In this digital age, where Pro Tools allows anybody to record, mix, and master professional-sounding music, the art of analog recording has seen a resurgence amongst music purists. Moloch, the black metal project of Ukrainian multi-instrumentalist Sergiy Fjordsson, has continued the black metal tradition of lo-fi analog recordings to the extreme: in addition to being recorded with a 2-inch analog tape recorder, Sergiy records most of the vocals and keyboards in the forest where he lives.
Verwüstung is the 12th full-length LP by Moloch, and the most current in a rather extensive catalogue of music released by Sergiy. Upon hearing the first few chords of “Blutmond,” the second track, I had to look at the name of the release again to make sure this wasn’t some lost tape by Burzum or Darkthrone. Sure, it may seem to be a lazy comparison to make, but Moloch has captured the very spirit of the early 90s Norwegian black metal scene; if you were to listen to Verwüstung in the same sitting as Burzum and A Blaze In The Northern Sky, I dare say you’d think they were all recorded around the same time in the same studio. Indeed, Sergiy’s vocals even remind me of Varg’s early performances, which is truly a compliment, and a credit to the performance on this record. You get the feeling that nature and solitude play a huge part in the tone, and that recording in the forest isn’t just “grim” or “kvlt” posturing. There is an atmosphere that is tangible while listening, an atmosphere that is created by the buzz-saw guitar work, the near-constant blast beats of the drums, the anguished howls, and the occasional melancholy keyboards. Although one peculiarity about Moloch’s releases is that the lyrics are typically in Ukrainian, while the song titles tend to be in German, you don’t really need to speak the language to get the vibe the music is meant to create.
The fact that the album sounds like it was recorded with a tape recorder in a cave is actually kind of a moot point, since it’s supposed to sound like that. Lo-fi productions have been part of the black metal sound almost since the genre’s inception, and many bands even consider them just as vital as the lyrical ideology and imagery. The poor sound quality actually highlights the mood, giving it an abrasive texture and tone; even the album title, Verwüstung, German for “the ravages of the storm,” is an appropriate description of the music. The melodies are made even more haunting by the faint pops and crackles heard throughout the recordings, almost like they’re being piped in from another dimension.
Although Sergiy is obviously dedicated to creating a mood, his attempts are foiled by the order of the songs, with the 6 black metal tracks sandwiched by 2 ambient ones; this seems out of place and doesn’t do much for the flow of the album. The first track, “Todesstille,” is a mildly atonal keyboard piece of ambient music, which lulls you into a trance for about 5 minutes, only to be jarred awake by the black metal onslaught on the next songs, and then halted to a stop with the last track, a useless song made up of 11 minutes of creepy tinkling on an old piano. This is an infuriating conclusion to what is otherwise a solid black metal album.
If you’re a fan of the early material by Burzum and Darkthrone, or even some of the newer artists like Leviathan or Krieg, this is an album that will probably interest you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a big production, and aren’t particularly into all that is “grim” and “necro,” you’re best giving this a miss. This is black metal boiled down to its rawest and most primal form, and with the exception of a couple of duds, this is a solid release that deserves some recognition.