Let me be a little bit frank for starters. Writing this column is easy. All I do is listen to music I usually know I like, and think about it and then try to commune with you why I love it so much. It’s easy, the music is freakin’ awesome and I have an excuse to mope around university ignoring everyone: I’m ‘working’. What that usually means is that I’m listening to Sleep’s Dopesmoker and their petty human concerns are far behind me now. I’ve always been attracted to extremity, in everything. To try to find my own barriers perhaps, to cross them, to find music that is genuinely too heavy is something I’ve always looked for (I happen to think that Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version is the heaviest record ever pressed) and this little 2001 debut really put the squeeze on me. This is some of the most inhospitable music I’ve ever listened to and I’m still not sure if I like it in the traditional sense. It far surpasses whatever mental requirements I have for inclusion in this weekly collection of margin doodles but listening to it without some preparatory Thorns to slip you into the black metal mindset would be like running headlong into a brick wall, or leaping unprotected into a bath filled with boiling water. Even if you’ve spent your formative years pouring over Cannibal Corpse sleeve art while banging out Darkthrone at top volume (guilty as charged), you’re going to find this trip pretty hard going. Strap in, we’re going to Sweden.
The initially-confusing-but-retrospectively-quite-prophetically named Silencer are a Swedish black metal band. Specific genre – ‘suicidal’ black metal. Supposedly the lyrics for this album were sung as literally insane frontman Nattramn self-harmed. Various rumours about him circulate, some deny them, some proffer them as gospel. He was institutionalised, some say after using an axe on a child, others say after amputating his hands and replacing them with pig’s trotters. The wildest claims say he killed 13 people. I cannot confirm any of it. I would be unsurprised if it turns out all to be true. Certainly if a person’s work reflects their life, this band is one of the most extreme sounds and out-there trips I could recommend. It’s dark and dense and dirty but at the heart, unlike so much completely unlistenable tripe metal coming out of the über-extreme scenes at the moment, construction is at its heart and a profound lyrical and musical understanding underpins all that occurs on this record. This isn’t like the ‘goregrind’ scene where masking your sound under as much poor production fuzz and noise you can is the aim because there is no musical invention or even talent exists underneath that.
The music underpinning all of this is a disquieting kind of ambient metal which drifts slowly through troughs and not-so-low troughs while the screams of genuine agony ring out across empty fields and connect with something inside, deep down; something overwhelmingly positive. Whatever else you may think, the suffering of another human being is troubling to you. The vocals are the key here. As instrumental ambient black metal it’s still stellar; as the production is above average. The vocals set a ice coldness into the heart. They embody a frightful desperation and pain. Another myth that doesn’t seem to be decried is that Nattramn was self-harming while doing the vocals to reach an even more real plateau. I believe it, you can almost hear the blade slicing through flesh, blood ebbing and flowing as he cries out, breathless sometimes. It is a miraculous and inhuman performance which elevates Death – Pierce Me from quality black metal into the realm of something really worth revisiting. It is eerily beautiful in a confusing sort of way. I can’t truly comprehend the mindset one would have to be in to issue vocals of this calibre.
It’s just over halfway through the record. Taklamakan comes to its death-rattle dénouement. It is simply too intense. Let me the fuck out. Let me out! The next song starts up, I settle down. There isn’t anything to be done. I have to just endure it. When the songs are on I’m fine, well, not fine but able to listen; transfixed by the audio gore pumping into my ears like someone nailing me to the chair. It’s the downtime. When the harrowing grue shudders to its deathlike torpor before beginning different; that’s when this record really starts to get to you. It’s darkness, you can imagine this as an early Sunn O))), instruments toned down as the one true better steps among them, its Nattramn, arms outstretched so far, looking about seven feet tall and glowering out over the sea of lit faces... Suddenly one arm is pointed forward, wrist outstretched and bared wide open, and the blade comes down! Swooping on the wrist like a vampire to a virgin’s throat, as the blood fountains around him he screams out the vocals “Leap... from... life!” an absolutely stunning display. Inhuman figures move amongst the crowd, malformed creatures of humanoid form, but writhing in invertebrate agony. Helpless languid leeches lost forever and yet drawn, drawn to this man, this Kurtz! Somebody at least as ruined as them in mind if not in body, but someone who has a vision, and a voice! A voice as such as none can deny. A voice that infects like a virus and stays, inhabiting the back of every cupboard and the corner of every street; in the eyes of every stranger and its eyes illuminated in every human darkness. A voice that by virtue of its pain, is forever haunting. The world has rules, some of them natural, some of them physical, some of them spiritual and some of them legal. In each moment of Death – Pierce Me, Silencer flout all of them, and ask you to make sense of the world afterwards.
Written under duress by Steven