been to the Frisian coast but I have stood on Spurn Point in East Yorkshire, which is directly opposite with the North Sea between the two. Vuur & Zijde capture the cold majesty, mysticism and isolation. If you like Fen, you’d like this, I’d say. I applauded Laster for the imagination of their 2019 album “Het Wassen Oog”. This takes a different atmospheric slant but is just as inspiring and captivating. (10/10)
Impavada take over with “Gram”. Where Vuur & Zijde evidently used natural sound, this is more like science fiction. It’s still impressive as a deep symphonic sound is accompanied by extra-terrestrial hissing and altogether strange sounds. It is like being plunged into the depths of a mythical world. Just before the end the mood transforms into one of reflection and sadness, leading into the final piece “Wahn & Stille” (Delusion and Silence). Initially it’s like a ticking clock or heartbeat before the calm is broken. A human voice hangs over the fearsome tones before it fires up and takes us towards a world of menace and suffering. The atmosphere is intense. I got the “Wahn” part of the song title as we seem to be inescapably heading towards insanity. The constant grey menace of instrumental line isn’t enough to help us to hang on, as the screams and the heightened layer of terror present struggle in this most epic of epic battles. Impavada subtly take us higher and higher, before easing off and taking us back to the cosmic heartbeat and mythical world. Any notion of comfort is dispelled however as the world of turbulence returns. The haunting choral vocal lingers as the beat of the drum and the oblique atmosphere provided by the instrumental take us to an uncertain end. (8/10)
Of the two representations here, I preferred the nature-driven soundscapes and creative imagination of Vuur & Zijde to the more transformative fictional world of Impavada, but as a combination this works. Both bands kept me rapt with their epic interpretations. It’s a shame that it’s short in length, but even so for me this was 36 minutes of atmospheric magic.
Overall (9/10 Andrew Doherty)