Just like death and taxes, you can count on Svart Records to artfully bestow the weird and the wonderful. I can elaborate… Not too long ago Vainaja earned themselves a kind word or two with Verenvalaja. Towards the back end of 2015, Sabbath Assembly‘s self-titled album bewitched Steely D. Kuolemanlaakso continues to confound. And let’s not forget Jess and the Ancient Ones‘, Second Psychedelic Coming being without a weak moment. The Process marked the first full-length release by Sink, showcasing the crude conception of their black metal, neoclassical, noise and drone bundle. At some point towards 2011, the Finns signed to Svart Records, releasing first The Holy Testament and later The Holy Testament 2. I’m yet to track these down. Ark of Contempt and Anger‘s promo blurb begins by saying that “Sink have once again created an oddly compelling and strangely enchanting album that is truly in a league of its own.” Add to that, Sink promises rich and complex compositions woven with enigmatic lyrics, and I’ll admit I had a hard time resisting this.
Barely a track into Ark of Contempt and Anger, it dawned on me how adept Sink have become at achieving extremity without actually being “extreme” in the traditional sense. They’re not plying you with phlegmy croaks or meeting you head on with hostility, there’s no mention of Satan and there’s no lightning speed tremolo picking. Instead they lure with sensual vocalization, surreal melody, droning and uncomfortable din, and by contorting layers that set your imagination on fire. Each carefully delivered suggestion charms with the power of the Pied Piper, and we are the rats.
“Hunger” manifests with nauseating slowness. Revealing a hint of Tom Waits atmosphere, some New Keepers of the Water Towers progressiveness before starting down the path Tiamat carved with Wildhoney and Prey. Instrumentally it’s based around a simple melody, enhanced with interference, blending together in a percussive manner making use of uncomfortable timing. It’s a dark little number that artfully seems more complex and dynamic than it really is. Vocals contribute perfectly, Mauno Konkkas delivery adopts a mechanical quality that sounds more like an old radio transmission, hypnotizing as it ramps upward. Konkkas employs what seems like a different vocal style on each track, and to get the full range or extent of what he and his consort have on offer, you’ll need to experience the entirety of Ark of Contempt and Anger.
“Pilgrimage” and “Dream Map” pass by a lot quicker than you’d expect, and both are outstanding continuations and yet contradictions of the opener. “Pilgrimage” features a folksy melodic drawl that reminds me of the epic style of Hexvessel‘s “Cosmic Truth” while at the same time capturing the quiet concentration of Sólstafir‘s recent outing (Ótta), all while keeping song length carefully in check. “Dream Map” changes things up, combining the slow burning impression of Ulver‘s character with psycho-acoustical hints of My Dying Bride to create a truly beautiful dreamscape.
The remainder of the album becomes progressively more disjointed, being split up with instrumental tracks (“Consolation,” “Terminal” and “World Asthma”). I use the term instrumental loosely, as there are instances where chants are barely discernible over the hum and buzz. All three tracks have a serious nature and inject an isolation, a loneliness, into Ark of Contempt and Anger. From the unusual Andreas Vollenweider-styled melody infused with Bollywood musicality on “Enchant,” to the rattling chain of the ceremonial thurible swinging back and forth, permeating “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving” with the inescapable scent of incense and ceremony, this album is packed with magic of the highest form.
Sink‘s latest offering far exceeds what they’ve put out in the past. With a production quality so immaculate and dynamic it perfectly shows off each subtletly interesting instrumentation and samples, vocalism that staves off as much as it attracts. My only complaint is that Sink are not creating “metal” in the truest form of the word. It’s a silly complaint as this is an outstanding album. Sink have risen to the challenge created by artists like Tiamat, Sólstafir and Chelsea Wolfe, and if you’re going to take a chance on one unusual album this year, let it be Sink‘s Ark of Contempt and Anger.