Death is not an instantaneous act; it implies a lasting transition which is terminated only when the dissolution of the body has ended. Between the moment of expiration and the moment all rotting flesh has disappeared, lies the period during which corpses are dangerous, polluting, contagious. The dead do not go to the land of souls until they are without flesh, and until they are without flesh they haunt the living like guests who have outstayed their welcome. But not only the spirit of the deceased is dangerous: until the corpse has decomposed completely, it is particularly vulnerable to the attacks of evil spirits and all the harmful influences by which man is threatened.
The intensity of the dangerous, polluting and contagious qualities of the corpse can be represented by a parabola. When the deceased has died recently, outward forms of decomposition are not yet visible, and the body is still retaining its form. As the corpse starts to rot, and the physical identity of the dead person slowly becomes formless, the taboos with regard to the corpse become stronger. The danger, pollution and contagion are at their apex - or should I say: nadir - when the corpse has become viscuous, unstable but not yet fluid, soft, yielding and compressible, sticky, clinging. After that point, the formlessness slowly treacles away to reveal the whiteness of the bones, the architectural, almost monumental structure of the skeleton. When the skeleton is clean, all danger has subsided.
The funerary rites of many cultures serve to prevent the apex being reached, by mummifying or embalming the corpse so that it does not become formless: think of the ancient Egyptian or contemporary American funereal practices. Other cultures attempt to avoid the apex by short-cutting the transitional period: cremation is one example of such a practice, the necrophagic endocannibalism which was practiced by some Australian Aboriginal and Dayak tribes is another.
Les Légions Noires ('The Black Legions') were a group of Black Metal bands which were active in France between 1993 and 1996. Mütiilation, Belketre, Torgeist and Vlad Tepes are the best known of these bands.
Emulating Norwegian Black Metal pioneers such as Mayhem, Burzum, Ulver and Darkththrone, the French LLN Black Metal bands aimed for a production style which was metaphorically called 'necro': very lo-fi, cold- and thin-sounding, blown out, in the red. The sound recording style mimicked the decay of the corpse.
Of all LLN bands, the shadowy and impossibly named band Brenoritvrezorkre ventured closest to the most dangerous, the most polluting, the most contagious point in the process of rotting. The four demos which the band released over the course of 1995 and 1996, contain music that is unstable, viscuous, formless. They are amongst those rare albums which seem to exude a smell, a stench (Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas is another one). Listening to the music, one fears the aural dirt might rub off onto one's inner ear, tainting forever the pleasure of listening to music. Like the dead who are not yet without flesh, the decayed sound of Brenoritvrezorkre can haunt its audience - it is certainly haunting me at the moment. But not only Brenoritvrezorkre itself is dangerous: it has opened the gates for other baneful musical spirits such as those of Maurizio Bianchi and Abruptum.
Angelic spirits seem far away: far off is the aestheticizing of decay by William Basinski in his 'The Disintegration Loops I-IV': a series of albums which presented music constructed from withering magnetic material - but pure, consonant, beauteous, majestic, angelic, ethereal music. In a sense, Basinski takes an idealist, utopian, redemptive position with regards to decaying sound recordings. Other than Brenoritvrezorkre, Basinski's music is the product of Hegelian trancendentalism. Thus, Basinski's music is the antinomy of Brenoritvrezorkre's Black Metal. For Brenoritvrezorkre is the darkness of earth where bodies rot, for Basinski the luminosity of the heavens.
I hear Brenoritvrezorkre's music as haunted by the earliest work of Industrial music pioneer Maurizio Bianchi. Bianchi, using the moniker 'Sacher-Pelz', released four compelling C60 cassettes in 1979 and 1980: Cainus, Venus, Cease To Exist, and Velours. From Jim Haynes' review in The Wire 216: "With what appears to be a homebuilt set-up of multiple tape machines, a turntable and a few simple electronic devices, Bianchi abused his vinyl collection of Kraftwerk, Neu!, Morricone soundtracks and unidentified disco tunes to arrive at a mutilated version of monotonous loops and varyspeed warble. What little references to Autobahn that could be heard had been disfigured and corroded as if the sounds themselves had been exhumed from a lengthy burial in a murky swamp." Brenoritvrezorkre sounds like what Sacher-Pelz would have sounded like had Bianchi not abused "...his vinyl collection of Kraftwerk, Neu!, Morricone soundtracks and unidentified disco tunes..." but a vinyl collection of Mayhem, Darkthrone and Abruptum and unidentified early-nineties Norwegian and Finnish Black Metal albums. The music exudes the same sense of misanthropy, inner turmoil, existential frustration and boredom. Boredom? Yes, like Bianchi's repetitive tape loops, Brenoritvrezorkre is boring - but it's not the boredom of endlessly regurgitated clichés and stereotypes, it is boring like the work of the Marquis de Sade. In the works of Sade, Bianchi and Brenoritvrezorkre the musical or literary elements are repeated excessively, like a litany, like a mantra, until the referent is empty. Brenoritvrezorkre presents the pleasure of an agitated ennui.
Rather than from the three main mythological ancestors of Black Metal - Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone - Brenoritvrezorkre seems to have descended from the decentered and destructured Black Metal of the Swedish band Abruptum. There is the same sense of the absurd about the music, the same ugliness and clumsiness, the same retarded anti-aestheticism - even if Brenoritvrezorkre plays a lot faster than Abruptum. But where Abruptum's albums present 'neutral, transparent' field recordings of transgressive performance art actions, Brenoritvrezorkre foreground the opacity and materiality of music as a recorded artifact. Unlike Abruptum, the spectre of Brenoritvrezorkre is textural, explicitly introducing "...the technical frame, the unheard material pre-condition of the recording, on the level of content." (K-Punk). The decay of recording technology: that is the very essence of Brenoritvrezorkre.
Brenoritvrezorkre seeks out the point at which all the rot, and all the harmful influences of rot, are at their most intense. Their music is revolting.
You can find Brenoritvrezorkre's four demos here, at the consistently interesting Cosmic Hearse blog.
When will the LLN corpus be exhumed for a proper rerelease? Southern Lord, do for the LLN bands what you did for the early Abruptum tapes!
The four Sacher-Pelz tapes were rereleased on cd in this beautiful box in 2001 in a limited edition of 480: one of these is the pride and joy of my record collection. The box will be rereleased by Menstrual Recordings.