Every once in a while, you’ll come across a band who pique your interest well before you’ve heard even one note of their music. Be it the costumed antics of GWAR, the inane (and quite insane) theatrics of Portal, the circus-from-hell aesthetic of Avatar, or even the papal styling of Ghost, some bands simply hook you from the start. Though in the case of Blyh, it wasn’t with any gimmick, but rather an interesting tidbit in their promo blurb. You see, the members of Blyh have extensive backgrounds in both hardcore and metalcore, but have decided to pool their talents to create a black metal album. Interested yet? Cause I sure was. So what’s Transparent to the World like then?
Right off the bat it’s clear these guys are the real deal. After a brief intro, “The Strength of a Woman Can be Boundless” wastes no time busting out the blast beats, tremolos and nasty, icy rasps. Any wonder about the possible influence of hardcore upon Blyh was quickly vanquished from my mind. Transparent to the World sits somewhere in between classic Norwegian black metal, and the more atmospheric variety offered by many of the genre’s modern practitioners. About halfway through the track, the music slows down and fades away. Shortly after, we’re introduced to some rather gratifying buzzsaw riffs straight out of a Dissection fan’s dreams. The band take a couple twists and turns on their path to the song’s end, making sure the listener is never able to guess what’s coming next.
This is true of all of Blyh’s songs. If predictability is an artist’s disease, they’ve clearly had their shots. Interesting transitions, unexpected tempo changes, and lots of sound bytes keep things fresh, and the album’s sub-fifty minute runtime doesn’t hurt either. Blyh are a band that realize if you’re playing with a big bag of tricks, keeping things concise is a good way to keep your tricks exciting. One thing you don’t want to do in black metal is desensitize your audience before you’re done throwing curveballs at them.
But on the subject of curveballs, there’s one moment on this album I can’t explain. I can describe it, but by no means does that mean I an explain or even understand it. At the beginning of the song “So Willingly Dead,” there’s a spooky intro declares that an unnamed protagonist is trying to communicate with the spirits of the deceased. He demands that whatever otherworldly beings there are present identify themselves. In response, we’re treated to one of the most out-of-place sound bytes I’ve ever heard, a shining example of complete mastery of the art of the non-sequitur and perhaps the single most glorious moment on the entire album: spirit replies “my name’s Jeff.” I shit you not. On an album whose themes revolve around disenfranchisement from society, social isolation and the growingly-calloused nature of mankind, this sound byte has no place, and certainly should not be there. Though if I had the opportunity to get rid of it, there’s no way in hell that I would. It’s simply glorious.
You may be thinking that Blyh are simply joking around on Transparent to the World after reading that. This is not the case. The rest of the album is filled with such stone-faced aggression and misanthropy that even the bleakest of souls will come crawling back for more. Reading through the lyrics, Blyh clearly have a lot on their minds. Railing against the man made isolation that permeates society, they lament the fact that every human has a story, yet they go about their lives oblivious to the hardships and triumphs of those around them, and their own tales are similarly obscure to their fellow man. It’s an interesting deconstruction of our place in society, and maybe it’ll make you think twice about that homeless man you pass every day on your way to work, or the downtrodden woman who lives with an alcoholic husband at the end of your street.
Blyh have made something special on Transparent to the World. Musically, it will appeal to both fans of old and new school black metal, while also being atmospheric enough to hook in fans of more shoegaze-inspired music as well. Lyrically, it’ll appeal to those who enjoy art with more than just superficial meaning. There’s lots to discover by delving into Blyh’s lyrics, and I’m sure there’s lots about them that I’m missing. And hell, even if black metal isn’t your thing, it’s worth it just to hear “my name’s Jeff” on what’s otherwise an intense and punishing black metal tune. As always, I don’t give perfect scores to new albums, so I award Blyh an A. Expect to see them on my best of the year list come December.
Transparent to the World is now available both digitally and on cassette via Blyh’s Bandcamp page.