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AMR004 is pretty par for the course as far as Ars Magna Recordings goes these days; that is, releasing really, really good music that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves from the metal scene at large. In this case, the debut EP of Black Hole Generator is a really enjoyable, professional, and highly multifaceted piece of slightly industrial black metal that fits in snugly with the other material that the label releases. That's about all there is to it, but apparently some people demand this thing called 'musical description', so I guess I'll continue.
So a lot of noise is made in reviews over Black Hole Generator being an 'industrial black metal' band, but aside from having a fast drum machine (which really doesn't sound like a drum machine at all) I don't see what's really so industrial about this. In fact, the most 'industrial' parts of this sound a lot more like, well, the usual thing when black metal bands try to be industrial, with big, slow, epic sections that I suppose are supposed to sound like paeans to some dystopic future. It's worth noting, though, that Black Hole Generator can actually pull these off (like on the beginning of 'Inheritor Of Long Dead Lands'), as opposed to, I don't know, Aborym, who really only get an 'A' for effort, not so much execution. These are sparingly used (which is good since they overstay their welcome so quickly normally), and so, like most 'industrial black metal' bands, the real emphasis is instead placed on high speed blasting sections (apart from the almost exclusively midpaced previously mentioned track) with buzzing, semimelodic tremolo riffing.
As far as that riffing goes, it's another place where I differ from other writers' opinions of this EP in that I don't find those riffs to be really wild and different and unique, although they are really good. In all honesty, a lot of the riffs seem like a laundry list of the other bands that guitarist Dreggen is or was in: Taake, Grimfist, Aeternus, etc. The more melodic parts get the former while the majority of the more 'brutal' music gets the latter two as its central influence. I guess it's fortunate, then, that all those bands listed are notable for, well, having really good riffs, and there are some truly fantastic ones on 'Black Karma', ranging from Furzeesque moments like on 'When Hell Is Full The Dead Shall Walk The Earth' (which is probably the most unconventional thing on this disc), solid Dark Funeral-style straightforward black metal riffing like on the title track, and the melodic ones that pop up at regular intervals throughout the EP's running time. The sparing use of keys works pretty well with them and never really distracts from the real meat of the music on the record, while the vocals (with a sort of theatrical flair in tonality that reminds me more than a bit of Count Nosferatu Kommando) form a good and never dominating counterpoint to the instruments.
A lot of people compare Black Hole Generator to Anaal Nathrakh, and I guess it's a somewhat fair analogy, though these guys aren't as noisy as the Brits were and aren't as desperately bidding for mainstream recognition as AN are now. The melodic parts on this CD are actually woven in pretty well as opposed to just sort of being dropped into the middle of everything and expected to sort themselves out, and everything just generally feels more carefully thought out and constructed than usual. I guess the remarkably pristine production probably has something to do with it, equal to numerous top-tier heavy metal bands in clarity and sonic reproduction, with not even a hint of noise or incorrect distortion anywhere. I'm a fan of atmospheric production, and although the quality of the sound found here is often antithetical to such an appreciation, I feel that it really adds to the vast, apocalyptic feeling that the band cultivates on this CD.
While this isn't as highly original as some other Ars Magna releases, it does stand up to that label's consistently solid output. This is a really great CD from a good, professional band who has qualities above and beyond mere professionalism. I like it a lot, even though my liking doesn't come in quite an Aquarius Records sort of way; the music is more straightforward and no-nonsense than that. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give for it is that 'Black Karma' requires no adjectives to be sold; the music truly speaks for itself.
For fans of Aborym, Anaal Nathrakh and Red Harvest, Black Hole Generator are a wet dream come to very real, aural nightmarish life. Industrial, post-apocalyptic extreme metal terror is fast becoming all the rage (no pun intended), but I've not seen a newcomer of the calibre of Black Hole Generator before. The EP 'Black Karma' is a stunner; programmed drums reign over some ferocious but curiously melodic guitar work, while the vocalist often out-V.I.T.R.I.O.L.s Dave Hunt at his own game. Bass is lost somewhere in the mix, but it's not really missed, and probably keeps things thundering along.
Apart from the inclusion of Spanish acoustic guitar on 'The Screaming Skull' there isn't much that's brand spanking new here. It's not re-inventing the wheel, so much as coating it in razor blades and barbed wire, and spinning it really fucking fast.
Obvious comparisons with Anaal Nathrakh aside, this is a superb release that somehow manages to outdo the Birmingham duo's latest in terms of melody and brutality. Heartily recommended.