‘Null & Void’
Vanagandr, August 2014
Black metal merges with doom metal on this sinister and bleak release from Iceland’s ‘0’, whose five band members are known only by their initials. Slow and depressive, the music is atmospheric and at times crushing. The further you go into this single 34-minute composition, the more you discover: it is packed with invention and musicality.
Speeding up occasionally towards pure, miserable black metal (which is ecstatically, fiercely energetic in a way that only black metal can be), ‘Null & Void’ always sinks back into its deep pit of doom metal despond, trawling the emotional depths and the wind-ravaged wildernesses of the band’s homeland.
It is evident from the outset that ‘0’ are not feeling thrilled with life. The vocals of S.S. begin as an almost-melodic moaning, then a deep, ghostly chant, over which appear desperate, throat-shredding screams. It’s a combination that works well and is developed throughout the album – the lonely despair of the screaming being anchored and appeased by the softer backing vocals.
S.S.’s voice is more varied and expressive than many in the black arts, but admittedly it can prove a minor distraction when set against some of the more thoughtful guitar work or gentler soundscapes. Whether or not you feel that the black metal ‘singing’ style allows for enough emotional depth and variety, one thing is certain: musically, ‘0’ explore various patterns with subtlety and guile. This is no angry scream-fest.
Throughout the album, there are scattered moments where the creative abilities of the band shines through, most memorably at around the half-way mark, when a kind of evil ritualistic chanting begins, as if the clan has gathered to prepare for war. This, and a number of other savvy touches, add texture, warmth and quality to the gruelling ‘Null & Void’ experience.
The name of this Icelandic band and the title of this album might suggest emptiness and absence, but there is never a dull moment for the listener. It is far from being the perfect finished product, but ‘Null & Void’ shows enough moments of sophistication to be a very enjoyable and interesting listen – if it’s really possible to “enjoy” such musical anguish. It has been released as a cassette by Vanagandr and is also available to download on Bandcamp.