Give this some thought for a second: you’re putting together a black metal dream team, who would it include? I wonder how many of you would arrive at noted producer and Vulture Industries‘ frontman – Bjørnar E. Nilsen, and guitar aficionados Arve Isdal (Enslaved, I, Audrey Horne) and Gjermund Fredheim (Taake, Orkan). Well some bright-spark did, and from that monstrous lineup, Black Hole Generator is born and with it, A Requiem for Terra. Following a decade-long break, A Requiem for Terra sees Black Hole Generator moving away from the industrial sound that dominated Black Karma, and instead has this talented lineup moving towards a more eclectic or avant-garde black metal sound. Does it work, you might ask?
Indeed it does! Opening up with the title track, A Requiem for Terra gets off to an excruciating and memorable start that, though tough to describe, makes me think of the the slow burn of Enslaved mixed with the sketchiness of Hellwell. Nilsen’s vocals kick in almost immediately, and you’re instantly aware that you’re about to partake in something unusual. Like Dave Hunt (Anaal Nathrakh), Nilsen has a scorching vocal style that’s love it or hate it. With a chameleon-like quality, he spits out his lines with a dusting of gruffness, often speaking instead of singing, and around the mid section of the track he attacks with blast-beat accuracy, producing what can only be described as pure lunacy. Guitar-work is expertly delivered hanging on to a central melody, but at the same time contorting to highlight the mania or dialing back to add burden to the track. Knowing that there’s so much talent behind these guitar contributions, it’s interesting to note that there’s no showboating or unnecessary gobbledygook. Each note feels necessary and deliberately placed for this project.
The tracks that follow twist and turn, each as strong as the next, quality only taking a hit on the rear end. “Titan,” bearing no resemblance to the Septicflesh song, digs deep to reach the bombasity of blackened death. After a brief melo-death, Omnium Gatherum, styled intro it’s the bass-lines and again Nilsen’s vocals take center stage. Combining what’s come before, “Moloch” makes use of an extremely repetitive melody, driving it into your brain with sledgehammer precision. One moment you’re picking up the elegant progressive nature of Vulture Industries and in the next you’re neck-deep in energetic, blasting black metal easily as intense as Taake – the transitions happen quite beautifully. “Beneath a Chemical Sky” makes a caustic start, bearing the charm of Marduk‘s “World of Blades.” Unhinged soloing around the 3-minute mark combines with Nilsen’s vivid expressions, to drag you into a murky hodgepodge of Hellwell meets Taake meets Vulture Industries. The weirdness continues with “Emerging Pantheon’s” quasi-rock interlude a little more than a minute in, things get weirder when Nilsen takes on the overblown exaggeration of Zimmers Holes‘ Chris Valagao. The track lurches along with odd shifts, wallowing in quirk, and teetering on absurdity, taking influence from Vulture Industries, but with a higher concentration of piss and vinegar.
Though the majority of A Requiem for Terra holds up well on repeat listen and the songs have enough quirk to quickly become memorable, my attention span religiously drops off when faced with Black Hole Generator‘s final two litanies. “Earth Eater” fails in that it’s interchangeable, and not doing anything particularly stand-out, and “Spiritual Blight” just feels limp and monochromatic, too noticeably out of place to be a cohesive part of this album. The tracks before plant a level of expectation within you that these closing numbers fail to meet.
Overall from a production standpoint, A Requiem for Terra sounds bright, modern and it’s easy on the ear. The balance is spot on given the fact that Black Hole Generator has so many distinguished peeps vying for the listener’s attention. If you’re a fan of Nilsen’s prior works, or Ice Dale’s many varied projects, then this one’s for you.