It’s 2016, and atmospheric black metal bands are a dime a dozen. Any willing individual has the means to recycle a Cascadian riff, edit an eerie nature photo for a cover, and release their compositions to the world. This is not to say that the scene is bogged down – there are plenty of bands out there who succeed and excel at the genre, and keep things interesting – but it must be admitted that, especially in recent years, things have become a bit formulaic. But! A band with a completely distinctive aesthetic, a well-thought out and conceptually continuous mode of presentation, and a uniquely exposed, minimal, and bone-chilling sound? That’s a rarer find, and also a perfectly accurate description of what Belgium’s ALKERDEEL bring to the table with Lede, their first full-length album since 2012’s Morinde.
In recent years, with releases like The Abyss Stares Back and Dyodyo Asema, a collaboration with GNAW THEIR TONGUES, Alkerdeel have been exploring realms of blackened, ambient doomnoise and experimenting with material that’s heftier, deeper, and more long-winded than was their initial style. Their split with A DEN OF ROBBERS showcases a very different band, one with immediately accessible classic doom grooves, and abrasive minor-scale noise rock riffs all buried within a lo-fi, static blur. Lede has effectively found a happy medium between those two poles, with a stripped-down production and songwriting style that mixes succinct black n’ roll with epic, atmospheric melodies, even within the span of a single track like closer “Grat Deleenaf.” The record sounds incredibly clean and straightforward, while retaining an underlying air of weirdness and discomfort, a sense of raw, naked vulnerability – made even more apparent by the fact that every instrument seems to instinctually know its place and alternate freely between participating in the warm, repetitive hum, echoing to the forefront on occasion to show off briefly and beautifully, and then reverberating back again. “Regardez Ses Yeux III” begins with an emphasized, catchy black metal riff, accented by thin, prominent guitar tone, and the title track follows suit with a fairly succinct, punky anthem. The band’s trademark inhuman vocals and experimental soundscapes (demonstrated on “Regardez Ses Yeux” I and II) certainly continue to bring the chaos, but overall Lede comes across as the most focused and specifically structured work Alkerdeel have yet composed. It’s a powerful, trancelike album, one that makes it easy to forget that it’s humans who are playing this music…
Alkerdeel’s appeal, though, spans far beyond the sounds they produce. Between the angular, nude sound of Lede and the surreal, unsettling videos the band releases, it’s clear they know how to play off of our primal fear of weirdness, of not-quite-rightness, of what we don’t know. Their music is dark, distorted, and troubled, and injects its own disturbing energy into the listener. It’s an impression that sticks, one that needs to be seen and heard to be believed, and one that proves Alkerdeel deserving of their notoriety throughout the underground. They are quite simply a special, unusual black metal band, and one who gives you a lot of reasons to be excited for their newest magnum opus.