When I was first cutting my teeth as a reviewer over at the long defunct Unchain the Underground, I had the distinct honor of reviewing Blut Aus Nord‘s 2003 opus The Work which Transforms God. I recall it distinctly being one of the most difficult reviews I ever had to write. The music the band created was new, extreme, pummeling, challenging and ultimately difficult on a level which few records I’d ever heard before were. It offered up an extremity for which I was not prepared. I could tell, though, that it was a revolutionary record. It was something special; incredibly special… Extreme, abstract, brilliant, innovative and done in a way that I was not ready for. I really, really hated it.
So it is with Dodecahedron (except for the hating it part), the Dutch black metal band that Season of Mist signed and who were previously known as Order of the Source Below. The band’s self-titled debut (as Dodecahedron) is an undulating soundscape of dissonance and could be called a progressive or technical approach to black metal. It is undoubtedly one of the most extreme interpretations of the genre I’ve ever heard. Reminiscent, certainly, of a band like Deathspell Omega, or on the death metal side, Ulcerate but also of impressionist classical music and 12 tone jazz the band rarely ever wanders into the melodic realm. It is music that is more akin to an abstract painting than it is to many of its peers in the black metal scene. The music pulses and surges between amelodic riffs, building what can unironically be called atmosphere. And the atmosphere they summon is one of almost Lovecraftian horror that evokes a physical response from the listener.
Dodecahedron pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in metal in a way that few other bands ever have. Like the cascading riffs that work a bit like a round at the end of the “A View from Hverfel III: A Traveller of the Seed of the Earth,” which despite not being backed up by a blast beat and even being slightly melodic are just off enough to make the listener’s skin crawl with a sort of creepy anticipation. “Allfather” is less subtle in its dissonance, cascading out the door with a shocking vulgarity. The vocals float above and behind this, at times tortured screams and at times more common black metal fare. But at the best of times they are produced in such a way to sound truly insane and evil. “I, Chronocrator” introduces dissonant riffs that interlock like gears but never seem to work together, which creates an unsettling feeling that nothing will ever resolve. And, as it should be, nothing ever does resolve until the very last minute of the album when it fades out.
What Dodecahedron is accomplishing here is absolutely the boundaries of the most extreme of metals. Sure, there are other boundaries in noise and sludge and doom that are on the edge of extreme, and other bands out on the experimental edge of black metal like the ones I’ve already named; but the approach that Dodecahedron takes strikes me as more extreme than almost anything I’ve heard. The grudging unwillingness to have even a single catchy melody or a moment of respite from the onslaught on the senses just builds the tension throughout the whole album. And while the band does launch into blast beats and conform, obviously, to black metal fiat much of the record lurches along, teetering forward like a dodecahedron motivated by internal movement of intricate, free jazz-like dissonance and formlessness form.
Dodecahedron is a triumph. I have never listened to an album that gave me a knot in the stomach before; that actually evoked a physical reaction from me and made me tense up while listening to it. It is a truly extreme record in the most literal sense of the word.
(This review has 666 words.)