Mats Gustafsson is a giant in the world of free and avant-jazz. One of his latest works, on Fire! Orchestra’s Ritual, is just purely mind-blowing, as is the album in its entirety. Seeing his name alongside Chaos Echœs, one of the best contemporary forward-thinking black metal bands — their album Mouvement made it onto our February recommendations —, is just as much as a surprise as it is cause for excitement.
The collaboration, titled Sustain, is made of two parts of equal length that achieve a deranging, dense atmosphere that’s as far from black metal as it is from free jazz. The album is closer to dark ambient music, in general. Mats’ saxophone lines are most often drawn out and melancholic, and backed by the infinitely reverberating guitars, distorted bass, and hectic percussions of Chaos Echœs. I was expecting something bombastic, relentless, and heavy, but I am more than pleased to be surprised thusly.
The second side, “Harvest of Souls”, is more of a heavy hitter. The actors of this collaboration depart the lands of dark ambient only slightly, in favour of a more ritualistic approach, led by the single drum ostinato. This side is the metal equivalent of the kind of Indigenous music you can hear in a Canadian powwow. The drum serves as the pulse, and the singers are replaced by the bellicose brass breath of Gustafsson. The ritual music is completed by, once again, a heavy use of ambient sounds by the guitar, and a never ending bass drone. This is the main piece on Sustain, while “Spellbound” serves as an apropos introduction into the its musical aura.
When the ceremony finally ends, you’re left with yourself, and chills running through you. This is a powerful experience that could only be brought to you by two of the best, most creative entities of today. It’s something to hold on dearly, as such an experience only comes once in a long while. Sustain is unique and powerful, a statement of modern metal and jazz.