On his Bandcamp page, Comets Ov Cupid mastermind Jason Kesselring describes the project as “gothic space rock.” It’s a concise description, and not wholly inaccurate, but Vril Kosmische Urkraft encompasses quite a bit more in terms of genre. The Minneapolis-based project’s third full-length is a wild chariot ride through buzzing hollow-earth drones, meandering krautrock riffage, black metal influence, and fuzz—fuzz everywhere. Though the album’s title and thematic inspiration might lead the uninitiated to expect something in the neofolk vein, it’s an entirely different interpretation of Norse mythology and the work of Edward Bulwer-Lytton. And that’s not to say that it doesn’t occasionally delve into folk territory as well. Sure, you could slap the album with the “space rock” label and be mostly correct, but it would also be a massive understatement and a great disservice to the artist.
Vril Kosmische Urkraft is a lot to absorb, to say the least. Kesselring has an interesting method of layering textures that can be imperfectly compared to building a harsh noise wall. Although the project is primarily guitar based, there are all kinds of good things buried underneath the thundering riffs: drum patterns and vocal samples, more riffs, and a muted guitar solo. All of it coalesces, more often than not, into a seething barricade of fuzz. While tracks like “Sleipnir,” with its frenetic fretwork and breakneck drum loops, carry a strong metal influence, the album’s finest moments come when the artist dives headlong into psychedelia. The uneasy bad-trip drones of “Ultima Thule” segue perfectly into the finger-picked intro, haunting and resonant, of “Valknut.” Though clearly adept at experimentation and pushing the boundaries of sound and genre, Kesselring’s talents are most evident when he incorporates traditional elements into the mix.
Purists of any stripe won’t be thrilled with the release, but being a purist isn’t very much fun. There are elements of Hawkwind and Can in there, but also some nods back to the English prog-folk that inspired Kesselring’s earlier project, Skye Klad. In some ways, Vril Kosmische Urkraft draws comparison with the frantic genre-hopping of Yussuf Jerusalem; in other ways, there’s little to compare it to. Despite drawing from a large pool of often disparate influences, one is never left with the impression that these are employed for novelty’s sake, or as devices meant to distract the listener from one flaw or another. Vril Kosmische Urkraft has its share of flaws like any other album, but a lack of cohesion isn’t one of them. The album has a clear sonic purpose, and it fulfills that by incorporating the right amount of experimentation at exactly the right times.
01) Mysterium Cosmographicum
03) Viking Spacecraft
04) The Hollow Earth
05) Ultima Thule
09) Eternal Ice