Caïna - Temporary Antennae

Tim Johnson 15/10/2008

Rating: 4/5

Black metal may be the genre du jour among extreme music enthusiasts, but with the best will in the world, it still doesn't have much crossover appeal. Hell, wilfully shambolic production values spliced with Thelemic hocus-pocus and/or unreconstructed völkisch hate screech might begin to induce a yawn in even the most ardent sable-clad bedroom misanthrope.

That's where the likes of Southampton's Andrew Curtis-Brignell, aka Caïna, have found their niche, as increasingly there's a sense that the cutting edge of the occult musical fringe may be wrested away from the militant conservatives. Studious avoidance of cartoonish 'kvlt' clichés and self parody helps provide a window onto a musical landscape currently undergoing a marked period of fertility. Indeed, genre cross-pollination seems to be instrumental in this creative efflorescence, as artists affiliated with BM loosen their commitment to hermetic purity and explore and celebrate their affinity with 'non-metal', particularly post-industrial folk, drone and shoegaze.

Canada's Profound Lore Records is in the vanguard of this enlightenment. Recent releases from such visionary acts as Alcest, Portal and Wold have met with near-universal critical approbation, and Caïna's third full length, 'Temporary Antennae' comprises a similarly healthy melting pot of influences. At the risk of wanton genre proliferation, Caïna might legitimately be described as 'post-black metal'.

The album's lyrical evocations/invocations of nature as a fecund and oppressive force fit with the poetic rather than overtly polemical tradition of esoteric metal. Curtis-Brignell is at once David Tibetan mystic and tormented hermit, muttering his lonely threnodies to a long-forsaken 'you'.

While the guitar work is frequently cavernous, only the occasional burst of fuzzed out tremolo and hoarse vocal incantation on the likes of Ten Went Up River and Tobacco Beetle really hint at orthodox BM. Indeed, to label this as a 'metal' release at all would be something of a mischaracterisation, as Caïna's 'pop album' increasingly tips its cap towards the melancholic end of 90s indie and post rock. Ironically, Larval Door provides the most jarring moment on the album, as synths and a beat that actually verges on danceable intrude on the otherwise melancholy tone. Only here does the myriad of ideas seem a surfeit.

'Temporary Antennae' is nevertheless Curtis-Brignell's most expansive and satisfying release to date, suggesting that he's truly hitting his stride. It's hence a pity that he appears publically to be weary of releasing material as Caïna. That said, all his future projects will be watched with interest.