What the hell is war metal? I’ve been pondering this question for quite some time. From my research thus far it seems to be some sort of concoctive mixture of black metal and death metal that differs from blackened death or black/death. I’ve listened to bands that claimed to be war metal in the past yet I’m still no closer to really figuring out what the hell it’s supposed to be. At some point I think one has to just admit that black metal has too many subgenres and at some point they just start to blend together until the names are meaningless and don’t actually define the sound of the music anymore. At what point does the genre reflect the people that play and listen to it rather than the music that creates it? Sorguinazia is, other than being a difficult name to pronounce, a recent example of war metal that I’ve come across. Their self-titled demo gave me a slightly better understanding of what war metal might be but more importantly it helped me devise a sort of answer to my above question.
Sorguinazia’s demo was short but wild ride. It’s the kind of album you listen to, then immediately have to listen to again because you can’t believe that that was it. It was too short; it was like someone pulled the plug on the stereo before the album was finished. While impressive, the album does feel like it was incomplete. The music is strong, it’s a wall of sound that reminds me of Nile or Behemoth, but much more chaotic. There’s no atmosphere or ambient sounds to fill in the spaces between the notes. Sorguinazia fill every second of the fifteen minutes the album lasts. It’s doomy, yet the music is so fast you can’t really tell that it’s doom until the last song when the melodies are stronger than the current
It’s a damn good way to spend fifteen minutes. I will give them that. The wall of sound is a torrent of chaos and madness and I enjoyed it. No, I loved it but when the album came to an end it felt as if it were a tornado that suddenly vanished and the sky cleared. It’s not a forgettable album at all it’s just too fucking short! I know demos aren’t supposed to be long, they’re out there to give people a taste of what the band can do but dammit when a demo has such sonic momentum why would you want to stop it? They had enough creativity and passion to create a full-fledged, albeit very raw and unrefined, album.
The guitars, and whatever distortions Sorguinazia use, are hypnotic, I think that’s another reason the album seems so short. The riffs and chords sort of lull the listener into a sort of fugue state where the music dictates the reality in that listener experiences. I suppose that’s the goal of a music (to varying degrees I’m sure) but not a lot of music is able to pull it off in the way that Sorguinazia has done on their first demo. The vocals are quiet but they add a good atonal hiss, a kind of dissonant counterpoint to the guitars. They were solid and they didn’t distract from the music, the fault of most demos that I’ve heard in the past. The drums are solid too, if a little unremarkable.
Maybe it’s just me but that seems really impressive for a band’s opening salvo. Can they live up to or surpass this album in the future? I think they have potential. I may not be much closer to figuring out exactly what war metal is, or why it exists in the first place but I feel like listening to Sorguinazia has helped me understand it a little bit better.
Still, when does the subgenre become more about the scene and the band than about the music? I’m not saying anything ill toward any band that plays “war metal” but I have to ask, what makes war metal different? What is war metal’s message and how does it differ from the rest of black metal’s message? In terms of narratology, what is the story here? The how of the story telling is growing with each listen, but the what is still vexing me. What kind of story is war metal telling? Everything tells a story, in some way, but what is special, unique, or even noteworthy about war metal? What are the character archetypes within this set of literature? How is the text, the sound of the music itself, different and what is it saying to its listeners? Who are its listeners? I have a lot of questions still about this genre (indeed if it even is something we can call a genre) and what it means to itself and to black metal in general but I think it will be a journey that is worth it.
Listen and support!