When it comes to the inspirations behind music, or any form of art for that matter, it often seems easy to determine the muse of the artist in question. We’ve all heard countless doom-oriented bands pledge their allegiance to the likes of Black Sabbath as expected, judging from fact that their riffs bear the same funereal eeriness permeating the work of the legendary British band. Furthermore, throughout the history of extreme music, the vast majority have grown to owe a crushing ton of gratitude to the infamous-as-all-hell (pun fully intended) Dark Lord himself, having slapped his likeness on so many record covers and t-shirts as well as billions of lyrical references. However, sometimes inspirations can come from the most unpredictable of places. An Austrian musician known as Rusty Pacemaker (a pseudonym) is a prime example of this occurrence. Handling all writing duties and taking on nearly all instrumental aspects of his recordings (save for the help of drummer Franz Löchinger and female vocalist, Lady K), Pacemaker works in his own studio and distributes his art through his own label. What may come as a surprise to the listener, especially after hearing records like Blackness and White Light, is that one of this guy’s greatest personal idols is none other than Quorthon, mastermind of Swedish metal juggernaut, Bathory.
It should be stated that my introductory exposure to Rusty’s work was from an online location through the small speakers of my netbook, hardly doing justice to the compact disc recording that later graced my ears. So, it was much to my surprise and delight that the record was worlds above what I had heard initially, not just by way of production but in the depth of general atmospherics and vocal execution as well.
With the sound of birds and a slamming door, Blackness and White Light (Solanum Records) comes on like a haunting storm. Just about every song here is testament to a life riddled with pain and a powerful sense of melancholy darkness. Rusty’s overall delivery of such sentiment probably doesn’t exactly scream “black metal” or “extreme” at face value to the average fan of so-called heavy music, but where this record is void of sheer aural punishment, it is instead filled with genuine emotions from the blackest recesses of the human experience. Simultaneously romantic and ominous, the songs take on a combination of shoe-gaze sensibilities and Rusty‘s apparent fondness for extreme music, resulting in a glorious marriage of somber mood and just the right amount of driving instrumentation to cut us all to the core. “You Never Had” bears odd qualities that manage to flashback to the ‘80’s new wave heyday while injecting new breathe with a more modern vision. “Amok” is most definitely a strong highlight of Blackness and White Light, combining galloping pace with Rusty alternating vocal duties with the ghostly voice of Lady K. Once again, the listener will likely be reminded of what it was like to be a music fan in the 1980’s…only to be drawn in by the heavier undertones of the instrumentation and decidedly threatening lyrical content. The record continues in similar fashion, with songs like the introspective “Waiting for Tomorrow“, “The Human Race“ (which puts all earthlings under the microscope with lines like “I lie and betray and to survive, I learned to kill…”, “My Last Goodbye“ (with its driving, metallic riffs and percussion intact), and the rampage of album closer, “Mother” (not the Danzig hit) taking the lead.
All in all, while it’s likely Blackness and White Light won’t strike a chord with every corpse-painted or bullet belt-wearing fan of brutal extremity, I’m willing to wager that those who merely embrace any music of an authentically austere, human nature will find something of high value here. One can only imagine what lies ahead. With Blackness and White Light, Rusty Pacemaker has shown us all that a storm is indeed brewing behind his eyes!