BAND: Kosmogyr (Shanghai/Prague)
RELEASE: Eviternity (2018)
REVIEWER: Arthur Urquiola
FIND MORE INFO HERE: https://www.facebook.com/kosmogyr/
PICK UP THE RECORD HERE: https://kosmogyr.bandcamp.com/album/eviternity
From its roots, which can be traced back to the ’80s with bands like Venom and Hellhammer, through to the ’90s with Darkthrone, Mayhem and Burzum, Black Metal was long considered heavy metal’s “outsider art,” even with the media coverage it attracted with the genre’s key figures linked to church burnings and murders of people in rival bands.
But then there was somewhat of a curious development at the turn of the millennium … Black Metal began to cross over. Southern Lord, still an extreme and very underground US label with a strong cult (or kvlt) following began to distribute and release important, isolationist Black Metal acts like Xasthur and Leviathan (both Wrest and Malefic, the minds behind the one-man projects would appear on 2005’s ‘Black One’ record by Sunn O))), the lord’s flagship act). This would develop into a similar turn by predominantly Post-Metal label Hydrahead, which would release later Xasthur records. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore has grafted himself into USBM’s history, regularly championing the genre, playing on Black Metal supergroup Twilight’s last record (2014’s III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb), putting out Mayhem bassist Necrobutcher’s book and curating an exhibition of his memorabilia.
More recently there was a seemingly more jarring infiltration of Black Metal into Indie Rock circles with Deafheaven’s combination of Black Metal’s relentless blast, Shoegaze’s cacophonous swirl and Post-Rock’s dynamic builds making its way from underground labels like Deathwish Inc. to “Best New Music” accolades on Pitchfork’s website and the stages of its festival. There’s since been a more interesting incorporation of Black Metal’s vibes, and some of its most notable musicians, into the modern classical drones of Wrekmeister Harmonies, led by JR Robinson who explored the dark and isolated world of one-man black metal projects in a 2012 documentary for Vice.
Cynics and purists of the genre may be quick to lament the co-opting of Black Metal by hipsters and dilettantes. This is a tad ironic considering the medium itself was originally a purposefully shrill and raw corruption on what was going on with Heavy Metal at the time. But for better of for worse, as Black Metal’s sphere of influence expanded, the ease of access the average listener has these days to pretty much all recorded music in history means those now partaking in the art form are entering that world armed with a larger chunk of the history of Rock n’ Roll to draw from and mutate the medium with.
This is the world that Kosmogyr’s ‘Eviternity’ has been birthed in. There are no promotional shots in forests, no corpse paint and no Norse god pseudonyms. And thankfully, the band doesn’t seem to be aligned with some of the more divisive political ideologies of the original ‘Lords Of Chaos’.
Ivan Belcic and Xander Cheng both have a history in Shanghai’s independent music scene – Cheng playing in melodic Death Metal band The Arcbane and Belcic having most recently been in the brutally heavy The Machinery of Other Skeletons. Belcic is also one of the people behind the ‘We Are Shanghai’ annual compilations documenting the city’s diverse music scene. He recently moved to Prague, but this hasn’t stopped the pair collaborating long-distance for nearly two years to bring us ‘Eviternity’.
‘Sui Generis’ is the record’s shortest piece at 1:33, it’s an instrumental and introduces ‘Eviternity’ in cinematic fashion. From the beginning it’s clear that despite working for years on the record, Kosmogyr kept an eye on crafting a complete work, as opposed to a simple document of whatever songs they could come up with in the time. ‘The Wane’ is the first song proper, but even after the introductory track and blastbeats right out the gate, there’s tension built with the vocals — menacing, anguished and screaming to be heard from deep within the onslaught — coming in after nearly a minute.
‘Quiescent’ is the lead single which has heralded Kosmogyr’s arrival – the first music available from ‘Eviternity’ and appearing on last year’s ‘We Are Shanghai’ compilation as well as the fifth and latest installment of the Black Metal Alliance’s ‘Crushing Intolerance’ compilation. It begins with one of the sweeter melodies on the record before making another abrupt turn about 30 seconds in with more blasts, tremolo picking and double kick. It’s a fitting introduction, with a soaring guitar lead that’s deployed about three minutes in, building to a crescendo in an already massive sounding track.
The collection’s title track, while emblematic with the same sorrowful progressions, howls and blasts, makes use of a riff structure that weaves its way throughout much of the song while the rhythms ebb and flow around it. ‘Refulgence’ is another airy interlude that offers some respite before ‘Iridescent’ charges through with complimentary melodies. Across nine tracks and over 52 minutes, the music rarely let’s up, shifting several times per song, but maintaining a dark and icy atmosphere, so as to stop it ever feeling too claustrophobic, or a strain to take in the monolithic work as a whole.
Even with the intricacies and layered instrumentation throughout, Kosmogyr aims for sonic clarity as opposed to the pride in lo-fi and homely recordings that even many modern Black Metal seems to be nostalgic for. The lyrical approach is more akin to gothic poetry than the themes of war expanded upon by bands like Marduk. This is Black Metal that looks inward rather than hitting the history books in search of outside inspiration.
Both Belcic and Cheng come to the Kosmogyr project with experience playing a different kind of metal, but they’ve attacked ‘Eviternity’ with passion and determination to create something epic in scope that’s totally different to what either has done in the past. Even though it’s born from Shanghai’s eclectic music scene there’s little that sounds anything like ‘Eviternity’ and it’s more than just a triumph for extreme music in the city or region – the results stand up to any Black Metal, classic or contemporary, being created anywhere today.