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Bane and Illusion

The artist known as Eirik Raude exists in a paradox. An outgoing, passionate musician, over the last few weeks I've found the displaced Canuck (who now resides in Finland) to be a warm, inviting pen-pal; he is never worried about any topic, offering opinions on everything from genres to tape-trading to messageboards.

And so, a listener can be forgiven for not seeing any of that kind-hearted warmth in Eirik's alter ego, Bane and Illusion. Dark, chilly, slicing, and raw, the black metal on offer here is pure Scandinavian filth, as only true connoisseurs of this genre could attempt to recreate. That in-and-of itself isn't the paradox; rather, Bane and Illusion by itself represents something more; a sort of barely contained dualism that divides Eirik in half and converts the immense anguish such tearing must cause into fiercely archaic, compelling, and primitive metal.

On the one hand, the "Bane" of this band is reflected in the BM assault. Scuzzed out guitars, simplistic percussion, skull-pounding bass notes, and crypt-howls ooze forth; lyrically, the band owes much to the melancholy and dark fantasy of later Burzum, while musically a cross between Varg's solo act and other bands like Mayhem, Gorgoroth, and Immortal would not be far off. The "Illusion" is reflected in the ambient esotericism that the disc wallows in; even on the blackest of metal hymns, one senses a lurking malice to the tracks; it is as if everything is shrouded in a veil of half-truth and whole deception, a mucus film obscuring the true nature of evil in these tracks. It makes for a very refreshing, organic, and utterly harsh approach to classic-era black metal, and one this writer can't help but enjoy. The increasingly tame symphonic BM movement is currently alternated by a artsy, fluid response of innovation so obscure and unusual it isn't really black metal any more. With this in mind, it is nice to see a band combining the forefathers with more obscure acts (the Finnish ambient assault that was Beherit instantly springs to mind) and doing it without having to reinvent everything. To be honest, Bane and Illusion is actually pretty basic material, and that's just why you'll enjoy it; the early works of Varg in Burzum contained a throbbing military slant to everything, and the plodding melodies buried in walls of stony noise are no different in that regard then what is heard here.

This nod to the genre's originators is apparent on "Apprentice of Legend," which still maintains its own unique angle on the BM cannon of musical output. A sinister, buzzing riff starts off, before the percussion kicks in and Eirik launchs into a throat-shredding scream. The song has raw, harsh, and dissonant production, which makes the mix seem rather archaic, and the swirling epic melodies seem that much more severe when they finally occur. Speaking of that, Bane and Illusion has a unique way of sliding in subtle rhythms, melodies, and hooks into the murk; you'll find that this is oddly catchy stuff. When "Apprentice" oozes into a stark, majestic groove mid-song, you can almost see how it earned its title. It is as if the 2nd Wave bands that Bane and Illusion owe so much inspiration to are legends in their own right by now, and Bane and Illusion seeks to emulate them as fawning servants to their original cause. What a great start to the album!

The mellow and moody "The Enchanted Dark" starts off with a painfully slow rhythm and large, haunting riffs. In fact, for almost the entire track, everything wallows in a sort of dejected melancholy laced with black magic and dim evil, the likes of which would do Burzum proud. At about half way in, the song picks up speed with a torrent of blackened filth that cascades into your eardrums; as the song ebbs back into more relaxed territory, you'll think that some measure of calm, serenity, and safety has descended upon you. But lo and behold! Eirik is saving his most vicious onslaught for last, in the form of a massive blasting portion the likes of which is amongst the most headbanging sections of the CD.

Whereas the outright black metal compositions on this disc are usually lengthy and above five minutes, "Lord Andrus Kalgan" is a bit different being an entirely ambient track and not even two minutes long! It is a quiet, serene interlude, vaguely grandiose in nature but with little else to comment reality, the piece is so short that I'm really nitpicking by even describing it at all!

The blistering "Old Raven Court" returns things to a more metallic zone, with instant blastbeating and numbingly cold riffs taking center stage right away. As the longest black metal track on the album, Eirik has his work cut out for him in the arena of song-structure but surprisingly, this song rarely fails, even being the best on the album in my opinion. Stark, trance-inducing riffs drone on and on; slight, minor note/chord variations mess with your head, making you constantly wonder if you're hearing any real change at all. "Old Raven Court" definitely puts the Illusion in Bane and Illusion, and the song's dedicated, oldschool mantra of frostbitten, ambient black metal should appeal to genre stalwarts and relative noobs alike.

At just over sixteen minutes, the massive "Primeval Oath Broken" is a very ballsy way to end the album. The entire song is instrumental and ambient, solemn hums washing over crystalline percussive beats and ancient synth crawls. It definitely beats the hell out of the aforementioned "Lord Andrus Kalgan," as it holds a listerner's attention in cold, iron grips the entire song and rarely lets go. Really, there is nothing metal about this track, and so you best not be craving more chaos when "Old Raven Court" winds to a close. Musically speaking, I can see Burzum, Summoning, or even earlier Mortiis doing something like this, but the medieval nature-worshipping tones of this song are really unique all by itself. In closing, "Primeval Oath Broken" is a jarring close to the disc not for what it does, but rather what it doesn't do. Minimal, delicate, and even vaguely peaceful, it definitely seems at odds with the rest of the disc and probably fortells a future where Eirik will split time between more metal ventures and more tranquil, ambient ones. Very interesting indeed.

To finish, Bane and Illusion is the work of a black metal fan for fellow black metal fans. Soundly combining the blistering-raw cuts-and-tears of Norway's 2nd wave movement at the early 1990's with some of the meandering, ambient instrumentals that were crafted from it later on as the decade closed, Bane and Illusion is the perfect mix between dirty fact and shadowy fiction.

Track Listing
1. Apprentice of Legend
2. The Enchanted Darkness
3. Lord Andrus Kalgan
4. Old Raven Court
5. Primeval Oath Broken



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