How do you describe that which defies description? A visit to the Bandcamp page of web based label Torn Flesh Records might lead you into a paradox of a stylistic nature. Acoustic black metal. Huh? cello driven melodic metal. Really? As hard as it is to put those opposites together in your mind, one click of the play button and you will realize that they aren't opposites at all. Thanks to Kakophonix, the lone members of Hvile I Kaos, the evil and grim darkness of black metal has been brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century. With nothing but a cello, recorded and layered together in beautiful yet frightening ways, he has modernized and evolves an art form with the single stroke of his bow. On the new EP, released digitally (for free) but the aforementioned Torn Flesh Records, you have not only a marriage of opposites gone right, but a glowing reminder that creativity and originality are not dead; not even in the state of Ohio.
While your mind may have tried to piece together exactly what Hvile I Kaos was trying to accomplish, it isn't until the first swooning notes of "The Dying Gasps of a Once-Proud Eagle" that you can truly understand. There is a mixture of tempos and tones used in the layering of cellos, with equal parts grit and melody forming a unique bond. You can hear the seeds of black metal throughout, with one cello mimicking the high speed, distorted guitars, though it is done with grace and beauty unlike the traditional. It is important to note, however, that there is a just amount of darkness spread over the course of this seven minute opus, even moreso in the way the sounds are stacked onto one another. The solo section in the final minute is as crisp and expertly delivered as any I've heard. In a masterful followup, mastermind Kakophonix offers a cover of the Dissection track "The Somberlain," one executed with such deft hands and overwhelming skill that it stands up to the original in profound ways. It becomes a sobering wail, a perfect storm of melody and morose. And unlike so much of the other string wielding members of the metal community, he manages to capture the mood and spirit of the original, while turning it into something all his own.
In what stood out as the most well rounded and accessible track on the EP, "Far Beyond Frostbitten" offers you the full range of emotion and musicianship. Without belaboring the point, the layering of the different pieces is done with such meticulous detail that it ceases to be separate pieces, but a massive whole. With each stroke through the low register notes, chills go up your spine to your brain stem. And yet somehow amongst all this beauty, you still have that element of bleak chaos. It is supplanted only by the finale, the nearly five minute "Wintertanz," as the one that will stick in your memory far beyond the days, weeks, or months the album stays in your rotation. Musicianship is at its highest here, with twirling riffs coming at you from different directions, all on top of the tapping of percussion, something that had been absent to this point. No, it isn't a booming drum kit, but merely a light pattering. The melodies are deeper and richer than you could imagine from a single man and his cello; not to mention far more intricate, taking on an almost folk element.
Hopefully, after this band crosses into your radar, you will be inclined to listen and digest all there is to hear on this latest EP. Some of you will mumble and spit about how this isn't true metal, and that it isn't brutal enough. And while that opinion will be shared by many, I wholeheartedly disagree. While we sometimes forget that metal isn't just about distorted guitars and drums, it is important to look deeper in search of more. Hvile I Kaos, the project name used by Kakophonix, embodies so much of what makes metal intoxicating and popular. To think that one man and a cello can put together something this majestic, yet somehow somber and dark, is astonishing. Even more impressive is that something like this could come from America, the home of the mentally numb and uninspired. If it makes it seem more plausible to envision a single man with long hair and a black trench coat, sitting on an adorned throne playing the cello, so be it.
Bandcamp - http://tornfleshrecords2.bandcamp.com/album/ep-2
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hvile-I-Kaos/214891198546547
Label Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/TornFleshRecordsNetlabel