So, I must admit that I’m a complete sucker for the bizarre black metal ramblings of Tasmania’s own Sin Nanna, otherwise known as the one-man treblefest Striborg. I own all of the official full-lengths, and several of the reissues which combine previously unreleased demos. The sound quality varies from each release, careening from hideous, to god-awful, to subterranean, to wind tunnel, to tinnitus-inducing, and so forth.
Something about this guy’s single-minded devotion to the pursuit of black metal’s bleakest core really appeals to me; no doubt a great deal is added to the experience of the music (which can be quite surreal, particularly at either high volume, or, sometimes even more so, at volumes just low enough so that you can’t quite tell if the sounds are coming from your speakers, or are being whispered into a static ether by shades just beyond your ability to perceive them) by Sin Nanna’s deliberately reclusive persona, which suggests that he lives alone in a desolate forest in the midst of the Tasmanian wilderness with nothing but a 4-track to record his frequent and misanthropic outbursts.
All of this to say, really, that Striborg is fucking awesome, and epitomizes the monomaniacal need for extremity in black metal’s least accessible enclaves. A somewhat less raw Ildjarn (minus the punkish influences, too) might be the best touchstone, but Striborg is, to these ears at least, infinitely more listenable.
The most recent release on Sin Nanna’s label Finsternis Productions is a “split” release between Striborg and Sin Nanna’s dark ambient alter ego, Veil Of Darkness. This brand new release collects Striborg’s 1997 demo Cold Winter Moon and Veil Of Darkness’s 1997 full-length album In the Valley of the Shadow of Death (omitting the brief intro track from the original release) on one compact disc stuffed to the gills with good times for the whole family.
Striborg’s side of the split is more or less what we’ve all come to expect, albeit with a markedly less trebly sound than many of his other recordings. Demented black metal ravings and overdriven, humid-sounding ambient interludes are the order of the day. Veil Of Darkness ply a similar pitch of blackness, but drop the metal and amp up the ambient, producing something not too unlike some of the dark ambient experiments of the much-vaunted (and still somewhat ridiculous) French LLN (Les Legions Noires, or the Black Legions) scene (particularly Aäkon Këëtrëh or Amaka Hahina).
The closing track “Pure Black Energy,” however (apart from possibly recalling the two lengthy dark ambient pieces which closed out Ildjarn’s Strength & Anger, which were titled “Black Anger”), breaks from strictly creepy dark ambient strictures and layers feedback and looped drum noise in a way not dissimilar to a less mechanized Merzbow.
So, anyway, it’s pretty great – if you’ve never heard Striborg, I suppose it’s as good a place as any to start (though I might humbly recommend Mysterious Semblance, Trepidation, or Spiritual Catharsis as perfectly excellent starting points as well). This CD reissue is limited to 500 hand-numbered copies, and while I can’t say they’ll go quite like hotcakes, I suspect there are enough similar-thinking maniacs out there in the world that you may want to snap one up while you can.
All of which brings me to my original point, which was, in fact, simply to be the juxtaposition of these two images:
This dark, spooky, and altogether grim split album of black metal and dark ambient musics arrived at my doorstep lovingly packaged in a padded envelope adorned with this charming Australian stamp featuring what I can only assume is meant to be a Momma Wombat and a widdle cutesy Baby Wombat. Aw shucks, ain’t it so sweet?
The first thing that jumped out at me, of course, was the extremely ironic juxtaposition of this intentionally off-putting and anti-social music with this reminder that the primary reason the rest of the world loves Australia is that, beyond ridding us of some of our most troublesome prisoners, it is home to an abundance of super cuddly creatures.
This experience was more than a little reminiscent of the strange experience of ordering Xasthur’s latest (and, sadly, last) full-length album, Portal Of Sorrow, directly from Malefic (A.K.A. Scott Conner) himself via eBay. Or, rather, the really jarring thing was, after receiving the album in the mail, finding Malefic’s promptly submitted ‘buyer feedback’, in which it was explained that I “made payment quickly, [and am an] honest and responsible e-bayer.”
If I were some black metal militant or ideologue, I suppose it would be easy to decry this intrusion of the modern world and its trappings of commerce and fuzzy marsupials, but instead, I think it serves as a nice reminder that no matter how much the extreme forms of music we seek out with great and fevered intent try to present themselves as cold, distant, alien (or at least alienating), there is no escaping the common world we share. Frankly, I’m really glad to live in a world where both the harsh black noise of some secretive Tasmanian introvert can coexist with living, breathing, pouch-borne teddy bears.
In some ways, focusing on that shared world, with all its manifold evils and its frequent sweet succor, means that the extreme music we love and continue to support can continue to represent something extreme. That is, if the world really was shit through and through (as so many of our paragons of metal insist), this music would cease to be an atavistic and artistic outlet worth pursuing, because it would merely be a pale mirror’s reflection of the dull gray cast of the world and all its miserable tenants.
Bring on the goddamn wombats, I say.