Skarab
Skarab

The guys over at Zeitgeister Music sure are creative, I’ll give ’em that. That’s the small German label responsible for avant-garde black metal act Klabautamann, the opulent and tragic Woburn House and the hoary progressive doom of Valborg, among others. It’s an incestuous collective, with the members freely circulating from one act to another, and so now here’s the latest mutation, a strange cabaret-like project called Skarab from Klabautamann’s Tim Steffens and featuring the remarkable vocals of Christian Kolf.

If you’ve heard Woburn Hourse, Valborg or Island, you’ll recognize Kolf right away. He’s got a rich, somnolent baritone, which he shapes into a musical croak one moment, or a smooth and flowing lament the next. With Skarab, he’s allowed to be a lot more playful as well, twisting his vocals into Tom Waits-like croons, soft murmurs and forbidding spoken word.

The music is equally as playful, though it paints with a largely bleak and miserable palette – kind of the arty, grungy, alt-doom version of Woburn House. It sounds like the kind of thing Peter Steele and Layne Staley might be playing right now in whatever shadowy underworld they’ve consigned themselves to. Once David Bowie kicks over, he can join them too – there’s a lot here that recalls his otherworldly brand of strut and theatrics.

All of this sounds good on paper, but the record is kind of a snooze. The lurching, leg-dragging pace of tracks like “Heat,” “Stone Torches” or “The Rabbi of Weeds” are appropriately doomy, but the simplistic riffing sounds like it’s been exhumed from a ’90s grunge bargain bin. More progressive tracks like “Horus,” with its chiming, progressive wanderings and thumping bass work, or “I Am the Winding Stair,” with its more insistent rhythm and haunting melody, are more compelling and listenable, but on the whole, I’ve found this a chore to get through every time I’ve put it on – despite Kolf’s obvious talents and the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of Steffens’ work in the past (particularly Klabautamann‘s Merkur, a shining example of black/progressive metal that’s a must-listen for any fan of Enslaved or Ihsahn).

Ultimately, this will appeal to those of you who like odd, avant-garde material like Tom Waits and Scott Walker, doom fans looking for something outside the norm, or fans of the aforementioned Zeitgeister acts. It just wasn’t for me.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
October 29th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: ElGueroSinFe

    You didn’t listen closely enough. I love this release.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Sure I did, I just didn’t like it. Tell us why you love it.


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