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WHEN UNDERWORLDS COLLIDE


you are greeted with a swooning array of sweeping guitars and faux strings on the title track, crashing like waves against Ihriel's diva lifeboat with a burning Titanic sinking in the background


you are greeted with a swooning array of sweeping guitars and faux strings on the title track, crashing like waves against Ihriel's diva lifeboat with a burning Titanic sinking in the background

originally published: July, 2005

WHEN UNDERWORLDS COLLIDE

Peccatum
The Moribund People
(The End)

OK, this a a quick one, for a puzzling little record. Peccatum is, from what I can gather, a Finnish couple duo involving Ihsahn, who broke new hallowed ground in the Black Metal world aeons ago in the seminal outfit Emperor, and his partner Ihriel, goth-techno chanteuse that made some waves on the dark waters with her previous group Star of Ash. Much like a recent article in the Onion, where a Goth woman and Metal dude bridge their differences to find love amongst the ruins, these two manage to pastiche their individual styles in a truly intriguing way. Once you get past the creepola haunted granny cover photo, you are greeted with a swooning array of sweeping guitars and faux strings on the title track, crashing like waves against Ihriel's diva lifeboat with a burning Titanic sinking in the background, like Danielle Dax if you remember who that is. The lyrics are heavy handed and melodramatic, but somehow the things really catches me. It reminds me of when we could get the DJ at whatever dance club we would infrequent to play something we liked. Then, three minutes in, we get the Ihsahn side enter, with throat scratching retching Black Metal vocals, making you pause to wonder if you heard what you just heard.

Track two is the winner. "A Penny's Worth of Heart" oozes out the gate with a swirling bass wobble, beatbox ambiance as the waves crash against Ihriel's diva lifeboat adrift in a darkened shipwreck scene. Ifsahn's metal presence is much stronger when his turn on the killing wheel comes 'round, as his strained vocals (or "vokills" as I've seen it referred to in various places) sound as if they are being strangled out of him. The two parts almost flip back and forth, with just a drum fill giving you notice.  It is strangely engaging stuff, like you would think either style would be a deal-killer for the others genre, but then that is what I am starting to discover about metal: it is surprisingly one of the more open vistas of music there is. The final track is a cover of Metal mainstay Bathory, and tribute to their departed singer Quorthorn. Ihriel's vocalise soars over gentle piano runs with a sick mechanism reeling in the background. Then, with a swipe of the fretboard, it turns sharply into a trashy Black Metal track, with the same sandpaper growl, leaving almost all traces of the former behind except for maybe some keyboard fills, only to finally descend into flames at the end.

I'll admit, at first listen, I dismissed it as Gothic diva rock, but seeing their name crop up more and more in researching other things, I dredged it back up and have been hooked for the past 24 hours. Like the Ulver album I reviewed recently, this EP manages to bring together a large array of music that despite its theatricality, which in the indie rock world is usually a watermark for smirking irony, is startlingly sincere in its excess. If you have some dark techno tendencies and yet like a little grindy sludge, this may just be the rarefied treat you need.

Alex V. Cook

Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com

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