Odz Manouk – s/t (Profound Lore, 2012)

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece highlighting several releases by Crepusulo Negro and Rhinocervs, the two cassette labels associated with California’s Black Twilight Circle, a collective of bands creating some of the most unique and interesting music the contemporary black metal scene has to offer.  As much as I appreciate the DIY ethics and overall aesthetic of what CN and Rhinocervs are doing though, I’m also quite happy to see other labels such as Ajna, Hells Headbangers and Profound Lore stepping in to help spread this music beyond the limitations inherrent to the cassette format.  Folks shouldn’t have to scour their parents’ basements and local thriftstores for a working cassette deck (or even worse, have to deal with subpar MP3s) in order to experience this blackened excellence.

So it is that Profound Lore has reissued the self-titled 2010 album from Odz Manouk on CD in A5 digipack format, along with bonus tracks from the band’s split with Tukaaria (who’s excellent Raw To The Rapine has been reissued on CD simutaneously and will be reviewed at a later date) and remastered sound handled by Colin Marston (Krallice, Gorguts, Dysrhythmia, etc).  To say that Odz Manouk looks and sounds magnificent would be an understatement, as the haunting album art lends itself perfectly to the larger format and Marston has cleaned up the sound considerably while still allowing the album to retain it’s raw, buzzing murk.  This is arguably one of the darkest albums to emerge from the American black metal underground, and the treatment it has received here both sonically and visually allows the listener to fully grasp the multifarious depths of that darkness.

In Armenian mythology, Odz Manouk was a serpent birthed by the queen of Armenia, forced to live in seclusion and feast on maidens while metamorphosing into a dragon.  A woman called Arevhat was to be fed to Odz Manouk, but through her kindness transformed him into a human being.  Since this reissue does not include lyrics, I can’t say for sure whether or not Odz Manouk’s lyrics are also based on Armenian mythology or other aspects of the culture, but I can say that the album is every bit as strange and disturbing as the legend, minus the happy ending.  In this world, the great serpent remains, seething in lightless isolation, supping upon quivering virgin flesh.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is an air of utter madness that threads itself through the music of the Black Twilight Circle, and that madness is present in abundance here, yet it is less pronounced and more enigmatic, as if buried deep within the subconscious; the stuff of which our most terrifying nightmares are made.  Compositionally, Odz Manouk doesn’t conjure the bent, meandering psychedelia of other BTC bands such as Arizmenda or Dolorvotre, utilizing a more traditional approach that instead recalls Cali black metal forebears Xasthur and Leviathan, favoring the trance-inducing, smeared and swirling buzz that those bands in turn derived from Burzum.  But while early Burzum sounded as if Varg Vikernes was spiraling into madness, Odz Manouk sounds as if band mastermind/sole member Yagian is already there, comfortably inhabiting the blackest parts of inner space.  This is the type of black metal best listened to with a good pair of headphones in a darkened room, alone with nothing but the music and your ugliest, most abhorrent thoughts.

Amidst the deluge of material the Black Twilight Circle has unleashed over the past several years, Odz Manouk truly stands out, a timelessly cult (I know, I know, I overuse this phrase, but just trust me) piece of USBM that can hold it’s own against any of its contemporaries as well as many of the genre’s “classics.”  Profound Lore’s reissue is limited to just five hundred copies; miss out on this exquisite blackness at your own peril.

http://www.profoundlorerecords.com

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