Udånde

Life Of A Purist

Written by: RUB on 18/03/2021 14:59:56

Although Encyclopaedia Metallum states Slovakia as the country of origin for Udånde, like the name suggests, it is actually a Danish one-man project by Rasmus Ejlersen, the live bassist for Afsky, though he currently resides in the Eastern European country. With this new project, he has truly opted to challenge himself, as it is no small feat to write an entire album by yourself. We are dealing with atmospheric black metal at its core, and while it is usually the other Scandinavian countries, Norway and Sweden, that are renowned for their stunning mountains and haunting nature, it seems like Slovakian nature might just prove to be inspirational enough to foster an equally unique listening experience as bands from the two northern nations tend to do. We’ll just have to see, won’t we?

The seven-track release, entitled “Life of a Purist”, revolves around the four elements. Apart from “Prologue” and “Epilogue”, all of the compositions here take their title from symbols for the elements, with the first track “+” simply referring to all of them. Since our webzine’s text editor is apparently unable to cope with the other symbols, I shall be referring to the track numbers and/or the element in question instead of explaining how each one of them looks — if you are curious though, you can find them listed on the aforementioned Encyclopaedia Metallum. “+” kicks things off by giving the listener a premonition of the grandeur ahead, as the majority of the song is spent building suspense ahead of the remaining tracks. The instruments are distant, yet grandiose, and the soundscape is already unfolding in a way that has me interested and yearning for more. As nature is an important theme of the album, we follow a narrative in which “I” represents humanity, tortured by the elements as a result of failing to adapt to a changing world. The track sounds hauntingly beautiful, yet terrifying at the same time, and the lyrics bring this melancholy to life in a very appropriate manner.

Suspense continues to build on the second track “Prologue” until some of the tension is released just shy of the 01:30 mark and once again around the 04:00 mark in an inferno of tremolo guitar, intense drumming and a lovely, audible bass. As I am listening to this song, I get this vision in my mind of soaring high above mountain tops, vast oceans and barren plains at breakneck speed, which helps to translate this sense of nature that the lyrics and instrumentation are trying to, and succeed at conveying. The four tracks representing the elements are obviously thematically connected, but if one looks closer at the lyricism as well, each song starts with a line that fuses it with the previous song, and ends with a line that leads into the next one, which helps to elevate the story into something truly meaningful. The general sound accompanying this is dark and bleak and helps underline the story that is being told. And it is an excellent story at that; Ejlersen is convincing in his plays on words and rhymes, and he really seems to have an understanding of what it means to paint a clear picture with words.

The album highlight is arguably track four, (Water), with the tremolo lead in the beginning of the song and the soaring, otherworldly main riff both instantly catching my attention. Again, I feel as though the lyrics were a distant presence, merely echoing between the other instruments as they drench the listener with dense layers of sound. With the combined voices of session musician Lars Johansson (of Abscission and formerly Defilementory) and Miroslav Raučina (of Abortion), the sound is rendered grim and nasty, but without taking anything away from the atmosphere that Ejlersen has managed to create. The same goes for the fifth song (Air), which has a deep and profound sound to it. Here Ejlersen’s skills as a bass player shine once again, as his smooth lines become audible just under the surface of what is otherwise an almost dreamy atmosphere, as is fitting considering the title and theme. It feels pretty lame to say this now that I know what all of the four tracks are actually about, but honestly each one of the tracks does in fact feel like the element in question, with track six (Earth) having this cracking sound to it and track three (Fire), for instance, sounding like a volcano erupting.

It is not until the last song “Epilogue” that we get a sense of redemption, so to speak, and atonement — both lyrically and musically — as the protagonist, which you will remember is humanity itself, draws its last breath. It is a deep and grave subject, but in my book, this is where atmospheric black metal truly shines. When the combination of lyrical and musical universes results in a soundscape this majestic whilst simultaneously dealing with such dark themes and history, the entire album is just promoted into something truly unique. And indeed, as magnificently as the album began, as dimly and sullenly it ends, as if the Earth itself and all life inhabiting it had suddenly to exist in a vortex of the ground shattering, winds screeching, waves crashing, and volcanoes erupting.

It is not always easy to stand out in the atmospheric black metal scene — especially in the Danish context, where competition is so fierce at the moment. So with this in mind, does Udånde have something different or unique to offer? I think it does. Besides being a well-written piece through and through, I feel that the sound of the instrumentation alone should suffice to turn some heads. The atmosphere created makes all of the different parts work together extremely well, and I keep returning to that soaring and distant feeling I described earlier in this review. This makes sense to me, as it subscribes to the theme of the album and thus makes it a much more complete release. And with cover art as intense and descriptive as that adorning “Life of a Purist”, it is nigh impossible not to get completely carried away and just order the record on vinyl straight away. This is without a doubt an early contender for the best black metal release of 2021, and is certain to strengthen the position of Danish black metal in the international market — including Slovakia of course.

9

Download: Water, Air, Prologue, Earth
For the fans of: Afsky, Auðn, Solbrud, Winterfylleth, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.02.2021
Vendetta Records

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