Is Beautiful

I don’t know much about black metal, but I’m pretty sure saying I prefer my BM to sound like Burzum’s Filosofem is like saying I like my punk rock to sound like Never Mind The Bollocks; it’s an unnecessary distinction to make, since it’s the blueprint that folks of that persuasion are either going to follow or willfully disregard when doing their thing. But while the folks I’ve heard that take after Filosofem (and presumably other black metal acts I’m not well versed it) nail specific sonic aspects — the monotonous double-time drumming, the wall-of-noise amplified strumming, the scorched-earth bellowing, the sepulchral ambiance — there’s often something missing to really make all these bits come together satisfactorily. (Thinking specifically of Xasthur, an act I like just fine, but often at a bit of a remove.) That’s nothing new, of course; folks emulating other folks don’t often reach the heights of their predecessors, at least not immediately.

That’s what impresses me the most about the out-of-print tape made by Atlanta’s Uberchriist. The Bandcamp stream above is available courtesy of the fine folks at Fan Death Records, who oroginally released the tape; the band has their own Bandcamp page, but it only features a couple of tracks from the tape (both for sale), as well as an alternate version of “Lord Of Paiin” from a self-released, and I assume out-of-print, CD-R. Both versions of the track — the best song I’ve ever heard about a sadistic monarch (sorry Sting) — are proudly lo-fi, but where the CD-R version is almost too murky to let the song see any light, the version on the Fan Death tape sounds crappy in just the right way. Instead of the poor sound being simply a matter of circumstance, the sonics are put to use in favor of the songs.

According to Wikipedia (which pulls its info straight from Burzum’s site), good ol Varg Vikernes wanted Filosofem to sound shitty on purpose. “No guitar amplifier was used; Vikernes plugged his guitar into the amplifier of his brother’s stereo and used an old fuzz pedal. He also asked a sound technician for the worst microphone he had and ended up using a headset as the microphone.” The poor recording conditions gave the songs a harsh texture, infusing even the most serene moments (like the 25-minute ambient track) with a certain dread. Uberchriist doesn’t mess around with any meditative detours, though; their songs come ready to kick down doors, make parents check their children’s rooms for demonic paraphernalia, and lodge themselves into listeners’ heads.

The black metal community, like most any musical subculture, is notoriously cliquey when it comes to standards and practices (see the kerfuffle that broke out when Liturgy deigned to release an album on Thrill Jockey), but by the sounds of tracks like “Frozen” or “Black Svpremacy,” they’re willing and able to winnow their way into the hearts of Kylesa / Torche / Converge / etc. fans. This assumes Uberchriist is still an ongoing concern, of course; search the web for them (don’t forget that second i), and you’ll find the group’s Bandcamp page, the group’s MySpace page (which features a song that’s not on the tape), Fan Death’s Bandcamp, and some discussion board posts about the group from a couple of years ago; no recent news to speak of. I’m holding out hope there’s more music to come, or my websearch skills are sorely lacking. However, if Uberchriist is a thing of the past, they left behind quite a corpse.

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