On the face of it, raw black metal can be viewed as one of the more accessible genres, in terms of the barriers to entry for a potential musician. After all, the genre is defined by intentionally rough production qualities, where atmosphere matters more than typical musical talent. It’s this last aspect that can often be overlooked in discussions of the genre – for all that Transilvanian Hunger might be held up as a pivotal moment for raw black metal, it’s easy to forget that, beneath its intentionally shitty production, the songs are actually quite good.
And so to Runes, the latest release by solo act Burgûli. Whilst it fits in with the raw black metal archetype, with the production being a key part of the songs, the sad fact is that there’s very little to them beyond that. The majority of the music here is mid-tempo and repetitive, aiming for that hypnotic trance which black metal can bring about; but it fails to captivate in the intended way, and just sounds boring.
When lone member Lord Kondea Gothaur tries something different, as on ‘The Dark Host’, things become more interesting. A moody bass introduction opens the song, before what sounds like a kazoo comes in with a melody (there’s no credits stating exactly what instrument is used, and early Burgûli demos sound like they didn’t even use guitars, so who knows?). It’s definitely jarring, even more so because it’s unclear what the intended effect is – a moment of grandeur? Just providing contrast? A cruel joke? Either way, it’s evidence that “interesting” and “different” are not simply alternative ways of saying “good” – though the more up-tempo moments of more typical black metal on the song are the strongest moments of Runes. Keep trying, sport, you’ll get there!
There’s much about the EP that is confusing and undermines what it seeks to achieve. Other than ‘The Dark Host’ songs don’t so much have introductions or endings as they just start or end, in a manner that would make the listener think their CD was scratched. The drums often seem to be slightly out of time with the rest of the music, which is especially odd as they sound programmed. And perhaps strangest of all is that the record is still listed as a pre-order on Bandcamp (at time of writing), despite supposedly releasing in July. This does achieve perhaps the Holy Grail of kvlt aesthetics – obscurity for its own sake, being Grim And Terrible – just not in the way that most artists would intend. Don’t spend your time or money on this one, especially when you could listen to Burgûli’s previous release, the much stronger Ombres. Go and listen to that instead.
Ombres has been out for a year and is available here.
Words: Stuart Wain