Written by Barlovv
Iōhannēs – Jacob’s Ladder
> Black metal
> North Carolina, US
> Released November 22
Despairing for myself
I dreamt that I was dead
And you weren’t there to save me
Alright, disclosure time first – and I admit this may be just an unnecessary abundance of caution but here we are all the same. I released Iōhannēs’ previous EP, The Ocean, on my label, and as such I recognize this could appear to be a conflict in some regard. It should be noted that Jacob’s Ladder was an independent release by the artist, and I paid for the album myself. No favours are being done for anyone, even if I do think this album fucking rules. Alright, that aside, let’s get to it.
North Carolina’s Iōhannēs is an undeniable and exceptional talent. A one-person black metal project, there is a whole lot on display across the bevy of releases from this artist, with Jacob’s Ladder being just the latest in that admirable line. The thing opens so strong, with haunting guitars and a genuinely beautiful tone set with a hell of a solo, almost immediately followed by the crushing and brutal vocals that you’ve come to expect from Iōhannēs.
It should be noted as well that the album is inspired by the 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder, but as I’ve only seen the film once and don’t remember particularly liking it, I’m not going to be able to draw many comparisons between the two, which I suppose makes the review slightly less fulsome that it should be, and that is on me.
One of the places Iōhannēs truly shines in all of their work is in their lyrics. There is such a level of heartbreak and sadness, but also these pops of hope throughout the album. Complimenting the devastating vocal performance, there is some genuine pain in this record, which—really—we all want from some nasty black metal. The album is just such an evocative thing, with every song feeling meaningful and personal, even knowing that it’s based on another work. That really does speak to the resonance and importance of the film for Iohannes—though I don’t want to make too many assumptions. “There are worlds of pain you’ve yet to see / This nightmare you’ve brought upon yourself / Will never end” finishing out the second song, “Edom”, shows that despair I’m talking about pretty plainly. While the final lyrics of the album, in the song “Under Your Wing”, almost show the opposite, saying “Your love keeps me sane / In the best of ways / I will always believe in you / And appreciate you forever”. A real demonstration of the dichotomy I’m talking about, and honestly it almost feels like it shouldn’t work in black metal, but it really fucking does.
We’ve also absolutely got to talk about the actual album closer, “Heavenward”, which really ends things on a truly peaceful and beautiful note. Honestly, using my vaguest recollections about the film it’s inspired by, there is absolutely a rhythm here that directly hits all the beats that it needs to, and in truth—I like this album significantly more than the movie. Ending on this beautiful note really brings the whole thing together. An album at once savage and vulnerable, this kind of thing really goes a long way.
There is a tremendous amount to love about Jacob’s Ladder, and it is impossible to me that you won’t find something here to latch on to. You’re going to need to go ahead and hear one of the albums best pieces of black metal.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Look, if you’ve not jumped on board with Iōhannēs yet, this is the time to do it. The album is a showcase of so much of what makes them who they are, and it just fucking rules. I worry, sometimes, that in a lot of cases I’m repeating myself in these reviews —but only reviewing things that I like does seem to come with a lot of connection in the reasons that I like them. This album is great, and you should just fucking listen to it. Now, go away, listen, and get off the computer and go lay in a field in the dark with this on. Only if it’s safe to do so, obviously.