Album Review: LUUPCanticles Of The Holy Scythe
Black metal derived avant garde has never been an easy genre to crack into, hell, it's hard to find labels out there who will even dabble in the stuff since it's so often so inaccessible. I, Voidhanger Records has a long history of putting out weird music though, which helped to make this latest offering from Luup, the solo project of Greek multi-instrumentalist Stelios Romaliadis, available to us mere mortals. Canticles Of the Holy Scythe is a fascinating and oftentimes twisted record. It's an album that demands a lot of its listeners. It forces you to really step back and sink your teeth into the madness of the genre and then to come up for air, begging for salvation after you see the other side of a God who failed. This is avant garde black metal for a new generation and the kind of stuff that proves that ties between high art music and extreme metal are not only possible but also extremely emotionally powerful and with the potential to fascinate the masses, despite the genres relative incomprehensibility.
Be aware: this album is by no means pure black metal, it's more the approach that feels black metal, in many ways hearkening back to the initial experimentations of bands like Ulver back in the 1990s, when people were starting to realize just how deep the black metal rabbit hole could go. Focusing primarily on weird and dissonant string sections Luup drag you into their musical world and allow you a chance to really look into the void. This isn't an album that is going to make a lot of sense right away, it has all sorts of weird vocal parts coming in, balancing confused and ethereal clean vocals with twisted growls. The mixture of black metal dynamics and vibes with more traditionally high art avant garde music is at times facile, but I think that's part of the point. Obviously black metal has always had a fascination with late classical and avant garde movements, but on this record we see the dynamic almost reversed, with the compositional approach seemingly to write late classical and avant garde music with a fascination for black metal.
Canticles Of The Holy Scythe is an album that you're not going to want to put down once you get going with it. It's an album that speaks to the listener on multiple levels, bizarro voice overs clashing with atonal violins which in turn give way to swelling classical melodies or even sonic approaches that could best be described as black metal for strings. There is something that is deeply unsettling about this album. It comes up often and hard, exciting the listener with frightening swells and then dying back into moments that border on pure noise. Every song on this album is a musical journey, it's an adventure to make your way through the dense jungles crafted here in the sound world of Stelios Romaliadis but when you come out the other end you find yourself desperately curious to dive right back in.