Words: Alasdair Belling
Metal without a good concept or theme behind it is like cheese without wine. Sure, it’s great in its own right, but when you combine the pair, you have something truly magical.
Enter Swedish blackened sludge doom project Novarupta, the brainchild of Alex Stjernfeldt (The Moth Gatherer, Mr Death). Alex explores the blaker side of humanity through combining crunching, grinding riffs with metaphors relating primarily to volcanoes and ghost stories on debut LP Disillusioned Fire. Yep, angry metal and mountains that explode. Pretty freaking brutal for a first outing.
Landing through US imprint Earsplit PR, Disillusioned Fire doesn’t shy away from it’s stoner and doom influences. Opening track Stones sets the slow, deathly tone, with added ambience that sounds like Solstafir crashing the Rosetta party. The same goes for album closer Ourang Medan (alleged Dutch ghost ship which vanished in the 1940’s), drawing the listener into its broad sonic palette, whilst simultaneously unleashing cathartic energy.
With only six tracks to work with, records that follow the layout of Disillusioned Fire have to be truly progressive to assure total commitment to the cause by listeners (Morningrise by Opeth & Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic by The Ocean show this done effectively). What unfortunately prevents this record from being one of the more challenging listens of the year is the predictability of slow-burners Tumskruvar and Mare Tranquilis, accounting for a full third of the record. To be fair, both tracks boast wonderful production, all the gurgly snarls a sludge fan needs in life and a gravelly bass tone that no doubt blew up a few cabs in the pre-pro. That’s just the problem however, with these tracks representing sounds that don’t add anything new to the conversation- something that cuts Pyroclastic Flow down wonderfully.
If you’ve never heard of a Pyroclastic Flow, it’s worth the YouTube. Essentially, it’s a avalanche of gas, lava and rock that moves away from a volcano during an explosion. The sheer epic and destructive nature is captured nicely on it’s namesake here, beginning with a steady ambient beauty and seamlessly transitioning to a blackened onslaught. Listening to the song is like watching something that appears beautiful, and you don’t realise your own safety is in danger until it is far too late. Emotive, heartbreaking and beautiful, it captures the atmosphere of the LP perfectly.
Disillusioned Fire will certainly take some digesting, and not all of it is edible. The parts that are, however, capture a certain beauty within their cathartic darkness. One man projects always tend to be a little more interesting than four dudes in a garage with some marshals, and Disillusioned Fire, for all it’s kinks, is no exception.