Striborg - Embittered Darkness/Isle de Morts - 2006 - Southern Lord
1. Protagonist of Misanthropic Virtues 2. Wrapped in a Cocoon out of Harm's Way 3. Race of Apathy 4. In the Eerie Pre-Dawn Silence of the Cold 5. Embittered Darkness 6. Digging a Ditch to Die In 7. Intro 8. Through the Veils of Darkness 9. Descending from the Blackened Sky 10. Holding the Throne of Night 11. The Day for My Kingdom to Rule 12. The Cold Slumber That Awaits Me 13. Return of the Dark Lord 14. Landscapes of Mist Casts Across the Steel of Cold 15. In Darkness... 16. Mist
It’s remarkable how the two entirely opposed musical genres of contemporary pop and primal black metal can parallel one another so closely: new acts dependent on personality and image more than actual innovative style are consumed and disposed of by a ravenous public audience as fast as the labels can churn them out. First prized for their rarity, then bandwagoned to the point of saturation, and finally abandoned as quickly as they were found, these acts are arguably more victimized by the press and their fans than they are enjoyed.
Striborg have reached that threshold of decline. His extreme interpretation of the one-man black metal band stereotype was quite prized for a time in the most guarded underground circles, but with a domestic pressing by Southern Lord, he is now available at your local Tower Records, sitting benignly alongside The String Cheese Incident. In those fluorescent lights, the sickly taint of Striborg’s music has sadly lost something of its charm.
It may be shallow to admit that availability in Tower Records would alone sully the quality of a band, but Striborg (and this release in particular) has always needed a powerful external atmosphere to fully realize it’s potential.
These tracks were meant to be found after long hours of digging, the filth and mud of the earth packed beneath our fingernails, the sweat and grime stinging our eyes, and the light and reason of civilization forgotten. Now, presented to the microscope of the press and forced into a critical evaluation, it is hard to articulate just what it is that made Striborg so attractive.
The experience is still quite unique, though, despite its predictability. Striborg portrays the utterly depraved and twisted mind of Sin Nanna through the rawest of black metal and droning, ambient instrumentals, more captivating for their simply unhealthy nature than actual songwriting qualities. But Striborg has never been about sophistication or progression: only loathing and suffering it its most atavistic state. Which, it should be noted, is communicated quite effectively.
As a point of reference—the first half of this release is a new recording entitled ‘Embittered Darkness’; the latter is the ‘Isle de Morts’ release from 1997. Both are produced with obvious disregard to clarity—this is lo-fi taken to its absurd extreme, sounding almost a mockery of the original style. Both ‘sides’ feature cantankerous, indigestible vocals, the first (chronologically) being somewhat more guttural and breathy than the latter. The riffing in ‘Embittered Darkness’ clearly demonstrates Sin Nanna’s development as an instrumentalist, however fractional, as the riff structures are more linear and natural.
If one is able to be shed all the external influences of the world and dive into Striborg’s black swamp with a naked soul, the pervasive nature of his hatred can be suffocating. Other works from his discography may be more maturely composed, or more professionally executed and produced (‘Isle de Morts’ in particular), but these two releases are as potent as any when it comes to purely wretched sonic torture.
Yet, the prestige and terrible mystique that surrounds Sin Nanna has begun to fade. The shock of his wretchedness wears off in time; the stifling smog he wraps himself in disperses. In place of awe grows pity—pity that erodes the mystique of his venom and leaves him like a lonely, petulant child blinking weakly into the sunlight of society. ‘Isle de Morts/Embittered Darkness’ is equal to the indulgent summer one-hit-wonders—novelty and little more.
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