Thanks to divine intervention and a quark-sized attention span, I find myself faced with my second super-dense slab of black metal in two weeks. I could take responsibility for this and actually look at my upcoming review calendar from time to time, but I’m American and my right to complain about things I have total control over is in the Constitution. Still, perhaps I should have recognized that an album named Negative Atonal Dissonance screamed “artsy fartsy solo black metal.” Right on cue, Damjan Stefanovic crammed as much weird as he could into Perpetual Consciousness Nightmare, the 2015 debut from his MRTVI project. With NAD, Stefanovic sees no reason to wake from that terror, instead delving even deeper into the maddening expanse of a caustic hellscape.

Though I’ve heard my fair share of weird shit recently, I thought PCN would at least be a decent baseline. Nope. “As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh Part 1” is the slowest of burns, inching its way through eight minutes of dissonance and feedback, brimming with devilish spoken word contorted to emulate backmasking. The track eschews conventional instruments and barely breaches the minimums of “music,” if at all. Yet it’s discomfiting how easily the proceedings can turn your stomach. MRTVI shares a name with the Serbian word for “dead” and, like the record’s title, owns every bit of that meaning. When the claustrophobic insanity of “As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh Part 2” relieves the waiting, the pit in your stomach curdles as heinous vocals drag the rotting corpse of metal behind them.

Experimental in every sense, the long-form bulk of “Part 2” and finale “Negative Atonal Dissonance” never deigns to give you what you want. Only disjointed segments of the music, notably the first half of “Part 2,” shares traits with black metal, but the horrific hodgepodge of roars, clatter, and static place NAD firmly within noise’s boundaries. A dichotomy of silence and intense chaos reveals itself time and again, while its heights often have a throbbing, industrial quality to them. Stefanovic himself rejects “production values that serve no other purpose other than to sound recognisable and palatable.” So as NAD abrasively bends your intestines into pretzels, it’s worth highlighting that this exercise is entirely intentional. The frustration I feel listening to it for the first and the fifth times. The vice grips pressing upon my temples as Stefanovic’s layers of grinding agitation close in around me. The nightmarish confines of his mind bleeding into mine as I lay awake at night listening. It’s as if MRTVI constructed NAD with my discomfort in mind, the excision of joy the project’s raison d’être.

If I wanted to stretch for a reference, I would reach for Igorrr, but solely as a measure of strangeness. Stefanovic’s vicious croaks and the pervasive discord of his instrumentality overrule any technical comparisons. The way he lays out his work is impressive, cycling a myriad of disparate sounds and production elements into his monument to the abyss. The album’s apparent depth prospers even in its most grating moments. But despite my appreciation of MRTVI’s lofty goals, I found PCN easier to parse than NAD. For all its weirdness, PCN managed some tangibility. NAD lacks the moments that make a record and foregoes many elements necessary to retain its claim as music. It pushes the boundaries of metal, but only by ignoring metal’s corporeal aspects. The mental connection MRTVI forges feels fundamentally different from the ones that make metal so special. I admire the final product only in the way that one appreciates a piece of art from across a velvet rope – coolly, distantly, and without embrace.

A disclaimer on MRTVI’s bandcamp warns that “Negative Atonal Dissonance is not an album. It is a statement.” Under this guise, it’s quite easy to recommend this eclectic work of art. For many, myself included, it will be one of the most memorable experiences of the year. Taking a step forward and embracing the (non-)album as music is vastly more difficult. MRTVI achieves exactly what it sets out to, but the result is so off-putting that I have no desire to return. If this intrigues you even slightly, I recommend exploring the expanse of Negative Atonal Dissonance yourself. The score below and the words above cannot properly convey the experience within.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Transcending Obscurity
Websites: mrtvi.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/sustainedthroughdeath
Releases Worldwide: July 30th, 2017

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  • Goldicot

    Mastery – VALIS (2015) would seem to have achieved the thesis of the black metal passages better than MRTVI is, according to the song that’s available for streaming. Mastery is far more chaotic at the very least, where MRTVI spends significant portions of the streaming track playing chromatic feedback solos over a fairly simple groove passage.

    Negative Atonal Dissonance doesn’t seem worth pursuing when VALIS already exists, unless you really like the “harsh black noise” genre, in which case I can’t say that MRTVI seems like the most compelling landmark in that genre either.

    • Drew Music

      Holy Hell, I’d never heard of VALIS before and I think they just made me schizophrenic.
      Seriously, thanks yo!

    • rumour_control

      Noise in the Attic is always welcome.

      • Goldicot

        I fail to understand.

        • rumour_control

          I enjoy certain strands of alleged noise, aka crazy metal tuneage, filling my brain bucket, aka my attic.

          • Goldicot

            Oh, sure. I merely thought MRTVI was not being true to the concept of their work, or that the concepts had been better achieved by previous artists.

          • rumour_control

            True. I’ll take a full listen of the three tracks before I agree. Really enjoy VALIS, so I appreciate your comment.

          • Goldicot

            I’ll also be checking out the full release of Negative Atonal Dissonance — I couldn’t skip it based on title alone!

          • rumour_control

            Indeed, my friend.

        • Brutalist_Receptacle

          I CAN HELP.

    • Dudeguy Jones

      VALIS is total craziness. Supposedly it was heavily improvised.
      And, don’t quote me, played all at once, like one man band style.
      Playing the drums with a two pedal set up while playing the guitar and squealing like Satans stuck pig.

      Anyway, he does vocals in Pale Chalice too and, though way (WAY) more straightforward, it is a great listen.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        That’s the way Hasil Adkins did all his records!

  • Thatguy

    Where’s the unicorn?

  • Mollusc

    On the Led Zep DVD there’s an interview excerpt with Page & Plant from the early 70s. Interviewer asks their opinion of The Beatles, Page says “they made some interesting statements” (I’m paraphrasing), Plant joins in and tries saying statements but obviously feels like a berk and reverts to calling said statements “songs”. How does this album compare to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music?

    • Dr. Wvrm

      I can’t say I’ve ever listened to it. My only exposure to Lou Reed has been Lulu, which is probably not the best place to start.

      • Mollusc

        I think jury’s out on whether it’s a joke or not, double album of feedback basically. Yeah I listened to Lulu once… how can you call an album Lulu and not have Lulu on it?

      • Nukenado

        MMM is either extreme avant-garde art, or extreme trolling. Reed himself said that he lost all fans after MMM so he could do whatever he wanted.

  • rumour_control

    I dig these sounds.

  • Eli Valcik

    MGLA, MRTVI, VTRA.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      EXLAX

  • EnslavedEld73

    Sounds like a faster and more straight forward version of Jute Gyte. Even the vocals are a bit similar. Pretty cool. Eerie disjointed and angry music that makes the listener feel uncomfortable and agitated. Speaking of Jute Gyte, I think their new one comes out sometime very soon.

    • Goldicot

      July 10th!

  • METAL OTTER

    A Serbian Album (companion to the film)

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The word “riff” isn’t used at all in the review, not even once. I’m currently listening to Hellhammer. Should I stop listening to Hellhammer and give this MRTVI a try?

    • Drew Music

      Not if you’re looking to keep the riffs flowing. Vredehammer’d be a good choice, though.