Eikenskaden - 665.999...
Black Metal
9 songs (41:50)
Release year: 2004
Reviewed by Misha

For black metal standards, Eikenskaden’s latest effort has a very unorthodox logo and even more disturbing artwork. The cover art could be the output of the average rock or nu-metal band, and the pictures in the booklet lack any form of grimness. Still, this is pitch-black metal. As a band releasing such extreme music, while maintaining close to no image at all is interesting, its history seems even more attractive.

The band’s bigger brother, Mystic Forest, formed in 1997 and was the project of Stefan Kozak. After three unique demos, he came up with one of the best black metal releases ever to see the light: Green Hell. Its basis firmly placed upon fundamental sounds like that of Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal, while both guitar and piano independently developed highly creative and unquestionably neoclassical solos over the already solid riffs, this truly was a masterpiece of recent black art. For some reason, Stefan decided to start a similar project called Eikenskaden after , releasing its Black Laments Symphonie in 2001. At about the same time, Mystic Forest released Welcome Back Into The Forest, introducing female vocals to the mix. Surprisingly, Stefan decided to make the sequel for Green Hell on Eikenskaden, and took a more progressive path with Mystic Forest. On the later Waltz In The Midst Of Trees and the recent Romances, Mystic Forest gained more and more progressive elements, however without really discarding their roots or loosing on quality. It seems that in the meantime, Eikenskaden remained something like a relief valve for Stefan to throw everything out. The Black Laments Symphonie was followed up by The Last Dance, an album that might be greater than the already excellent debut, and maybe even surpassed Green Hell. Out of that, it is easily concluded that I was profanely eager to hear this new opus, but unfortunately I was slightly disappointed.

After the short yet emotional intro, partly on piano, the music explodes into the first song. If this is the first thing you hear something by the band, the sheer amount of treble might come as a shock. Ulver-values pop into mind when describing the production, however the vocals have a slightly different finish, which sound more like recorded through a cellphone. In that aspect the production doesn’t seem any different from any other output of Stefan Kozak’s two bands: the guitars sound blasphemously raw, the melodies are crystal clear, and the drums are thundering. On a decent installation, the bass is even audible at times.

The one thing that is really special about the two bands is the quantity of emotion that Stefan manages to transmit trough his music. While the riffage is already quite sorrowful on itself, the music gets really gloomy and melancholic when the soloing kicks in. Although Kozak used to throw in everything together: good riffs, insane drumming, desperate shrieks and solos on both piano and guitar, all independently elaborating on their own structures, resulting in a kind of baroque styled chaos, yet still holding the essence of very evident melancholy, he now seems more laid back. I suppose his creativity was exploited on the recent Romances, so it’s quite logical this album is not as strong as its predecessors.

As I said, the albums sounds very much like Stefan’s other albums, however there are some differences in the guitar department. The solo part is not as impressive as it used to be. Kozak is a very good guitarist, especially for black metal standards, yet for some reason he added less blisteringly fast soloing parts, and the piano solos seem entirely gone. It used to be amazing to hear both guitar and piano battle for leadership, which element seems vanished for the moment. Still, this album contains some very strong moments, and the overall is pretty good. Some extremely powerful riffs are present that are not all ordinary BM tremolo picking, and the few fast solos that appear are solid gold. Again, those seem to be done on a jazz guitar or another guitar with very thin strings, resulting in a very sharp yet emotional tone that totally fits the genre. There is one solo done by someone else, Gabriel Palmieri. However he handles his guitar quite differently, he is said to be one of the very best solo guitarists in France. Palmieri has done more work with Kozak in the past and appears on one song. His solo is more the hard rock type, yet seems to fit in the black whole quite well and gives it a slight French feeling like recent Mystic Forest CD’s. For some reason, the rest of the album seems to have a gentle French sounds as well. However this may seem interesting, the romantic French melodies slightly contradict with the chilling sound of black gloominess. Another complaint is that between the killing components, the album is a little mediocre and stretched and some parts tend to get a little boring. The songstructures are quite standard for the genre, yet in some places not as vital and creative as on previous albums, resulting in the slight monotony mentioned.

The vocals didn’t really change: utterly raw telephone style screaming, yet still able to express the emotion shaped by the melancholic melodies. Seemingly a little laid back compared to the faster and more chaotic previous works, this obviously fits the less hostile music better. Again, the lyrics are pretty fine works of dark yet not very malevolent poetry, exclaimed in pure agony and without any trace of articulation. Even if you read along, it’s hard to follow Stefan’s shrieks. The vocals aren’t put too high in the mix yet the whole sometimes overshadows the drums. As usual, the ever selfdestructive drummachine takes revenge every now and then with its creative and inhumane programming. On this album there seem to be more parts where the drums are more standard and less artistic. This fits the more suppressed style but the kamikaze drumprograms always added to the baroque style that made Kozak’s work so unique. 665.999… is still pretty authentic though, and you will not find any other music close to the sound of this album. Even the earlier mentioned Nattens Madrigal album seems fairly remote.

Summed up, this is a solid release yet overshadowed by the rest of the discography of both Mystic Forest and Eikenskaden. Black metal fans should get albums like Green Hell, The Black Laments Symphonie and The Last Dance first, while other interested metalheads should try to get into the later outputs of Mystic Forest, preferably Romances. I’m pretty sure Eikenskaden will come up with a killing release in a year or so, because that’s exactly what Stefan did with the equally disappointing Waltz In The Midst Of Trees as well. Kozak will return…

Killing Songs :
Funeral March and Absolute Zero.
Misha quoted 60 / 100
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