Rahu - The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions
Black Metal
5 songs (40' 23")
Release year: 0
Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions
Reviewed by Andy

Rahu, another of prolific Finnish black metal guitarist Atvar's side projects, releases its first LP with a theme reflecting the origin of band's name: Hindu mythology. "Rahu" refers to a snake that eats the sun to cause an eclipse, and a "vajra" can either refer to enlightenment or to a ritual object in Tibetan Buddhism; based on the lyrics, the album title refers to the enlightenment part. This album, while not adding much new to the genre overall, is well-composed and has a huge but dreamy sound that is pleasant to listen to.

Ordeal of X is actually one of the most traditional tracks on the album, a portion of wakefulness before the tracks drift further off into fantasy. Everything echoes -- the rhythm guitar blasts in a storm of riffing that blasts at the listener's ears right under the equally echoing drumming. The production's rather odd, pushing the drummer, Kobalt, far to the forefront and burying his vocals far in the background -- but listen carefully and you can detect Atvar on bass deep in the mix. What is very noticeable is his lead tremolo-picking, a high, thin wail that, with the drums, carries most of the tracks. Samudra Manthan gives us a little more of the guitar melodies in the lower range, with some relatively quiet periods (aka "no drumming") that allow for calm moments in the midst of the raging torrent of layered guitars, and during those quiet periods the true skill of the pair comes out as the underlying melodies are exposed. Sometimes they form a definite point once, other times repeating in a kaleidoscopic pattern -- other times, the guitars simply devolve to raw guitar noise for a few seconds.

Some of the tracks have a more thoughtful feel at times; there are always fiercely drummed passages, but most of Kalas Bleed for the Sun-Eater and The Serpent King, for instance, are pretty slow-paced a lot of the time, reminding one a lot of some of Burzum's offerings without the electronica influence. The result is a rather hypnotic, dreamy haze rather than something truly abrasive. I've heard (and complained about) plenty of black metal that is so slickly produced that it doesn't result in any instrument standing out, but on the album, it isn't overproduction that causes this effect; it's just that all the instruments are deliberately combined in such a way that the sum total, which would be rough on its own, forms a soft palette of sound that envelops the listener rather than ripping him apart. In addition, the lead guitar takes a life of its own on The Serpent King, bending and twisting around in a beautiful but ghostly tremolo-picked solo that cries despairingly to the listener under the rough abuse of the lower-range instruments.

This is the sort of album that has been done before, but which is still nice to hear when reimagined in a new package and done in a skillful way -- which The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows definitely is. I was unimpressed at first but drawn in after a track or two, so if one is into traditional or atmospheric black metal, this might be worth a listen.

Killing Songs :
Kalas Bleed for the Sun-Eater, The Serpent King
Andy quoted 82 / 100
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