I think we can all agree that the world is fucked. I was a middle school librarian for a few years and, while the majority of the population consisted of illiterate miscreants, the smarty-pants who could actually read (anything besides the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid) would always go for a dystopian/post-apocalyptic book. From the holy trinity of Hunger Games, Maze Runner, and Divergent to newer and depressing takes on the genre, I’m convinced there’s gotta be something masochistic about indulging in a future whose bleakness rests solely on human shoulders, but every few years a new book or new movie will convince us again that such a future is inevitable without serious change. This brings us to newcomer 10:13, a new instrumental black metal act from the United States, whose sole member is multi-instrumentalist Neil Carter (he’s assisted by guest musicians). The project’s goal is to create “a bleak, futuristic soundscape to humanity’s descent into a hellish, post-apocalyptic world.” Result of an Iron Age is an interesting take on industrial, obliterated landscapes in music, and what it may lack in professionalism, it makes up for in ambition.
Black metal’s core tenant is a sinister sound that raw vocals can meld into, and Carter probably could not have picked a better metallic genre with which to create a dystopian world without the use of vocals. 10:13 adopts the frostbitten black metal standard framed by groups like Mayhem, Burzum, and Lunar Aurora, complete with buzzsaw guitars laying tremolo after tremolo and eerie plucking abound, while the drums pummel away with blastbeats and doomy crashes. Amid it all, vocals are surprisingly not missed. However, the real surprise lies in how their otherwise standard sound is pushed to new places with instruments rarely in this style.
You’ll hear everything from the standard guitar and bass solos, eerie spoken word samples, and icy keyboards to jazzy piano, screeching industrial sound, bells, harmonica and mandolin, and choral samples. The latter half of the album, beginning with “Son of Monotony,” capitalizes most successfully on these elements, employing acoustic plucking, atonal and arrhythmic black metal riffs, doomy atmosphere, and well-executed mathy freak-outs a la Prehistoricisms-era Intronaut. The drums are toned down and the keyboards become more accent and texture rather than the forefront of the sound. As a result, the music becomes much more enigmatic and almost monolithic, thanks to its hypnotic use of repetition.
It’s easy to appreciate Carter’s ambition on Result of an Iron Age, and to be fair, its only sin lies in its self-released nature. Just glancing at the cover, this is not a surprise, and its songs are no exception. The production and editing are very rough, and while this complements 10:13’s sound with a shoutout to raw lo-fi black groups like Ildjarn, Bone Awl, or Goatmoon, it also leaves tracks wide open for minor but damning mistakes, into which the first half falls often. For instance, the drumming in “Oathblade” misses the beat periodically, the keyboards in “The Worst in Me” are jarringly atonal and, the track-end fade-outs of “Misanthropic Delirium” and the title track feel rushed and inorganic. In general, the transitions between sections are awkwardly paced. “The Worst in Me” is particularly at fault, as each section is painfully interrupted by another completely different section without transition. Thankfully, the avant-garde nature of this release finds this relatively easy to forgive, but it nevertheless straddles a fine line between experimental and incompetent.
Result of an Iron Age is a tale of two halves. The first half is prone to amateur mistakes and an uncomfortable lack of transitions, while the second finds itself thriving in the cold and industrial soundscape it strives for. Carter’s ambition is a saving grace for sub-par tracks, although the sonic palette may be a turnoff for some listeners due to its odd fusion. Overall, what stands out the most about 10:13 is not so much the sound that is present but rather the sound that is promised. While Result of Iron Age may not be the year’s best or anywhere near it, the ideas are big enough and the talent is there, albeit in need of growth. It’s an album worth hearing for its uniquely instrumental approach to black metal, but its flaws keep it from being anything beyond interesting.