Archaic – Akelarre/Regressor

If you’re fairly deep into the metal underground, you know Archaic. This is because every metal distro in the world has a dozen copies of ‘Akelarre/Regressor’. This is also notable because no one has ever actually purchased a copy of the CD that does not own a distro. I got my copy for free, and I’m still pretty convinced that I’m the only person that’s actually listened to it. I’m not entirely sure why so many distros buy it when not a single copy appears to leave the shelves. Maybe it’s peer pressure.

‘Akelarre/Regressor’ is, as the title would imply, a reissue of those two previous demos on CD. Archaic is (like so many funeral doom bands these days) a one-man affair out of France that is still relatively unknown in the greater metal scene despite kicking around for a few years now. This is particularly strange considering how closely knit the doom metal scene is. However, a single listen will tell you pretty quickly.

The music is, to say the least, strange.

Archaic’s breed of funeral doom is firmly entrenched in the realm of the avant-garde. The five tracks here could easily form the soundtracks for five abstract French art films. Each track has seemingly nothing to do with the other, and the songs themselves appear to have been composed with massive contempt for anything approaching professionalism. Much of it seems at least partially improvised, with a few central ideas established beforehand and the rest filled in on the fly. The various sonic voices blend together very awkwardly, almost as if each instrument was recorded separately and without hearing the other tracks. There’s nothing really approaching timing here. In fact, it appears that there isn’t even a time signature being used in many instances. On top of this, actual instrumental ability is profoundly questionable at best.

I’d say that this CD has about half ‘real’ songs and about half pure esoteric experimentation. There’s not really a song that’s fully either; passages just sort of collide and fall into one category or another. There’s no real reference point as to the sound of the funeral doom on ‘Akelarre/Regressor’; maybe a fleeting resemblance to Doomthrone in places, but not much else. The more abstract portions are even more drastically divorced from normality. Surprisingly, though, the experimental portions are a much more pleasing listen than the funeral doom. Call Archaic the slow version of Nile if you like. Just not as overrated.

The most normal music comes at the very beginning, and even it is quite aberrant. ‘Monotonous Descent Into Autumnal Exasperation’ is composed primarily of dual guitar lines, one clean, one distorted, before briefly transferring into full-fledged funeral doom before its conclusion. And those initial guitar lines are excellent, contrasting effectively with each other with their more traditional sense of melody. This is, however, the figurative long walk before the asylum doors are breached. Convention at this point is left far behind.

The two clear centerpieces of ‘Akelarre/Regressor’ are the most lengthy tracks: ‘From Sorrow’s Elucubration’ and ‘C’Evil’. It’s in these tracks that one finds the building blocks of Archaic’s music: thick, chugging, disjointed riffs over a seemingly improvised drum track, occasionally far more kinetic than would seem appropriate, with crescendos of lengthy open snare rolls appearing from nowhere under lethargic, palm-muted chords. Low growls appear with some regularity, possibly the most seemingly timed and rhythmic voice here. Songs are untidy, awkward sprawls, with variation emerging more from instrumental error than any real plan. The instruments stumble around unwieldy, formless riffs that join together only approximately.

‘From Sorrow’s Elucubration’ wrestles with ‘Mental Exodus’ for the crown of cohesion, but the latter’s sultry Doomthrone-covering-Cematary sway in the main riff wins in enjoyment, not togetherness, where the former’s misty Arabian solo wins in the other dimension. ‘Mental Exodus’ shuffles through an opium-fueled open chord palm-muted hell while the second track contains some measure of consistency, with dramatic cymbal-bass drum emphases occasionally falling ON notes, as opposed to beside them or merely somewhere in their general vicinity. Listening to this CD requires that you fill a good swath of it in with your imagination, placing the sounds where they’re supposed to be from where they actually are.

But by far the winner when it comes to pure art freakout is the brooding darkness of ‘C’Evil’. Either only a bass or a severely downtuned guitar is present, and it cuts a wide, bizarre swath of free-time riffing over similarly aimless drumming over the course of fifteen excruciatingly long minutes. There’s about five notes making about three riffs, none of which reach any real conclusion, despite how frenzied it gets at times. It appears to be more an exercise in underwater bludgeoning than anything else.

Now, despite its incompetence, ‘Akelarre/Regressor’ has its charms. Each track feels like a very raw, tiny window into the creator’s life. The crudeness of the music reflects some dimension of genuine catharsis and definite longing and sorrow. The very face that instances of beauty are so few and far between and so heartbreakingly fragile increases their potency hugely. An album full of the first track might be more pleasing to listen to, but would not be as captivatingly honest as the material here.

What makes it all worthwhile for me, though? ‘Infinite Hybernation Cycle’. Nine minutes of a single repeating piano theme bound with tiny variations and distant sound effects of footsteps, respirators, and various other ghostly noises manages to be one of the coldest, most bitter and agonizingly raw pieces of music ever conceived. Haunting, I think, is the word they use.

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~ by noktorn on July 28, 2007.

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