| What to “like” of a band? How to approach their oeuvre? Should one jump readily and without further ado at the first release that catches the eye or rather ear and remain at this very spot? Should reviews play a major role or some type of recommendation, like generally provided on Youtube? A definite answer appears to be futile and maybe not even necessary. Yet, somehow this aspect is of some importance in terms of this band. What would be the output that one should put their first and maybe even foremost attention on? The debut demo or the second one? Both are somewhat distinct and have their own touch as well as charm. Nevertheless, there is a stark difference between them and this should not be cast aside lightly or even ignored. Also in terms of the band's legacy as well as the overall impact on the (black) metal scene, an untangling of the these might prove to be of value. It is the melancholic black metal of the first or the vast bleakness of the second release?
“End of Life” is a step away from the Malfeitor demos. It breathes the air of black metal, but does not sound as if it wants to impose it. Melodies float by, fill the air and appear rather like an invitation or presentation than an imperative. It feels like a narrative, a story that is being expressed, while the music plays along and fills the void. It has no focus. Somehow it feels as if the lyrics could be entirely absent and an endless (?) flow of the melodies would be what's left to enjoy and to experience. Strid thought otherwise and for two short vague moments the continuity is shattered and the listener is able to glimpse into a realm beyond the immediate and comforting. Yes, comforting because the steadiness in the melodies and arrangements are unable to prolong their luring of the mind, as the ghastly horror of the black metal is thrown towards the listener. The real (authentic?) thing is revealed, while everything else had been the illusion everyone was ready to buy into. At times the music comes over something that attempts to transcend and reach out to something else. Even the part with the vocals is rather like a conclusion than an opening of something new. The title reflects the music in the intention and direction, in the atmosphere and the spirit.
What makes this release strange is how it avoids from going somewhere. Motives vanish and re-appear, as do the vocals, and as if everything had been drained of all energy and has therefore to circle around itself. Somehow the voice needs to wait until all power has been gathered for a burst of unintelligible expressing of words. Yet, it is still necessary to emphasize on how positive the music feels and how little of torment or even of desperation can be felt. There is a vague vitality, a stampeding of the drums and of solos parts that create short emotional bursts. If indeed the music is supposed to be understood as some kind of ending of life, then it is viewed through the lens of philosophy and therefore rather with a smile on the face instead of a desperate, fearful attitude towards the issue. Death is here rather a harsh break in the flow of life with a disrupting effect, than a point which would mark the end of a long painful struggle.
The track is like an outro. It leads to death, whose realm is somewhere, but it is unbeknownst to all man. A veil of mystery hangs around it all and this is terrifying to a good many people. “End of Life” is music without a direction. The voice is certain of itself and quite self-aware, which appears to be the opposite on the succeeding release, where the voice has a rather uncertain, contemplative and has a melancholic touch. The iciness in the sound does not leave any room for keyboards for instance. Nothing from a release like For All Tid could be imagined to appear in this one long composition. Or variations in the vocals like Forgotten Woods had added them to their music. While minimalist, additional elements would mark a disturbance and a disruption of the focus. The drums open the track and they demand attention. To wander off into other realms is not tolerated. They set the pace and no one else.
Originally released under the band Battle, the demo “End of Life” has definitely left its impact on the black metal scene; especially on the Norwegian one. It is a fine example on how very little can achieve a lot. All circles around some basic ideas, which are used and repeated excessively. Yet, their quality and their arrangement leave the listener attentive and fascinated, which is something a lot of other bands of the depressive black metal genre fail to achieve. Strid placed the emphasis on progression and atmosphere, while other bands prefer to express emotions and state of mind. Comfort versus solitude. It is by no means perfect, but one is reminded now and then that it exists and how it has left its impact. It can be found in a small niche, for those who dare to look around a bit.