Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Sacrificial Totem - Hurqalya

Sacrificial Totem

AOTM #83, April 2007ce
Released 2004 on Katabatik
  1. Ritual I (13.41)
  2. Ritual II (14.53)
  3. Ritual III (24.04)
  4. Ritual IV (21.20)

Note: Without fudging, without sleight of hand, without consciousness, this brief review came in at exactly 666 words.

Genre: Blackest Ambient Metal

Place this disc upon thy stereo system and watch the so-called real world first recede then evaporate in mere moments, as the undead Ancients of the Underworld re-awaken then emerge triumphant to restore their bizarre death dance to our landscapes. For Sacrificial Totem’s cataclysmic raging across our speaker systems are enormous weather-sized sonic tempests that exhibit more life force than even the most ardent proto-metal or No Wave freerock, and their calamitous sound is a key to clearing away all the slack, all the kack and all the psychic plaque that the extraneous and unnecessary moves of the Modern world build up around our senses, divorcing us from the sheer ecstasy of the exterior by numbing us up with sweet sticky melodies and rhymes of unrealistic hope. Sacrificial Totem’s sound is not the sound of human individuals at honest endeavour, but the sound of the Gods creating the world, nay, the universe on 8-bit sampling machines, typing in the codes of the future on battered word processors retrieved from local charity shops. There’s no need to believe this stuff was created on human instruments, brothers’n’sisters, for the single most continuous auditory experience brought forth by Sacrificial Totem is a mysterious sound that alludes to the Great Blacksmith himself igniting and re-igniting his newly-invented welding torch, over and over and over. Alchemy, brothers’n’sisters. Did the concept of insemination of the female by the male gain credibility only after the (probably accidental) application of heat to meat and to metals had taught humankind the idea of fusion? That’s the kind of thought that manifests in my mind when Sacrificial Totem’s singular sounds burn brightest at the base of my melting plastic brain, for this is the most useful of all rock’n’roll and should be taken only in the officially prescribed doses. To reach the vastness of the four tracks ‘Ritual I’, ‘Ritual II’, Ritual III’ and ‘Ritual IV’, imagine first a fraught and still-grief stricken Odin hoovering Balder’s grave, then accidentally dropping the brush attachment so that it swings down out of reach into the human world, where it proceeds randomly to suck up trees, streams, small homesteads, anything in its path, until the tetchy God finally retrieves it, hauls it in, then blasts the contents back down below. The sounds made by this black metal outfit from the American Northwest is still further strong evidence that it is the metal scene which has become home to the true keepers of the avant-garde flame. For this mysterious outfit Sacrificial Totem, these renegade black metal devils of the North American forests, unleash in their music the same eternals as did Messrs Roedelius and Moebius on 1971’s enormous CLUSTER 1 and Haare’s tumultuous THE TEMPLE back in 2004CE. Indeed, meditating to the four rituals contained on this HURQALYA album, I’ve been twice delivered into the slavering jaws of the mythical Fenris wolf, and glimpsed what could only be described as ‘my conclusion’ due to this savage sound. To all anthropologists who study shamanism only at the peripheries of culture – Siberian, Inuit, Lapp – I declare this: there is now enough evidence of shamanism within rock’n’roll culture for you to dismount your lofty perches and look closer to home. Would you consider a study of Christianity valid if the information had only been gathered from the edges of Christian culture? No! Only at the centre of culture does the ardent flame of the practitioner beat at its brightest – elsewhere it is in danger of becoming an ingrown and niggardly thing. Even a cursory glance at the antics of the Wee Wee Free Church of Scotland practised in the name of Christianity up in the Outer Hebrides will show this to be true. And so, instead of looking to the edges of culture, search out the most powerful declarations of rock’n’roll music from the scenes of the West and steep yourselves in their mysteries. Therefore, the most useful current tool of the 21st century shaman belongs to the unlikely genre: Blackest Ambient Metal.