Wednesday 8 July 2015

Urfaust - 'Apparitions' EP (Review)

They are the guy that says nothing, barely tries, and still manages to screw your girlfriend.’

Album Type: Full-Length
Date Released: 11/02/2015
Label: Van Records

Apparitions CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. The End Of Genetic Circles (06:56)
2. Apparitions (06:28)
3. The Healer (07:29)
4. The River (22:47)

Urfaust is

VRDRBR | Drums, Bass, Noise
IX | Guitars, Vocals


Urfaust have always stood out in the black metal scene. Not the type of standing out that involves worshipping Satan more than the next guys or wearing bigger spikes, I mean the kind that screams quiet confidence. They are the guy that says nothing, barely tries, and still manages to screw your girlfriend. As far as atmospheric extreme metal can be at any rate. Interestingly this aspect comes out not so much in their photo shoots and interviews, but simply through their music.

With a battlefield of a discography stretching back to their formation in 2003, Urfaust's latest release, 'Apparitions', stands alongside over a decade of splits, EPs and full lengths. 'Apparitions' is an EP in name, but lasting nearly three quarters of an hour in length is closer to a LP. It certainly feels like an EP though, as the band focus on the more ambient end of their sonic armoury, stretching the runtime out yet saying relatively little with it. This can often be the case with music of a heavily atmospheric bent that sees melody, structure and dynamics simply as means to an ambient end, completely eshewing their presence if necessary. Whether this detrimentally affects the music says more about the listener than the genre.

This EP is not a one trick pony, however, and while the identity of it may be rooted in dark ambience it nonetheless carries much diversity across its runtime. After the murky swells of the intro track comes the brilliantly understated 'Apparitions', which was put forward as the lead track of sorts for streaming purposes upon release. Truly this must be the highlight of the EP as a simple keyboard melody eternally cycles through it, slowly evolving, dimly glowing, until it is accompanied by vocalist IX's imperfectly human chants that build over the minutes, only to give way to the reverb laden melody of some stringed instrument, beautifully unsophisticated in its plucked sustain free notes.

Follow-up track 'The Healer' will certainly have its fans, with the distorted guitar, chord progression and vocal lines heralding the closest thing this EP has to a conventional metal song. In most other black metal releases it would make a solid album track, but for a band of the calibre of Urfaust comes off more lacklustre than expected.

'Apparitions' closes on a behemoth track named 'The River', an oppressive slab of subdued darkness, the black dead still surface of stagnant water that threatens the existence of life beneath. At 23 minutes in length its marathon ambience comprises fully half of the release's runtime. Any song that long will have listeners question its right to exist simply because of the investment of time needed to digest it, and as a listener myself I am no exception. When compared with colossal 20 minute songs such as ‘Metridium Fields’ by Giant Squid or ‘7(Boriginal’) by Boredoms, 'The River' fails to satisfy. True, it isn't in the much loved avant-doom or kraut-noise realms of the two aforementioned gems, but when one sees a 20+ minute track from an exceptional band such as Urfaust it conjures expectations of nothing less than sonic and emotional annihilation. On this front, Urfaust's brand of ambience and atmosphere can only deliver so much.

Taken as a whole, 'Apparitions' delivers a strange journey, and the band's decision not to put out an album catering entirely to my tastes is not indicative of the quality of the music itself. Urfaust clearly don't give a shit about external pressures, and thankfully so. Give 'Apparitions' the half dozen listens it deserves, and if you're still not feeling it then try their back catalogue, there's something in there for every metal fan with half a brain.

Words by: Jake Mazlum

‘Apparitions’ is available digitally here and LP here

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