Unending is the latest release from one man ambient black metal project Qwertzuiop. I became familiar with the project when I reviewed his full length, Dead Oak earlier this year.
Unending shows Qwertzuiop moving slowly away from the harsh black metal inspired dreariness and embracing more of the dark ambient attributes that were originally apparent with his first release; a natural transition given that black metal and ambient music hold firm ties with each other. With the raw louder elements of Dead Oak taking a back seat, much of the sonically extreme sections such as the distortion laden guitar are replaced with strings, textures, and generally a larger presence of atmospherics that forces the music to focus on composition resulting in an attempt to create something more organic than it’s predecessor.
Like many of these projects, the influence of black metal is not always apparent to the extent of openly wearing its inspirations on its sleeves but there are definitely pieces borrowed from the genre that are retained, although they are minor. The cold lumbering drums are still there, although oppressed and very low in the mix and some distortion makes it’s way into the songs every now and then. The orchestral arrangements are a vivid picture of the unending grey skies, heavy clouds, and dark forests that have become so associated with the imagery of black metal itself.
When compared to Dead Oak, ‘Unending’ is pretty quiet sonically, with the exception of the third track, ‘IX’, which is one of the more powerful moments on the album that features a sequence of uptempo drumming that sounds like it’s straight out of an early Burzum album. I love the intensity that builds up to the tracks conclusion; an enjoyable track that gives that does a good job of changing things up without compromising the grim impression of Qwertzuiop’s music.
As haunting as ‘Unending’ wants to be it can also be just as beautiful. On the fourth track ‘X’, the music is primarily made up of string swells that makes for a good contrasting piece bringing a little light into the dark picture that Qwertzuiop succeeds in producing. The final song continues the ambient style carried over from the previous track and utilizes field recordings of what sounds like rustling and twigs rubbing up against one another to create textures that give a bit of added depth to the song. I really enjoyed the last two tracks, they actually make me wonder what Qwertzuiop would be able to do with a longer track length. Being that these last two releases were rather short, all under 20 minutes in length I think that a larger track list or perhaps even longer songs times would open up possibilities.
Although this release sees Qwertzuiop progressing the same problems I had with Dead Oak are still present on this release. With many of the bedroom black metal projects and with these “bandcamp musicians” in general they have forced themselves into a niche where musicians mash together all of the popular attributes of different genres (i.e. shoegaze, ambient, black metal) in hopes of creating something new with the resulting output. Not only has this become formulaic but a lot of the time the result is a lackluster kitschy take on popular styles. Where as this would have been ok a few years ago with multi-genre projects like ‘Have A Nice Life’ gaining popularity in 2012 it just seems archaic and has become predictable. It isn’t a flaw that is going to make this album unlistenable by any means but I think it is a good sign that combining multiple genres together does not result in originality all of the time.
The recording quality on a few of the track could be better as well. On the first track the mixing on all of the instrumentation and textures sounds like they are at the exact volume and I know lo-fi music doesn’t have a great track record with equalization and proper recording techniques, which I would be ok with but when it gets to the point where it is detracting from the music it is time to take the initiative to tone it down and find other ways of incorporating an unrefined aesthetic into the music. I wouldn’t be this bothered by the mixing style if the music weren’t so linear; it isn’t nearly delicate or layered enough to where you would be able to revisit it and hear something new every time so I’m struggling to understand why the production is the way it is.
With this change in direction I’m intrigued to see were this project goes, the added orchestral sounds are a nice touch that add a lot to the mood but ‘Unending’ is pretty much more of the same that comes up a little short of with what it attempts to do.
Overall rating: 6.8
Favorite Track: ‘IX’
Recommended: Dark orchestral sounds with the attitude of Norwegian black metal.
Released: 13 January 2012