Considering the fact that 2021 was another year that seemed to stand still for many, it’s interesting to note that not everyone seemed content to let inactivity get the better of them. Two such acts were Non Serviam, the anonymous Parisian collective who put out three albums that treat genres like Dr. Frankenstein treated body parts and Viviankrist (Eri Isaka, formerly Vivian Slaughter of the much-missed Gallhammer) who dropped fourteen releases of modular experiments, live sets, collabs, and general sonic manipulation. It makes some sense, then, that the two have decided to put out a split release. The best question might be how they found the time to do it.
A first pass of Non Serviam is always a daunting prospect. It can be easier to list the genres that they don’t dabble in than to cover what they do, and the lengthy The World Is A Vampire manages to push this approach to its limit. Psychedelic in the truest, mind-bending sense, it’s a stream of electronic and organic sound that stresses layering over clarity, flitting from morose trip-hop beats that will have your head bobbing like a Churchill dog to breakbeat, death-doom, glitchy electronica, and elegant piano passages.
It should be chaos, or at the very least a cluttered mess, but there’s a strange logic that permeates these tonal shifts, pairing disparate elements in ways that are unorthodox but not unpalatable. Similarly, vocals span from soft arias to growls and spoken word, a cacophonic babble of voice and noise that probably resembles what hell will sound like when the ground eventually opens up to swallow us all. But in a good way, y’know? The Sound Of Church Burning is less athletic in comparison, its gothic samples and fragmented, synthesised black metal assault sounding almost kitschy but it’s nonetheless a fun assault on decency and tradition, another avenue of exploration for a collective whose minds are basically a labyrinth now.
Non Serviam and Viviankrist may have very different approaches but laid side-to-side, they make a perfect, hellish pair…
For all Viviankrist’s unpredictability, her work as Gallkrist in the past year has been quite focused, taking lo-fi vintage electronics, marrying it with the coldest second-wave black metal, and concocting strangely hypnotic slabs of dungeon doom. In The Shadow of Winter is a stark, aggressive beast that slithers across the senses before erupting in a torrent of pure misanthropy. The assault almost feels like a natural disaster, the sensation of being trapped in the centre of a dust storm with no way out insight, and when Dungeon Doom lurches into the fray, the intensity doesn’t dissipate, it just changes shape. This ability to craft truly foreboding atmospheres, ones that suck the light from the room, with only the most rudimentary of tools is Isaka’s superpower and she applies it eerily well across these creaking, buzzing five minutes.
Black Cold Lake distils the most harrowing aspects of those first two offerings and delivers something that mirrors what Non Serviam crafted before her – the sound of hell. Rather than madness and chaos, this just feels like despair, unfiltered and left to run rampant, and it’s a fitting climax to an already gruelling listening experience.
Non Serviam and Viviankrist may have very different approaches but laid side-to-side, they make a perfect, hellish pair.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes