There’s just something about Seldon Hunt’s artwork that draws me deep into the full concept and mood of an album. Be it the quiet simplicity of Pelican’s What We All Come To Need, the ever-consuming vastness of The Ocean’s Pelagial, or the eerie lonesomeness of Jesu’s Sun Down/Sun Rise (my personal favorite), Hunt is somehow able to match auditory art with an observable one. And Område’s Edari is no different. Hunt’s work conveys a sense of beauty, confusion, and uneasiness that perfectly encapsulates a band that compares themselves to influential acts such as Manes, Ulver, Dødheimsgard, and God Is an Astronaut. Område’s schizophrenic layering of black metal, post-rock/metal, ambient electronica, industrial, and trip-hop styles is just as fitting to Hunt’s work as his work is to the band. One would assume Område’s sound is as kaleidoscopic as Hunt’s cover art but, thankfully, all of these flavors don’t bombard simultaneously or result in overwhelming song structures. Område focuses this eight-track debut on simple riffs and atmospheres that deliver songs rather than creating trippy soundscapes for the hell of it. So, let go and let Edari leave you numb, depressed, and without a care in the world.
Shrouded in “mystery,” this not-so-mysterious French band consists of little-known artists Bargnatt and Arsenic, while also employing guest musicians such as Guillaume Bideau (Mnemic) and Asphodel (öOoOoOoOoOo) for added texture and variety. With these weapons in place, Område rounds out their arsenal with some trip-hoppy sax and trumpet players to give tracks like “Mótsögn” and “Satellite and Narrow” that mind-altering Ulver sound. Opener “Mótsögn” starts with a soothing yet unsettling atmosphere that blends the trumpet, sax, and heavy guitar distortion necessary to cornerstone the Pain-like Peter Tägtgren vox of Bargnatt. However, don’t judge the album solely off the trip-hop melodies of “Mótsögn.” The opener is the extreme when it comes to this style, and the majority of the release finds the band concentrating on slow and deliberate moods.
Examples of their simplistic (and somewhat post-metal) side include the Bideau-led “Luxurious Agony” and “Skam Parfyme.” Both tracks are basic in structure and memorable in approach. The former feels like a Raunchy/Mnemic ballad with Bideau’s emotional vocal style entwining with the cold spoken-word passages of the song, and the latter is an evocative mix of electronica-meets-The Ocean. Asphodel’s contribution to “Satellite and Narrow” borrows from the morose leads of Ava Inferi’s Carmen Susana Simões and the Mikkel Sandager-ish backing vox round it out perfectly to convey another aspect of Edari’s sound.
When it comes to most memorable/bizarre, “Åben Dør” stands out for its eerie Defending the Throne of Evil-era Carpathian Forest intro, the almost rap-like verses on its back-half, and the Arcturus-esque industrial outro. Odd for sure but this is one of my favorites. The creepy and angry “rapping” is just badass enough that even Mr. Fisting should crack a smile. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the moody and atmospheric chill of “Friendly Herpes” keeps me coming back to its hypnotic builds and desperate Pain-like vocals. This track transitions perfectly into the aforementioned “Skam Parfyme” and the result is the perfect avante-gardeian one-two punch. “Skam Parfyme” opens with some John Carpenter vibes and angelic female backing vox before it (and Bargnatt) up the hostility and the pace.
Not overly experimental, Område focuses on songs and keeps it fresh throughout its more than 45-minute length. Their simple take on the avant-garde results in greater accessibility compared to predecessors like Ulver and Manes, with an approachability that has the potential for accessing a fanbase that only mildly dabbles in the genre. Good music, good artwork, and good production to boot gives Edari the trifecta and makes this a winner in my book. Being a lover of Ulver and Manes (even though the latter keeps putting out fucking compilations), it’s difficult for me to admit that anyone else can do this (almost) as well. However, there is much to love here and I will continue to come back to Område’s debut for its straightforwardness, variety, and easy digestibility. So, if you’re ready to submit to the dark and moody, and love bands (and reviewers) that flaunt shameless name-dropping, check this out.