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I heard of Bunkur when I read an interview in which Martin van Drunen complimented them, and a few years ago (a few years after this album), he joined the band. That merited a listen, because he has managed to surround himself with quite an arsenal of talented musicians and produce some great albums. Naturally, the place to start was their first full-length album.
Around seven minutes in, I was wondering if anything was going to happen. Several times throughout the extensive duration of the album, I wondered why it wasn't over yet. It seems they heard Sleep's "Dopesmoker" and decided to record a single song over an hour in length with only one riff, except in this case they didn't really have a riff. The riffing is all really low tones, apparently only bass guitars and no regular guitars, though with levels of distortion normally associated with detuned guitars and extreme metal. It's no surprise I heard of this band because of a guy known for playing the open E string after being handed a bass when he joined Pestilence as a vocalist. The basses drone and the drums take slow, simple fills and drag them out endlessly - the drums parts might as well be three minutes of drum solos from The Melvins stretched out across 65 minutes. The vocals are dragged out, tormented, and incoherent, much like the album itself.
The production sounds like a precise replication of an old school death metal sound check. The drums carry the atmosphere, the distorted tones are dreary, the vocals piercing. It pretty much sounds like a rehearsal tape with balanced volume. The whole album sounds like an hour of the band standing around while the bassists struggle to play more than one note at a time, the drummer periodically practices slow fills, and the vocalists takes so long to sing that he could have written the lyrics as he went along with time to spare. The music isn't atmospheric, the production is somewhat so, but it goes absolutely nowhere and the band does nothing to further the song, the sounds, the textures, or anything else. It feels like they were distracted, watching a soccer game or something, forgetting that they were recording an album most of the time except occasionally forcing out a few notes or a drum part because they happened to have instruments in front of them.
Listen to five minutes and you've heard the whole album, nothing happens. Completely unconventional, experimental, and a testament to how that can fail to be listenable. This album is like listening to your refrigerator with a stethoscope, but you won't find anything substantial inside.
I am slightly new to drone, although I love a lot of monotonous types of music, such as funeral doom, very repetitive and low-fi black metal, so me saying this is boring is not because I don't have an ear for this. I think what really turns me off is that there is nothing at all to catch my attention. A extremely bland and poorly mixed album that drags on for way too long, makes this a tough listen.
My nerves are strained after trying to endure 65 minutes of a single terrible riff, and all-around sub-par performance. There is just no substance to this, no stacked feedback, and it isn't even drone-like. It's just a strum a minute with drums plodding along. There is just too much empty space to make this recording any sort of monolithic enterprise.
The guitarwork is very rudimentary. A single note strummed throughout the entire track, very, very little distortion, and poorly presented. There seems to be no bass, which would actually have saved this album, if there was some good solid foundation for the overlying notes of the riff (if that's what you want to call it). Instead it leaves me yearning for more atmosphere.
The drumming is atrocious. Very basic again, and terribly performed. It sounds as if the band took a series of different sized plastic garbage cans, turned them upside down, added a crash, and a snare, and beat randomly. I can almost see every member performing, watching the other to make sure they give the appropriate pause between thumps, strums, or whelps into the mic, and not to get too rambunctious, and anxious.
The vocals are not any better. A good voice, but what is he trying to say? It is eeeehhhhh and aaaaahhhhhh there is no progression, no change, just the same thing for an hour!
If this song was 15 minutes long, I would give it a 75. But as time wears on, and I wait for something to hit me, I get a knuckleball with no movement, when I'm thinking fastball...Hell even a slider or a slurve would make up for something, but I'm getting meatballs and no heat. I keep waiting for a buildup, a crescendo that climaxes into a demolition of my senses, my endorphines shot and used up from the big finale. Alas, there is no amazing power unleased. The kinetic energy is not there because there is no potential. This song is the epitome of a lack of potential which in turn makes the song suffer from a lack of strength and power.
Hour long songs aren't an easy proposition, for the listener or for the band. The band's songwriting skill gets pushed to the limit, and in the drone/funeral doom genres, the listener's patience gets stretched really thin.
So, most bands who do the super long song thang will try to keep the listener interested. Nadja's Thaumogenesis changed dynamics often, and ran through a huge amount of varying emotions. Boris's Flood epic and their Merzbow collab 'Sun Baked Snow Cave' went through some extreme dynamics, going from brutal machine-generated noise to gentle acoustic guitars. Even more inaccessible drone acts like Black Boned Angel mix up their feedback laden trips with the occasional bit of melody supplied by a piano or what have you.
Not so Bunkur. Perhaps it was an attempt to be really extreme, or maybe these dudes are just really tormented, I don't know. Or perhaps they were just like "Yeah lets just repeat one riff over and over for an hour". ..Or maybe they're really crap on their instruments and could only learn one riff. Who knows what their motivation was? Regardless, this is album is a lesson in how NOT to write an hour long song.
Yes, this is indeed an exercise in monotonous-ness (and this is coming from a Sunn O))) fan.). I guess the atmosphere is powerful- the endless repetition does sound quite hellish, and the vocalist's constant tormented growls/screams make the thing sound very cathartic. Indeed, give this a 5/10 minute listen and the album goes quite well- the synths are mixed very well (nice and low, but still audible and atmospheric), and the basses (!) churn out some brutal Neurosis-at-quarter-speed riffs.There's a pretty big emphasis on the drums here too, with them beating out a really, really slow beat, but occaisonally coming to the foreground with a few big snare hits. The one slight bit of variation about thirty minutes in is too short, but it keeps you interested just that little bit longer, and it's a fairly nice mid-paced break. The one riff in this song is quite good, no doubt.
..So perhaps that's why they decided to repeat it so much? As I said, as a 10 minute track this would be excellent. But this goes on for SIXTY FIX FREAKING MINUTES. It really is incredibly monotonous, and the whole thing wears pretty thin. While I love drone-doom and think it's a totally valid genre, I'm thinking that perhaps this was actually a joke. The dudes in Bunkur were all like "Yeah lets do an hour long song with no variation, and see if we can sucker any people into buying it!"
To conclude, then. This album is quite frankly extremely boring, being sixty five minutes of basically no variation, just one super slow riff slowly pounding on and on. The sound is interesting, what with the drumming and atmospheric synth action, but as an hour long song this fails bad. I hope these guys will one day shorten their songs a bit, as that would be quite nice, but I think their next album is going to an 80 (!) minute long song, so I guess they haven't learned their lesson. Oh well. Don't get this, unless if you are an extremely dedicated/stoned drone fan.
Yeah, don't really expect Opeth fanboyzzzz (etc) to really take to the extremities of this release or this type of Music too well. It's releases like this that are genius, due to not many people being able to get into the Music itself, but the ones who do REALLY get into it and really love this shit. So, respect alone for that reason. Seeing how a lot of Metal releases (and good ones too) carry the same rules and formula as many others. Then when a band changes that slightly, people gun them down for that? =S OH NO, DON'T CHANGE THE FORMULA, YOU MIGHT END UP DIFFERENT, CAN'T HAVE THAT, NOOOOOOO!!! Fuck off. Never did understand many Metalhead’s "logic", seeing how all the bands people worship probably listened to many others Music styles besides Metal before they started a band. And also, especially as Metal was born out of Blues entwined with Rock Music "changing" a little for the "birth" of Metal. Bleh.
Anyway, this release is all one song, which lasts 1 hour and 5 minutes, so it's epic to say the least. The thing that makes it incredibly interesting, is the fact the Music is very intensely emotionally driven and is VERY minimalist. In the sense there is no Guitar, it is all Bass, Drum and Vocals (besides the strange intro), yet gets so much out of this.
After a minute and a bit of the strange intro (some kind of effect or scratching sound, pardon my ignorance if it's something very obvious that I've not realised), the feedback very slowly feeds in and the first drum beat is hit 1:30 in. Very awkward and VERY slow beat is banged out. This is a moody, moody drum beat, hahaha, on my first listen, it was at this point I realised I liked the record already, even if it was literally a weird beat and a few notes played very slowly. Very faint backing growl is heard 2:30 in, but not easily noticed, so at this point, still no vocals. Then on the 2:50 mark, the vocals come in for the first time. Which are basically totally evil angst driven growls. At this point, the tempo is the strangest, it's not like most Doom releases, the drumming is far too weird and sparse, yet the riffs are slower than hell and the vocals are more desperately screeched than the average Doom band. I mean, they are growls, but it's a mixture of shrieking anguish being growled, rather than low end, deep vocals. Totally emotionally driven, fan-fucking-tastic.
Most people would be bored of this release after 5 minutes, not me. The drums almost disappear at some stages, leaving the odd echoed snare after the odd shriek. Fucking brilliant, FUCKING brilliant. It's like they've taken the notes to a great 4 minute song and stretched the notes out to last an hour, but not repeated the notes all the time like other bands do for every song they make (IE, intro, build up, chorus, repeat). People who think this is the same notes throughout should listen again and realise it's loads of different notes spread out to facilitate an hour long song. Fantastic, unnoticed genius. Great how, the tempo changes only every 10 minutes, hahahaha, 10 minutes for a remote tempo change, hahahaha. Pure intensity for 10 minutes, then the tempo changes somewhat. What patient, brilliant Music. Total tempo shift on the 33rd minute, which gives way for very brilliant and discreet female backing vocals, in the choral style.
Very eerie feel to the song now, 37 or so minutes in and STILL so much to this song. I'd REALLY love to see this performed live, just to see the look on all the dumb bastards faces in the crowd, hahaha, brilliant. 41 minutes and the guitar fades out to allow just the vocals and the drums. This release messes with feedback better than any other band I think I've ever heard. This is the absolute pinnacle of the paradox of Minimalism, of all things, pushing to new levels of extremity. It’s blown me away. As we get just past the 1 Hour mark, the vocals become pretty strange and the drums are taken right out to allow this very creepy vocal become the prominent part of this song. Then slowly a total different drum beat comes in and the vocals get even more creepy. Then 1 Hour 4 Minutes and a half and all music fades out completely to allow a strange fade-out to end the song.
There’s nothing more I want to add. Just that it’s absolutely remarkable. Don't bother checking it out, because you just won't like it.