When you’re dealing with someone with as many irons in the fire as Henrikk Nordvargr Bjorkk, the distinction between one project and another can sometimes be a matter of degrees. Shifting between EBM, death industrial, martial industrial, dark ambient, and all points between, Bjorkk always has an operation at hand to suit whichever theme or mode strikes his fancy at a moment’s notice. But even within the aegis of his eponymous project, which has been his most prolific since the turn of the millennium, subtle changes can have a big impact. Metempsychosis‘ instrumentation creates a wholly different mood than that of his previous release, albeit one no less weighty.
The record takes its name from the notion of the transmigration of the soul into a new bodily form, but as the accompanying press release is quick to point out, Bjorkk is investigating this notion from the perspective of souls choosing to “freely roam between the dimensions and to cling on to any form of life at will,” a far more sinister theme than traditional reincarnation. In keeping with that malevolence, Metempsychosis feels much more brusque and intrusive than The Secret Barbarous Names, a record much more in line with the ritual ambient side of Bjorkk’s occult explorations. While plenty of Metempsychosis is made up of ambient passages punctuated with brief blasts of otherworldly noise and proximal acoustics – “At The Crossroads Of Immortality” certainly sounds as much like a soul passing through the astral plane searching for a new instantiation of itself as music can – the focus on steady and often unadorned rhythms gives the record a sense of biting meanness. The strident bass guitar of highlight track “Salve Teragmon” steadily stabs outward while industrial blasts and Bjorkk’s incantations ride the rhythm in a fashion that’s almost as catchy as it is intimidating. On the more sludgy and low-tempo “First East” the bass serves more as, well, a base for the slowly accumulating storm of noise through which Bjorkk and Trepaneringsritualen’s Thomas Martin Ekelund weave their spite.
I first listened to Metempsychosis while rereading a novel in part about an immortal spirit who moves from body to body, consuming the essences of those he occupies. The happenstance of such a specific theme appearing in two very different forms caught me off guard, and the hypnotic nature of the record’s rhythms did little to offset that sense of the uncanny. Then again, I suppose that’s as good an analogy for Nordvargr as any: come for the expertly arranged death industrial, stay for the creeping sense of metaphysical dread.