act 177 · gjöll · way through zero · cd
part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.
"'way through zero' is dedicated to individuals who burn the flags of nations."
gjöll are two individuals, jóhann eiríksson (member of the musical projects reptilicus and product 8) and writer/vocalist sigurður harðarson (member of the grindcore band forgarður helvitis). 'way through zero' (icelandic: 'leiðin gegnum núllpunkt') is their initial release.
there is more than one meaning for 'gjöll' - one of these meanings can be directly translated: noisy, clamant, thunderous and raging. gjöll is the 'river styx' of norse mythology - the river located at the underworld's edge.
more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/norse_mythology
the music, lyrics and artwork of this cd should be seen as a conceptual work. the lyrics in icelandic tell a story of a man's anger evolving. in the beginning this person is pessimistic, moody, powerless and always hiding his head in the sand. the second part shows his rising anger toward the powers that oppress him - part 3 shows the pure hatred which seemingly absorbs his soul and drives him into madness. but then in part 4 a process of analysis and rethinking takes place: he realizes that the only way to fight his oppressors is to change one's perception - power is only existent as long as individuals give it the right to exist. the man finds peace as soon as the vicious circle is broken. "the beginning of all revolutions - and maybe the only real revolution existing"
within the first minute you will be haunted by the story's musical visualization. each of the five parts stands for itself, showing the evolution of the man's mental state: from depressed to aggressive and then finally released. various astounding sounds are found within its isolated shell - pulsing sub-basses, synth layers over a driving rhythmic sequence, noise drones, ambience with high frequency sonic attacks and silent melodic phrases. if we should dare a comparison then the scandinavian dark industrial sound isn't that far from the 'way through zero'.
an important fact about the album's concept: this story happens in the present. moralists, advertisements and politicians are mentioned by gjöll as oppressors; while today's western consumer society is the cause of anger and hate.
besides the mythic 'nostalgia', the pictures of nordic rune stones included in the plain, beautiful artwork are part of gjöll's self-conception: "these stones carry memories of the past and all our digital creations will never last that long. we will be a gap in history. we don't have any romantic visions of life having been very nice in the viking times, when the runestones were made, but back to those basics is where we might be going."
an outstanding release. recommended to the open-minded listener.
jewelcase + 16 page booklet including all lyrics in icelandic and english language
extreme music seems like a flowering part of the culture in the northern parts of scandinavia. norway was in the forefront of the early black metal, just like sweden was pioneering the death metal-scene from the late eighties forward. also in the territories of harsh electronic music, scandinavia has been well going, thanks to the swedish industrial legendary label cold meat industry. icelandic project gjöll (featuring members from different grindcorebands such as forgardur helvitis) demonstrates with this debut release out on ant zen recordings that the island from the very north of scandinavia also knows how to push the boundaries of the musical sound. the album titled "way through zero" is a conceptual work that focuses on the dark sides of human nature. what we are dealing with here is the sound of one man's mental state developing from depression to aggression until, the force of self-awareness tries to defeat the man's soul of darkness. the musical expression of the album describes this mental development in a quite impressive way. "way though zero" are divided into five parts. all parts are untitled since they more likely describe the different steps of mental development. first part opens with deep rumbling low frequency drones first of all reminiscent of coil's explorations into harsh electronics on the album "constant shallowness leads to evil", and the warning printed on the "constant shallowness...."-disc saying "may cause drowsiness - do not play while driving or operating machinery" could well be used on this 7-minutes opening track. second track works more energetic with ritually mid-tempo rhythm textures and freezing sounds like the outbursts of an electronic processed didgeridoo. the feeling of something waiting to explode lies underneath the surface of this second track. and things certainly happens as third part of the album takes over. symbolising the shift from subdued depression to driving aggression, pure hatred comes to expression and hell breaks loose as harsh waves of evil drones penetrates. on the first two tracks the voice of a man getting more and more frustrated lied somewhere in the sonic expression. on this third track the voice changes from angry to furious as the voice are sucked into aural machinery reminiscent of swedish power electronics-maestro brighter death now. after this exercise in sonic extremity fourth track sneaks slowly up. subtle, almost inaudible drones of isolation symbolises the mental state of pensiveness. a whispering voice assists to build the feeling of tranquillity. fifth and final track, with its 19 minutes being the longest track, returns back to the more dramatic expression with buzzing noise drones bouncing back and forth in approx. 12 minutes until atmospheric ambient sounds of suppression brilliantly describes the man's desperate attempt to break the circle of viciousness. whether he succeeds to break loose is questionable, since the ambience nicely balances between a feeling of relief and endless depression. judged by the sonic expression the ending of the story is open for the listener to interpret. never the less this is an excellent thematic exploration into the dark sides of human souls. a quite unusual album in the ant zen-sphere, because of its sonic introspective character. highly recommended! (nmp)
a review in russian language is available at machinist page:
gjoll is an industrial project from iceland founded by reptilicus member johann eiriksson. gjoll can be translated as noisy, clamant, thunderous and raging and is also a river in the norse mythology comparable to the river styx. the cd tells a story of a man's anger evolving. the story is told in 5 parts .each of the parts is showing a mental state of a man who feels oppressed by today's western consumer society. the first part is a deep droning and slow track with a pulsing bass in which the person feels pessimistic and powerless, and has therefore a strong dark atmosphere that it will keep you tight to your chair. the second part shows his rising anger towards the powers that oppress him. this track has a deep rhythm which is almost tribal and comas violently from your speakers. the lyrics here are brought in anger. part three is a violent track with distorted vocals and a metallic drone. it shows the pure hatred that absorbs his soul and drives him into madness. in part four a process of analysing and rethinking takes place: he realizes that the only way to fight his oppressors is to change one's perception. this is an ambient track with high frequency sounds which painfully penetrates your ear within an almost peaceful atmosphere. part five is a 17 minutes long waving track that sounds very stately. way through zero is a strong cd with pulsing sub basses, synth layers, driving rhythmic sequences, noisy drones, high frequency sonic attacks and silent melodic phrases. the sound is really deep and very warm this makes it very comfortable listening to although it can be quite extreme sometimes. all this makes this album worthwhile listening to. gjoll dedicates this album to those people who burn the flags of nations. the message is: "think for your self and choose for yourself". well, now it is up to you if you like this album or not. i only can say if you appreciate "lithiumpath" by skin area you absolutely try this cd. (remco)
comprising of drone, spares electronics and harsh vocals this icelandic duo cut a bizarre path through the duration of 'way through zero' it is both calming and intensely angry at the same time. the anger comes from sigurour haroarson (of gringcore band forgarour helvitis) whose impassioned cries in his native tongue conflict and compliment the varying electronic ebbs and flows of johann eirkissons' drone creations. not to be taken lightly.
gjöll's way through zero is a revolutionary document -- an aural manifesto that seeks to focus man's restlessness and emasculated anger into a perceptive coup d'etat of the mind. gjöll, the duo of jóhann eiríksson and sigurður harðarson, have built a conceptual record, setting the foundation in the noisy norse mythos where gjöll is the river at the edge of the underworld. it is the source of discontent which courses through the mind of man. the five parts of way through zero follow the course of rage and disenchantment that flows through the hearts and minds of dispossessed men, building from sporadic ambience to chaotic rage to a climatic realization of internal power. "part 1" of the monologue begins with the mutterings of a lost soul, a man cast adrift on the river that run through the abyss. tones warp and wave in the background and a piece of gutted machinery keeps constant company with the lost traveler as he is drawn through an empty landscape. "part 2" erupts with a hollow-core symphony -- wind whistling through metal tubes and ducts -- as a mechanized drummer pounds the rhythm of our heartbeat. the voice becomes more strident as adrenaline-fuelled discontent gives him voice. we are through hiding in the sand, through turning the other cheek as we are beaten daily by our oppressors. we are not cogs or numbers or identity-less nodes on a vast network. we are voices, we are spirits with our own light. we feel, we react. we fight back. "each and every one / of your institutions / is the length of my shadow / and each shadow corrosive / teaching me hate / on sunny days." a moaning howl of noise cascades through "part 3," the volcanic eruption of fury and resentment. too long has the discontent been held captive by the institution, by his oppressors. spikes of noise erupt through the waves of sound, a coruscating energy of destructive fury. "if there is a hell / you have created it." while not a full-bore winterkäalte assault, "part 3" finds its pitch in claustrophobic fury. this is the man broken, vitriol spilling out of his cracked frame. but gjöll's journey isn't a "burn it all down" anarchistic screed; rather, it is an examination of the mental breakthrough that occurs at this point of self-immolation. in the vacuum following "part 3," tiny sine wave tones sing with a whispered voice in a questioning duet. who gave the oppressors their power, their strength? "there is no power / unless you recognize it / no threat / unless you admit it / no peace / but the one you create." and, with such realization, the wave returns for "part 5," but it a course of energy that is focused and directed. it is the movement of self-actualized power and lacks the frantic energy underlying it in "part 3." finally, the wave is subsumed beneath an ambient field of twinkling notes, the infinite canopy of stars that are available to us when we throw off the self-made yokes of our oppression. "i am an oasis / in the desert / that is myself." way through zero is a self-help tape, really. a cleansing journey from hopelessness and helplessness to the vast freedom of internalized godhead. we leave the abyss behind us when we break through the final veil. we see only the stars when we are free and we hear only their song. break on through to the other side, my friends. let gjöll lead you there. (mark teppo)
sometimes we reviewers get lucky. periodically we get our hands on albums like gjöll's "way through zero." unlike 75% of the same old, recycled garbage out there that passes for industrial nowadays, this album still manages to evoke emotion without reeking of cheesy manufactured angst for angst's sake. "part 1" brings the calm before the storm. it sets the tone of the release, which i interpret as dealing with despair and isolation (perhaps feeling invisible, even in a room full of people, or screaming at the top of your lungs while no one is listening); being disconnected from the modern world, despite forced assimilation into a life we don't necessarily want, as a means of survival. drones and spoken word dominate this composition, while the pads add warmth and bring forth mental images of the sun parting the clouds, shining down on the endless, desolate plains of the arctic tundra - or one's soul. pick the more dramatic option and run with it. the end of the track foreshadows the eruption of contemporary man's inner rage, assaulting your mind and your ears, making them tremble like a trailer park in a tornado, and prepares your senses for the aural ragnarök that is "part 2." enveloped in a perfect cacophony of controlled chaos, here we have grown-up power electronics at their finest. with "part 2" all the anger, frustration and desire to tear down humanity as we know it, for the sake of being able to start over from scratch, is crystal clear to me, and yet i don't understand a word of icelandic. the crude emotion packed into each instant of this seven-and-a-half-minute powerhouse extends beyond the boundaries of something as trivial as language. the tribal beats interlaced with melodic elements cause me to swing my hips inappropriately every time this track is played. at the moment no clubby ebm tune has the same power over me. this proves that disgruntled icelandic rants about the sad state of modern civilization are made of 100% pure sex. don't you wish your girlfriend liked noise? wind sweeps and distorted, yet still spoken, vocals take us on a journey through "part 3." the layers of sound act as guides on a pilgrimage deep into the center of the speaker's soul. the discontent brought to an apex in "part 2" is now more subdued, and there is a sense of cold detachment in his voice. "part 4" sounds like something one might hear when crossing a mythical river of the dead. from norse mythology, gjöll is the river that flows closest to the gate of the underworld, and it is said to be freezing cold, with knives flowing through it. this track has the grotesquely ominous monotone calmness that one experiences only upon reaching the point of no return. "part 5" concludes the journey through gjöll's personal hell. walls of noise assault the listener from the very first second, but ease after the twelve-minute mark, progressing into soothing ambience that may or may not cause one to feel like they have finally reached the gates of elysium after enduring thirty minutes of a blistering, noisy inferno. i'm sure by now i have summed up my thoughts on this album to the point where no concluding paragraph is needed. so i will say one more thing, and one thing only: if it were possible to give it an eleven, i would. (beatrice wilgucka)
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