Vivian Tylinska’s music under the Victory Over The Sun moniker has always been intricate in a way that black metal often isn’t, defying the genre’s ironically rigid boundaries by making music that’s dynamic and interesting whilst still being heavy and confrontational. On new record Nowherer, Tylinska’s third full-length in as many years, the project’s experimental side comes to the fore more than ever. By pushing extreme metal as a whole into new territories, Tylinska is able to do something that’s sorely lacking in the metal scene by challenging her listeners. It makes for metal that’s exciting, like discovering a restaurant with a completely different interpretation of your favourite dish – the ingredients are mostly the same but they’ve been rearranged in a way that makes the experience feel fresh.
Nowherer is the kind of album for which the vague “avant-garde” moniker comes in handy, because if you’re unfamiliar with Tylinska’s work it does suffice to say that it’s unconventional as far as metal is concerned. To be more specific, the album as a whole feels like one big experiment in microtonality, with Tylinska writing entirely in the 17 equal temperament tuning scale, on guitars she refretted herself. That’ll go over many heads (including my own) but the differences it brings are very much apparent in the music itself – imagine Jute Gyte turned full death metal and you’ll be a bit closer to the mark, though that still doesn’t quite capture the angularity of Nowherer’s bizarre concoctions. Due to Tylinska’s unique tuning, the notes used are quite simply rare enough (at least in this genre) that they just feel different, as heavy as any metal out there but infinitely stranger.
The song structures refuse to bend to convention either, and the tracks often refuse to settle into a rhythm. The opening title-track asks questions of the listener from the off as it intersperses biting black metal with chugging death metal riffs, all of it loosely held together by a swarm of noise that consumes the track at its conclusion. At times, as on ‘Alveromancy’ where a stuttering bass-line undercuts sinister blackened blasts, it feels like independent passages of music coalescing to form an even greater whole. Even the shorter and more restrained ‘God Howling’ is unsettling by virtue of the unfamiliar tonalities that Tylinska taps into.
Despite the impressive tracks that precede it, though, closer ‘Oscines’ is without a doubt the album’s main draw. At over 21 minutes long, it’s an epic and ambitious offering that’s longer than the rest of the album’s tracks put together. The song drifts from one idea to the next, but despite the variety on display it feels like it couldn’t have been done in any other way but as one cohesive piece. At one point a driving riff accelerates and decelerates repeatedly like a cyclist on a hilly road – when it eventually comes to a stop you’re almost relieved, but the track keeps going and it’s up to you to get back and up and continue on or else be left behind in the dust. Nearer its conclusion the track settles into a catchy groove that feels strangely normal, but the tremolos soon come rolling in and the growing harsh noise ensures that the album goes out on as intense a note as it began.
The fact that metal music can often be jarring for new listeners is something that many of its fans wear as a kind of badge of honour, and yet once you’re through the looking glass it’s just as easy to find your favourite subgenres, stick with what you know and settle into a rhythm as it is in any other style of music. So when you find something that strives to do things a little bit differently, it can be nigh-on revelatory. There’s nothing wrong with artists playing a well-established and beloved sound, but sometimes you need something that gives you a little kick up the ass. Nowherer is that something.
Nowherer is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: George Parr