Skopofoboexoskelett by 夢遊病者

Release date: August 4, 2023
Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Carl Jung’s words might strike a person as blasphemous or prophetic depending on their outlook and beliefs, but on the fourth album from anonymous black metal collective 夢遊病者 they seem indelibly tied to the band’s vast-reaching vision. Scopofoboexoskelett is an exercise in exquisite corpse song construction on a grand scale, utilising not only the enigmatic PBV, NN and KJM that have been the creative core of the project since its inception, but also an eclectic mix of musicians and visual artists from the worlds of jazz, world music, metal, and classical music. The aim? To explore the roles of luck, phobia and intuition in life, positing that as life is shaped by perception, so too is perception altered by art, thus through art reality itself can be shaped at will. Or something to that effect, at least.

There’s no denying that even the scope of an album like this is an intimidating prospect, especially when it’s being conducted using 夢遊病者’s typical focus on density over length. As such, its 25 minutes are crammed with styles, ideas and fragmented motifs. Sometime they are brought into close contact, disparate tones and melodies pressed elbow-to-elbow and forced to share an uneasy coexistence, like warring troops forced into a shared trench. Elsewhere, there is a surprising degree of space afforded to each element, giving them to time to flow freely from light to shade and back again. Just like fate itself, there’s an inherent unpredictability, one that is constantly surprising but unerringly natural in how it all slots together.


‘Mirrors Turned Inward’ begins as a disconcerting babble of voices and skittish, jagged riffs that gradually coalesce into myriad shapes over its eight minutes. At times it’s like a spear, jagging at the listener with pointed malice; elsewhere, it’s a series of oblique sideswipes, like a dozen free-jazz records broken into pieces and then randomly hurled at passers-by. The black metal influence is lurking in there, but it takes it to far darker, more unnerving places than most dare to. ‘Silesian Fur Coat’ is Einstürzende Neubauten scoring a spaghetti western, a shimmering haze of desert-baked riffing, whispers and desperate screams that dissipate to allow some of 夢遊病者’s most beautiful passages to date. Part blackened doom sermon, part Turkish folk jam, it’s a near-spiritual undertaking as the blessed and the profane are brought to a feverish, psychedelic peak.

By far the briefest cut on Skopofoboexoskelett, ‘The Eagle Flies’ is one the most eventful offerings as well, skittering between blackened drone, psych-punk freakouts, sludge, ballroom brass and Latin percussive rhythms, all bleeding, melding and fighting for space. It makes closer ‘The Bad Luck That Saved You From Worse Luck’ almost tranquil in comparison. What starts out as a melancholy darkjazz jam, music to listen to at midnight as you sip brandy and the demons of the past scratch and claw their way to the surface, abruptly shifts into blackened noise-rock, fury and dissonance intertwining until an elegant neo-classical finale sees the album out.

夢遊病者 have made a habit of creating music that is involved and unclassifiable, compositions that exist purely for the sake of their own existence, and Skopofoboexoskelett is no exception. Actually, it might just be their peak, a sprawling, tangled monster of a record that challenges the listener without ever really trying to guide them anywhere. In a world where music is constantly manipulating its audience into following an emotional path, dictating how we should feel with every note, it’s refreshing to hear an album that simply is. No judgement, no agenda, only beauty and noise.

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