Fallow Heart: The Ad-libs of Forgotten Gods (Nuno Lourenço: Part II)

“The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind…if artists cannot find the way then the way cannot be found.”—Terrence Mckenna

Remember when black metal wasn’t a jungle gym installed for the open experimentation and monkeyshines of its shrieking, irreligious pundits? Man, I certainly do; I remember that monstrous recalcitrance as being a large part of what was so fascinating about it as a manner of expression: it’s near revolting discipline utterly cocooning it from any and all other scenes. Whereas early punk and hardcore was riotously insistent upon receiving a larger sliver of their economy’s respective alms, black metal seemed to thrive on punishing self-denial i.e. ‘we don’t want more you idiots, we insist that you give us less!’ Despite the fact that the glitzy, future-primitive coxcombs of Celtic Frost were somehow permitted entry to metal’s most conservative social guild, the scene was remarkably—even militantly—static. How did such a tightly compartmentalized system go on to become so breezily open-concept? Was it simply the momentum of the wrecking ball’s inevitable reverse arc? Or did this progression mirror something grander than the easily calculable pendulum of stylistic caprice?

As parlances go, black metal’s first real and certainly most enduring codification, (meaning its inglorious second-wave,) was aloof and taciturn, formulated by frank, unambiguous guardrails and a scant handful of tautologies. In that way it reflected the inferential aims of nearly any civilization in that it built within it a militaristic system to neutralize wanderlust and apostate ideations, leaving only the outlet of one’s dreams as a heatsink for the heartburn and wear of routine experience. But dreams alone were never intended to be our sole outlet from the stifling corset of societal expectations.

American lecturer/contemporary mystic Terrence Mckenna speculated that nations must always train their collective gaze upon the minding of social norms. It is not so much the church but the insistence on civil boundaries that make up the guts of our collective religion; we insist on orthodox harmonies. Therefore, Mckenna argues, it’s through the exploitation of not only dreams but also meditation, unflinching inquiry and psychotropics that we can most effectively dismantle the fencing of our given societies. And why are we driven to do as such? Because Chief, consciousness always hungers for expansion. And never fear, if we are unable or otherwise unwilling to dismantle our boundaries, some alien agent will inevitably do so for us, (just ask the Canaanites.) Those bulwarks are debris-bound.

In its infancy, black metal provided a small, well-tended and especially claustrophobic landscape. ‘Only death is real’? ‘No mosh, no core, no trends, no fun’? Does this sort of ideal really sound sustainable to anyone or was its aspiration largely to enjoy a briefly lived spark of mascara-running recalcitrance only to be overwhelmed not just by commercial impulses but by the basest whims of the human spirit?

My previous Fallow Heart entry explored Nuno Lourenço’s outrageously bizarre Salqiu project through the unfathomable palaver of dreamspeak—sort of. Fallow Heart’s arrhythmic edicts tend to reflect not only my personal listening but also my literary diet within the given moment and therefore, (most likely to the surprise of no one,) a regimen composed of Albert Camus, Joseph Campbell, along with the music of Debussy and Salqiu’s water-colored cvlt blackness will inevitably birth 1500 or so words of wild inscrutability. As my spirit animal Albert Mudrian said upon receiving the piece, “…I have to be honest, I really don’t know what the fuck is happening here.” (Just kidding, guys! No way is my spirit animal anything that cool. It’s probably something trifling like a flathead minnow or some other kind of baitfish.) Anyway, for this second bite at the ol’ impious apple, I wanted to provide a glimpse of some of Nuno Lourenço’s work in a more linear and sober fashion. After all, his stuff is oblique and smeary enough all on its lonesome to properly shadow any consideration, it doesn’t need me to inject any further outlandishness into its gory capillaries.

Like many of the genre’s greatest advocates, Nuno dictates his chilly addresses concurrently from both within and without the engine assembled by aboriginal black metal. Two of his three projects, the previously discussed Salqiu and the grandly misanthropic Züüd bear many of those old familial traits including an insistence on transmitting from within the ungovernable depths of the extreme underground, (“Salqiu or anything else that I do is completely uncompromising; it doesn’t have commercial goals. I don’t care to be exposed…”) and a painter’s palette liberally dotted with colors of excruciatingly low luminance. (It’s worth noting that I attempted to solicit an interview with Nuno several times before he at last elected to acquiesce.) Simultaneously, his work is so tense with chance incidentals, foreign textures and unfathomable impulses that it operates as a kind of occupational heresy; a superimposition of opposing outcomes collapsed into a single moment of time. Like the vague illumination of a far-flung constellation operating as the gate-agent waving down red-eye flights, Züüd and Salqiu’s resulting synchronic havoc, poetry and exoticism is fascinating by dent of its nature. But then, a glimpse into Nuno’s writing/recording process will certainly illume the seeming illegibility of his agendum.

“I only play once or so a month and when I do, I just want to record…. Normally—and you’ll find this strange,” Nuno correctly predicts, “I won’t take more than four hours recording a full song. I lay down the guitars but am sure to keep some open spaces between the riffs. Afterwards, I record the bass and then the drums and simply go from there. I’ll experiment with different sounds. I’ve always liked symphonic, progressive-rock,” he continues, “so there are influences of that and additionally I’ll explore the collection of instruments that I have. I add elements and if I like them, I leave them. If I don’t, they’re removed. The last thing I’ll do is the vocals, (I hardly ever do a second take.) Occasionally, there are small edits but regardless, it’s a quick process.”

Admittedly, this revelation did surprise me quite a bit given that Nuno’s output is secured by just enough ties to fasten its proverbial roof to the rafters so that it doesn’t blow off entirely in the maelstrom. It reads like an exceptionally intricate parley between form and formlessness; storm and still. Züüd’s ambient/trap asides sound punctiliously interpolated while its messy web of extremity keens like the collision of worlds.

To illustrate my point, I present: “Juudr Urfaud” (http://zuud.bandcamp.com/album/kozmzok)

The second track from Züüd’s vile KozmzoK album begins and ends with the airy clatter of said cosmogonic fender-bender. The dissolve into a monasterial, slow onset panic attack becomes—over repeated listenings—the only logical response. Vaguely legible black metal overwhelms the hysterical fraternity as it undulates from one withering remonstrance to another, without ever troubling itself with the bothersome drag of a rationale. Riffs are favored for a moment, allowed to madly pirouette before their audience and then discarded leaving only that underlying thrum that introduced the piece to serve as any thread of guidance. The 3:00 mark opens up an entirely new antechamber: a contemplative astral nursery populated by the bleat of horns and inverted incantations. This feeds at 5:15 into my favorite passage of the track. A breakneck horn transmission evoking a ’30s-era celluloid animation of the end time’s flame-colored horse. It always makes me smile.

“Züüd was created as a side project for two main reasons,” Nuno explains. “I wanted to have a project created from scratch in Brazil, to commemorate my move [from Portugal], and I wanted to create something heavier, more raw and more “dirty” than Salqiu… The word ‘zuud’ [sans umlauts] means ‘quickly’ or ‘soon’ in Urdu. My idea for the project was that I wouldn’t spend more than a single day creating a track. I wanted it visceral and nihilistic.”

The restlessness of inspiration is a gremlin that seems to especially pester Nuno. “I don’t have the mixing skills and I certainly don’t have the time or the patience to study the practice,” confesses our subject. “No! I write a song and I must share it. I have difficulty waiting for the full album to be ready in order to release it.”

This would imply that all of Nuno’s pieces bear—to greater and lesser degrees—the affectation of a startled genesis, like newborn monstrosities whose eyes bulge with wonder, horror and amusement at their warp-driven exodus from an orderless vacuum. Similar akimbo atrocities have been licked into being by other artists over the years but rarely this successfully, (Kayo Dot operates as one of the other rare exceptions to the generally accepted SOP.) Nuno smartly affords a small coterie of friends’ elbow-room to embed their own remarks within his compositions including Planet Epiphany’s Mattos Maul, Promethean’s Gaetan Marquer and Flávio Kebras of Portugal’s Afterbleeding. It’s a bit of an ‘open source’ approach that handily contributes to the music’s dreamlike structures. But let’s consider a few more compositions directly.

Yes, I am a fatal man… To inspire hopeless passion is my destiny.” —Rev. Archibald Spooner

What if Alcest endured a massive crack to the dome with an ugly stick? What if diSEMBOWELMENT allowed themselves the courtesy of a few breathing holes punched into their body-bag? Well, there but for the grace of forgotten Lusitanian gods goes this, motherfucker! At 2:23 the tension oscillates so frantically from despair to manic joy that the mainframe built to monitor such emotional rubrics has got to be naught but smoking ruin. From there we saunter on (3:30) through metropolitan shadow-play. Theatrical, removed and menacing unspooling as a spontaneous, valedictory descent into chaos and a final glancing allusion to the sunnier refrains from earlier on. Masterful.

My god, does this opening riff wind me up! It’s like a lick from the Morbid Tales album on holiday in ‘late ’60’s era Berkeley. Heavy and groovy, the sort of frame that a youngish Cathedral would have lined in a polyester button-down for a night out on the town. On the menu for the evening’s entertainment? The abnegation of everything you hold dear. Additionally: public flagellation, Dilaudid driven knife fights on a wedding-party dance floor, bloodied cries for redemption from the parapets of a well lit tourist trap, conga-lines; the friggin’ works.

One more:

This one’s just a lot of fun. A Salqiu cover of Paulistana maniacs Psychic Possesor makes zero sense on paper. In fact, the sheet that the idea was drawn up upon should be ceremonially creased into a paper football and thumped into the brick oven of a Macaroni Grill for it’s very obvious crimes and yet, here we are, ladies and gentlemen. Leading promptly from a baroque piano flourish to a bubbling allusion to the source material’s one and only proper riff, “Cubatão” yields a minute plus of time to acknowledge Nuno’s clear enthusiasm for early Arcturus. At precisely 1:42 Nuno lurchingly remembers why he punched record in the first place and launches into an amazing, staunchly cyclic charcoal-black/punk exercise. Check the staccato, almost hiccuped vocals of the refrain at 2:14, (though I haven’t circled around to how formidable Nuno’s vocal chops are, I can assure you that they’re reliably baronial, cruel and all out choice.) Deadly and catchy AF.

I’d be remiss not to finally deliver the conversation to the point on which Nuno presently stands: slung into the black stiletto heels of his most ambitious work to date, Invisible Music for the Unseen. Salqiu’s most recent opus became an unquestionable shoo-in for my top ten albums of 2019 on first listen. (Full disclosure: I’d been granted access to unfinished versions of three quarters of the album for a month leading up to its drop so my appetite was admittedly sloppy-whet.)

Salqiu performs an interesting trick here by slipping out of his favored black (metal) gown and dismantling it to suit his requirements as a drop cloth upon which to toy with other mediums. The album functions in part as a tribute to Pan.Thy.Monium and so it makes a degree of sense that black metal operates here more as an accent rather than the lingua franca itself. Still, the wild parade of form kindled by Invisible Music for the Unseen is absolutely wonderful. This is Salqiu’s parallel of a Spheres or a Leaving Your Body Map or an A Umbra Omega or a S.U.I.Z.I.D.; that is, it’s a marvelously realized yet thoroughly anarchic work with zero fealties to anything beyond its own unencumbered passion. It is adrift by dent of design.

“I think that most of my ideas can—in a more black metal fashion—be related to what Pan.Thy.Monium were doing with death metal all those years ago. I’ve always been a fan.” Nuno continues, “When I started composing the Salqiu stuff, I heard that influence… the transitions, the use of the saxophone… [Pan.Thy.Monium] were so important in terms of clearing one of the paths that metal ultimately took, (meaning avant-garde and experimental.)”

Though only the lengthy closing track, “Pandemonium and Chaos” performs directly as tribute, the influence is liberally doled throughout the album’s near hour run time. What this entails is an experience that’s both immediately captivating and also increasingly revelatory upon repeated visitations. It certainly marks a transition for not only Salqiu but for Nuno as well given the obvious and uncharacteristic scrutiny that these passages underwent. But I’ll not bother speculating as to how Nuno Lourenço’s parlance might evolve. To (slightly) paraphrase the greatest actor ever to reprise the role of Pontius Pilate: David Bowie, I don’t know where it’s going from here but I promise it won’t be boring. Thank you, Nuno. O fim.

“The imagination is the goal of history. I see culture as an effort to literally realize our collective dreams.” —Terrence Mckenna

“Logic and sermons never convince,

the damp of the night drives deeper into my soul…” —Song of Myself, Walt Whitman

“The beautiful is always strange.” —Charles Baudelaire

Find Nuno Lourenço’s music on www.bandcamp.com as well as all major streaming platforms snd follow Nuno Lourenço on Instagram @salqiu.bm

Follow Fallow Heart on Instagram @fallow.heart