My, oh my. Grimmest album in a long time. Best collection of cover versions that i can think of. For ?My Firstborn Will Surely Be Blind?, Smolken has recorded black metal versions of, nay, assaults on country and folk tunes. Thus, traditionals like ?A Rosebud in June? or ?Sheep-Crook, Black Dog? get the abrasive treatment, together with tracks by artists as diverse as Neko Case, Townes van Zandt, Japanese songwriter Kazuki Tomokawa, and Cole Porter (!). If you should think this selection was eccentric or eclectic, well, it is, but wait until you hear the actual versions.
While Smolken usually leant to the slower side of doom with his Wolfmangler project, Dead Raven Choir has never shied away from folkier atmospheres and mid-tempo parts. This release, I think, sees DRC move deep into Wolfmangler territory, as Smolken squeals his way from Tomokawa?s ?Kigi Wa Haru? through to G-Frenzy?s ?From the Stars? (the original featured on the ?Eel Creek? cdr on Pseudoarcana): There is, in true Wolfmangler fashion, no guitar used on this recording. ?Metal sounds better without guitars? has become Smolken?s credo, and this album definitely is a case in point. It?s all about bass, then, and bass fiddle. Smolken?s characteristic approach to that instrument is well known, at least since his ?Dwelling In a Dead Raven for the Glory of Crucified Wolves? album under the Wolfmangler moniker. At times the screeching noises remind me of Johannes Frisch, who, as part of Kammerflimmer Kollektief, also sometimes appears to strangle his instrument ? especially when he stands hunchbacked to manipulate the bass neck with a string?s loose end. But while Frisch usually remains within a clearly defined experimental, academic framework, Smolken has apparently stepped out into Eastern European woods and into a genre for which dementedness has become a stock praise in record reviews. The technology used to record this album points into the same direction. ?Everything was recorded using a Polish stereo microphone from the 1970s?, the press release quotes Smolken, ?mixed and mastered using headphones of roughly the same age and provenance and a more modern pair of PC speakers which I got for free from a guy who paid about $6 for them?. Indeed, production quality isn?t exactly a selling point here (or at least not in any conventional sense), meaning that the info on the album?s genesis is either correct or at least made up brilliantly. It truly is an unbelievable listening experience. And there?s even more to come ? a collection of country cover versions is apparently already recorded. Expect a Smolkenian rendition of ?Folsom Prison Blues?. 9/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (12 February, 2008)