Blodarv – Linaria Amlech

This is a rather ambitious idea for a release, spanning a lot of different art forms all at the same time.  Simply downloading the music of ‘Linaria Amlech’ will give you MAYBE a quarter of the full experience.  But to be honest, even if you do buy it you won’t really be getting a full understanding of what this is about; it’s a fragmented, incomplete view of lead Blodarv member Hugin’s relationship with ‘Linaria Amlech’ (almost certainly not her real name) that probably isn’t even totally grasped by the surviving party himself.  It’s one of the most artistic metal releases I know of, made many times better by actually owning the release; you simply won’t get the full experience otherwise.

Blodarv is slim on the details, but the general description of this is that this album… sort of thing is dedicated to the memory of Linaria Amlech, a witch who killed herself in January 2002.  Nothing is very specifically explained, and it seems that Blodarv designed this release as though you already knew her intimately, but I have been able to gather a few things.  It seems that Linaria was a lover of Hugin (or perhaps a one-time lay who was obsessed with him) who was likely a schizophrenic.  It appears that Linaria thought of herself and Hugin as doomed lovers and as some sorts of supernatural entities; I think she believed Hugin was a vampire or some other demonic creature.  Either way, we’re led to believe that Linaria thought she was pregnant, and due to a particular distaste for seeing a doctor for an abortion (which she’d done once before), she decided to abort the child through some herb-based folk remedy, but unable to get the safest herbs in Denmark, she ended up employing a much more dangerous variety which resulted in her death.  As you can imagine, it’s a pretty bizarre story, like an early Cradle Of Filth lyric brought to life.  Presuming it’s all true, of course; I’m sort of half and half on whether I believe it or not.  It’s pretty compelling either way though.

There’s three distinct parts to this presentation.  The most obvious is the music, which is amusingly probably the least important part of the package.  All of the music on this release is previously recorded except for (I think) the King Diamond cover.  The reused content, though, is quite strong; apparently the first three tracks are taken from 2002’s ‘Beyond Life’ EP that was previously only available on vinyl, which is (another) release centered on Linaria.  These are some strong songs, and are essentially the meat of the ‘Linaria Amlech’ release; the opening track ‘Langt Væk Fra Livet’ is particularly compelling depressive black metal, while ‘Death Of Linaria’ is solid ambient and ‘Beyond Life’ a good track in the vein of the first, albeit faster.  As the thematically connected tracks, these first three are the most crucial part of the package.  The King Diamond cover is okay; it’s somewhat harmed by the harsh production but overall fairly well done, and the remaining two bonus tracks include an interesting martial ambient piece and yet another slab of depressive black metal.  The music is good but by far the least important part of this artistic entity; only the first few songs are really mandatory, and the rest are just filler.

Next would be the twelve-page booklet.  This very attractively crafted piece contains handwritten lyrics to the first three songs, various photos and paintings of Linaria, and excerpts from some of her letters.  The combination makes for an engaging read that’s probably the most important booklet to the musical package that I’ve seen.  Linaria was a truly bizarre woman based on these letters of hers, who wholeheartedly believed in her strange mix of paganism and satanism, all swathed in dark and romantic gothic convention.  Her words seem to come alive when mixed with various photos and paintings of her, and the scrawled, desperate script of Hugin adds yet another dimension of insanity to the whole thing.  It’s a great layout that tells a very, very strange and haunting story, and it’s completely mandatory to the whole experience.

Finally comes the video.  The ‘canon’ material comes in the form of the first twelve minutes of the first video, divided roughly into four portions.  The first contains a reading of one of Linaria’s letters by Hugin, displaying just how insane she was approaching the end of her life, while the next section chronicles the last video ever taken of Linaria; in this case, a strange, half-nude, seemingly ritualistic dance.  Next is the final letter of Linaria, detailing her bizarre relationship with Hugin where she hopes that he’ll kill her in a final act of dark love, among other rantings of the so-called witch.  The story of Linaria concludes with a video of a man, presumably Hugin, flipping through a book full of Linaria’s writings and photographs, set to ‘Death Of Linaria’ with the lyrics to that song appearing at the top.  A fitting end to an equally strange and mystical story.  Suddenly, there’s a bizarre shift in tone to a promotional section featuring art from the previous releases along with song clips and info on where to purchase.  The second video is a live recording of a rehearsal gig where the band plays ‘Those Who Speak In Minds’.  It’s capably done if rather unremarkable.

The whole package of ‘Linaria Amlech’ is somewhat handicapped by the content unrelated to the story itself.  The second half of the music and the additional videos are rather jarring and destructive to the atmosphere crafted by the central theme.  The rest, though, is very compelling and surprisingly well crafted.  The sort of mixed media presentation hasn’t been explored greatly in the metal scene, and I’m hoping that this release will inspire similar artists to go further.  Though this isn’t a perfect representation of how such an attempt should necessarily be done, it’s better than just about anyone else has at telling a complete story to the audience.  I definitely recommend this release for anyone who wants to explore what heavy metal can be if the artists are willing to try something new.  Good music, but an even better artistic experience when the other elements are included.

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~ by noktorn on May 26, 2008.

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