With all instruments, arrangements, production and mixing handled by one isolated soul, Oskoreien is essentially the solo black metal vehicle perfected. All accoutrements associated with one-manbands have been virtually excommunicated from Oskoreien’s self-titled debut album. The wafer thin guitars and pots-n-pans drumming of the swathes of mediocre solo projects that exist within the genre are banished in favour of a fully formed, bellowing distortion and a punishing rhythm section. Mastermind Jay Valena must be some sort of prodigy simply because, for a one-man job, the record’s sound is just inspirational to behold.
What makes Oskoreien even more interesting is Valena’s youth. To be composing albums of this calibre at 21 years old is nothing short of astounding. But enough about that, you will probably be wondering what particular calibre we are talking here. The answer is pretty damn high.
Oskoreien first came to LURKER’s attention last year, when the band’s 2009 demo was passed on to us. Emotive and majestic, the folk-informed black metal soundscapes paid as much tribute to the Viking brotherhoods of Europe as it did the burgeoning Cascadian scene, placing the project in a league of its own. The two tracks that made up the demo are reincarnated for the full-length, but now with an improved mix and three additional pieces.
This time around, ‘Illusions Perish’ takes the opening spot. The instinctive calls of nocturnal insects are sliced in two by a mournful guitar harmony then Oskoreien’s signature fury takes hold. Pounding, incessant drums underpin a glorious summoning of neo-classical melodies, epic in their scope and vision. From the word go, it’s easy to appreciate that the band is among the heaviest of the black metal ilk. This continues with a vengeance in the second track and new addition, ‘Entropic Collapse’. Sonorous, wailing feedback ushers in a crushing, mid-paced riff led by a cascading guitar line until all is halted by a colossal drum fill and the guitars descend into stomping dirgery that wouldn’t sound out of place on a sludge album. Immovable double-pedals form a percussive drone beneath the heaviness and the chugging chords almost seem to be constantly slowing down, without ever bending out of time.
Then it is to the banks of a babbling brook for an unexpected treat in the form of the acoustic track, ‘River of Eternity’. Here Valena really lets his musicianship shine through, exploring the folk and classical styles with a masterful proficiency. Although instrumental, the lyrics booklet explains its meaning as a reflection on the Siddhartha’s cyclical journey through “asceticism to the samsāra of worldly devotions and back”. It sets the scene perfectly for ‘Transcendence’, which also appeared on the demo as the opener with a gorgeous folk introduction. At 13 minutes in length, it is an epic tale of eternal war. Oskoreien bows out with another surprise as Valena reveals another talent hidden up his multi-instrumentalist’s sleeve. ‘Ashen Remains’ is a pensive piano-based piece, with a simple chord structure that stirs something deep within.
Oskoreien was released through Seventh Seal Recordings in late January on cassette. Order yours here and listen to the full album here. If you’re lucky you may be able to grab the package, which includes a quality t-shirt, a photo print and a download code (pictured). A CD will be available from China’s Pest Productions in the coming weeks. Oskoreien continues to go from strength to strength, and the mind boggles at what such a young, prodigal musician still has left to achieve over what will no doubt be a prosperous career. Don’t get left behind.