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I'm sorry, I really wanted to like this album... I've attempted to digest it, give it time and grow on me, but in the end it hardly impressed me at all. While listening, only a select few moments ever jump out of the monotonous filthy sludge I would call 'Fuck the Universe'. On my first listen, it did seem Craft were on a similarly righteous path as 'Terror Propaganda', that is until about a minute into the first song, "Earth a Raging Blaze", when things began to slow down. While this wasn't entirely unheard of or unwelcomed, as those of you who have heard Terror Propaganda might know, it indeed caught me by surprise. It was certainly much too early in the record to cut the legs from under it and kill the momentum that was just getting established; all in all a bad move. What's worse is that the song never really recovers from this atonal, snail paced droning. In fact, it carries on into the next song in a very poor way at the onset. Luckily it gets a bit more melodic despite maintaining the slow tempo, eventually even speeding up a bit in the middle, glory be. From there on, it varies from some of the more decent slower passages (of a melodic variety) to the painful droning ones that end the song on a low point. In my estimation, this could have worked so much better had less emphasis on this droning atmosphere been paid and a little more of the terror-evoking vocals been worked in. If you're not familiar with Craft, all I can say is the frontman has some of the most sickeningly vile vocal styles in all of black metal, and work wonders for the music when given proper attention.
With the exception of the next song, the title track, which mostly showcases quicker tempos, the album spends the variety of its time exploring way too much of this drawn out, "drone" aspect with less and less focus on crushing power chords, blast beats atop frenetic tremolo picking, and a lack of variety, or confidence, in the vocals (and use of them during key moments for added intensity). Everything else that made Terror Propaganda a beast of an album seems like it was abandoned in favor of something more experimental or "artistic", and the album winds up a little pretentious for it. And yet, I don't think this is enough to describe why this album sucks in comparison to TP. No doubt, anyone not having heard TP might find this record very appealing... the reality is if you HAVE heard it, you know this is Craft with all the wind taken out of their sails. What remains is a real lack of powerful or even head-bangable song-writing; no doubt even some of the faster tempos lack the same oomph as on Terror Propaganda.
Undoubtedly Craft will not fail entirely on all fronts, as songs like Destroy All, Xenophobia, The Suffering of Others or According to Him still capture a bit of that speed & intensity that is still dirty and vile-sounding enough to get most black metal fans nodding their heads. As such, these tracks, along with the title track, earn the positive points on this album alone, reminding fans and band alike that perhaps distillation is in order to create a record that slams from start to finish (remember quality over quantity, folks).
Unfortunately for me, tracks like Demonspeed, Assassin 333, Terni Ezusta and Principium Anguis, among others, fail from the "hit & miss" formula that mucks the glory of most of this album. Having started off well enough or making good on building tempos towards a crescendo only to be ruined by lack-luster and nonsense tempo changes, or skulking, atonal dirges that seem to ware on for minutes and grate the nerves is what most of the album consists of. I can't help but give Craft a negative score for this because Terror Propaganda includes a lot of the same elements, and yet seemed possessed by a wholly different purpose; to write songs that rip the face off, as opposed to Fuck the Universe which seems content at just exploring new and "progressive" tendencies of expansive, sludge-filled droning which drags the album through the most criminally boring depths of Craft's career. Again, a stripped down version of this album easily could have followed up TP nicely, but even then it seems songs like Xenophobia, Destroy All, The Suffering of Others, and the rest of the good tracks are just a little substandard when held against Ablaze, False Orders Begone, NDP or The Silence Thereafter.
My expectations for a Terror Propaganda 2.0 obviously colors my attitude against the album a bit, I'll admit that. On the other hand, I believe some of the longer, dragged out passages, which wouldn't be entirely out of place on a post-rock album, would have benefit from a grittier, dark edge; even those not-of-this-world shrieks from Nox would have helped polish these passages up and round the album out. At the very least, I have to argue in favor of the album... it is certainly worth a download to grab highlight tracks for compilation discs, playlists, etc. and to help tide Craft fans over until their next release (which one can only hope is more in vein of their Magnum Opus: Terror Propaganda).