|Artwork by H.V Lyngdal|
When approached to review Skáphe’s second full length, I was ecstatic. To begin, 2014 was the year I started skipping down the harrowing path of the Fallen Empire label. Through much of my indulgent sampling, I quickly became aware of a variety of bands and releases that had little to no information about them, save for some weird pictures and frightening music. Skáphe’s 2014 self titled debut was a dizzying effort that towered over other releases of that year, leading me to use the terms “suffocating” and “vertigo” in the most affectionate way possible. Two years later, I am scrambling to find other adjectives to describe Skáphe², which for all intents and purposes, may be the full realization of this band and their descent upon the world.
Similar to many contemporary black metal bands, and even a theme among many Fallen Empire artists, Skáphe² adopts the numerical system in terms of titling songs. This is different than their debut, as Skáphe had actual, albeit cryptic, song titles. The numeric titling system fits with not only Skáphe’s music but most of black metal, which strives for a sense of anonymity. Skáphe is not as anonymous as other Fallen Empire bands with clear connections between acts Misþyrming and Chaos Moon, yet their music begs for deprivation in identification. When fully subjecting yourself to themes of abandonment, devastation, and gleeful pandemonium, it is more exciting to not know the name of your assailants. This followup to their 2014 debut follows these trending themes, however, as where breathless death once existed before there is now a deluge of experimentation and frantic skirmishes.
It is difficult sometimes to explain how qualities like chaos, madness, and debilitating glee can be entertaining. The 6 tracks on Skáphe² roll by with no real clear beginning or ending between each makes the whole affair maddening and exhilarating. “I” begins as if it was a transition from another song, quickly rolling the listener into a skirmish with an invisible foe. The spaces between songs that are there are merely just pauses for breath before the next punch to the throat, and you enter a space where seemingly uncomfortable qualities of music become positives. The highlight of Skáphe² comes with its 8 minute “climax” as a slow wander up a downtempo mountain, which borders on drone and atmospheric nothingness before descending into the foreseeable briar patch of insanity.
For all intents and purposes, Skáphe² is listed as black metal, though when listening to their two albums, the lines become blurred as to what qualifies it as such. There are instances of blast beats, harsh vocals, and atmosphere indicative of black metal, however Skáphe sees the need to take those elements and run them through in a random order, possibly backwards. The intended effect is a sense of vertigo that does not stop at physical discomfort, rather an existential one. If one enjoyed the looseness of Misþyrming’s Söngvar elds og óreiðu and the abandonment of Chaos Moon’s Resurrection Extract, then Skáphe² is going to be a grand walk in the park and by park I mean hellish craggy landscape.
Sometimes people talk abut what heavy metal will sound like in the future and what the next breakthrough will sound like. I am not implying that Skáphe is the future of metal, rather whatever will come and break expectations in heavy metal will probably not sound like things before, and will perhaps sound terrifying in a genre of already scary tones. I feel Skáphe is skipping down that harrowing path and darkness is beginning to close in. If begged for one simple adjective to describe Skáphe², it would be chaotic. If allowed more of an elaboration, it would be formations of systems and organizations within that chaos that are even more terrifying than lawless order. If pushed even further it would be a deviant sense of fascination as that chaos formed a wave to rise up and engulf oneself whole.