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I like music that aids my mind in creating hallucinations around me. Benighted In Sodom invoke scenes of graveyards and ancient monuments built to honor long dead Gods. The fuzzed over guitars, mortuary like bleakness and subtle layering of harmonious and disharmonious aspects allow the listener to choose how they want to enjoy In Hora Maledictus Part I; one can listen on the surface and enjoy the release's vastness, or they can listen to the deeper textures and enjoy the claustrophobic closeness of being swamped in sadness. Make no mistake about it, this is a release that is aimed at creating a depressed state, suicidal emotions and general disdain towards life and the will to stay alive. The cover artwork shows a scorched landscape, empty and meaningless, sun drenched and dry, waiting for any kind of relief but receiving none from the selfish and careless tyrants of heaven above. Also shown are suicide instruments, means to self inflicted pain and death; pills, vials for negligent measurement of chemicals and a large silhouette of a razor blade. This isn't the sharp, decisiveness of the blade adorning British Steel, the symbol of metal's razor sharp attitude and aggression. It is the blurred image of an unsure intellect, unsure whether life is worth living.
Lyrically, there are interesting ideas spread across the lyrics given to three of the album's eight songs, but I can't help but wish that I had the lyrics to all the canticles. With some lines being quite thought provoking and intellectually stimulating, they can be read without the music and still be interesting to explore. My favorite combination of lines is in "The Shepherd and the Atheist." Why must thou hide, if thou art supreme? Perhaps to hide the emptiness... It's an interesting thought, not one that hasn't been touched on before, but one that is always worth thinking about. It gives me satisfaction in knowing that others are thinking about their spirituality and coming to terms with breaking centuries of misguided thinking in regards to how we view concepts such as "God." The lyrical content of the album is of interest to anyone who enjoys reading lyrics and contemplating their meaning. Even with only three songs worth of lyrics, it will take some time to digest their ideas and decode their possible meanings.
The depth of the provided lyrics matches the fathoms of texture that combine to create the atmospheres of the songs. "The Shepherd and the Atheist" implants images of funeral pyres, gravestones and a general odor of death in ones mind. "Fountain of Lies", "Discarded Halos" and the ending of "Euthanasia" all provide mental journeys through the windswept deserts, fast moving skies and other slow moving landscapes. "Uncomfortable Serenity (The Opiate)" which happens to be my favorite track is a slow and brooding yet uncomfortably uplifting and soothing (this is one of those tracks which has a fitting title) song that meanders; waxing and waning throughout. With M. Thorn's vocals never being too invasive, these atmospheres are rarely broken. His raw, mid-ranged screams and yells are viscerally enjoyable. The rawness in his vocals is inhuman, so inhuman he has to be adding some sort of digital processing to them to get the sandpaper roughness. Unless his vocal cords have a twenty-four grit rating, there is no way... just no way... This inhuman ability however is inconsequential, as the music needs such a delivery. M. Thorn delivers and doesn't even ask for a tip. He leaves you fumbling for your wallet, staring at an empty doorway. He provides his vocals and is gone instantly, allowing you to be once more subdued by the ravaging sadness of the songs.
Another of those one man black metal "bands", Benighted In Sodom, according to the booklet, is, was and will forever be the manifestation of M. Thorn. I find it difficult to judge the talent of musicians in one man projects. It may be that, I can't decide if this new batch of musicians is incredibly talented, incredibly patient with their recording, or just mediocre, relying instead on the murkiness of tone under the guise of atmosphere to cover up their inadequacies. Either way, this is a well produced mass of sound. The guitars are fuzzy, buzzing of treble and reverb in a way in which a "static" effect is created. A soothing melodic static. The bass is a lumbering animal, a bit caged though audible and well mixed. Had it been pushed forward slightly, the whole release may have a "slow marching legions of undead" vibe going on. It has a vibrating ring and lovely subtle hot tone like the old Ampeg tube amps. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It shows itself prominently at the beginning of closing track "Euthanasia" and also not so prominently and coupled with a ringing live drum tone to kick off "Uncomfortable Serenity."
This is another album in which the drums seem to be less of a necessity and more a mere inclusion. The drums are buried behind the atmosphere, left to simply "keep time." They reveal themselves at times and do play a role in keeping the mostly lumbering tempo of the songs from becoming mechanical but are generally buried beneath the static textures. Even the snare is buried. The toms are the loudest kit component and, when M. Thorn is bashing out a fill, they fill the room with a lovely low bass tone. During the enjoyably misery stricken clean segments, which the disc occasionally ventures into during "Euthanasia" and "Discarded Halos," the drums are perfectly contrasting in tone - trebly and live - to the fluidity of the clean guitar sound. Ultimately, it is this trebly tone which is masked by the fuzzy and buzzing trebly guitar static - an inevitable problem of one instrument's frequency masking another instrument playing at the same frequency.
While all the tracks are strong while listening to them, I found only "Discarded Halos, Uncomfortable Serenity," and "Euthanasia" to really stand out. While the tracks all are steeped in melody, but not so much as to sound amateurishly so, the first three tracks all blend together for me until M. Thorn's vicious opening wail in "Discarded Halos." For me, the second half of the album is far stronger in song composition and memorability. "Uncomfortable Serenity" has such a strong cadence that even after I had finished listening to the album, I was, to myself (most of the time) humming the main melodic phrase which had created its own fissure in my brain in which to live, absorb my focus, and grow. "Euthanasia" is such a stunning example of how melancholy can be produced without screaming "be sad" at people or singing about how your ex-girlfriend doesn't want to be with you anymore (I'm looking at you Chaos Moon).
Benighted in Sodom's 2nd full length 'In Hora Maledictus' released through Obscure Abhorrence is one of the few impressive American black metal releases I have heard in awhile. Whereas the production on this album is raw and chaotic such as the majority of underground American black metal bands in existence of modern day, there are some elements in this album I can't quite put my finger on which grabs my attention more than certain U.S. acts today.
First and foremost, M. Thorn's vocals on this album stands out the most to me - it is one of the best I have heard which contains very raw emotion which you can distinguish in every track on this album. Although the music can be a bit droning in certain parts of songs, this album overall is a work of art and a well-packed combination of pain, struggle, and the deconstruction of religion and self. Each track leads into the next one, each with a different rhythm - in a repetitive yet catchy sense. Regardless of the quality of production, I find the sound and elements on this album to be just fine and suitable for the metaphorical message(s) Benighted in Sodom intend to portray through their music. Near the end of "Discarded Halos" the guitars pick up a cleaner sound, resembling that of which other experimental black metal artists have used which I find to add a more 'sophisticated' touch to songs, there is a sense of surrealism which can be felt from the heart which the mind is trying to portray.
The lyrical content is quite impressive as well - they are written in a poetical sense which can also be managed in black metal. But most of all, they aren't your stereotypical black metal themes which revolve around goat-worshiping and using the words "Satan" and "misanthropy" in every song (with the exception of the Inquisition cover which turned out quite well, although it seemed a bit out of place on this album to me - perhaps why it was released on a certain number of copies?) Anyways, here are some lyrics from "Uncomfortable Serenity" as an example of the poetic flow which I mentioned previously:
"Can you feel me?
I am shadows behind you
That were never there
Footsteps crackling pale bleached bones
On a vast, white beach
I am thy enemy...
That razor is for you
To justify your sins
Come and find me
In these strange, sick fields where I lay
That were never there"
Aside from lyrics alone, the conceptual and abstract-related factors of this album have grabbed my interest, as Benighted in Sodom are one of the few U.S. black metal acts I enjoy listening to as well as respect. Although the label, "depressive black metal" tends to be overused and a bit washed out with bedroom bm bands spewing from MySpace and whatnot, if I were to categorize this album into a sub-genre, I would say this is one of the best "depressive black metal" releases I have listened to recently. Most definitely recommended for anyone who particularly enjoys bands in this genre and isn't afraid to 'expand their mind'... perceive that notion in whichever way you please.
When I initially delved into the work of Benighted In Sodom, I had little expectations. Now that I have heard the debut, and thus formed an opinion based upon it, I have expectations of this band which I expected the second offering, ‘In Hora Maledictus - Part I’ to fulfil. The title of this record seems to suggest there is a follow on to it, leading to one believing this interpretation of a strictly formulated variation of black metal might not be complete. In terms of a marked difference between this effort and the previous, which were released within one year of one another, there really isn’t one. The material present on this here effort is practically the same, if not just very similar to the material on the debut, which was strong. Despite this fact, one cannot help but feel largely disappointed by this glaringly obvious fact. The material doesn’t differ in terms of production, soundscapes or even any element of the modernised instrumentation. Even lyrically, Benighted In Sodom structure their lyrics around the misery of the atmospherics.
“Time has a way
Of reflecting itself
In the mirrored haze of the past
Perished in the coldness of my dead eyes distant
and dreaming in fields
"I beg of you, come closer to me
why must thou hide, if thou art supreme?"
Perhaps to hide the emptiness
Also distilled in me
"I beg of you, come closer to me
Close enough to feel the spear in your side..."
The religious undertones certainly aren’t anything new to black metal. Since the dawn of it’s creation, black metal has dealt unsparingly with the idea of destroying religion, but perhaps there is a deeper sense of meaning behind the lyrics than first observed. The lyrics, like the music itself, has a profound sound. The often long drawn out vocal screams, which are heavily twisted and tortured for our enjoyment, are present to establish a connection with the pain in the listener. Although this may be achieved, and backed up by the religious imagery and masochistic melancholy of the lyrics, Benighted In Sodom have not evolved with the audience. Instead of presenting a developed sound from the limited beauty of the debut, this American act have seemingly been stranded in the same position since the debut. As with the debut, Benighted In Sodom have once again struggled to send their vision of beauty in destruction well. There are aspects on this record which do suggest that this American act can produced some fine moments, particularly on songs like ‘Discarded Halos’ with it’s use of clean guitars and tormented vocals, but despite using longer songs, the band don’t portray the message well enough and instead resort to old methods.
The guitars, including the way in which they are portrayed and the effects used on the riffs, are precisely how they were on the debut. Drawn out and rather slow, forcing it’s listening audience to feel the pain with each and every stroke of the strings. The bass is audible, but isn’t as effective as it could be. It’s target is to lay the foundations for the guitars to work on and although it does this, there is once again a lack of definition and immense qualities, particularly in the soundscapes which lag in comparison to other bands of this nature. Vocally, Matron Thorn, as he is now known, is superb. His expressive voice determines the emotive nature of the atmospherically driven record. Perfectly positioned beside the tremolo distortion presented by the sweeping guitars, his vocal expressions land droplets of melancholy and sorrow over the audience like rain. Although the vocals weren’t outstanding on the debut, they have improved slightly with more conviction and condensed emotion, which allows the instrumentation to involve the listener into the playground loneliness. Although there are concerning moments, there are also moments of joy. This record is by no means terrible, or even bad, but it’s no different to the last effort.