It’s difficult to say that one particular Krieg record is “unique,” because, frankly, it’s hard to argue that any two Krieg records are really the same, but I will have to say that the band’s Sono Lo Scherno stands out rather significantly from the overall body of the black metal act’s work. Sono Lo Scherno is being reissued on September 25 via Inferna Profundus Records, giving many people who have long sought this out-of-print record a chance to own it on vinyl (from the original masters).
While this record was originally released in 2005, it was actually recorded during 1998-99. So if you’re expecting something that’s going to sound like Krieg’s mid 2000’s work, you’re going to be in a for a bit of a surprise. 1998 was a year Krieg was working on some rather raw, cold, and harsh sonicspheres that are going to likely remind you more of early Second Wave Norwegian Black metal and much less of USBM. That’s not particularly a bad thing and, honestly, its one of the reasons I like this record.
One of the aspects about this record that really stands out are the drums tracks. Jim Tarby, who was previously in the band Abominus with vocalist N. (then known as Imperial) provides some less washy, more pingy and tight symbol work along with some less-oft-heard time signatures. He uses a really dry and rather crisp snare for many of the songs which gives a bit of a slight late 70’s early 80’s punk underground feel to the overall drum sounds. When you add N.’s rather low pitched screams and groans on top, you have the near perfect soundtrack to an intense late 80’s film student created horror film. But it is this combination… this tempo and the changes in time and sound dimension, both intra-song and from song to song is what gives Krieg part of their unique formula that, at the time, wasn’t really imitated by many. Today, of course, it’s par for the course by so many USBM bands and those that try to emulate earlier USBM.
The album starts with a cool eerie keyboard intro “Seven Plagues, Seven Houses” that will remind you of late 80’s slasher films. Interestingly, we’re treated to “Plague Waltz” in the middle of the record, which is a different type of keyboard track – one that is much warmer, with a more positive attenuation. After a sample leading into the second track on the record (and samples abound throughout Sono Lo Scherno) the listener is brought into the archaic and menacing “Knights of the Holocaust” (And a special message to metals Chief Virtue Signalers, the title of this song is not a “dogwhistle” to the alt-right nor does it have anything to do with Nazism. And while we’re here, it would be nice of the folks at MetalSucks to come clean and admit your mistake when you smeared Enslaved with similarly ridiculous and completely bogus suggestions about their political orientations).
Krieg, if you don’t know by now, is about personal darkness. It is about nihilism, pain, suffering and dealing with all of those feelings and traumas. N. didn’t have an easy life and Krieg is a way to deal with that. It’s a way for his listeners to deal with their demons, in a way that is solemn, opaque yet comforting. Those looking for a political message in Krieg are going to be rather disappointed because there really isn’t one. If there is, it is the stemming from the abstraction that the listener places on top of Krieg – it certainly does not come from the ground up.
Sono Lo Scherno goes through nightmarish visions that lead to calm serene new age sounds that you might hear on a CD purchased from Ten Thousand Villages. And then it’s going to take you back again – back to the darkness you know so well and can’t escape no matter how hard you try. It is a constant contrast in textures and emotions, just as one might sometimes experience in their own lives in this world filled with madness. And yes, some tracks clearly relate to dying by incredibly brutal methods. But death is never an end in itself in Krieg. Other songs bring feelings of relaxation and sedation – even warmth. Those of us who know mental illness like an old friend you just can’t shake off will fully recognize what’s happening on the record and how it all comes together. Others will wince at the gut-wrenching contrast and suddenness of the changes in tempo and volume. Welcome to our world.