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Grey Aura – “Bedrog” (Song Premiere)

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Drawing upon the “ideal work of art,” a “gesamkunstwerk” focuses on interdisciplinary completion through stylistic synthesis to demonstrate art in its totality. Music has seen gesamkunstwerks in the text/visual/audio work of Common Eider, King Eider’s Sense of Place and the integration of drama and fluid stage setting Wagner’s Der Ring operatic cycle (as opposed to static stage settings of Italianate opera) being prime examples, but “gesamkunstwerk” is seldom touched upon in black metal. Black metal draws upon relative subtlety and secrecy, bands eschewing publishing lyrics, relying on minimal art, and remaining anonymous as part of building a sort of mystique, and, while aesthetic can be an aspect of the ideal “total art work,” the large empty spaces left to the listener’s interpretation prevent “totality” in the eyes of the ideal gesamkunstwerk.

In a rare attempt, Dutch duo Grey Aura’s debut effort, the two disc, hardbound book, and audio epic Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort, makes a solid case for the merits and passion of artistic completion in black metal.

Setting the story of Arctic explorer William Barentz’s third, troublesome Northern expedition, Grey Aura sets out to embody the feeling of winter’s bite, the isolation of being stranded on a distant Arctic island, the human feeling of frustration, and man’s ultimate betrayal by nature itself. Concentrating specifically on “Bedrog,” which is the situation in the album’s latter half, this track tells a particularly frustrating tale of Barentz’s stranded crew, which can be read below. Using crystalline, luminous black metal melodies, Grey Aura constructs a false dawn, a reflection off distant ice crystals in winter’s dark midst. The bright-yet-cold sound of “Bedrog” is characteristic and breathtaking, but uniquely frustrating in its singularity, hinting at the warm sense of fruition in a climax but ultimately remaining cold, dry, and crystalline. You can really feel the hopes of Barentz’s crew being dashed, resigning themselves to the lengthy winter ahead. When listening to the audio clips, which actually features primary source audio recorded by voice actors, the resignation only hits harder (though I can’t speak Dutch, so I’m going specifically by voice tone here). When looking at the album as a whole, “Bedrog” could very well be a turning point before the story sadly stagnates, which puts the track in an interesting position. When pitted against the album’s dynamic, cinematic sense, “Bedrog” is oddly conservative, but that is also representative of its point in the story arc. It’s hard to view these tracks individually, but that’s kind of the point. Though “Bedrog” is a very enjoyable listen, Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort is meant to be listened to as a whole, and I wholly suggest doing so. Works like this, total artworks, are meant to be experienced as such. Absorb all which is given.

Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort will see its official release as a two-disc hardbound book on the awe-inspiring Blood Music this coming June. Listen to an exclusive premiere of “Bedrog” and read a supplemental statement from the band below.

—Jon Rosenthal

From Grey Aura:

“Bedrog (deceit) is a track that deals with the darkness of the Arctic winter and the longing for light and warmth. As the crew members of Willem Barentsz’ ill-fated third expedition were stuck on the island of Novaya Zemlya in 1596, they suffered from the horrors of scurvy and malnutrition. The freezing temperatures on the island made it nearly impossible for the crew members to leave their Behouden Huys (safe house) and find food, which meant that they had no other option but to stay inside and sit around a small fire inside their house, waiting for spring to arrive.

As Gerrit de Veer — writer and one of the crew members — went for a walk outside the crew’s house one day, he witnessed a mysterious red light on the horizon. He initially thought it was the sun, and he was very joyful and about to tell the rest of the men, but the light quickly disappeared again; leaving him in a seemingly endless black void. It would take weeks before the actual sun would appear and allow the crew members to travel back to their homes in the Dutch Republic.

The red light De Veer saw that day, was not merely an illusion; it was a polar mirage, caused by refraction of sunlight between atmospheric thermoclines, which is now known as the Novaya Zemlya effect.”

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