Qwertzuiop – Unending

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

Links: Check out ‘Unending’ on Bandcamp


Qwertzuiop – Dead Oak

Qwertzuiop - Dead Oak

Qwertzuiop is a one man black metal band from Nyiregyhaza, Hungary. ‘Dead Oak’ is the musician’s first release.

Like many of these bedroom projects, they often provide a kitschy take on a semi-popular trend in music. With the digital age, the influx of technology such as home computers, laptops, and smart phones along with websites such as Last.fm, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp come easier ways for musicians to see that their music is heard. Free programs such as Audacity give musicians an opportunity to record and self produce their material in a cost efficiently and easier fashion. Bedroom music, whether it be folk, shoegaze, drone and ambient, or perhaps the most popular being black metal, that of which often retains a fusion of the aforementioned genres is undoubtably the result of the birth of the digital age. All of the previously mentioned styles of music are similar in one way, that being that they are all lo-fi, able to be recorded at home without expensive equipment, favoring creativity over quality studio production and musicianship. Like many other one man black metal bands, especially ones that venture into music unrelated to the genre itself, the influence of traditional black metal is almost subliminal or not immediate in the sense that it retains some small elements of the genre while focusing more on experimenting on other sounds and styles of music.

The whole of the work is generally fulfilling; there are some cool sounds and some moments scattered throughout that may leave the listener pondering how a certain sound was produced. The first track is a colorful mixture of walls of sound and black metal that makes for a listening experience that is very much on a cosmic scale in terms of how big the music sounds which is impressive given certain limitations that come with the music. The body of ‘Dead Oak’ is almost entirely instrumental with the exception that there are vocals on the second track and although used sparingly the shrill tortured scream that is emitted toward the end of the track is a fantastic tactically placed element.

As different as this album tries to be I feel that ‘Dead Oak’ is not free of its many limitations. There are times where the music feels rushed, trying to bring together as many key factors from different styles of music as possible, stripping them down and trying to assemble them into something new based on what is left. At times it does work, the first and second track being a prime example of this while much of the time you can hear the music struggling to join together all of it’s different sounds to create a concrete piece. This leaves me to wonder whether this trend in music is truly the result of a surge in musical creativity and a will to experiment or rather laziness that has been hidden behind the gimmick of low-fi production; the tragic idea that if a piece of music is masked in enough reverb, fuzz pedals, all while being recorded with an Xbox Live headset the musician assumes that it can be called lo-fi and left at that. Fortunately this is not the case with most of the music on ‘Dead Oak’.

Qwertzuiop’s ‘Dead Oak’ manages to become something that is actually enjoyable while maintaining a creative and experimental style. Like other similar projects such as Murmuure and Mamaleek. There are some truly great moments on here, some that even act as strong examples of structured noise. There is one major problem I have with ‘Dead Oak’, one that is shared with many of it’s contemporaries; that being the idea of purposefully lumping together as many styles of music as possible in order to attempt to create an entirely new style of music instead of attempting to ultimately create something unique.  This is not a trend that exclusively identifies with black metal but unfortunately applies to all styles of music. The question is, how will Qwertzuiop establish it’s sound from those of projects such as Murmuure, Morose, and Heretoir in the future?

Check out Qwertzuiop’s music.

Overall rating: 7.4

Favorite Track: ‘I’

Recommended: Traditional black metal purists may want to stay away from this but if you are looking for a different approach to the genre than this may be for you.


Alda – : tahoma :

Alda – In the Wake of an Iron Wind (2011)

Alda is a duo from the Tacoma, WA area who make a nice blend of atmospheric black metal and folk metal that is kinda similar to Agalloch and Burzum in some ways, but personally I like Alda more than Agalloch and Burzum put together.

This album surprised me. I found it through >:3’s AOTY blog and after listening to it I ended up putting it pretty high up on my AOTY list as well.

The album starts out with a folky intro on the first track “In the Wake of an Iron Wind” but soon enough gets into the distorted guitar and then blast beats and metal jamming which I’ve got absolutely no complaints about. “Shadow of the Mountain” is an entirely acoustic song that has a haunting chant thing happening at the end which is amazing and really gives off a nice vibe. The rest of the album switches between black metal jams and folk sections but it all fits together nicely and doesn’t seem to put anything in the wrong place at the wrong time. The album is mostly instrumental but there are occasional screaming vocals that are kinda in the background and they blend with the music nicely.

Even if you don’t like metal I’d recommend you check this out because you might just enjoy it. If you already listen to metal I very strongly recommend this album because you’ll probably love it.

Rating: 9/10

– Trelt