Dead Earth - Et Disperdam Illud
(Chaos Records, 2024)


When I think of classic era black metal and I think of what has been released from Sweden over the years, Algaion are one of the bands at the top of my list.  Together with Sorhin, Parnassus, Octinomos, Nefandus and several others, they were part of an untouchable conglomerate that typified absolutely underground, independent, misanthropic black metal from those early years of the second wave.  I still remember fondly ordering from Henry Moeller in those days and continually being blown away by everything I was hearing; his recommendations were almost always spot on.  Algaion were at the top for me... and I consider Oimai Algeiou and the Vox Clamentis mini-album in specific as some of the best black metal ever created.  I bring all of this up because the man behind those creations was Mathias Kamijo, and Dead Earth is his new project which unexpectedly appeared online in 2022 as a digital only release.  Even if I don’t give a shit about digital-only releases, I didn’t think twice to nab it... Algaion was progressively losing power in its last few releases, their last album recorded in 2010, so I was curious what he was up to.  With this long introduction I can get to the core of what I want to say, and that’s that Dead Earth is mediocre to a point that it makes me really question my own taste!  What happened to this guy?  Or did something happen to me that I feel absolutely fucking nothing from this?  I won’t skip around it... listening to Dead Earth one can hear a musician with decades of experience, the execution of fairly complex mid-paced black metal you get here is objectively well done, he has the talents of power metal drummer Kim Arnell, also at one time of Nephenzy Chaos Order, in his orbit, but the melodies and emotional center of these tracks is so absolutely uninspired, so colorless, so drab, so dead as the band name indicates...  There is a melancholic feel to the riffs, such as the main rather gloom ridden riff of Lazurite Throne, and Speaking Silence has a bit of a depressive black metal vibe, but behind the professionalism and slickness of execution it all feels so simulated and fake to me like much of today’s Swedish scene as a whole.  I don’t feel any actual pain or grief or emotion at all coming from this music as I did with Algaion.  This admittedly could be in part because Mårten Björkman’s unparalleled shredded vocal screams are not part of this picture.  At least half of the reason why Algaion was and is so special to me is Mårten’s absolutely killer vocals.  He is one of my favorite black metal vocalists.  Assuming Mathias is singing on this album it’s all so pedestrian, to such a degree that the female vocals actually add some positive respite to this release, though her vocals and the clean singing likewise do nothing.  It’s all so cliché, so by the numbers.  Now I will be fair: listening to this album closely again while writing this, having discarded an old burn I made of it a year ago, I am perceiving more detail than before, there is no question that there is sophistication and considerable planning to this release; the issue is that I am not finding any center.  As someone who has been involved in this style and listening to the music as long as myself he should know how fucking second-hand this stuff sounds by now and how vital it is to do something different.  But that is not the case.  While Mathias played in a lot of bands over the years, not just Algaion, I would argue even Vergelmer had more to offer than Dead Earth.  ET DISPERDAM ILLUD (And I Will Scatter It in Latin) fills all of the checkboxes except for “Do I care about this album?”.  That one is left blank.  This sounds good, is well performed, but is just too forgettable for all of its planning, and that’s what I find most irritating of these modern releases given the incredibly memorable, emotional and evocative music these same guys have done in the past... Who knows?  Maybe with this out of his system he will record another great Algaion album in the future, I wouldn’t miss it especially if they get Mårten on again, but I have no great expectations.

Read more of my reviews in issue 10 of Convivial Hermit, order here.