Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink …
As some of you already know, from 1995 to 1998, a completely unique Austrian band was making strange musical shapes with such an unusual twist that, after a while, expections for a new album started to rise high into the sky. What were Niederwieser and his allies going to explore this time around? Their last opus, Dead like an Angel, which had been at first a real trauma, now pointed in all possible directions: everything could be done from that starting point. Only consisting of a trio on WaterHells, guitarist, vocalist, bassist and keyboardist Niederwieser, drummer Neuner and keyboardist Tschirner are clearly on for a vast odyssey. If you watch closely the album’s covert art, which seems at first kind of slightly nude and even new-agish, you can understand that here, both the sea and the cosmos are going to musically communicate with each others. The insert drawings and collages mix up astrology, religious symbols, hell fires, nude angels and serene oceanic burbles. Should that give you at least an idea of the subsequent musical concoctions to which KorovaKill sold their soul to? I think so, yeah.
WaterHells slowly starts grooving along after a brief watery introduction, and honestly, I was quite surprised to notice how apparently simple the first few songs are: repetitive metal riffing, some ambient synthesizers in the background, the now beautifully produced vocalisations of Niederwieser both growling and singing in his now-famous untuned and bizarre harmonies, and a good, solid backbone drumming adding a deep foundation underneath it all. Needless to say, my disappointment was quite hard to dismiss. But what KorovaKill loose in pure demence, they gain it back with a droning, massive hypnotic quality that hadn’t been shown on their previous efforts. The sound, in particular, has been treated with great vision. After a while, I got to appreciate this and suddenly WaterHells made much more sense to me. One also has to specifically mention Neuner’s performance behind the drumkit, because what he does there is so well-constructed, fluent and natural-sounding, always filled with subtle cymbal works and titanesque groove tom-kick constructions. He’s up there with both Hellhammer and Czral, that’s for sure!
You can split the album in three principal moments so to speak. Firstly, a dark and enchanting monument of oceanic metallic songs where the band are cradling you with biting dronescapes and effectively basic compositional structures: you’re introduced to an infinite sea and without noticing it, you let yourself go with the flow. Secondly, a few theatrical voices accompany soft-sounding brushes of ambient, jazzy, industrial orchestrations and sometimes more melancholic shorter songs: you don’t know what you’re doing there, alone, among all these growing waves. And thirdly, all Hell breaks loose! This is where I’d say what we had previously discovered in the three first Korova records resurfaces with a new, perhaps more metal-rooted but still inherently different and off-key musical demography. Here come lightning-fast blast beats and furious archaic screams, crazy clownesque and looped pianos, uneasy singing malaises, amazing groovy drum fills and bewildering atmospheres. These songs are extremely catchy and never fail to have me move together with their weird but ass-warming symphonies.
But what’s even more surprising is that KorovaKill, throughout all these changing tempos, succeed in keeping the sinking ship theme well alive and prominent. In other words, there’s almost a tragedian emotion linking every shift of mood together, as if an undesired, unfornate yet inevitable event was on the verge of happening. All the album, especially the third moment, eventually leads us to this heartfelt conclusion where everything is falling apart for real. So as a conceptual entity, it really is a success. I’m not much talking about the lyrics here because in my case, at least within this album, the music alone uses a primal language that I can easily connect with, but they’re once again very poetic and do lend inspiring psychedelic mental images along the music; this time around, lyricist Niederwieser is even telling a myth-like story that’s quite fascinating, but you’ll have to read it for yourself.
All in all, this is a very well-produced as well as a very varied album, and I think it’s almost like a résumé of what KorovaKill had been trying to reach out for in their older incarnations. Of course, much of the out-there weirdness found on albums such as Dead Like An Angel and Echowelt is now much more subtle, but once I finally accepted that and started listening to WaterHells for what it is and not for what I had wanted it to be, I’ve seriously discovered a powerful organ of oceanic metal that not only doesn’t resemble anything else, but also is the closest to what a 21st century avant-garde musical tragedy could sound like.
To cross the final Frontier
To reach the deepest Sky
To dive beyond the Shores of Time
01 – Birth
02 – WaterHells
03 – Drown Symphony
04 – Into The Underwhirls
05 – The Bleeding Lap Of Undines
06 – Blue Thrones
07 – All Statues Leave Their Stones
08 – The ShadowHordes
09 – It’s A Fools World
10 – Lord Golden Blizzard
11 – Within The Sunstorm
12 – Through Neptunes Broken Nets