Absolute keys to fire and dust


Release year: 2022
Label: Nekrogoat Heresy Productions

Describing something as a mixture of industrial and black metal will most likely conjure up all kinds of rather disparate images in people’s minds. Some will think of machinized beats and buzzsawing guitars a’la Mysticum or Blacklodge, some may think of the blackened death industrial of Mz. 412, whilst yet others might conjure up images of black noise a’la Abruptum, Stalaggh and Emit in their mind’s eye. Or why not the outsider cacophony of Wold? There’s not too much common ground between any of these, yet all are some kind of mutations between industrial/noise and black metal.

And yet, despite the considerable breadth of style between the above, there still are blind areas for an act combining these two styles to land into. And with this intro, you’ve probably already guessed that Absolute Key is such an act. That was pretty obvious, wasn’t it?

Finnish one-man act Absolute Key released their first material in 2019, and have been quite prolific since. Discogs lists 16 releases, which means an average of four releases per year. Sundust is one of the two full-lengths released in 2022 – we’ll return to the second one, The Third Level Of Decay, at a later stage.

I admit I haven’t heard everything Absolute Key has released, but based on the releases I am familiar with, I’d say the act places itself more on the industrial side of the industrial/black metal dichotomy of their expression. So too does Sundust: whilst by no means a purist industrial release, there’s more of that than extreme metal in the mix. This means repetitive bassy drones, churning synths, distorted layers of white noise and forceful percussive elements like banging iron bars and metal plates. There are elements that give Sundust a darkly metallic edge, but I’d say they are just that: secondary elements giving an essentially industrial noise backbone a bit of a twist.

Consisting of two long tracks, Sundust is an album that allows its compositions to evolve, meander and expand without hurry. The first of the two tracks, The Sun That Divides, eschews virtually all blackened elements for rather old school noisy industrial. There’s an arid, desolate quality to the music: this is not abrasive, confrontational or aggressive in the way more modern noisy industrial tends to be. No, it brings more to mind early Einstürzende Neubauten mixed with the earlier works of Current 93 – I know the latter is one of the most significant influences for Absolute Key. Especially the combination of clanging-on-metal percussion, rather stripped-down industrial noise and gruff shouted vocals bring to mind the very earliest albums of the mighty Neubauten.

Somewhat paradoxically, where The Sun That Divides starts out featuring prominent electric guitar – though more in an atmospheric, meandering type of way as opposed to playing riffs – second track Fire And Dust kicks off with industrialized percussion and distorted electronics. However, over time, more conventional percussive patterns kick in, later joined by an organ playing something approximating even a melody. When slighty distorted, viciously snarling demonic vocals join the fray, it’s easy to spot the black metal element at work. But it’s still very, very far removed from any traditional black metal.

The end result is an album of intriguingly twisted esoteric electronics. The two tracks share common ground, but still stand in strong contrast to each other, giving the album a certain dual nature. Overall, there’s a certain eschatonic element permeating the album, but not so much gloomy apocalyptic visions or imagery of hellfire and brimstone. Instead of of cities crumbling and the world tumbling down, Sundust paints visions of an arid desert of bones ground to dust slowly simmering and smouldering under an oppressive sun turned from life-giver to death-giver. Sundust paints visions of a world that is already dead, and the last vestiges of existence locked in fatalistic death cults.

In terms of both industrial and black metal, Sundust is in many ways “outsider music”. Whilst the first track as a whole is somewhat more “traditional” industrial, the second one goes well beyond that ken. And from a black metal viewpoint, there’s nothing conventional or easy to swallow on offer here. But as a mutation of two disparate strands of music, Absolute Key finds an interestic dynamic between them, and from it have created an album which might require a special kind of listener – but to one such, is quite a rewarding experience.

Visit Absolute Key on Bandcamp or Facebook

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