In some ways the debut full-length of new Dutch project Am Himmel (English: In the Sky) is hard to pinpoint – it could be called drone, maybe industrial, definitely shoegaze, certainly black metal but maybe it’s just a brilliant debut by this semi-anonymous band? It surely deserves your attention, dear friends of the obscure blackened drone metal!
Burning World Records releases yet another gem this year and shows that it is so much more than the brilliant live recordings from Roadburn Festival. Am Himmel shows an understanding of noise and beauty that is hard to come by, but when finding one’s way through all the noise and gargantuan walls of sound it becomes clear that this six tracks are the result of decades of listening to and playing music and that has surely paid off!
This record is somewhat like a crossbreed between Wreckmeister Harmonies, Author & Punisher, My Bloody Valentine and Ural Umbo. The vocals are unintelligible, but in some ways traumatizing (just like Marko’s performance on the last Ural Umbo record Roomer) and in nearly every song there is at least one wall to be climbed which would make Kevin Shields proud. Nevertheless, there is also very often that one moment, when there is this underlying shenanigan or shanty element that is so characteristic of Wreckmeister Harmonies. The way the pace is dragging and trying to calm down every few seconds has a somewhat droney way to it, which could be seen as the Author & Punisher or IIVII resonance. However, when looking at the song titles and the record title itself, As Eternal as the Starless Kingdom of Sorrow, it is at once clear that this record is also somewhat of a black metal record but more in the Ghost Bath-sense or Lifelover-sense, so more of a DSBM relation. The iconographical cover of the record seems to justify that assertion by showing us a Jesus-like figure (with a golden halo, of course) among the angels and other beings – all against a turquoise background.
Some of the six tracks start in the middle of the slow-paced tornado of noise and riffs like the opener ”Bleared By the Infinite Wings” with a sounds that could be a guitar but also an accordion – this soundscape is one of these things which keeps one’s interest alive. And when the valley of ravines of sound opens just for a short, short glimpse of sunlight, this song seems to be some of the most heavenly noise one has ever heard. This is music to listen to one your own, not in company, as you do not want to be dragged into a conversation about the value of this music, but rather be able to dive head-first and knee-deep into this sound, this embracing coldness juxtaposed by the accordion-like elements. The song makes good use of the slow built up-short break-another slower lead-structure and has some very nice underlying near-post rock-moments.
As Eternal As the Starless Kingdom of Sorrow ends with the title track (unusual position, right?) which is also the second-shortest track and that is also something worthwhile mentioning – the mastermind behind Am Himmel knows that it’s of no use to drag a song out for longer than necessary. Not every record needs ten-minute tracks all the time, sometimes a shorter one is better than a track dragged along longer than necessary. Following that idea, in short: A wonderfully dark album!