Scarlet Records ■ SC005-1
Release April 1, 1999
Produced by Christian Ice and Malfeitor Fabban
Engineered by Christian Ice
- Wehrmacht Kali Ma
- Horrenda Peccata Christi
- Roma Divina Urbs
- Darka Mysteria
- Tantra Bizarre
- Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
- Metal Striken Terror Action
- The First Four Trumpets
- Tantra Bizarre [C30 Version] – Exclusive to vinyl
I originally debated inclusion of this record in my collection for a few reasons. Some may be surprised to see a photo of a non-standard record in my collection that they have not seen before, but this is for the same essential reasons. Some years ago, I purchased a used copy of Diabolical Masquerade’s Death’s Design (more on that in a few months, I suppose!) and brought it back to my then-dorm room only to find that, crammed inside, was this picture disc, for no apparent reason. I’d never heard of Aborym, and had no earthly idea what this was, but figured it couldn’t hurt to have. The first time I played it, I realized it was absolutely trashed with surface noise–crackles, pops, and constant noise coated an already noisy band. It didn’t make for easy listening–not in the sense that I was put off, but that it was literally difficult to hear the music itself. I stuck it in a simple plastic sleeve and left it at that, often forgetting I even owned it. Sadly enough, it’s one of 1,000 in existence and remains in pretty terrible condition, as I can’t exactly repair a bunch of scratches and dings that were in it long before I ever had it. I am left wondering (not for the first time) why someone would buy a limited record that had no idea how to care for a record, yet would take it out and fiddle with it enough to do this to it. Especially in an age where records are nowhere near the dominant format. Still, onward and upward!
Aborym are an Italian (in origin, at least) black metal band who have achieved some measure of fame over the course of their decade of life by playing a variant on black metal that is distinctly different from other bands, as well as occasionally taking on members of founding black metal bands either as guests or standing members. The center of the project is Malfeitor Fabban, though, who formed and has remained in the band since its inception.
Now, I suppose before I go any further, as brief an explanation of black metal as I can manage is in order for those who are not familiar. Black metal is a variant of heavy metal, at least a few generations descended, that originates in late 80s and early 90s Norway. There’s a whole slew of history to the scene there (including a string of murders and arson, which you can read about almost anywhere, and I’m simply not in the mood to repeat for the umpteenth time, as it does not directly address the music of a band hundreds of miles away and a decade later), but suffice it to say, it comes in name from the release of British thrash metal band Venom’s Black Metal. It’s difficult to describe without hearing, and usually my phrasing to neophytes–if other websites and books are any indication–would be some humourously half-hyperbolic description of ear-splitting devil music. Alternatively, a really pretentious description of how much it is high art. Instead, let me make my best attempt to tell you what it actually sounds like.
Black metal is typified by the early 1990’s releases of Mayhem, Emperor, Darkthrone, Enslaved, Satyricon, Immortal and others in Norway, though Mayhem existed in a few incarnations for a few years prior, releasing more death metal-esque material in those days. The backbone is usually extremely proficient and speedy drumming, typified by an emphasis on what is called a “blast beat,” being a rapid alternation of snare drum and bass drum in most cases, but generally consisting of very intense and quick, albeit simple, drum patterns. Over this, guitars are typically played at similar speeds, with chords strummed rapidly enough to come off as sheets of noise in their riff form, heavily distorted, often changing notes far less often than the chords themselves are strummed. The bass guitar, typically, is nearly unnoticeable in the morass of sound. Backing with electronic organ or sampled choral notes is very common as an accent to what comes to be a “wall of sound” in a far more oppressive way than Phil Spector ever used. Lyrically, you can bet anti-religious (typically anti-Christian) sentiment forms the core of the message, though it can vary and emphasize more “cold” or “dark” elements intended to convey a certain type of masculinity.
Let me just qualify all this with a few things: I’m not a musician myself, though I have some familiarity with the very basics of instruments enough to recognize elements, but can easily be mistaken about a variety of these things. Similarly, as with all genres, there is inevitable variation, from beginning to end of a genre’s life, and few genres truly die.
Aborym, however, build from this base of oppressive, rapid, blistering sheets and work in a peculiar variety of electronic and industrial sounds–occasionally even approaching sound collage in intercessory portions. “Wehrmacht Kali Ma” opens with the expected sounds of black metal, though with a variety of vocals from then-vocalist Yorga SM (aka “The Venerable Yorga”), some of which are unusually deep for black metal, which often has a high-pitched sort of “shrieking yell” buried in the mix for its vocals. “Horrenda Peccata Christi” begins to hint at changes to come, with filtered and modified vocals, but still relatively normal black metal instrumentation and songwriting. The next track is actually a cover of industrial band Coil’s original theme for Clive Barker’s film Hellraiser (the band’s score was rejected by the studio and replaced with Christopher Young’s rather haunting one, but stands on its own as a quality set of music), which is a rather spare, somber, if appropriately dark, band for a black metal band to include a cover of. It doesn’t come off as out of place, but it is a peculiar track to be sure, for such a release, moving at the much slower tempo of the original track. “Tantra Bizarre” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” only make it that much stranger: the former begins with instrumentation reminiscent of the Middle East and eventually turns to a dance beat, and roboticized voices, while the latter opens with an actual choral rendition of the hymn in question before being overtaken by a rant in Italian over it.
No doubt to some people, this album is an insult and wrong–but there’s a slavish devotion in some parts of the black metal circle to “true” black metal that borders on (and sometimes crosses into) self-parody, with a refusal to experiment or stretch beyond the expected for fear of reprisal–either from self or audience. Despite that, the album succeeds quite well for what it does, bringing an industrial and drum machine-oriented element into black metal both jarringly for its surprise, but comfortably for its placement and usage. It’s a strange, strange thing that it works, but it actually does. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of Mayhem alumnus Attila Csihar on guest vocals (he later apparently joined the band, albeit briefly, as primary vocalist) that lends it credence enough to stand as black metal despite the oft-considered repellent inclusion of these unusual elements. Ex-Emperor drummer (due to a murder conviction) Bård “Faust” Eithun is given a “hail,” and later joined the band, too.
NOTE: I apologize for the delay on this one. There is a very large measure of confusion over tracklisting here, which I cannot confirm explicitly in terms of song titles. I don’t know Italian, so matching lyrics to songs (as I had to do with Provocation) is a less-than-simple task. Still, I know the sounds well enough that I can do some–but when it’s shrieked or growled, it becomes entirely more difficult. The image above is the first side I played on my turntable–which, it turns out, is Side B. To add more confusion, while the disc is limited, it appears there may have been variances in pressing, which confuse which tracks begin Side B, as it appears I have six, while the Discogs page for the release shows 5 tracks on the actual photo, as well as listing a 5/5 split. In the end, I have successfully matched the track titles I’ve mentioned, but can’t swear to much more. A lot of research and muddling with digital copies only confused things further (a quick spin around YouTube’s inevitable track uploads finds things like two different songs labeled “Darka Mysteria” that are both from the album but are definitely different songs), and I finally threw my hands up. Be warned if you do decide to download–I can’t swear your track titles will be correct.
If you want to pick up a copy, there are a few CD editions (with different art) as well as some copies of the picture disc still floating around (often for a good $40US or more):