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A Good Idea Ruined By Awkward Song Structures - 80%

Nokturnal_Wrath, September 26th, 2013

Sometimes an album comes along that defies all genre conventions. An album that injects new life through experimentation, revitalizing a stagnant and decaying scene by transforming the genre into something new and unique. Chronicles of an Aging Mammal is one of these albums, a truly fascinating musical voyage mixing death metal with elements from the progressive, avant-garde and even the electronic spectrums. It’s an utterly eclectic and genre defying album, forget all stereotypes associated with death metal because this album carries none of them. Instead it takes death metal to its bare essentials and reconstructs it from the ground up. In order to appreciate this one, forget everything you learned about death metal. This is death metal in only the most basic structural necessities, the musical output is something entirely new and downright weird.

Happy death metal sounds like an oxymoron. Death metal is a genre that invokes strong feelings of chaos, darkness and negativity. Therefore a band who plays death metal with a focus on sounding light and airy sounds pretty weird. In fact it’s even weirder than anyone could comprehend. Chronicles of an Aging Mammal is constructed mainly in major chords; the electronic elements are ethereal and majestic. There’s no desire to be evil and twisted on this one, rather the focus is on an attempt to create a fantastic atmosphere unlike anything heard within the genre. It’s not just for the major scales and general happy tone; there are many reasons as to why this album is unique and weird.

The electronic elements are a pretty cool addition; they’re very spacey, adding soothing ambiances over the death metal backdrop. They’re suitably ethereal and stunningly melodic, they work well when juxtaposed with the death metal elements. They never sound out of place, creating a perfect layer of experimentation over the album. Cosmic Tear makes fantastic use out of them, focusing on an ambient techno approach; it’s a very spacey and atmospheric piece that is absolutely stellar in its slow delivery. The winding ethereal ambiance is very hypnotic in its delivery; it’s backed up with a drum machine that adds a good, solid backdrop to the music. The death metal elements are very light within this track, seeing the band focus on a much more experimental wavelength. When the death metal elements do appear, they only show up for a few seconds at a time, the odd, distant death growl with quiet palm muting. It’s quite an effective mix of ambient, techno and death metal and something that I never would have believed could work so effectively.

Along with the electronics, the song structures are also pretty darn weird. Songs go through numerous transitions, unpredictable and chaotic yet strangely controlled and organized. One minute Azure Emote could be bashing the listener round the head with furious progressive death metal and the next they could break into a soft ambient section. It’s a fascinating concept and one that allows for a large amount of experimentation. The structures lean much closer to the electronic spectrum rather than anything death metal related. The electronics are often pushed to the forefront of the music, ranging from ambient sections to much harder, techno influenced beats. There’s nothing in the way of traditional death metal structure here, with all thought seems to have been placed on to how electronic they can make it sound. The death metal elements can be criticized for being added as merely as an afterthought, not as much care and attention have been given to them. The riffs are largely unspectacular; whilst the use of major scales keeps them interesting on their own they’re not quite as astounding as the electronics. Whilst Submerged (In Hollow Realistics) has a fantastic main riff, it sounds quite black metal, is suitably technical and perfectly melodic. For the most part though the riffs just don’t hit home as much as that of the rest of the music. Whilst they suit the electronics quite well, I wish more thought had been put into them. It’s not really a major problem though, as the other elements are the most defining aspect of Chronicles of an Aging Mammal. The death metal aspects do their job just fine, and whilst they’re not the most spectacular they’re far from being atrocious. They add a good sense of heaviness to the abstract music; the guitar tone is thick and crunchy, adding a good layer of weight to the music. The results are good when juxtaposed with the electronic elements. The contrast between light and dark, whilst becoming a tad too formulaic works wonders for the music. It allows the music to maintain the listener’s interest, constantly surprising them with one of the weird twists and turns found in abundance.

Chronicles of an Aging Mammal does suffer from general awkwardness though. The music whilst being solid enough on its own right often suffers where consistency is concerned; the overall weirdness of the music causes it to become quite muddled and abstract. The songs themselves don’t have much in the way of fluidity, the transitions feel abrupt, disjointed. Whilst the overall ideas are good, too much thought was put into sounding as weird as possible forgoing many aspects of concise song writing. It’s a shame really, Azure Emote do know their way around a good song, but whilst the music is of a high quality, not enough thought was put into the song writing. Electronic elements often come out of the blue; death metal sections have no flow, constantly going through many abrupt changes. There’s a fair degree of repetitious song writing as well, some riffs such as the main one in Complex 25 get repeated far too much. It has a tendency to go through one ear and out the ear, nothing really jumps out and grabs me as much as I would like.

Azure Emote definitely present an interesting concept here. I appreciate the avant-garde and overall weirdness of the music; it’s definitely unique and experimental enough. It just doesn’t flow well enough, the ideas on their own work really well but when put together they become awkward. Songs don’t feel like songs, more of a jumbled mess of ideas. The concept of the album is good, but more care needs to be given to the death metal elements to ensure the bands continuing survival.