Maybe it’s Friday Night Lights. Maybe I’m conditioned. But there’s a certain kind of ringing, sustained guitar chord that kicks me in the soul every time I hear it. It’s pretty much Pavlovian. That guitar, all longing and crushed hope and delay, builds up into a note of turbulent triumph while the music around it rises along with it. It all swells up, a contemplative murmur that turns into a screaming (but still contemplative) climax. Explosions In The Sky didn’t invent that guitar chord, and they probably didn’t perfect it, either. But it’s probably their fault that whenever I hear a chord like that, I immediately conjure images of dusty fields and sweaty exertion and hardbitten leadership and love so strong that it makes you push yourself beyond where you probably should push yourself. A chord like that is a soul-filling, life-affirming sound, even if the context surrounding that music isn’t exactly supposed to be triumphant.
Unreqvited is a mysterious one-man atmospheric black metal project from Ottawa. The one man behind Unreqvited goes by the name 鬼, which is a Chinese character that means “ghost.” He’s only been making music under the Unreqvited name since 2016, but he’s already made three albums under that name. Within extreme-metal circles, he’s developed a reputation as someone who can pull enormous beauty and emotional resonance from the sound that groups like Alcest have already developed. As someone who is not in those extreme-metal circles, I’d never heard of Unreqvited before Stereogum’s own Michael Nelson suggested that I check it out. If this wasn’t Thanksgiving week, if the landscape for new music right now wasn’t crazy barren, I probably never would’ve listened to the man. But it is, and I’m glad I did.
Googling around, I’ve found one website that refers to Unreqvited’s music as “DSBM.” Googling further, mostly because I was afraid that this might mean some Nazi shit, I’ve learned that this acronym stands for “depressive suicidal black metal.” (That’s an actual genre name.) But after spending some time with Mosaic I: L’Amour Et L’Ardeur, the second Unreqvited full-length of 2018, I don’t hear much that’s especially depressive or suicidal in the man’s music. And I don’t hear that much that reminds me of black metal, either.
There are double-time kick-drum judders on Mosaic I, and there are strangulated lost-in-the-wilderness howls, too. (I don’t know if 鬼 is singing any actual lyrics; his screams certainly aren’t recognizable as words. I think of Mosaic I as an instrumental album, and I think if his voice as one of the instruments.) But the voice and the kick-drums are buried in the mix. They’re there for effect, as much as anything. Most of the time, Unreqvited seems to be going for overwhelming, soul-lifting loveliness. Along with those metallic sounds, we get strings and pianos and what I assume are synths that are made to sound like choral vocals. (A one-man black metal project probably can’t afford to hire an actual chorus, right? Even with socialized medicine helping him out?) From where I’m sitting, Mosaic I sounds a lot more like prime Sigur Ròs than it does like, say, Emperor.
And then there are those ringing, sustaining, feelings-crushing guitars. Those guitars fill the mix up, sending the album to a whole different emotional place. I tend to think of one-man black metal projects as raspy, lo-fi backwoods-shack stuff, but 鬼 has recorded the album with a cinematic clarity. Every sound is warm and full and crystalline. It gets loud, but it never gets ugly. The sounds get plenty of room to rise and fall; the album’s six songs sprawl across more than 40 minutes. And the whole time, it makes for grand and hopeful deep-yearning music, music for staring out windows and thinking about the people you miss.
As far as I know, nobody has yet hired a mysterious one-man black metal project to soundtrack a prestige-TV drama about intense familial relationships. But Mosaic I works as a truly great indication that someone should go ahead and do that already.
Mosaic I: L’Amour Et L’Ardeur is out 11/23 on Northern Silence Productions. Stream it below.
Other albums of note out this week:
• The long-awaited Dipset reunion album Diplomatic Ties.
• Florry’s tough, twee debut Brown Bunny.
• Didi’s tumultuous indie rocker Like Memory Foam.
• The Samps’ dreamy pop debut Breakfast.
• My Brightest Diamond’s swirl-popper A Million And One.
• Art Brut’s fired-up return Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!
• The Mike Will Made-It-produced Creed II soundtrack.
• Trentemøeller’s DJ mix Harbour Boat Trips Vol. 02: Copenhagen.
• The 10 Years Of Mom + Pop compilation.
• Oneohtrix Point Never’s Love In The Time Of Lexapro EP.
• The 6ix9ine album that you’re all dying to hear.