Have you ever heard an album and think to yourself “What am I listening to?” and mean it as a positive? If you are like me then it is very unlikely that you have, normally when we think that we are unhappy with what we are listening to. Sometimes though we find ourselves listening to something so profoundly unusual or unexpected we have to stop and think “what am I listening to?” because it defies what we believe music normally is. Recently I happened upon an album that I thought that very thing. I had to stop and look at the lyrics and listen closer to the music of Khaospath’s second album “…For the Devil Speaks the Truth.” I think I have found what I can call Shakespearean black metal. Now before you think I’m trying to come up with yet another ridiculous subgenre to pigeon hole music and musicians into I am not. I am merely using the term in an analytical, theoretical way, and I am referring, at present, solely to For the Devil Speaks the Truth and the music contained within the album.
First let me talk about the music and later I will detail what Shakespearean black metal is. The music on the album is unlike any black metal I have heard before (and that’s saying a lot when I’ve listened to over 200 albums in the last six months alone). Khaospath’s style is somewhat hard to pin down. There are lots of elements of pure, raw black metal throughout the entire album with periods of almost rock’n’roll and thrash and folkish style music. It’s a strange kaleidoscopic miasma of sound that despite all reason is amazing. I usually have to listen to an album at least twice before I can feel the music, feel the flow of the melody and rhythm with For the Devil Speaks the Truth I could feel it right away. The music has a real, palpable feel to it. When you close your eyes you can almost see the waves of sound as it reverberates.
The guitars are thick and strong, reminiscent of 1349 during the “Hellfire” era. They churn a maelstrom of heavy riffs like a witch would stir a cauldron (that metaphor is deliberate as you’ll see later). The bass, too, is audible, the sound coming at just barely human hearing in infrasound, the frequency in which the listener can “feel something around them.” That low frequency is not called the fear frequency for nothing and I’m shocked a lot more black metal bands don’t try to aim for that with their bass. But that’s neither here nor there. The vocals are really good too, they aren’t so loud that they drown out the music nor are they garbled to be unintelligible. The vocalist has a lot of talent, he matches the rhythm of the music more often than not and gives his rasping and growling an almost singsongy like quality. It’s really cool to hear.
And the lyrics. Holy shit the lyrics! Whatever lyrics you write, if you can write them with an actual rhyme scheme and use iambic pentameter then you will be successful. The fact that Khaospath did just that and did it for this album (Shakespeare used iambic pentameter nearly exclusively) shows a level of detail and quality you don’t normally find with black metal, or music in general. These guys took time to create this, it wasn’t a rushed bullshit job by a talentless hack. These words have power.
So what did I mean by Shakespearean black metal? If you will, take a look at the album cover, note the style and aesthetics as well as the art itself. It has a very dark, broody feel to it no? And the artwork itself, take a look at it separately from the style. I don’t know what you will see but when I saw it I immediately thought of Macbeth (the best and darkest of all Shakespeare’s tragedies) and the three witches that plague the protagonist throughout the play. It should not surprise the listener to learn that most of the lyrical content is Satanism, evil, and dark literature. Shakespeare actually plays into that quite well, as long as you know what it is that you are going for, which Khaospath clearly do. They picked the most supernatural, eerie, creepy, and morbid of all Shakespeare’s plays to create the album’s motif around. They did not pick it haphazardly. The album’s artwork in the layout is quite specific too, each image invokes are very dark time in human history when the supernatural was feared more than ever, when the common people saw evil and terror in almost everything they saw. Khaospath celebrates that time because it was in that time that spirit of Satanism (and thereby the backbone of black metal) was born. People feared what they did not understand and they did not understand the devil. They didn’t understand the church and the brilliantly white, puritanical terror that the church reigned down pushed some into the shadows. That’s when they began to understand. That’s when they found what the nature of evil really was.
For the Devil Speaks the Truth is the story of someone finding the devil and learning what he is, not just who he is. In a Shakespearean twist, the protagonist of the story (remember this is black metal literature not conventional literature) takes his vengeance on the church and the light that they “serve” not for the good of the oppressed but for the sake of his individuality, for his own path to power. But on his journey he loses his sanity in the same way Macbeth lost his and is not truly bested by an opponent but by his own mind, the shadowy self that exists within us all, just as it was prophesied that he would.
Is For the Devil Speaks the Truth a black metal album with a Shakespearean feel or is it a black metal retelling of the story? Is the protagonist of For the Devil Speaks the Truth a Macbeth like figure or Macbeth himself wrapped in black metal symbolism and violent music? Who is to say but what I know is that Khaospath has created an album that will stand the test of time, being unique and vibrantly dark no matter who listens to it and when. It’s an intellectually challenging album with twisted morals and plots fitting black metal literature. It’s also a deeply satisfying album to anyone that has a deep love of dark literature with its strange poetry. It’s also a goddamn good example of black metal when it shakes off the bonds of genre. I highly recommend this album.
Listen and support!