We all know where post-black metal is coming from, black metal of course, but where is it going to? As the sub-genre draws close to double digit age, what is the purpose of post-black? The initial infatuation with the permutations it offered black metal is fading; we need something more than just the promise of novelty to keep us attentive and eager for more. You see it everywhere you look, whether in the dark jazz experimentation of White Ward or the art-rock/shoegaze vibes of MØL. The sub-genre is seeking its own path away from its “mother” genre and, in the process, expanding what is possible and acceptable to add to the basic black metal formula. Hungarian Perihelion are here to offer a new vector for this escape with their new album Agg, a dark meditation on death which taps into new expressions of post-black.
At the base of this new approach is a melding between the by-now tried and true fascination with psychedelic music that’s informed post-black ever since Sólstafir erupted onto the international stage and a darker influence that draws from acts like Anathema and Katatonia. That latter is sometimes very clear to hear, in a good way, like on third track, “Erdő” or its predecessor, “Rejtek”. If I had told you these were tracks from the “middle” era of Anathema’s career, from Alternative 4 or Judgement, you’d have a hard time arguing with me. Listen to the forceful, empowered clean vocals at the end of “Rejtek” or the guitar centered build-up which opens “Erdő”. These sounds are utilized to full effect, creating a rich, dark, and melancholic tapestry which fits the concept behind the album, namely death and our perspectives of it.
From the other end of the spectrum, belying that Katatonia reference above, the darker, more restrained sounds are met with unbridled, raw, and abrasive black metal. The harsh vocals, resplendent on the opening track and elsewhere on the album, provide the main thrust of this sound. They add a layer of agonized rage into the mix which charges the music with the momentum it needs to keep us interested. Speaking of momentum, the structure of the album also deserves praise here; the shorter run times of the track serve the ideas on the album well, creating compact atmospheres for each track that don’t run too long or cast their net too wide, like black metal often do. Instead, they get their message and atmosphere and then fade out, like lightning streaking across the sky. This also have somewhat of a disadvantage though, as several of the musical ideas on the album (like the more ambient transitional tracks) don’t get fully explored and feel surface level. These are the psychedelic influences that are replete within the sub-genre, here perhaps taking back stage status to some of the other ideas that Perihelion want to get out there.
The end result is an album that’s emblematic of the state of post-black metal today; it yearns to break free from its roots and explore new paths of approach but has to contend with the fact that there’s a reason black metal did so well. At the end of the day, Perihelion have a neat solution for this inherently unsolvable tension between the established and the new. Taking their cue from bands who have flirted with black metal, melancholy, and the themes contained therein in the past, they inject their post-black formula not with more drawn out riffs but with less, with sparse emotional backgrounds, compact tracks, and evocative vocals. The result is Agg, an album that’s sure to captivate fans of the sub-genre, drawing out a possible direction for post-black metal to take as it moves forward, charting an interesting fascination between the sub-genre, art-rock, and psychedelic music.
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Agg releases on December 6th. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to pre-order it.