Lhaäd - Below

08 Dec 2021

hadopelagic black metal | Babylon Doom Records and others | Release date: 10 Dec 2021

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Sometimes you hear a record and it immediately clicks and the feeling is right there for a review. Sometimes you need days and days, spin after spin for one. With Lhaäd’s debut Below it was definitely the former as this record takes us back several decades and also pushes us forward years at the same time. A wonderful trip back and forth in black metal past, present and future.

Whenever the talk about classic black metal (or second wave black metal as well) one will automatically come across ‘Trve Norwegian Black Metal’ and Lykormas, the mastermind behind Lhaäd, has certainly heard his share of Immortal or Darkspace. Two bands that certainly have left a mark on his new one-man-project which is releasing its debut these days via Babylon Doom Records, Fólkvangr Records and Extraconscious Records. Its mix of classic black metal (also in the Scandinavian vein) and some atmospheric sounds, which at first glance seem industrial but which also resemble the sound of the deepest of the sea levels, the hadopelagic level.

The record has an aquatic theme and its main concern is the hadopelagic level of the deepest trenches of the sea like the Mariana trench in the Western Pacific. There is basically no sunshine at the hadopelagic level which seems like a very good analogy to Lhaäd’s sound because in some ways there is no light coming into that level of the sea from above, no sunlight at least. Thus the whirlwinds of Below are not only reminders of first wave black metal but also wonderfully set into the whole theme of the record which is also in some ways shown in the cover. But the careful observer will have seen that the cover is more turquoise than completely dark as one would assume for these depths of the ocean. Behold, there is more light down there than one would imagine because of noctilucent plants which phosphoresce and thus light the deep sea. Of course the question arises if these sources of lights have an equivalent in Lhaäd’s songs? Yes they have, as there are these aforementioned sound elements which are carefully inserted into the whole flow of the record, for example the slowly meandering low-end sound at the end of ”Below II” (yes all six tracks are numbered that way) which sounds a little bit like the bulkhead partition of a submarine being closed airtight above one’s head. One can imagine how claustrophobic the sound is and yet, at the spot within the song and the whole album – it is like a short breath of air or a short oasis of calm before the next thundering whirlwind encapsulating the listener.

However, at the beginning it was mentioned that the record also shows where black metal could be going next, what the future of black metal might be. Let’s be honest – there are too many black metal bands trying to mimic the Scandinavian roots of the 80s and the 90s. At the same time, there are also way too many bands trying to combine post-rock elements and black metal foundations which then end up writing just another typical blackgaze or post-black metal or atmospheric black metal song. Lhaäd is more careful about combining these elements – yes there are moments of relaxation but they are not as dominant as in the sub-genres mentioned before. This record is industrial in the precision with which it is played but it is not industrial black metal in the Borgne sense. This way the industrial nature is only noticeable in some of the underlying sounds and the short moments of quiet.

The record is really carefully laid out, has a good feeling for incorporating the theme into its songs and the sounds and songwriting show a very thorough knowledge of black metal history and where the genre might be headed next. Wherever Lhaäd is going next – it will be interesting to follow that path!