Kaeck is technically a side-project by members of different active projects, but since conventional mainstream metal band evaluations do not apply to a true underground (where each project is carried out for a reason and with a very clear purpose), the result of the present album is outstanding and well-defined. Kaeck is not Kjeld, Noordelingen or Sammath, nor does it sound like an admixture of these, although the relationship is there to see. When it comes to the quality of the content and form of the music themselves, we can consider Kaeck a musical project in its own right.
Stormkult is evidently a product of this particular Netherlands circle, consisting of a very aggressive but controlled guitar attack with a dominating lyricism in the melody that is the center of all the music. All of the instruments cluster around it and give it strength. Part of this trademark sound also revolves around a feeling and slightly eerie feeling that will indulge in some sentimentality at times. In this sense, Kaeck displays a genre purity in conception and realization that places it in a direct line of inheritance under Bathory through the more violent and occult elements of the Germanics (not ‘Germans’, the reader should mind this detail).
Since the prevailing melodic influence here is Sammath, which is the harshest of the three contributions, Kaeck consistently drives into a destructive sound that, while percussive in nature, remains highly atmospheric. The presence of a synth melody that arises from the guitar line adds to the music a simple layer that is nevertheless extremely effective in driving the nail deeper in its crucifixion of the listener’s soul. The writer would venture to say that the reason for this is that the synth itself is not an extra addition, it acts and speaks out when it needs to, and so the rest of the music is balanced in the same way. Furthermore, nothing seems to be missing, the music is self-contained conceptually and musically.
§ Listen to music records as you would read a book
A problem many people seem to have when listening to black metal is that they expect music to do one of two things. Either they judge it by its lyrics and imagery and then convince themselves that the music is related to it, telling themselves that the music in fact is delivering what they want. Or they listen to music as if it were a brute’s drug, a mere tool for sensual stimulation. These are both extremely pop-world ways of looking at music, and it places black metal under the umbrella of popular culture. While much wayward and worthless black metal is, in fact, a product of and for popular culture, and while several classics of the genre have been superficially taken in by the popular world, the core and spirit that breathed through the black metal ideally is elitist and underground par excellence.
This elitism does not reside in words or mere attitudes but in actions and results. But these very concrete characteristics cannot be gauged correctly by an audience bent on reducing the art to mere entertainment. Sadly, even people who are very knowledgeable when it comes to literature and even philosophy treat music as if its function lies entirely in a sphere that can only be captured sensually and therefore is under a purely ‘subjective’ law. Music does encompass this sphere, but it expands even more regions, some of which can be affected by training as well as perception and deductive skills that can be honed. It is only through this respectful and more knowledgeable way of approaching music that we can start to interpret it as it deserves.
When it comes to a musical project that displays no indulgence in musicianship for its own sake or the use of whatever fad of “catharsis-inducing” techniques, that does not speak to those looking for an image or posturing that speaks to their ego, it is to be expected that it fly over the heads of most. Such is the case with Stormkult, an album that perhaps needs no repetition, as it concentrates on a very precise area in what it says through the music, but this is articulated with grace and in meaningful variations, thereby actually taking us through different avenues in a consistent world. The power that the listener can tune into here lies in the narrative itself. By latching on to this lyrical stream of sound one is taken through an underground tunnel to visit lonely and terrifying places haunted by shadows and latent with untapped energy.
The way to go about actually listening to music records and tuning into their wealth, rather than floating on the surface of their appearance, is to approach the experience of listening as a serious reader would approach a book. Of course, we do not read music in the same way that we do books. But just as the reading of a book necessitates previous knowledge of a context and posterior meditation and consideration of not only its content at face value, but the relationship of its parts and symbols, so does music of a higher kind need a many-sided and holistic approach. We are not talking about reducing music to a crude literary analysis, for that is not the way to go about feeling and understanding a book, but to understand that music as an actual repository of information and perspectives not limited to the verbal is a complex web. In doing so we also receive the power to distinguish between what has depth and what is mostly just an appearance.
§ Dissolution of the parts
It has been mentioned that in the music of Kaeck the instrument’s lines collapse into a central, guiding line that moves melodically with a very lyrical voice. Everything in Stormkult clusters around a clearly visible and very much alive entity, not as appendages that merely give body to a spine, but rather as components that make up the exoskeleton of the thing in itself. In this we should appreciate an upholding of the original black metal method that was instituted, discovered and exemplified by Bathory in The Return…
The only part that diverges from this central current are the vocals, the performance of which is varied and extremely expressive despite remaining within one personality. Being able to say so much without diverging into several different characters is the ability of an accomplished artist that knows his craft and provides subject matter in discernible forms. The vocals ride the wave of the main melody and then twist to form their own independent contribution to the body. A balance between efficient (minimalist but fulfilling) and eloquent expression is found that can also be seen in the rest of the instruments if one knows how to appreciate the craft of holistic music. A hierarchy is respected, and most of the time the role of the instrument achieves meaning by beautifully fulfilling its own role therein.
In contrast, we may find music of a lower quality that floods with sounds of all kinds throughout the spectrum, extending pieces throughout long expanses by appending meaningless or redundant variations. Many are the black metal projects that work in an inverted way, from appearance and pretense to trying to bring a concrete image to life. The result of this almost always a cardboard-thin, but colorful and dashing to the sight, puppet that can entertain at first but is soon after revealed as lacking depth and actual content to those who look for actual treasures of mind and spirit in the music. The music of Kaeck, on the other hand, flows distinctively in the opposite direction: from a clear concept, a feeling that gives a direction, which then gets multiplied, developed and stamped onto specific instantiations that together form a logical series of consequences in a coherent train of thought.