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Now although I'll happily admit the 'thrakh's sound has been on a plateau for nearly a decade, I haven't had a problem with enjoying their slightly formulaic forays into epic grindy blackened metal in this recent time of nigh on stasis. Hell is Empty, In the Constellation and Passion all featured hybrid moments of excellence and came together as fairly tasty albums in their own right.
However with Vanitas the band have reached the point where simply remaining distinct to pretty much any other entity active at the moment is no longer enough, and this latest record makes for a flaccid entry into their rapidly growing catalogue. This 'ere is an album that left me with almost nothing, no particular memorable moments other than a few what-the-farks and a decent closer, not much to headbang or make scary black metal faces to, just a bit of a wet one in general. You know when you finish a cup of tea, and there's that little bit in the bottom, and even though it's basically the same thing you've just been drinking, its gone a bit cold and you don't quite fancy it? That would be this album.
Instrumentally of course it's anything but wet. The guitars have that same malevolent keen to them, traveling from spiteful drones to blackened peels to dark and heavy chords. Precise, fast riffs are spun out one after the other, with seemingly no shortage of energy - even if the reserves of inspiration are apparently pretty dry.
The harsh vocals throughout are technically great - still diverse, disgusting and generally fucked up, but I will admit that despite my taste for Passion in general his vocal approach seems to have tailed off over the last few years, failing to nail me to my seat in horror as once it did. Maybe it is just the repeat factor.
As for the songs themselves, where are you going with 'The Blood-Dimmed Tide'? It really is a case of same old here. Three minutes of pretty obligatory sounding 'thrakh blasting that could have come from any album over the past five years. Similiarly with 'Forging Toward the Sunset' - both the grimy squeals and the barrel-chested clean vocals sound pretty good, and I even find myself quite enjoying myself while it rambles on, but there is sweet F-A in terms of memorability. I ain't coming back. There's no reason for me to sweep my grubby fingers round the dial on my iPod until it gets to this album and that song, when its title's place in the alphabetical order means that I have albums containing much better songs using essentially the same efforts from the previous few albums presenting their credentials first. If I may.
And I know it is so very fashionable to compare to nu-metal bands when you want to slag off a formerly dear underground metal band, but the opening riff from 'To Spite the Face' sounds so very much like Korn's 'Did My Time' I find myself wanting to listen to that instead. Fuck me, right?! I find myself humming along to the catchy melody in the chorus but that is very familiar too. So familiar it has been bugging me massively as to where I've heard it before. Please let me know in the comments if you do know by the way. One replay-able song for me was 'A Metaphor For The Dead'; it sounded a bit different, injecting typical 'thrakh tremolo lines into a heavy beast of a song with some astral guitar leads. The Arcturus influence is apparent but for me this doesn't spoil the song - at least it feels refreshing amongst some of the staleness wafting about on this record.
So they tentatively try a couple of new things, but these are everywhere other than the closer but misguided moments among forty minutes of morbidly retreading established habits. So 'Todos Somos Humanos' has some OK industrial flecks (albeit unoriginal), but it does very much cleave to old AN tricks again - like the music stopping and then a big ol' tortured howl before the blasts come in. Done it before mate. Even song titles seem self-parodic. 'Of Fire, and Fucking Pigs' - seems like a sort of cut-and-paste of frequently used words in their wrathful dictionary. The song itself, as well as 'You Can't Save Me, So Stop Fucking Trying' are probably among the single worst things recorded by them, the latter being a total mess. The black heart is gone from the songs. This is music built on disgust, hatred and resultant wrath - and how hateful and disgusted can you really be when your band is so damn acceptable these days?
The thing is I can kind of relate with them here - where else do you go from here? This isn't a well-trodden path in magazine metal, given the band's unique approach. Going really, really industrial could have been one route, or totally stripping down their sound somehow. I don't know, they're the fucking creative force. All I'm saying is I can relate to their quandary if indeed they are aware of having one, as for you, this is the very last album by the band you should consider investing in out of their catalogue. And if you want a vision of their future, imagine a boot, being worn by me, while I'm thinking very seriously about whether or not to bother with their next record.