Friday, February 3, 2012

Jormungandr - Jormungandr (2012)

How many adjectives and subgenres would it take to describe Portland, Oregon based Jormungandr? This band, named after the serpent son of Loki, call themselves "Ambient Neo-Folk Doom Metal," which is a mouthful that may not actually say all that much. Featuring former Agalloch member Chris Greene, the two piece are ready to unleash their self titled effort upon the world. Will this album, which was three years in the making, help the band, like their namesake, become large enough to surround the earth?

The opening track, "Sorrow's Infinite Wisdom" is a puzzling start, taking you on a mono-melodic ride through modern doom. The repeated distorted chords are joined by very eerie vocals, but without any sort of structure. If imagery is being formed in your mind, it would look something akin to a dark room, with a group of long haired zombies swaying from side to side. "Ebb Of Tides," conversely, stays to the more delicate side of things. Acoustic guitar riffs repeat for minutes on end, joined only by subtle chanting and the sound of the crashing waves. Stretched out over nearly seven full minutes, it could easily serve as a new age sleep aid. The third track, "This Age Of Fire" does anything but ignite a flame, choosing a more downtempo and minimalist approach. Again, repeated plucking is the only musical accompaniment, with a few quiet, yet devilish words spoken at random intervals. The sounds that might emanate from the pits of Hell come in and out, giving this one a little demonic flavor. But, aside from the clanging of bells in the outro, there is simply nothing more to be had.

The first real ambition seems to come from "Our Children Die In Winter," which takes on the drone style of metal made famous by bands like Sunno))). Despite being a very straightforward and slow moving piece, the level of distortion and grit that pours through the guitar track is enough to warrant a repeated listen. The vocals, though unpolished and a tad offputting at times, actually make an impact. But, unfortunately, the poor recording quality turns the layered approach into a murky mess, with little more than feedback making it to your ears. A low, rumbling interlude, aptly titled "Interlude," takes you from this track to the next, a full on metal track titled "The Wind In Our Sails, The Fire In Our Hearts." With the presence of guitars, bass, and drums together, and a slightly fine tuned mix, you can finally get a feel for the true passion entrenched in each note. The machine gun drums and blistering guitars may have you wondering if you have skipped to an entirely different album. This is a raucous affair, punishing and loud. But, alas, the best track is also short, standing at a mere three minutes. The outro track, "Abcess I" is pained groaning, with bass filled ambience. The groaning turns to moaning, then chanting, just in time for it all to fade away.

All the words in the lexicon couldn't help you to sort out the album that you just endured. Is it a bunch of little pieces of a million genres, or a big piece of something altogether it's own? Either way, this isn't going to be your sunny day driving music, or even a work out assistant. Lost in the muddy waters of this offering are a few standout moments, but they are too few and far between to notice. Jormungandr may bare the name of a serpent, but the album more closely resembles a slug.


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