15 Jan 2022 - Stephan
Experimental Dark Ámbient, Black Metal, Industrial | Tartarus Records | Release date: 14 Jan 2022
The experimental dark ambient / black metal / industrial collective Hadewych features members of Trepaneringsritualen, Distel, Volksweerbaarheid and O Saala Sakraal. Having been around in different line-ups over fifteen years, they are about to call it a day with their final album Vier, while Johan Nÿland’s participation in the Dutch black metal Maalstroom special during the Roadburn festival 2019 might have been the last live show under this moniker. But now surprsingly there’s also another penultimate new album of the Dutch / German / Swedish project. Mes was initially only supposed to be the counterpart to the 2014 EP Nu, but it grew to a (still relatively short, but nonetheless) full album during its making.
Tartarus Records, one of my favorite labels specialized on limited cassette releases, makes me face one of the most crucial questions, which you probably should ask yourself as a critic regularly anyway: Read the promo text or don’t read the promo text? If you don’t read it, you risk blurting out embarrassing falsehoods. But if you do, you can be bombarded with names you have at best heard about, but not actually listened to, which in succession means either doing homework (bah!), or just confidently going with all the names and references as if they were your bread and butter.
Of these two choices I, of course, did the latter in my first paragraph here! I may have heard a track or two by Trepaneringsritualen and I am undoubtly an enthusiastic Roadburn visitor. But nothing of that whole daylong Maalstroom thing was on my schedule back then, so ultimately the initiated among you may benefit from the information above, while I am still starting from scratch. Or with fresh ears, untethered by expectations, to give it a more positive spin.
Musically though this album starts as far from a call to positivity as imaginable. The opener “Hadewych III - Onolatrie” immediately begins with a depressing drone sound, remote eerie strings and wailing moans, taking not more than thirty seconds to set the stage for a hoarse narration in the vein of Sunn O)))’s “Aghartha”. And just when you think it’s all a bit too faint and you’ve turned up your volume significantly to dive deeper into the dark ambient atmosphere, the brutal chopped industrial beat hits you like a jackhammer drilling into your skull. With all its subtle layers of noise, electric and classical instrumentation and operatic voices forming patterns in the background, most of the twelve minutes of this track feel like a homage to Laibach’s “Nova Akropola”, so much so that I almost expect them to break into the cult classic’s characteristic Italian war cry Eja, eja, alala! Yet amidst all this antagonism towards the listener, Hadewych also find the time for a neoclassical breather. But even that breather feels like a demon is sitting on your chest.
In “Ik Ben Een Mes” (English: “I am a knife”) the mean Dutch narration continues, while the trudging industrial beat is accompanied by an alternation between black metal guitars and horror score choirs, with a hint of post-rock grandeur towards the finale of the only five minutes short piece. It almost works as an interlude, given that the third and final track of Mes lasts over a quarter-hour.
“Het Ware Nader (Final Forest)” is not only the longest composition, but also the hugest in all other senses, even though it omits the heavy rhythmic element. The drone, the noise, but also the orchestration and breathtaking cinematic majesty, Hadewych are cranking it all up far beyond the maximum you would have expected from the tracks before it. If this one had a blueprint, it would have been the collaboration of Sunn O))) and Ulver on Terrestials, yet it voyages further into clerical choir heights to find its own mythical identity. It’s like Glenn Danzig’s Black Aria-albums had a giant baby with Lustmord, which was raised by Howard Shore and then drowned in a black lake of bass frequencies and sucked through a vortex on its ground into the void of Charlie Butler’s speaker cabinet. I’ve said it - it’s huge.
Mes isn’t an album which demands to be understood. It remains enigmatic, refusing to decipher its phantasmagoric story. Instead it makes me feel like I’ve been part of something arcane and dangerous, not meant for me to witness, yet leaving a hidden spark of forbidden knowledge in my subconsciousness - which hopefully might come in handy one day, flashing up when - for example - I coincidentally stumble among a gate to hell on a walk through the woods or something like that. And that being said I almost cannot wait to test this theory now.