Even by the standards of raw black metal, 1648’s Lying Among the Despised Ones of the Earth has a high barrier to entry. Turn up your speakers. They’re not broken, I promise you. If the music of Lying Among… sounds distant, then it’s by intention. The record doesn’t so much sound like it was recorded in a different room to where the instruments were being played – it’s more like it was recorded from a completely different building. It’s raw, it’s crunchy, it’s distorted as hell – and it’s clearly all intended. Raw production is, in these days of relatively cheap home recorded equipment, often a stylistic choice, giving the music an extra edge, and being used in a manner not dissimilar to another instrument. So yes, it’s lo-fi as fuck, it’s incredibly difficult to make out the details at times, but one thing it is not is bad.
Even so, Lying Among the Despised Ones of the Earth initially repelled me with its production choices. Speaking as someone who is hardly new to raw black metal, it still managed to repel me on first listen to the point that I almost hated the whole thing, despite recognising it as a clear choice rather than an accident of poor equipment or skill. Even so, it was clear that 1648 had something on offer here which was worth digging for; and I can assure you that persistence paid off. Raw black metal can tend towards the primitive not just in sound, but in composition, but that’s not the case here. Buried in the atmospheric fuzz and murk there is something quite daring and stirring, with strong melodies coming to the fore and giving the music a sense of ambition and ruined grandeur even as the rhythms march relentlessly on, most notably on ‘IV’, which moves towards an emotional, cathartic climax that’s far removed from what raw black metal normally entails. It’s almost paradoxical that music that sounds so feral would have such contrasting facets, but that’s long been a part of the best black metal, and 1648 exemplify that here.
It’s this feeling of ambition and, at times, sense of something close to grace that makes Lying Among… so strong. As off-putting as it almost inevitably will seem at first, this record is one that’s more than worth sticking with to explore it surprises once that initial hurdle has been cleared. Give it time and its caustic atmosphere will draw you in. I highly recommend allowing it to do so. Its upstart spirit (with the band name recalling the second English civil war, and with the album drawing inspiration from English revolutionary history) is impossible to deny, making Lying Among the Despised Ones of the Earth a record that is initially difficult, but in time reveals itself as something cathartic, invigorating, and even strangely inspiring.
Lying Among the Despised Ones of the Earth is out now via Babylon Doom Cult Records and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain