Back in the days when I was a teenager
Before I had status and before I had a pager
You could find The Abstract listening to hip-hop
My pops used to say it reminded him of bebop
I said, ‘well daddy, don’t you know that things go in cycles?
The way that Bobby Brown is just ampin’ like Michael’
– A Tribe Called Quest, “Excursions”
Yes, I full well realize how strange it is to start off a track premiere like this by quoting rap lyrics. That being said, Q-Tip makes a valid point in his verse: when it comes to music, everything does indeed go in cycles. There will suddenly be a wave of bands playing in a certain style that just as suddenly all disappear as the next wave of whatever comes along, and then maybe a decade or so down the road another wave of bands playing in that style will start the cycle all over again.
In terms of black metal, we seem to been the midsts of two major cycles: the vampyric and the cosmic. One-man German project Imperceptum falls into the latter category. Heart of Darkness, the prolific multi-instrumentalist Void’s fourth full-length (plus two EPs) under the Imperceptum name since January of 2016, will be available August 10 from our friends at Grey Matter Noise (find their webstore here), presents a decidedly different take on the sub-genre.
I could go through here and trace the cycles of cosmic black metal from Switzerland’s Darkspace, who formed in 1999 and arguably spearheaded the first wave in the early aughts, through the second wave of bands that formed around 2010 like Mare Cognitum, Midnight Odyssey, and Battle Dagorath, to the current wave like Mesarthim and microcosmys, but that might end up being too much of a tangent. Instead, let’s consider what all of these bands (very loosely) have in common stylistically: most of what could be called ‘cosmic black metal’ tends to fall on the more atmospheric end of the spectrum (which makes sense), and it tends to evince a fairly pronounced dark ambient influence as well. The degree to which either of those elements is present depends entirely on which band we’re talking about, as does the overall tone of the music. Some find beauty and wonder in the cold expanses of space, while others see terror in the seemingly endless blackness of the night sky.
So where do Void and Imperceptum fit into all of this? That’s a good question. The easy answer is that he’s slightly off to the side, kind of hanging out by himself. Musically, Heart of Darkness is a richly textured amalgamation of atmospheric black metal and funeral doom, with a bit of dark ambient thrown in for good measure. It can be tempestuous at times, like on opening track “The Hidden Consciousness,” but on the whole it feels more meditative to me than anything else, especially in its second half. However, Grey Matter Noise refers to Heart of Darkness as ‘Cosmic Black Metal Terror’ in their promotional materials, so my reaction is obviously subjective – individual results will vary.
Tonally, however, there’s no denying that Heart of Darkness is….well, dark. As with the rest of Imperceptum’s discography, Void seems mostly concerned here with the end of mankind’s existence and the collapse of the universe into nothingness. But also like his past works, there seems to be something hopeful–at least in an abstract sense–lingering around the edges. A vague suggestion of a higher plane of existence or deeper consciousness waiting on the other side…
We’re thrilled to be premiering the third track from Heart of Darkness today here at the Vault. The nearly eleven-minute “Sentient Essence of Chaos” offers a perfect snapshot of the album as a whole: most of the song alternates between passages with an almost gothic/post-punk feel that remind me of something from The Cure’s downer masterpiece Faith and more tempestuous, second wave black metal, before opening up into something more vast and contemplative in its extended outro section. Check it out below, and then make sure to snag a copy of Heart of Darkness on cassette from Grey Matter Noise when they go up for presale later today.