[Reviewed by stark]
Is there a more prolific musician in the dark ambient/industrial fields? At least within the ones from the Champions League of drones? I don’t think so. It’s a slight shame that among all these old and new projects or collaborations I try vainly to look for the new studio release for many (including yours truly) the most important initiative by Nordvargr, that is Mz.412. Although the live album “Hekatomb” was quite cool, I have to admit, and I still hope that it was a prelude for a great satanic comeback and some more black industrial blasphemies will shock us in the future.
Now we have “The Secret Barbarous Names”, the album released for Malignant Records and being the extended version of a digital EP which was out in 2016. Four tracks more, almost twnety minutes of new incantations. Not a bad deal as for my taste. You’ve possibly noticed that over all these… almost 30 years (who would’ve thought) darkness was always in the foreground, but the conceptual centre of gravity was changing depending on a certain time, certain material. Hellish emanations of Mz.412, cosmic influences on several Nordvargr albums, the (un)famous Sleep Therapies, esoteric or even psychoanalytic references. His range of interests is surely rather wide, but always regarding the obscure aspects of human soul, this world and beyond.
Generally speaking, with “The Secret Barbarous Names” Henrik Nordvargr Björkk focuses on the mystical properties of the human voice. As the press release says, “inspired by the Draconian and Typhonian traditions, the title refers to the hidden meanings of the countless manuscripts that have been kept secret for millennia”, the musician believes that the most powerful instrument is hidden in man’s throat and if used properly, it is able to manifest anything. And crush walls. Interesting topic, worth further exploring, but let’s skip to the music.
Which reminds me of the Middle East influenced margins of the genre. The areas where such projects as Herbst9 feel like a fish in the water. Even the cover is similar to “The Gods Are Small Birds, But I Am The Falcon”. Of course, as opposed to the sound abundance of the German duet, Nordvargr’s music is way more ascetic, drone oriented and focused on the single element that stands as a foundation of the whole album (I mean the human voice). You’ll find here some aliquote singing, slow declamations sounding like the invocation of some Sumerian demons, raw drones drowning in reverb and a bit of percussion, used with restraint. I think I might place “The Secret Barbarous Names” somewhere in the middle of the way between aforementioned Herbst9 and Phurpa. They manage to create a similar atmosphere, though it’s not as richly ornamentated as the sounds of “Ušumgal Kalamma” authors, but also it’s quite far from the extreme austereness of Phurpa works.
Not all Nordvargr creations were equally to my liking, but this one has the chance to be rather high on my personal list. Even Top Ten perhaps. Listen to it loud, it has a lot of power to consume you completely and take you to its world bathed in black and gold.