Whenver electronic/pop music writer Simon Reynolds weighs in on metal, it's always interesting. I've been chewing on a recent post of his: "metal has just swallowed whole goth (especially 4AD goth-lite), industrial, post-rock, shoegaze, techno, isolationism, folk....to the point where what defines metal as metal these days is nothing sonic but really just the bombastic and verbose band names/song titles (and also contextual/institutional stuff like where you're likely to read about it) (and perhaps the clothes the bands wear)."

The House Told Me
The Night Porter

Such sweeping statements are glib, but Reynolds is onto something. Earlier in the post, he comments on the "label cloud" of Icelandic blog Blodvargr. It's something I've wondered about for a while, too. What is the connection among black metal, dark ambient, folk music, shoegaze, drone, and noise, other than it's somehow completely logical for those who are into the stuff?

Remember that we started the week with straight black metal band Hiems, which connected to half-black metal, half-acoustic outfit Frostmoon Eclipse. Now, Frostmoon Eclipse guitarist Claudio Alcara has a solo project, Stroszek, presumably named for the Werner Herzog film (speaking of Herzog, CineFile Video has printed some sweet t-shirts that recast directors' names in metal band fonts).

Alcara recording guitars

Stroszek slightly recalls Opeth's Damnation - mostly acoustic, with some electric guitar. While the electrics are highly distorted, they're also fairly low in the mix, so that even the rocking moments feel restrained. This is fine, as Songs of Remorse (God Is Myth, 2007) is decidedly melancholy. I'm not familiar with goth's subdivisions, but perhaps this could fall into one of them - 4AD, Mazzy Star, etc.

Pleasingly, the record is often just Alcara and his acoustic; more pleasingly, it's often just his acoustic. His voice is pleasant enough, but he mostly, and wisely, stays out of the way of his picking. I'm a big fan of flatpicked (as opposed to strummed) acoustics, and this record is full of them. The moody tritones in "The Night Porter" are like an old Metallica acoustic intro becoming a song in its own right; dig the tasty blue notes near the end.

Even though this record is mostly mellow, something about it is very metal. Perhaps it's the precision of the picking, or the overall darkness. Whatever the case, it's a lovely listen. Stroszek shares an upcoming split on a label TBD with ambient/modern classical project Godheadscope, which should be a very interesting pairing. Interestingly, God Is Myth is offering albums from both as a cut-rate package deal (I reviewed the Godheadscope one here). Otherwise, Songs of Remorse is available from God Is Myth's fine webstore.