Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Old Silver Key - Tales Of Wandering (2011)


Alcest mainman Neige has joined yet another band, bringing his total to somewhere near 382, near as we can tell. The man is about as prolific a writer as you will find in music these days. His latest project, dubbed Old Silver Key, sees him joining forces with the entire band Drudkh, a black metal outfit from Ukraine led by Roman Saenko. Together, they have created a sound that borrows from the raw, unpolished roots of black metal, but takes them in a strictly melodic direction. They begrudgingly called this album "post-rock," but with a few listens, it runs deeper than that.

Things open with the tapping of drum sticks, inviting others to join "What Once Was And Will Never Be Again." The sporatic picking of guitar strings, clean as can be, and the occasional piano keystroke enter. This is contrary to what you may expect from a band of this caliber, but it is a fitting intro to an album of this nature. The tapping slows and fades, and "November Nights Insomnia" comes into range, with a drum beat that may seem familiar. Typical kick/snare/cymbal action is all that is needed. Neige's voice, somber as ever, hits all the right notes, layered on top of guitars that start melodic, but lean toward the abrasive. The ability to cut back and forth between enchanting melodies and the more coarse guitar work is key, allowing piano keys to intermingle with grating guitars and fast paced drumming. This is atmospheric metal at it's best, with layers or sound creating a wave that crashes over you. Even the dulcet tones of an acoustic guitar make it into the mix.

The beautiful piano that opens "Cold Spring" would make the perfect accompaniment for a rainy day. As the light patter of drums enter, it provides a platform for an acoustic guitar to stand. A lone voice enters, solemn and trembling. The melody gives way to rapid sweeping of guitar strings, a build up that black metal fans have grown to love over years of fine tuning. The combination of a soft voice and the harsh music is uncanny. So much so, in fact, that the lack of screams won't even occur to you. As simple this all seems to be, it is powerful in ways that are hard to duplicate. The fast pace returns with "Nineteen Winters Far Away From Home," which is a deep blend of post rock and black metal elements. The consistent plucking of the bass guitar embodies so much of the post rock style, while the wild drumming in the middle section keeps you off balance. This is a track that doesn't try to do too much. It is an instrumental of the purest sense, allowing music to tell the story, rather than clouding it with vocals that may detract from the whole.

Neige returns on the melodic pleasure that is "Star Catcher." There is a lighter feel to this one, with the drumming coming in a more straightforward way. This may be as happy as the Frenchman has ever sounded, with his voice carrying an air of lightheartedness. The sonic cloud that rises from it all is stunning, with every piece locking together. Crashing cymbals and the occasional fill only strengthen the track. "Burnt Letters" is the most complete offering on the album, with an atmosphere that so many musicians work their entire lives to achieve. Each small section flows together, with Neige's voice as the engine that drives it all. The unexpected bursts of double bass pedaling rattle your ribs, while the combination of coarse and clean guitars are inspiring. Even the outburst of pure melodic black metal musicianship at the end takes you by storm.

The closing track, "About Which An Old House Dreams," is every bit as eclectic as its predecessors, taking all of the elements that their collective works have to offer. Neige has a melodic power that is undeniable, as anyone who has heard Alcest can attest to. His voice hovers above the crowd in an emotional way that so few achieve. An despite neither a scream or growl to be had, Roman and Drudkh play to their strengths, creating a stirring backing band that provides both melody and morose. As the music fades away, a lone piano plays you out. The sound of a projector spinning down is all that remains, a fitting end to this piece.

When you go through the catalogs of both Neige and Drudkh, you may form some sort of opinion of what Old Silver key would sound like. And in doing so, you would be both right and wrong. Sure, the past works of both shine through at times. But this is an entirely new direction at the same time. There are harsh guitars chords. There is plenty of Neige's haunting vocals. "Tales Of Wandering" isn't just a mash-up. This is something more.


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