Intet • Altet

Written by: AP on 23/12/2022 18:46:50

I’m not sure if a better example of musical growth exists than ORM. Out of the band’s four original members, the three who still remain — the guitar-wielding frontmen Theis Wilmer Poulsen and Simon Sonne Andersen, and drummer Adam Schønemann — have taken proverbial quantum leaps since they first emerged onto the Danish metal scene in 2009 with By the Patient, an outfit serving boilerplate deathcore to a fanbase in search of dumb brutality. Now, you would be hard pressed to find musicians with more ambition, forward thinking, and compositional prowess, than this trio of Bornholm descendents, whose mastery of the atmospheric black metal subgenre has already yielded two astonishing records, one of which is, in my opinion, a genuine masterpiece. Indeed, it was difficult to imagine that ORM would ever be able to surpass their 2019 offering “Ir”, yet with the arrival of their new double opus “Intet • Altet”, that skepticism has well and truly evaporated. Without a shred of exaggeration, it is one of the most ambitious undertakings that black metal has ever witnessed, delivering no less than 92 minutes of progressive, contemplative, and philosophical music, that is certain to leave prospective listeners at a loss for words.

Conceptually, the record explores our journey as humans from the cradle to the grave — or, as ORM prefer to express it: from virtue, towards death. These couplets lend the titles to the opening and closing tracks (“Fra dyden”, “Mod døden”) that represent the fiery passions of youth and the ascension into the next realm, and in between flows the river that can create (“Floden, som kan skabe”), and the river that can find the way (“Floden, som kan lede”), as a metaphor for the toils of adulthood and the asceticism that comes with aging. As is the group’s custom, these ideas are expressed through lyricism that is inspired by the psalms and legends of their ancestral island, and as such, non-Danes and even non-Bornholmian Danes have their work cut out for them when it comes to deciphering the myriad metaphors that reside within the album. And that is on top of the sheer dedication that its length and weight requires from the listener, who will additionally be forced to confront both the unforgiving linearity of time and, ultimately, their own mortality. It is a lot to take in, and in a way, “Intet • Altet” is designed to be antithetical to the rapid consumption of music that digital streaming platforms offer and encourage. One has to listen to it in full, just as one has to surrender to it one’s full, undivided attention.

Those who have listened to ORM’s first two records should already be familiar with the sweeping strokes with which the three musicians paint their soundscapes, and they certainly haven’t been holding back whilst arranging the four compositions that comprise “Intet • Altet”. Armed with their signature sound — a crackling guitar tone coursing through the sombre tremolo riffs and leads of the two frontmen, drums that roar like thunder in the distance, and an unearthly harmony of deep growls and icy shrieks — the trio elegantly interweaves the frigid extremity of classic, Norwegian black metal and the more esoteric and progressive style of the genre’s Cascadian variant, moving between explosions of intense, blastbeat driven darkness, moments of progressive grandeur, and periods of pensive meditation without any semblance of effort or seams. And in the midst of it all, there are even some subtle, yet elegantly infused trumpet and violin melodies by guest musicians Mads Peter Steenstrop and Kellermensch’s Nils Gröndahl tugging at the listener’s intrigue as well. As such, in spite of the fact that there is just one song on this colossus that falls short of the 20-minute mark (and only by 37 seconds!), despite the myriad tangents that ORM likes to veer off onto, and regardless of their insistence of dwelling on their ideas for so long it almost feels like a test of one’s faith at times, the album remains deeply and relentlessly captivating throughout.

And that faith is fortunately repaid many times over, as the only point of criticism that I can muster in regards to “Intet • Altet”, is that the two-part “Trance / Floden, som kan lede” feels just a bit too protracted, by virtue of its being an entirely instrumental, shoegazing piece, with no trace of the album’s black metal core to be detected. As such, it is a brave inclusion that is likely to irritate the sensibilities of a black metal purist, though in truth the agnosticism and invention that ORM bring to the table from the first note of the opener, “Fra dyden”, should have been deterrent enough for the close minded listener in the first place. Indeed, the band pushes the envelope with imposing conviction all the way through — yet even so, it would be amiss of me not to give the closing track “Mod døden” a special mention. To call this spellbinding piece one of the best songs ever to have emerged from the black metal genre would not be an understatement; it begins with one of those unforgettable lead melodies with an unusual, dissonant arrangement that is paired with a deviant rhythm, which breaks at odd times and thus instantly catches one’s ear. Not to mention the magisterial segment that is unleashed a third of the way into the track, featuring a beautifully gloomy tremolo lead and thunderous double pedal drumming to form an ‘early’ climax some 11 minutes in. For any other band, this would have been the perfect finale to a song — but ORM is no ordinary outfit. The next 12 minutes or so deliver even more grandeur, including a second equally gorgeous crescendo to end the record with the listener shedding tears of disbelief.

Wow!, is likely to be the only word that you’ll be able to summon once the music fades out and cements ORM as visionaries of the black metal genre once and for all. Having claimed “Ir” as an unrivalled masterpiece in 2019, I am thus compelled to proclaim “Intet • Altet” as the trio’s magnum opus, as well as a body of work that every connoisseur of metal needs to include in their collection. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is hard to imagine ORM topping this one without pivoting into an entirely different genre, or, perhaps, inviting a symphony orchestra to add yet another dimension to their musical ambitions. Time will tell where the three musicians decide to go exploring next, but in the meanwhile, I urge everyone — fans of metal and others alike — to surrender themselves to “Intet • Altet” and be led toward transcendence.


Download: Floden, som kan skabe; Mod døden
For the fans of: Drudkh, Panopticon, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Facebook

Release date 30.09.2022

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