Friday, September 2, 2011

Hekel - De Dodenvaart (2006)

First of all, what the hell is that glaring as us from the woods? Part of me wants to say a black metal terrorist in dark clothing and a ski mask, but there's just something about the eyes which I find highly unnerving, almost alien... That said, Hekel ('Aversion') is not extra terrestrial to my knowledge, but an anonymous Dutch maniac who has not been highly prolific through the years. A 1998 demo went by practically undetected, with some of its material being refurbished for the sole full-length album to date, De Dodenvaart, which I missed upon its initial release. Suffice to say, that was my loss, because for what it is, a slab of psychotic and well produced album that I find highly immersive and enjoyable. Like countryman Galgeras, this outfit seems to have arrived in the dead of night, dropped a deathly and memorable experience upon a niche audience, and departed with the morning mists...

De Dodenvaart will obviously draw comparisons to bands like Burzum and Weakling, for it inhabits that same, isolated space of agonizing depression and hostility, with gut churning and despicable lyrics that flow threateningly above the minimalist din of the guitars. However, the actual engineering of the record is quite good, with resilient and bright guitar tones, a sly but mesmerizing undertow of bass, and vibrant, crashing drums that keep constant, simple meter with the oppressive weight of the riffs. Hekel relies upon a good deal of repetition, common for its genre, but for some reason, outside of the lengthier tracks (like the 6 minute, sadistic slug "De Eeuwige Jachtvelden"), you just don't feel it. The album feels alive and hostile, its tendrils of grim vapor slowly inhabiting your nervous system, as you draw the knife closer across your throat. The speed is varied here from quicker flashes of knife-like chords in "Sater's Wederkeer" or "De Grimmige Sterfte Op De Heide" to the icy, dissonant yet fulfilling blood-fume of "Doodskou" and "Waar de Wind Fluistert in De Nacht, Luister Ik".

There is one track I'd like to point as as being particularly dire and memorable, and that is the ritual intro "'Ik Erilaz", a conjoining of sampled wolf howls, layered snarling rituals and a deep, steady drum to provide the percussive foundation. It's so brilliant, simple and fucked that I was hoping there would be more like it on the album. Alas, that is not the case, but the black metal material here is just about as well as can be conceived in such simple patterns. The production goes a long way towards compensating for any lack of complexity, and those of you who dream in the newsprint tones of classic records like A Blaze in the Northern Sky, Burzum and Det Som Engang Var should feel right at hell...err, home. Stands alongside Galgeras' Booswitcherij or the better Countess records as a black jewel of the Holland underground.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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