I was first introduced to Dodheimsgard thanks to ‘666 International’, recently re-issued via the mighty Peaceville imprint, and was instantly caught up by how utterly different the band sounded from anything else on the market at that time. ‘666 International’ was the band’s third album, and just as it was a far cry from Dodheimsgard’s previous releases, so ‘Supervillain outcast’, the band’s fourth full-length outing showcased yet further disregard for conventional wisdom with Vocotnik and his merry men crafting an album that not only tore up the black metal rule book, but pissed on it for good measure. The notion of ‘expect the unexpected’ is so often employed as a meaningless cliché, devoid of substance by the stunningly unexpected nature of most mainstream music, but here it is entirely apt as the band employ any, and every, dizzying and disorientating device they can think of to keep the listener off balance.
Opening with a brilliantly realised synth track, ‘Dushman’ is the sound of a Moroccan street fair filtered through a speaker placed deep inside a bucket of water before segueing into the brutal ‘vendetta assassin’ which is more-or-less typical black metal fare with raging, treble-laden guitars and brain damaging percussive assault to the fore. It doesn’t last – as the track progresses increasingly digital elements slowly appear, adding a glistening electronic sheen to the blisteringly intense metal and piquing the interest. It all stops as suddenly as it started and then ‘the snuff dreams are made of’ invades the consciousness with its multi-layered percussion and industrial elements firmly to the fore. Atypical ethnic influences, frankly insane synth elements and a firm death metal base give a fair impression of what might have been if Fear Factory had grown up in Africa whilst listening to Celtic Frost on perpetual rotation – it’s unique, exhilarating and utterly demented and it sounds amazing. ‘Horrorizon’ sees the band unleashing brutal riffs over scattershot samples and unsettling elements, creating an atmosphere that slips between superficial metal ferocity and a deeper, malevolent sense of deep unease that sees the band take on a bizarre chorus that recalls noting so much as the crust punk fury of Amebix although, as with the previous track, such is the level of invention that the description above barely covers half of what you’ll find on the track. ‘Foe x foe’ is a menacing piece, all slithery guitars and syncopated rhythms, overtopped with vocals torn from the very mouth of hell itself. This is in utter contrast to the Gregorian-styled vocal harmonies of the ominous, subtly beautiful ‘Secret identity’ which will come as a surprise to many following the brutal outpourings found elsewhere on the album.
Following on from the digression of ‘secret identity’, ‘the vile delinquents’ is a devastating industrial/crust attack on the senses which is part latter-day Samael, part Amebix wrapped up in a black metal sensibility that sees emotion sucked from the song until all that remain is a monochrome fury, terrifying in its intensity. ‘Unaltered beast’ seems to follow straight on, the guitars a churning, atonal mass that spit and stutter out the main riff over jazzy drums and the beguiling cry of “come see the freaks” which succeeds in sounding far more punk than metal with its snotty intonation and tobacco-damaged rasp. ‘Apocalypticism’ is pure industrial metal showcasing just how far ahead of the curve Dodheimsgard were when they recorded this back in 2003 whilst ‘chrome balaclava’ is another piece of remarkable vocal harmony work that would, and I hesitate to write this, sound not out of place on a Simon and Garfunkel record. The remarkably titled ‘ghostforce soul constrictor’, in contrast, would most certainly not grace a Simon and Garfunkel record with its full-on guitars and rampant screams creating a storm within the confines of your living room, although it does take a mind-altering Rumba detour half way through which is liable to raise not a few eyebrows. ‘All is not self’ is a slower, moodier piece that, oddly, recalls Radiohead’s Aphex Twin loving detour of ‘Kid A’, eclectic clearly being the watchword of the band at this juncture. Yet for all that these digressions should damage the flow of the record, such is the skill f the musicians involved that nothing sounds out of place or forced, and the record sounds coherent seemingly despite its myriad influences.
Of the remaining tracks ‘Supervillain serum’ is a brilliantly brutal piece of black metal magic, augmented with industrial armour that adds depth and intrigue to an otherwise straightforward blast of toxic metal. ‘Cellar door’ is the briefest of vocal segues and then ‘21st Century Devil’ rounds out this most unusual of music journeys with a piece that is both heavy and restrained, ugly and beautiful all at once. It is a fine finale to an album that calls to mind a carefully-worked soundtrack to a densely plotted film with black metal elements playing off perfectly against the synth parts which add depth and colour to the overall feel of the music.
Of course, this being one of Peaceville’s re-issues, there are extra tracks to contend with too. In this case they have happily been reserved for a second disc which features not only a left over track from the sessions – ‘senseoffender’ – but also six instrumental tracks from the original album rehearsal. In the liner notes Vicotnik suggests plenty of reasons why these demos should never have been released, but then, upon reflection, he points out that “you have the 18th March 2003 between 19:00 and 23:00. A private moment in space and time never meant to be revealed at all. A random glimpse inside the inner workings of DHG set in a context where the task and ambition still is unrealized and unknown.” This, for many, will be reason enough to hear these raw, unpolished and yet somehow fascinating works. Bear in mind that of all the bands to unleash demo tracks within the black metal community, Dodheimsgard are arguably one of the most ambitious and unusual acts and this rare glimpse afforded into the band’s highly creative mindset is an unmissable opportunity for fans of the band. The sound is, of course, very rough, but there is a certain naive charm in the way the band developed their sound, through tracks like ‘personality transplant’ which show a band working hard to continue the development of their unique identity, not to mention the raw power of Czral’s powerful drumming, something Vicotnik plays tribute too in the notes.
If you don’t already own this brilliant piece of music now is the time to rectify your mistake, especially as it is now offered both on CD and on vinyl, but even if you do own the record but yearn for a greater understanding of how it came to be, then this reasonably priced and beautifully packaged re-issue will prove to be of value to you. Top marks, then, for an album that is gloriously inventive; and top marks too for a reissue that offers up a real treat for long-serving fans of a special band.