“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star”, Nietzsche once articulated, but what is the result when an extreme metal band accomplishes a purposeful sound whilst effectively utilising this chaos? Deathkin’s convincing synthesis of black and death metal – Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta – has achieved a level of calculated chaos that is neither contrived nor inconsistent. Impressively, this album is Deathkin’s first album and is self-produced. The results are compelling.
Deathkin are part of an illustrious Finnish extreme-metal scene, operating the archetypal hidden identity as legions of bands before them. They assert that this is due to the fluidity of past and present members of the band and because the music’s message transcends their individuality. Whereas some other bands hide behind their gimmicky non-individual identities to get away with producing below-par or uninventive extreme metal devoid of inspiration or musical prowess, this is not the case with Deathkin. Bands such as Emporer, Kampfar and Urfaust spring to mind throughout this album, the latter two especially in the numerous vocal styles.
Admittedly, after a thirty second ambient intro to the opening track, ‘Pimeyden Poltteen Ohjauksessa’ (which loosely translates as ‘From the Growing Shadows of Blood’), when the drums roll in and the guitars roar, I was dubious as to whether Deathkin were going to surge down a new or interesting path. The opening is recognisable, raw black metal though more polished than its traditional counterparts. However, upon further listens and rumination, there is an impression of reverence toward the conventional aspects of black metal which serves to ease the experienced listener into something far more nuanced, complex and meditative. The first stamp of Deathkin’s “sound” comes in just before the three minute mark. In the same way a writer must find their voice among their influences and contemporaries, the same goes for bands and their “sound” within the saturated market of black metal. There are many metal bands out there producing an increasing amount of material and it is therefore essential to be distinctive. The album’s commence is akin to the “Uncanny” as discussed by Sigmund Freud, where in a familiar place or situation, the mind experiences cognitive dissonance as an individual feels precariously alien to their familiar surroundings. From this standpoint, Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta rockets from the vertical stabilisers of raw 90s black metal into a paradoxically recognisable yet undiscovered realm of black-death metal chaos. The expansive tussle between Deathkin’s dynamism, energetic enthusiasm and appreciation for the compound genres it takes on carries the listener on a trip to the unrestrained other cosmos.
The word “trip” has myriad connotations including hallucinogenic drugs, drifting though countries, immersive literature and spiritual experiences. Music that manages to evoke this idea of an original trip through traditional genres whilst creating something entirely distinctive and original is significant. When black metal is crafted well, it has the power to provide a gateway for the listener to something otherworldly. Rather than using orthodox chanting in a similar manner to Batushka on Litourgiya, Deathkin find a different path to the spiritual. The vocals on this album are as progressive as the instruments, upping in power as each track reaches their climax. They are never to be drowned out by the instruments and similarly never overpower them. This adds an epic and considered intelligence to the music as chanting, shouting, growling and deranged spoken word are used throughout the album interchangeably.
Varied riffs, consistent tempo changes between slow, mid and fast-paced black metal keep the album absorbing and unpredictable. Each track is intricately related to the next which gives the album its fluency. There is a danger of overproduction in black metal, but the clean production feels necessary here for the atmosphere. The longest track, ‘Iäkaikkinen’, clocking in at 10 minutes and 23 seconds, never becomes drawn out or tedious. This track highlights successfully the intensity of this album. At one moment, the harsh and clean vocals mix together into an extraordinary black harmony. After, a commanding and progressive five minute instrumental section finishes the listener off with a devastating zenith.
Deathkin have managed to produce an album which awakens a dark and dormant inner spiritual entity typically associated nightmares, bad drug trips and sleep paralysis. Somewhat less atmospheric than Aklays’ The Dreaming I though thematically similar, there is less use of ambient passages and repetitive song structures for purposes of texture. Deathkin transform their horrific vision through inescapable potency and unpredictable vocal styles.
Kohti Kotiani Kaaosta is a debut about as cinematic as hybrid death/black metal can get without relying on symphonic elements, synthesisers or long ambient sections. Deathkin have created an experience which is thoroughly enjoyable, dark and well-produced by any standards, but is even more exceptional as an ambitious debut which launches straight into black metal’s hall of chaosophic infamy.
Listen and support the music!
Nathan Hassall is an MA Student in Creative Writing at the University of Kent. He is also an editor for the Luxembourg review. He has had poetry published in various magazines, including Failed Haiku and Yellow Chair Review and released a chapbook, The Flesh and Mortar Prophecy in 2016, which is available on Amazon. His website is here https://www.nathanhassall.co.uk