The Psyke Project

Dead Storm

Written by: AP on 17/08/2009 00:03:38

So here it is, the single most anticipated release this year and in fact the only album that I have been looking forward to. Many of you will already know that the band in question belongs at the very top of my most beloved bands list, and this review will not attempt to mask any fanboyism and will probably contain significant amounts of favoritism. There simply is no other band like The Psyke Project, they have proven this time and time again with one brilliant release after the other, and they are out to cement their status once again as the crowned kings of Danish heavy music, nevermind the fact that they have yet to make an international breakthrough unlike some of their contemporaries. But that's no surprise considering the impossible nature of the band's music, which has ensured that fans are few and far in between. Only those with an appreciation for all things chaotic and extreme have found their dearest in The Psyke Project, and with a record like "Dead Storm", they're certainly not out to make new friends.

What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is the band's ugliest, most challenging material to date; a blistering, merciless assault on the senses; an album which, despite its hypnotically slow tempo garners such intensity into its ten displays of post-metal doom that one begins to get urges of drilling holes into one's skull simply to release the discomfort that The Psyke Project puts inside it. Distressing, chills-down-the-spine stuff that claws at your aesthetics like a rabid beast. "Dead Storm" is a difficult, undiscerning body of work because this band will never sacrifice its musical vision, and it is perhaps for this reason that many critics have complained that the album is too apathetic to the listener and thus less worthy of praise. In some ways it would be easy to join the hate choir because it is true, the songs here are totally relentless and lack in things like climaxes, relying instead on building slow crescendos that gradually expose more and more detail before collapsing into haunting moments of total calm, where the only sounds audible are every-so-slightly picked clean notes and perhaps percussion based entirely on the rims of the various drums (check out "Storms of the North" for instance).

An interesting technique that has been employed here (and to some extent on the previous albums, too) is the use of one clean guitar playing tremolo riffs on the high end of the fret scale, and one distorted guitar that focuses on crushing, dissonant powerchords. This unconventional mix allows the band to completely distort the sonic landscape into an impenetrable, acidic pile of rubble and thus realize the concept of total hopelessness and chaos in a never before-heard way. Although, it should be said that chaos is no longer at the forefront of the music like it was on "Apnea" and "Daikini" (both of which focused on a much more overt intensity), but rather, the band now ventures into unknown territory with songs "Winter" that almost sound like doom metal. Much of this owes to the aforementioned hypnotic tempo that consists of a near-constant beat throughout each song, and the listener is thus brought into a trance. While we're on the topic of percussion by the way, it really is necessary to commend the skill of drummer Rasmus Sejersen who, like a certain Thomas Haake, shits on convention and delivers a barrage of rich, hugely textured drumming that manages to maintain this hypnotic base rhythm amid explosive spasms of (improvised?) melodic drumming ("Crused With Care" is a fantastic example of his prowess) that sounds downright unreal, especially if you have seen the minimalistic drumkit Sejersen uses.

And indeed, it is minimalism that drives the music on "Dead Storm". According to vocalist Martin Nielskov the album is a rendition of Scandinavian nature and narratives of the world that the band see themselves as living in. Nuances of the frailty and authenticity of traditional Nordic music in the otherwise brutal discharge paint a faithful picture of pristine landscapes and obscure mythology and capture the depressing but beautiful loneliness of Scandinavian backland with chilling musical accuracy. Some of this authenticity (and also honesty) comes from the decision to record "Dead Storm" live and in the shortest possible time span, so as to reflect the intensity and unpredictability of the band's notorious live performances. What this means is plenty of feedback and improvised fills which make the album sound even more extreme and unforgiving. To achieve this kind of raw and uncompromising sound devoid of glossy production tricks, the band has enlisted the services of legendary Fredrik Nordström, and honestly the music has never sounded better.

Once again Martin's vocals (heavily influenced by Zao) find their place in the mix seamlessly and provide a no less distressing front to the abrasive music, sounding like the desperate cries of an asylum escapee. One cannot but marvel at how fitting they sound, and we must hope that his quitting never becomes a reality, because his disturbing roar is absolutely integral in the band's music. Guitarist Christian "Bono" Bonnesen, who was brought in last year, has no doubt had his hands in the slight change in musical direction (more of a natural progression to be honest) and even though complex riffs and solos and things are not the weapon of choice on "Dead Storm", there has been a subtle increase in the oooh factor. Don't worry though, we're still talking minimalist guitar techniques, but the songs now just sound that much more grandiose and epic, which is fundamental considering the thematic material. Granted, "Apnea" may have been a much more schizophrenic, frenetic record, but "Dead Storm" explores other soundscapes, and with its droning tempo it manages to sound even more uncomfortable and disquieting than its predecessor.

Caustic and unrelenting as it is, however, the casual listener will cringe as soon as "Fire Blizzards" opens this beast so in that respect the critics are right: this album will alienate most people. No matter though, because The Psyke Project has always been rather an acquired taste, an exclusive experience that opens itself only for the patient. And it's not meant in a condescending, elitist way when I say that you either understand and love "Dead Storm" or you don't. There is no meeting halfway. For those of us who do comprehend the twisted soundscape, the album is one of the fullest, most rewarding ones to have been released this decade, a journey into the borderline where the concept of music as we know it becomes distorted. Chilling and magnificent.

Download: Dead People Never Lie, Stockholm Bloodbath, Storms of the North, Utopia Is Not An Option

For the fans of: Cult of Luna, Meshuggah, Neurosis, The Ocean, Zao

Listen: Myspace

Release date 24.08.2009


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