One of the great things about black metal, for me, has always been the strange little bands that lurk around the periphery of the genre, doing their own peculiar thing with complete disregard for anyone and everyone else. One such band are Finnish one-man project Zero+onE, whose second album Der Krieg is a remarkable proof of concept for a sound that on the face of it probably shouldn’t work as well as it does. Billed as “industrial/noise/black metal/war metal”, Der Krieg sounds like what would happen if you took traditional black metal, tossed it out at ground zero of a bombing raid for a few hours, and then used experimental cybernetic technology to rebuild what was left into a functioning entity again. I’ve never heard anything quite like this, but I’m definitely impressed.


Structurally speaking the songs on this album are pure black metal, of various styles from symphonic to near-ambient, and they definitely feel like black metal. But they’re musical hybrids, pieced together from equal parts conventional instrumentation and samples, synths and static. Sampled and looped artillery fire does duty as extra percussion; buzzsaw guitars merge seamlessly into modulated noise. The vocals are a radio-static whisper, distorted and crackling, barely human. The overall effect is one I can only describe as beautifully ugly – everything that’s gone into making this album is scratchy, misshapen, distorted, artificial, and yet the finished sound that comes out the other end is hypnotically engaging and a very real pleasure to listen to. The centrepiece and arguably the highlight of the album is the fifteen-minute funeral march of “Dachau”, a black, slow, beautiful nightmare of a song; but there’s much more of interest too, from the synthesised symphonics of “Krieg und Blut” or “Normandie”, through the martial lilt of “Achtung” and the abstract noise-sculpting that closes “Stacheldraht und Schmerz”, right down to the sadistic little static pulse in the middle of “Tote Reich” that, heard through headphones, did something to my eardrums that made me feel physically queasy. Which isn’t a criticism, I hasten to add. Black metal should hurt when it hits you, and I admire Zero+onE for managing to achieve that quite so literally.


There’s really only one weak track here and that’s the overly simplistic, strangely twee keyboard outro “Himmel”, which is fittingly titled since it’s entirely as tedious as I’d expect Heaven to be. Which does lead me to the main thing that may keep this album from getting the attention that, musically speaking, it deserves: Zero+onE are signed to Christian label Sanctus Gladius and are apparently of the “unblack metal” persuasion, which may put a lot of potential listeners off. But if you’re not deterred by that, this is a great if niche piece of work, worth hearing for its atmosphere and originality alone. [8/10 – KIT RATHENAR]