Nowadays, Ghost, The Devil’s Blood, and Year Of The Goat are scene leaders, but, like retro-thrash and the OSDM revival before, occult rock will probably soon show signs of wearing out its welcome as the number of albums released in the genre has grown exponentially in 2012.
That’s what flashed through my mind when I encountered Occult Rock, the title of the new double album from Aluk Todolo, a side project made up of the members of the black metal bands Diametragon and Vediog Svaor. I steeled myself for a foray into the nether realms of the ‘70s, akin to what bands such as Sabbath Assembly, Jess And The Ancient Ones, and numerous others have delved into of late. Turns out, I could not have been farther off the mark.
Named after an animistic religion indigenous to the tribes of Sulawesi, Aluk Todolo have created a unique masterpiece, an instrumental double album that brings together a host of musical subgenres into a cohesive whole that at once sprawls, mesmerizes and enthralls. Consisting simply of songs numbered “I” through “VIII,” Occult Rock clocks in at around 85 minutes. Each song has a tendency to drone on and on, yet never gets stale, repetitive or boring.
Black metal is featured right out the gate with “I,” the fastest and the most distinctively “black metal” out of all of the songs. A droning blastbeat with subtle guitar and bass lines weaves a thrilling ten minute ride into a trancelike state backed up by a very loud, roaring production.
The albums slows up from here with heavy segues into krautrock, probably the most prominent feature of Aluk Todolo’s music, but a wonderfully featured bass (just check out “II” for further reference), and even the twangy, non-distorted loud guitars of surf rock appear in spades. Put it this way: if surf rock legend Dick Dale played krautrock/black metal, he’d play in Aluk Todolo.
Woven throughout are subtle moments that give a feeling of ebb and flow to the music. Melody never really enters the picture, but is unnecessary to introduce subtlety to the music, as a striking feature of Aluk Todolo is a dynamic quality to all of the instruments without relying upon melody or the traditional riff structures of most metal. The further you’re drawn into Occult Rock, what becomes readily apparent is that Aluk Todolo would be a sight to behold in a live setting.
Occult Rock is a unique listening experience from a dark, atmospheric band skirting the edges of extreme metal, and is a near masterpiece of dark art. Essential.
(released November 20, 2012 on The Ajna Offensive)