Originally released on CD and LP by Utech and Public Guilt respectively, the second album from French necro / hypno-rockers Aluk Todolo is now back in print via The Ajna Offensive/Norma Evangelium Diaboli, on both formats with revised artwork. The CD version is now presented in a six-panel digipack, while the Lp comes on 180 gram vinyl. Here's the original review for the Utech version from when we had that in stock:
Finsternis comes to us more than two years since the release of Aluk Todolo's debut Descension,
where we were fully introduced to their harsh, blackened trance-rock. In the time since that disc came out, Aluk Todolo has
garnered a bit of critical acclaim for their recordings, while the members spent time working with other related projects, like the acid-fried garage psych ensemble Gunslingers and French black metallers Diamatregon, whose latest album Crossroad came out last year and itself seemed to be infected with a bit of Aluk Todolo's scorched avant-rock DNA. I've been lusting for new Aluk Todolo, though, and they finally returned earlier this year with this, their latest slab of evil psychedelia and blackened, malevolent krautrock.
Divided into four sections with a shorter interlude track in the middle of the album, Finsternis (German fir "Darkness") feels as if it is tied together with a larger concept, though nothing is spelled out through the song titles. The album begins with the simple pounding trance of "Premier Contact", a steady, minimalist drum beat steadily banging away while the guitars squeal and howl, emitting controlled bursts of feedback and strange noises, the guitarists scraping and stabbing at their instruments. This physical guitar assault often sounds like it could've been something off of an experimental prepared guitar piece, if it weren't for the incessant deathmarch drumming and general atmosphere of dread that hangs over the music. After awhile, creepier riffs start to emerge, and Aluk Todolo reveal their blackened heritage' these spidery minor-key figures take over, circling around and around through gales of feedback and amp noise. And it leads right into "Deuxième Contact", which stumbles for a quick moment as the band erupts into a frenzied rhythmic tangle, but then settles back down into a similar metronomic pulse, the death-clock tick-tock hammering in slow motion, that sinister slithering guitar melody gradually joined by ghostly sustained notes and weird electronic sounds in the distance, leading the album into ever creepier regions. As the album deepens, the guitars transform. They slowly build, first blooming from those droning buzzing chords and strangled string noises into that creeping graveyard melody, and then from there into sudden bursts of reverb-drenched psychedelic shred, and morose, blackened riffing.
The simple, ritualistic floor-tom throb that comprises the center track "Totalité" wipes the board, returning the band to the most basic, stripped-down percussive pulse. For several minutes, there is just the one drum, pounding in the blackness, but as the piece progresses, reaching tendrils of black amp fog and seething distorted electronics seep up from below, slowly overtaking the track with swarming, bacterial noise.
Then comes "Troisième Contact", and again the sound has intensified, the black metal aspect of Aluk Todolo's sound further defined as the guitars blast out in a black jet of crushing distorted tremolo-drone, swarming blackened riffing spreading out over the now thunderous drums. The guitars are a skygush of Skullflowery feedback-drone and murderous buzzsaw shred, and you can hear other dark, complex melodies unfolding beneath the roar of exploding amplifiers and rumbling detuned guitars. By the time you've reached the closer "Quatrième Contact", the album has drifted into a nightmarish form of psychedelic rock, the guitars slipping into wailing high-end chords and eerie wavering notes. In its final half, the song breaks apart into something more spacious and minimal, that blackened hypno-riff burning off into sheets of warm, shimmering guitar glazed in echo and delay. Still pretty ominous though, the band locking into a strange, desolate atmosphere in the end as an almost Morricone-like feel taking over, transforming this into something quite different than from where we started.