When listening to Slonk it is clearly noticeable how much the band dives headfirst into their hurricane-like ‘symphonies’ and how much thought they give to their songs. That becomes obvious when you look at the lengths of the four tracks – they range from 5:30 to 13:33 minutes and each song is exactly as long as it needs to be which means that we cannot talk about doom metal or black metal alone – it needs to be a mix of both.
The songs are often centered around an interestingly produced combination of fast riffs that are harsh and open at the same time, but being a simple black metal band is not enough for the foursome from Gent, which evolves more and more into a new Seattle, just think about the amount of awesome bands from there plus the amazing label Consouling Sound: just like Sub Pop and the bands around it dominated the hard rock scene in the late 80s, early 90s, Gent seems to be the place to be for everything between ambient drone and black metal; and Alkerdeel has been an important part of this scene for more than 15 years now.
Slonk is their fourth full-length and the follow-up to 2016’s Lede and their fifth release on Consouling Sound by now. And it features a band that tries to challenge its audience by not giving them anything fashionable and resting or peaceful, this record is not blackgaze or atmo-bm, this is in your face in a sense that you should not listen if you do not want to be literally taken by storm! The band is able to very subtly change the pace of a song by slowly picking up a notch or two without the listener noticing – a good example would be the opening track “Vier” which goes from a very ambient-like track to a doom monster and then ends in a black metal cascade of fighting riffs and blastbeats. The band also incorporates a lot of grinding, buzzing noise into their songs which gives them some kind of similarity to an act like Gnaw their Tongues with whom they already released a collaboration album. Slonk shows that Alkerdeel are just one tight unit after 15 years together and one should not be surprised by that but the precision one can witness on this record is really impressive.
However, when talking about Alkerdeel records one should not forget to talk about the lyrics and the concept behind the record. The lyrics, well, they are not understandable – and that is not because of the screams by Pede but because of something very unique: they use a dialect from their native Belgium and, as if it wasn’t enough, they use the old form of that dialect, the kind of words used by the elders – how should anyone outside of that batch of people have any chance. And to top it all of, Pede also likes to use highly ambiguous words to make it even more unattainable. But that does not mean, that there is not some kind of idea behind Slonk. The record is about the four elements “Vier, Eirde, Zop, Trok” (Fire, Earth, Water and Wind) and everything is interwoven with a kind of mysticism that has to do with a language developed in the 16th century by English writer John Dee that is called Enochian Key. John Dee used this language in his journals and said that angelical was the language God spoke with his angels and was used by Adam to name everything on earth. The record shows some elements of Enochian Key as interpreted by the artist who created illustrations to represent each of the elements accordingly. When looking at these illustrations one for sure at once knows that they represent speech or words but which language, which words, which code – that remains hidden. And as singer Pede said in an interview that was something that Alkerdeel was all about – hiding stuff in their songs. Well, you can hide a lot of things under these brilliantly arranged cacophonies.
Alkerdeel once again shows that black metal from Belgium or the Netherlands is amongst the most intriguing and that this quartet is one of the most intriguing of the lot, because they demand a lot of attention while giving you some small tidbits to chew one which then turn out to be so tasty and amicable that you cannot but gnaw for teeth on them until you might come to a conclusion about what you are digesting for yourself. If that is what the band intended? One will probably never know, but isn’t that part of the game?! Yes, it is! Or isn’t it? Don’t ask Alkerdeel.