By Jonathan Smith
Going all the way back to the beginning of 2011, the debut album by one-man US black metal project Oskoreien is one still worth highlighting as the world moves into 2012. Main musician Jay Valena has crafted a powerful full-length record with many strengths even as it doesn’t often stray far from the sub-genre’s tried-and-true clichés. Its organic, earnest, and perhaps even retro sound lifts its five lengthy tracks above some of the contemporaneous releases of even seasoned veterans of the genre. What it lacks in polish and originality it more than makes up for in terms of epic grandeur. That this self-titled debut is mostly the product of a single individual makes it all the more impressive.
Opening track “Illusions Perish” begins with the tranquility of the night sky and stereotypical outdoorsy sound effects before it and the rest of the album proceeds to crash and bang through 45-minutes of mostly encrusted mid-tempo black metal. The lead guitar work is shrill and commanding (as likely to delight some even as it annoys others), sailing over the rhythm section and often providing emotional emphasis on what could have just been standard riffs. Valena’s vocals are mostly composed of throaty shrieks, and at times they are even somewhat understandable even when they aren’t being sung in a clean fashion (though those appear too). The folkier elements that take finally take centre stage on “River of Eternity” are where the inevitable and appropriate comparisons between Valena’s work and Ulver’s Bergtatt can best be made. If there is grounds for a complaint about the album, it’s that the piano-based instrumental “Ashen Remains” is easily overlooked after the bombastic album-closing potential of “Transcendence.”
For almost a year, Valena has made the album available in a number of ways. As of this writing it’s available as a free download on the Oskoreien bandcamp website, but there are also a number of album + shirt deals as well. This means that the album is available in almost any combination/format one might like, and thus that there is little reason for people to not at least check the album out via MP3s. Here’s hoping for a follow-up soon.
(Seventh Seal Records)