We’re gonna start 2020 off on a high note here. Jordablod is a Swedish black metal band, but they break from their regional legends like Dissection and Dark Funeral in a pretty spectacular way. I don’t remember much about Upon My Cremation Pyre simply because it’s been a few years since I listened to it by now. Still, I definitely remember it taking more influence from the Deathspell Omega style of brash, chaotic dissonance while retaining heaps of melody and cohesion in the songwriting. This seems like a very simple thing to do, but it’s kinda surprisingly uncommon since DsO became such an institution, and the Icelandic black metal scene took off. So, it was something of a breath of fresh air for people who like their madness to sound vaguely human.
That’s uhh… kinda been thrown out the window on The Cabinet of Numinous Song. This is by no means any sort of Icelandic jangleblack like is all the rage these days, but their sophomore album here is far more alien and weird than their debut. There seems to be a huge spike in influence from noise and ambient sources here because there are several stretches of time where percussion and distorted guitar won’t rear their heads for several minutes at a time. In fact, one of the most ballsy moves to be found on this record is simply choosing to make the title track nearly five minutes of nigh-inaudible noise with a brief respite nearly three minutes in which the guitar and drums smash away in a potentially unlistenable cacophony while the bass does simple melodic runs up and down the fretboard. This utter buttfucking of traditional black metal tropes is one of the things I love most about The Cabinet of Numinous Song. That’s not to say there aren’t any straightforward moments here, “The Two Wings of Becoming” is about as straightforward as you can get. Nearly every track contains at least some semblance of genre-familiarity like howling vocals and tremolo riffs. But, there are also tracks like “To Bleed Gold,” which changes gears so frequently it might as well be driving through the Rockies, complete with ambient breaks, twelve arpeggiated riffs happening at once, and heartbreakingly gorgeous melodies delivered via a guitar that sounds like a screaming baby. The decision to make the guitar tone remarkably clean and low-distortion also help add clarity to just how unclear the whole thing is. It’s a maddening whirlpool of eyeball-chewing mindfuckery that has seemingly no intention of presenting itself in any way other than dutch-angled lunacy.
This can seem like a disorganized mess on the surface, but I can’t help but feel the total opposite. This was clearly crafted with a lot of care, and it’s one of the few examples of a band that seems to wholly embody the “spirit” of the music they’re playing while still completely forging their own path in the process. There are moments of shimmering post-whathaveyou that float gorgeously over riffs that tumble through a thicket of thorns, with some incongruously catchy grooves holding the whole thing together. Listen to “The Beauty of Every Wound” up there, this is a stunning testament to what can be done with the most malleable subgenre in the entire metal umbrella, and I actually love damn near every minute of it. I really didn’t expect 2020 to start off so well, but Jordablod came out swinging with an album that both decimates and meditates.
The Cabinet of Numinous Song will be released through Iron Bonehead on January 24th, 2020. I’d link a place to listen or preorder the album, but I wrote this during the week that they took down the store for the holidays, and therefore no such link exists. I’m sure it’ll be up on their official site or Bandcamp sometime in the near future.