Released: 2011, Agonia Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
The Konsortium is a mysterious Norwegian outfit that’s been percolating since ’03, but has only recently released their self-titled debut. The contributors to the band wish to remain anonymous, each known only as “Member” and a corresponding number, and appearing in public wearing Phantom of the Opera styled masks (not to mention some good looking suits) that give the quartet a ghostly, milquetoast appearance. Shticky? Absolutely, and if the album wasn’t so good, I’m sure the metal community would be having a hearty collective laugh at their expense. But indeed, it is very good. THE KONSORTIUM is an eclectic and intense fusion of avante garde black metal in the vein of Emperor, Arcturus, and latter day Mayhem and Satyricon. In an age where black metal seems to be regressing into who can sound the sloppiest with the worst production, The Konsortium is a fiendish example of black metal at its best.
From the first track to the last, The Konsortium presents itself as a very disciplined and technically savvy outfit. The performances are exceptionally tight, with each song packing in loads of structured riffs deployed at such an accelerated pace that the picking speed often sounds like wafting resonance from the guitars. The songs tend to fall into expected modern black metal contrivances, but they use the genre definitions as a framework to build some genuinely interesting tunes. You’ve got the deliberately controlled mid-paced anthems (“Under the Black Flag”, “Decomposers”), the old school blackened thrash (“Knokkeklang”, “Onwards, Onwards”), and the generally diabolical (everything else). “Lik Ulven” (translated as “Like the Wolf”) and “Tesla” are conceptually polar opposites, but they speak the loudest of the album’s 8 tracks. You can feel the kinetic energy in the former as the brewing hostility bubbles higher and higher, while the latter is more cerebral and unconventional. And no, from everything that I can gather, “Tesla” is not homage to the 80’s rockers of the same name.
Sonically, THE KONSORTIUM is a powerful album. The production is very slick and clean, the instruments bright and crisp; you can hear and feel every “crunch” as the guitar pick hits the strings. Speaking of, I’m not sure if the guitar sound is layered or if the tone is just especially warm, but it provides a crucial foundation to the band’s sound. It’s a lesson that other bands on the playing field could learn from. The vocals range from Ihsahn styled wails, King Diamond falsettos, and traditional growly scowls, with the varying personalities often layered upon each other, almost acting as an instrument itself. Which raises another point – everything on the THE KONSORTIUM is driven by vocals/guitar/bass/drums. The wealth of atmosphere created by just using such simple organic ingredients comes across exponentially heavier than if it were diluted with synths and keyboards. Take that as another lesson that some bands could learn from.
THE KONSORTIUM has been rightfully earning some good press as of late, as the album debuted at #96 on the Norwegian charts. I haven’t a clue how that compares to any other metal album in Norway, but the event made plenty of headlines, so take that as you will. The drought of quality black metal has persisted for way too long, and The Konsortium is a welcomed reprieve. I think the dark lord himself would be pretty stoked about this one…