I’ll be honest about this one; I’m not sure how well it falls under the Rainbows brand, considering it is a black metal album at its core, despite a lack of almost any instrumental resemblance to black metal. However, Finland’s Nobody is committed to pushing the black metal scene forward by going the opposite direction of everyone else. Instead of faster, louder and heavier, he’s adding by subtracting, leaving only…well, the Atmosfear, if you will. And boy howdy is there nothing else out there like this. It’s Rainbows in the Dark, bringing you whatever I feel like, at this point.
Despite the name, Nobody is actually somebody, namely singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/author Tuomas Kauppinen, whose one man black metal project seeks to distill black metal down to its very essence, while also serving as the backdrop to more of his trademark short stories (he has three collections and a whole play published outside of the Nobody brand). While lyrically, his songs tell stories centered around more traditional black metal themes like the occult, demons, demagogues and other such horrors, Atmosfear differs in a lot of fundamental ways from traditional black metal. Chiefly, the complete lack of electric guitars, bass and drum kits. Nobody truly is a one-man project in the purest sense, with the vast majority of Atmosfear being just Kauppinen and his acoustic guitar (barring organ on “The Great Stink” and percussion on “Lover’s Lament”). Kauppinen’s playing blends more traditional and neofolk influences with fusion, singer-songwriter and of course furious black metal.
It’s a hugely jarring musical juxtaposition, especially considering that accompanying those gentle fingerpicks, flamenco-like strums and folk-fusion chords is the classic wretched vocals you would expect from a trve kvlt release. At first listen, it’s a lot to take in and it certainly isn’t what you’d be expecting. However, beyond the initial shock factor, I find myself wondering why no one has attempted this before. It just seems like it should make sense, and for the most part it does. It’s a solid pairing, and when you listen to Atmosfear as a whole you really get the sense that this is a black metal album in spirit, even if the sonic palette doesn’t quite match up.
The vocals on this album are going to be what divides people on it. There’s almost no question about it, because at first listen, they seem tremendously out of place, especially once you get to the proper opening of the album, lead single “Stronger Than Blood.” Upon first listen it’s a neofolk tinged affair that, instrumentally, would fit perfectly on an Ulvesang album, with upbeat strumming and open chords. Then Kauppinen’s vocals kick in and it’s like being kicked square in the chest. This would be the point where I would suspect a lot of people will turn the album off, but if you do, you’re missing out on the chance to experience something truly unique in the black metal scene. I promise once your first impression wears off, you’ll find that there’s a lot of depth here. The vocals are primarily shrieked, yes, but there’s also soft whispers and spoken word that help break up the harshness. The guitar ranges from soft fingerpicking and strumming (“The Ruthless Vicar,” “Stronger Than Blood,” “Anubis II”) to more fusion and world-music inspired pieces (“Anubis I,” “Visionary II”) to a very black metal sense of aggression (“The Dark Marquis,” “Orgasm of Blasphemy,” the title track). Kauppinen’s folk sensibilities are very strong, and the music on this album is well executed. There’s enough variety in the tracks to keep them interesting, and despite the seventeen song tracklist, none are longer than three-and-a-half minutes, so it’s not a slog to get through. For my money, it’s a very solid album that shows a lot of forward thinking and progression in the very definition of what makes something “black metal.” You just have to go into it with the understanding that it is a black metal album, first and foremost.
I think a lot of people who don’t like black metal tend to think of it as having a singular sound. Tinny, harsh, raw, underproduced and grating. Atmosfear isn’t any of those things. It’s stripped down, yes, but it’s not underproduced or intentionally raw. It’s emotive without being harsh (well, too harsh). It’s about as unique as unique gets, and if you’ve been looking for black metal that is outside of the ordinary you owe this one a spin. It’s definitely not like anything you’ve ever heard before.