As a visual artist Maxime Taccardi has a been a favourite of mine for well over a decade, his work combines dark imagery, mental health commentary and at times pop culture references depicted in twisted ways. What really makes him unique though is his use of his own blood in his paintings (as can be seen above). The stark contrast of his blood, pitch black and white space gives his work and iconic quality. Then you have his photography, which features him in pitch dark spaces, in ornate yet haunting costumes (as can be seen below).
However, today we aren’t here to talk art, we’re here to talk music, specifically Maxime’s solo black metal project K.F.R (كافر)‘s new album Pain/Ter, a cleverly titled album, referencing his visual art. The music is probably best described as DSBM (depressive suicidal black metal) but it takes heavy influence from the French style of avant-garde black metal and some direct influence from Mayhem’s Esoteric Warfare. To call them album unhinged, or unsettling doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. This is some of the most uneasy, discordant black metal you will hear this year and I personally cannot get enough of it.
Vocally I’m reminded a great deal of Attila Csihar, which I mean as the highest form of compliment, as I view him as one of the most revolutionary and unique vocalists ever to exist in black metal. Those wild, inhuman, high pitched shrieks and screeches are top tier and I applaud Maxime for being able to pull them off, as not many can. Along with these are a whispered, hissed, distorted style that gives the music a truly unsettling tone. You’ll also find more DSBM influenced pained wails, moans and choking coughs, which are one of the reasons that the subgenre is among my favourites. At times I’m also reminded of Necrophagia’s Killjoy in the band’s earlier releases, with his distinctive horror inspired shrieked vocals.
Instrumentally the album is very much a blend of atmosphere and dissonance, there’s a fine balance struck between the two that not many artists can pull off this perfectly. There’s a muddled, disorienting effect applied to everything that sort of makes the album feel like a twisted fever dream soundtrack. Chugging, plodding guitars give way to wild meandering riffs with a truly menacing tone. Abbrasive in your face riffage leads into haunting, atmospheric lulls that allow tension and unease to gradually build. The drums are honestly a little assaulting, they gradually wear you down as the incessantly plod along, doing their own thing regardless of what the other elements on the song are doing.
The combined effect of the vocal elements and the instrumentals makes the album a hard listen. If you’re like me then that’s exactly what you want from music of this nature, a feeling of unease and discomfort. It means that the artist is effective enough in their output to actually register an emotional and/or physical response in the listener. It really isn’t that often that an album is able to come across as this unhinged without it feeling as if the artist is trying too hard, but in this case it all feels very natural and effortless. The fact that the tracks range on average from 4-8 minutes in length gives them enough time to gradually unfold before the listener and allows them to be that much more effective.
As far as favourite songs go it’s no easy choice, each offers something a little different and each is unique in its own way. I would have to say though that All There is was Never Meant is a real standout to me. It’s just a truly unsettling song and covers a lot of ground in its 8-minute run time. Till There is Nothing Left in Me features some very unusual electronic elements and tones that give it a unique edge and help it to stand out from the rest of the album. While being on the shorter side, I also think that the opening track Painter does a great job of setting the tone of the album.
I also have to discuss Deliver me Not, this is a 41 minute epic that is an achievement in its own right. The song has a very different energy and sound to the rest of the album. You’ll find that it’s a drawn out atmospheric dark ambient track filled with echoed whispers, harsh noise elements and never ending tension. I find it interesting that Maxime decided to include this on the album, as it could very easily have served as its own dark ambient release separate of this album. Either way I think this one will divide some fans; some will love and appreciate it (and as a dark ambient fan I am one of them) and others will find it unnecessary or dull.
Overall, I think that this is an absolutely fantastic offering of experimental dissonant/ambient black metal or DSBM, however you choose to classify it. What matters is the way that it sucks the listener in and drowns out the world around them. It’s basically impossible to focus on anything other than the music when this is playing. So, in summary, if you like weird unsettling black metal that makes your soul hurt then this is an album for you.
Listen to and order the album: