Alraune: The Process of Self-Immolation And Interpreting The All-Consuming
In essence, black metal has always been about its worldview. From the earliest, basest Norwegian rawness to more recent atmospheric explorations, every good artist has possessed underlying currents of select qualities – resistance and ritual, history and prescience. These qualities and their fluctuation have upheld that worldview as a mutable and adaptable entity, and it’s what’s allowed black metal to evolve, push its boundaries, and stay compelling for so long. Nashville’s much-hyped newcomers Alraune continue this trend with their debut album The Process of Self-Immolation, a raw-yet-cathartic work of modern black metal. Though Alraune may be less ambitious compositionally and timbrally than some of their peers, they’re no less thorough in their aural constructions. Their simple structures and dense atmospheres don’t forget the primal origins of their genre, culminating in a promising debut that leaves us thinking and wanting more.
The Process of Self-Immolation is one of the first albums I’ve really clicked with in terms of understanding how raw production can magnify music rather than minimize it. Details aren’t laid out for us in such an obvious way, and listening to the grittiness of slight rhythmic irregularities in a track like “Simulacra” (5:19) compels further (and repeat) listens. Bands like to create atmosphere through abuse, repetition, and redundancy of forms, such that the lines and phrases of the music aren’t so much individual voices as they are fragments of a massive, impermeable whole. This music often draws attention away from itself rather than towards itself. It encourages subtle absorption and subconscious influence, in contrast to the razor-sharp attention grabs most metal genres specialize in. Rawer production keeps detail intact and prevents the atmospheres from overwhelming individual instruments.
Alraune have harnessed this particular kind of atmospheric mastery without curtailing black metal’s archetypal rage. Subtle changes often do go unnoticed and lead the tracks into territory totally different from their origins (like the grooving beat midway through “Exordium”), but for the most part, The Process of Self-Immolation draws – and holds – our attention, only rarely feeling like it’s getting filtered into the background. Alraune are concrete, visceral, and minimal. Every song breaks the eight minute mark, but they don’t overextend into intangible structures and maintain focus throughout, especially with sections like the crusty skank beats in “Exordium” or the savage, biting tremolo passages in the middle of “Simulacra.” Though, it’s true that the band sometimes don’t take the time to slow things down. “Exordium” and “Kissed By the Red” are a little flat dynamically and don’t impress nearly as much as tracks like the title track or the massive “Simulacra.”
If there’s been one criticism of post-black metal bands like Deafheaven and Lantlos, it’s that quintessential point of contention among metalheads: “not heavy enough.” There’s no way you could contest that quality when it comes to Alraune, but you still can’t deny that uplifting spirit, that latent, obscured positivity that drifts through the tracks like fog through a forest canopy. Alraune have something special, and it’s the way the dissonant inflections of new-school nihilism pair with that grandiose, oh-so-USBM optimism. Ultimately, The Process of Self-Immolation feels new while still paying homage to its roots, signs of well-listened musicians and well-wrought compositions. If Alraune keep thinking about their music as much as they do here, there’s nothing they can’t do in the future.