Without a doubt, the darkest moments of my life have involved vocalist Aldrahn. At first, it was an unfortunate coincidence. But then his voice and his music became my go-to during those dark days and nights. Be it his groundbreaking introduction with Zyklon B and Old Man’s Child, his psychotic direction with DHG, or his genre-setting contributions to Thorns. This one man has haunted my dreams (and nightmares) for close to two decades. I’ve considered suicide as his voice rang out on my speakers and I even attempted it while listening to Thorns. Then, no more music. But, three years ago, Aldrahn came back to us with The Deathtrip‘s Deep Drone Master. While Deep Drone Master was fun, Urarv‘s Aurum is something else.
Few will agree with me but I place Aldrahn on the same pedestal as black metal vocalists Garm and Attila Csihar. If nothing else than for having a unique vocal style. But, for me, all three have been a part of groundbreaking moments in the avant-garde and the black metal world. And now, with fuel from his life in a sanitarium to propel him, Aldrahn brings forth a solo act that has been festering since 2003. In charge of guitar, vocal, and songwriting duties, Aldrahn unleashes some of the oddest shit he has ever put to tape. In short, Urarv ain’t for everyone, but that’s the point.
And opener “Forvitringstid” proves it. After those lush clean guitars conclude, modern-day Darkthrone riffs settle in. That doesn’t seem so odd, right? But, then the vocals appear. And Aldrahn’s barks, snarls, screams, Gaahl-like cleans, and choked-out banterings are the outbursts of a madman. Chuck in a slower-paced transition that derails the steady Darkthrone-isms and the album’s mood is set. Like the opener, “The Retortion” is another spastic piece—but one with Gorgorothian aggressiveness. After opening like “Forvitringstid,” hell unfolds before your eyes. Then it divebombs into a slow, haunting atmosphere where feedback and ringing dissonance find a home. Before it has a chance to return to its Gorgoroth-like nature, Aldrahn unleashes a powerful wail that puts the icing on the cake.
On the surface, “Ancient DNA” is a typical Darkthrone track with Fenriz at the mic. But the odd vocal lines and sporadic songwriting will leave an uncomfortableness under your skin. When it begins to build, Aldrahn concludes it by unleashing pure hate into your ears. This track, however, is only the beginning of the weird shit. Pushing seven-and-a-half and eight-and-a-half minutes, respectively, “Broken Wand” and “Valens Tempel” travel through every known corner of the blackened avant-garde sound. The former has more Darkthrone vibes, as well as rolling hills of aggressive riffage, a ball-busting “breakdown,” and Aldrahn’s insane bantering. While the latter has a typical old-school Satyricon-esque black metal assault and the vocals of a drunken pirate. Not to mention, the slow and meandering mid-section guitar and vocal work sound like something from Mercyful Fate‘s “Dead Again.” Then, it goes fucking ballistic, taking out everything in its path and ending with Aldrahn screaming like a banshee. Both songs have cohesiveness but also feel like absolute trainwrecks.
Unfortunately, the longer songs are too long. The only one that works is the nine-minute closer, “Red Circle.” The approach is simple and the use of steady Horna attacks and atmospheres get the point across. The large bass presence found on this song plays a big part in the song’s success. Also, Aldrahn’s use of his signature spewings. But the topping on the cake is the climax near the end. The repeated lines of “Humanity’s insane!” giving way to haunting strings that put this thing to rest.
In the end, Aurum‘s shorter tracks (as well as “Red Circle”) keep my attention the most. The “Ancient DNA” and “The Retortion” duo are my choices for most-pleasant mindfuckers and “Guru” and “Fancy Daggers” are to-the-point ravagers. “Guru” is a simple black-metal terrorizer and “Fancy Daggers” has the same drive as most of Darkthrone‘s punky material. The bass guitar is the highlight of the record, though—somehow finding its way to the surface of the DR4 compression. While the album is a complete package and Aldrahn does a fine job of exploring, songs like “Forvitringstid,” “Broken Wand,” and “Valens Tempel” carry on too long and the songwriting is an overly-experimental mess. But, Urarv has some serious potential and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Aldrahn.