Classical elements have always been inextricably linked with black metal. There’s the obvious example of symphonic black metal, but beyond that, the genre has shared classical music’s vision for massive sonic displays on the scale of an orchestral delivery. Ulver went so far as to drop black metal entirely and embrace a dedicated classical approach, while contemporary bands like Exulansis are creating fantastic, classical-driven records like Sequestered Sympathy (seriously, I’ll use every opportunity I have to shout out this album).
For those with an affinity for this dynamic between the genres, Hvile I Kaos may have crafted one of your favorite “blackened” projects of the year. Driven by the creative mind of Kakophonix (cello, guitar, bass, composition), Black Morning, Winter Green is billed as “Black Ritual Chamber Musick project.” True to their word, Kakophonix executes one of the most beautiful collections of songs from either black metal and classical music released in the past several years, and certainly the strongest synthesis of the two genres from that timeframe.
Now, for full transparency, Black Morning, Winter Green is most accurately described as a chamber music album drawing strong influences from the worlds of black metal and neofolk. Listeners expecting a roaring cello solo over blast beats will be disappointed, unfortunately. Yet, what Kakophonix does offer instead is a much more subtle and enjoyable version of this genre mashing; a synthesis that combines the important, overlapping traits from black metal with the power and technical prowess of classical music.
In particular, the sonic scope and exploration of the release’s three tracks feel very much like the acoustic, chamber music version of an atmospheric black metal album. Two roughly 9-minute tracks, “An Inviting Afterglow” and “A Shock of Winter Green,” bookend the nearly 13-minute “Grand Darkness Engulfs,” while a two-minute spoken word outro from Holly Fox provides an unsettling conclusion. The album is paced beautifully and has a perfect runtime for what Kakophonix tries to accomplish.
This is mainly due to the fact that each of the main three tracks affords Kakophonix plenty of breathing room to develop enthralling compositions. Each of these tracks is truly transfixing, and from the moment you press play on “An Inviting Afterglow,” the album essentially clutches you with an inescapable grasp. Lush strings are played with precision without feeling strictly “technical.” In this sense, the performances are bursting with incredible energy and dexterity, coming together to produce some truly rich, textured arrays of sound. While each track pulls from the same chamber music foundation, Kakophonix builds unique structures that cover the earth and reach to the sky in unique ways.
Black Morning, Winter Green should make Hvile I Kaos a household name in the metal underground. To reiterate once again, the album is an exceptional blend of everything that makes chamber music and black metal great, accentuating each genre’s strengths and drawing out new, intriguing ideas. It’s the perfect album to provide some creative warmth as we welcome the onset of winter.
Black Morning, Winter Green is available Dec. 6 via Red Nebula.