Book of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda & Elegy

Book of Sand is an experimental one-man band shrouded in mystery. Just trying to put a name on the person behind it would require an extensive investigation; for now, they refer to themselves only as “d”, or “dcrf”. Since 2009, they have nine releases, one of which being a split with The Skin Horse. Last year, I reviewed The Face of the Deep, which I described as unworthy of listening, but upon further reflection provides a unique albeit rather abstract experience, and can be enjoyed for what it is, simply.

Earlier this year, Book of Sand released two albums: a black metal album, Occult Anarchist Propaganda, and an experimental noise EP, Elegy. Let’s talk about both in this double review.

coveroapFirst in line is Occult Anarchist Propaganda. This album got a surprising amount of coverage for such an obscure band. I attribute most of this to one of two things: the work of their new label, Mouthbreather Records, or the fact that this is one of their – if not their – least experimental projects to date.

We have to rewind to 2010, and to the album How Beautiful to Walk Free, in order to listen to another rather traditional black metal album from the band. OAP is, however, more on the melodic side of things, with discernible guitar riffs and marked sections within the songs. From what I could tell, everything is in common time and diatonic scales, reaffirming my statement of it being a very standard and non-experimental album. Lyrically, it’s a politically engaged record. As its name suggests, it pushes forwards ideals of anarchism, but also of feminism, veganism, and anti-racism. I bet they and Peculate would love to have a chat, someday.

Even though it is pretty much a run-of-the-mill black metal album, Occult Anarchist Propaganda is quite enjoyable and will most likely please to anyone with a certain soft spot for the genre. This one is certainly deserves that you listen to it.

coverelegySecond in line is Elegy, and here I recognize the band more, and less at the same time. First of all, it’s a very exclusive and limited album – only two dozens of CDs have been printed, and they are for sale on the label’s website -, and secondly, its sound is a striking departure from even their most unusual experiments (see The Face of the Deep).

Completely forgoing the world of metal, Elegy instead finds home in a strange place torn between noise, folk, and experimental music. I have to say that the whole EP is mixed at around +5 dB, from what I could tell, which will break your speakers and make you jump from your seat if you haven’t turned down the volume and aren’t ready for it. Due to this, the 21 minutes of the EP are filled to the brim with analog and digital distortion, making the instruments very difficult to discern, though you can still hear the melodies and some remnants of timbre. There seems to be piano, celesta, perhaps, some bells, strings, maybe a harp, and a distortion guitar from time to time. I can also make out what sounds like a guitar with nylon strings on song 3. It’s hard to distinguish the instruments, but it would be near impossible to tell if they are acoustic ones or if they used some synthesizer to achieve their sounds. On the last song, there even seems to be some chanting buried in all the distortion, but I couldn’t decipher what the singer says to save my life.

Overall, Elegy, despite its flagrantly aversive production, is somehow endearing. Underneath the harshness in which it hides, there is a hypnotic, mesmerizing and infantile soul so fragile and afraid that it must hide under a thick shell of harsh noise just so nobody will ever know how fragile and innocent it really is. Maybe the whole concept of this EP is an elegy to one’s childhood… I can only interpret the message Elegy conveys, as there is practically no information about it! It’s a very intriguing release that definitely merits 21 minutes of your time, if you can manage to find a copy.

Thanks to Mouthbreather Records for the promo kit.

Technical information

coveroapBook of Sand
Occult Anarchist Propaganda
1: crumbling palaces – 5:25
2: the white man’s burden – 6:24
3: a prayer for darkness – 6:17
4: things were not what they used to be – 6:06
5: render unto caesar – 6:20
6: cowardly acts – 6:45
7: the mountains are waking up – 12:26
Total running time: 49:43
Release date: 2016/03/25
Label: Mouthbreather Records

File type listened to: MP3
Bit rate: 128 kbps CBR
Sampling frequency: 44,100 Hz, 2 channels

coverelegyBook of Sand
1: [untitled] – 4:07
2: [untitled] – 1:51
3: [untitled] – 3:23
4: [untitled] – 2:20
5: [untitled] – 3:50
6: [untitled] – 1:40
7: [untitled] – 4:16
Total running time: 21:27
Release date: 2016/02/13
Label: Mouthbreather Records

File type listened to: MP3
Bit rate: 128 kbps CBR
Sampling frequency: 44,100 Hz, 2 channels