Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I Shalt Become

Moribund Cult

Emerging after ten years of shadowy silence and other projects, Ilinois''s I Shalt Become, aka S. Hoffman, has returned to take his rightful place amongst the increasingly creative and idiosyncratic US Black Metal elite - specifically the "holy trinity" of Leviathan, Xasthur, and Judas Iscariot. I Shalt Become's Burzum-inflected debut was an influential but overlooked milestone in "solo" US black metal - standing out by dint of its overwhelming sorrow but now the times have caught up with this sort of insular, personal, chilly, blackened ambient exerimentation. "Requiem" is a follow-up very much in tune with the vibe of outer-reaches black metal. This album completely (belays) the frantic surges and manic blastbeat speedscapes of most black metal - indeed abandoning all rockist and thrash textures - for extended meditative waves of pure phase sound. "Requiem" is like a soundtrack to suicide by overdose of valium and sleeping pills. I Shalt Become conjures up grey and dark purple clouds of symphonic, multilayered drone. Beguiling, calm and beauitful with a deep, unsettled darkness underlying every note every synth chord.

With no discernible metal influences except for perhaps Burzum - just in terms of Count Grisnacht subjugating metal's aehstetics to his own will - I shalt Become denies an audience easy headbanging and moshing thrills to instead use the tools of black metal to express a dark but melancholy personal visions. This is dedication to creating art over any slavish and unthinking homage to heaviness. I Shalt Become is more easily connected to the Cure circa "Seventeen Seconds" and "Pornography," Lycia's "Cold" (?), early Cocteau Twins and Joy Division's Atmosphere. Each "song" is a deliberate and meditative elegy; lush, choral waves of synths ebb and flow over corruscating waves of fuzz(ed) guitar (atmospherics) and delicately discordant lead guitar lines and fourishes pierce through the placid meres of synth orchestration like sharp crystal knives. Percussion is unfeeling and mechanical, minimal clicktracks like a flickering pulse, Hoffman's vocal lacerations, self-loathing roars and murmurs, feral and goblin, dart in and out of the more delicate corners of the music - just out of earshot. Each song is a gorgeougly composed hymn, all long protracted swoons and tears with an equal mix of foreboding and regret. Lullaby as much as warning. Shoegazing, mirrorgazing, furtive whispers, secret promises broken, fingernails scratching on your windows. As black metal oft evokes a sense of place, "Requiem" calls to mind deserted, rain drizzled streets, lakes at the end of autumn right before the water freezes and vast snowswept forests where every sound is absobed, leaving you with a ringing, taunting silence.

- Matthew Moyer

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