Various Artists - Melancholic Epiphany
Hypnotic Dirge
Black metal/Ambient/Death metal
11 songs (01:31:30)
Release year: 2010
Hypnotic Dirge
Reviewed by Charles
This is a compilation released to celebrate the two year anniversary of Hypnotic Dirge records, a small Canadian outfit specialising predominantly in depressive and ambient breeds of black metal, albeit intermingling with some death metal curiosities. Interestingly, it’s not just a music compilation. When you download it you also get several videos (I expect to see Njiqahdda’s contribution cropping up on the Turner Prize shortlist next year) and, most intriguingly, a stash of accompanying literature including a worthy attempt at Lovecraftian short fiction by Vultyrous of Funeral Fornication and an essay on morality. More on that later…

Let’s be clear that the audio compilation is the focus. Eleven songs here last an average of about eight minutes each, so it isn’t something that is immediately easy to digest. Considering that this is a small label, and that obscure (often one-member) black metal projects are notoriously hit-and-miss at the best of times, it won’t surprise you that Melancholic Epiphany is a mixed bag. Funeral Fornication’s harpsichord-heavy depressive black metal, for example, falls short of the standards of classical-black fusion set by Pensees Nocturnes. It’s the ambient tracks that feel weakest, though. Ancient Tundra’s pseudo-orchestral contribution is pretty underwhelming, as is often the case when a lone synth tries to do the job of a philharmonic, and Old Forgotten Lands is a tribalistic (reminiscent of Blood of the Black Owl), but ultimately slightly pointless closer.

But whilst most of these bands sound like they can improve in some way, there are still several moments of icy effectiveness. The Foetal Mind and Funereal open the collection with some strong gothic doom, like a blackened take on early Paradise Lost. Exiled from Light present spectral ambient black metal in the frosty vein of Gris. But the most interesting artefacts unearthed are the lengthy curiosities lurking in the middle of the listing. netra (uncapitalised, as in limp bizkit) unveil a dark post-rock space voyage which anxiously and frailly sways between winding lead guitar soloing and sickly black metal tones. Njiqahdda offer a tortured and hallucinatory crawl through malnourished death metal, choked ambient loops and dissonant crunching, like a deathly counterpart to the great Icelandic project, Wormlust. And finally, Neige et Noirceur deserve mention for their grimly eclectic Croix de Feu, Croix de Fer. Based around a rumbling, almost industrial black metal drone, alien electronica is allowed to seep in overhead, sinister melodies emerge, and we end, bizarrely, with a folk metal hoedown.

That this features an essay on the ‘Origin of Values’ by label founder Nick Skog is initially worrying, perhaps suggesting a sub-Kurtagic flight of wannabe-Nietzschean racist fantasy. What we actually get is something a little more radical. I dare say it is even quite agreeable depending on your perspective, though I’m not convinced the economic analysis quite stands up to scrutiny (money is kept artificially scarce by the interest system, if I follow correctly). I quote:

‘Patriotism is another value system that is inherently backwards and based on false notions of pride in which you played no part… Patriotism may have had its place in our world in the past, but to still be tied to the outdated attitude of competing for land and natural resources when we have more than enough for everyone to have a high standard of living is not only illogical but inevitably dangerous considering the potential for nationalism to lead to nuclear war, genocide, inequality, and notions of supremacy. It is amazing that our values are based on ideologies of destruction, rather than cooperation that will work towards the common good of humanity and the planet.’

How very black metal! Still, it certainly beats ‘every subhuman buying a Hate Forest release buys a weapon against himself’, or ‘to gaz the jews and so many liberal thinking people was fantastic’ (Deathspell Omega), and other such moronic twitterings.

This is a worthy compilation which, given that it is available for free download at Hypnotic Dirge’s website, it would be an act of oafish bungling not to get hold of. Particularly given that you get some chilling bedtime reading into the bargain, courtesy of Vultyrous’s really rather good tale of the macabre. I’d imagine that any given listener will only find a handful of tracks that they return to, and some moments are decidedly underwhelming. But anybody that knows underground black metal will be familiar with the process of sifting through nonsense to stumble on artistry.

Killing Songs :
Contributions by Njiqahdda, Neige et Noirceur, netra, and Exiled from Light.
Charles quoted no quote
Other albums by Various Artists that we have reviewed:
Various Artists - Brutal Africa: The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - Servants of Chaos II reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - In Mordor Where the Shadows Are - Homage to Summoning reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - A Light in the Black : A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
Various Artists - Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head reviewed by Stefan and quoted No Quote
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