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In an era where every thing, every element and style within metal has seemingly been exhausted and we've reached a halt in creativity, where no new proper genres are born anymore; in which the only apparent way to innovate is to become as eclectic and experimental as possible, creating chopped up and ill-conceived and sometimes ridiculous crossovers and fusions, one of the only elements that remains to be properly explored, refined and defined as a new genre, at least from my humble perspective, is that of dissonance.
In that spirit we arrive to this band and album, where the elements of dissonance pioneered by Canadian band Voivod between 1987 and 1989 and explored further by Norwegian bands Ved Buens Ende..... and Virus (and, to an extent, Dødheimsgard) reach its logical conclusion. Or, I'd rather like to think, continuation. And it's no coincidence that this is also a Norwegian band, because the influence guitarist extraordinaire and maniacal drummer Czral has had on this two-men project is obvious at best and a bit embarrassing at worst.
What do I mean by this? Well, while there's a good fourteen years between Voivod's Nothingface and Virus' debut in 2003 (I go straight to Virus since experimental black metal masterpiece Written In Waters went basically unnoticed at the time), there's barely a few years between Virus' second album and this one here. That, and the fact that both bands are Norwegian leads me to believe this band has been the principal influence the duo has kept in mind at the time of composing and recording this album.
Now, don't get me wrong. This is, by all means, not a Virus rip-off. If anything, it's closer to Aura Noir's most dissonant moments, once again courtesy of Mr. Czral, or even german Kathaaria, another luminary in the recent bout of dissonance in the black metal realm. Anyway, comparisons will only take me so far, for this band has a unique enough mixture of not-so-unique elements to be considered an important listen to anyone interested in the outer limits (get it!?!?) of metal.
The sound itself is rather reminiscent of many a modern metal band. That is, sharp but controlled and almost ear friendly distortion, raspy but not screeched vocals, an audible bass and very well equalized drumming that doesn't drown out the other sounds and yet makes its presence well known, double bass pounding in the background as if representing the heartbeat of the whole album, hi hats and cymbals resonating left and right, snare not too intrusive yet perfectly identifiable.
There's a lot to be enjoyed in this album, from the Virus inspired moments of dissonant arpeggios to the pounding, chuggy passages. The pace is mostly kept at a medium, almost never fully embracing blastbeating velocities, and at times giving into slower tempos in which the other instruments take their turn to shine. It might seem a bit mean of me to point out that the drummer is also the vocalist, and his style, at times, seems a bit too inspired in another Norwegian (ex-)drummer and singer. Yep, you guessed it. Carl Michael-Eide.
Even the bass seems to try to be as fluctuous and funky as that of Plenum. Of course none of these characters are easily imitable, so the duo manages to inject their own personality to this almost-tribute of a band. As I said, I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm accusing these men of being a rip-off. After all, Venom started off heavily inspired by Motörhead to the point of some songs off their debut sounding pretty much like a slightly faster and much, much filthier Motörhead, and that is also what happened with Bathory a few years later. It was, at first, a filthier, faster, much more evil Venom.
What I'm trying to say, basically, is that this is how genres get started. A band likes some other band a bit too much, and decide to do what they did, but more. That is how we went from speed metal to thrash, to black (and death, too). So, are we on the verge of discovery? Are we about to inaugurate a new proper genre in metal (dissonant metal? a bit too general, maybe)? I'm not sure. People have been playing around with the idea of dissonance for a while now, to the point that even if there's no such thing as dissonant metal as a subgenre, it's hard to be taken by surprise at the idea of a band embracing it as the defining element of their sound. Yet that is what is going on here, and in some other places.
In the end, I don't really know what to think. I could love this album. This is a good album. I enjoyed it a lot. It made me happy to see other bands are following suit to Voivod and Ved Buens Ende/Virus' declarations of dissonance. On the other hand I could completely loathe this album. I can't shake the feeling that these guys like Czral's many efforts maybe perhaps a tad, tinny bit too much. It's no surprise to learn, then, that Bjeima was recruited to play bass in Virus. Perhaps they, as me, became a bit uncomfortable with this laudable tribute, and decided it would be better to just keep him very, very close, instead of just letting him lead the Virus-themed response to Hellhammer's Warhammer.
If you like Virus, some Deathspell Omega, Polish band Myopia (another Voivod lover worth checking out) and/or German band Kathaaria, which are the current leaders in all things dissonance, then I seriously urge you to listen to this album. It is worth a place among the bigger names of the black metal (or just metal in general) vanguard. I dare you, though, to notice the striking similarities in songwriting to VBE/Virus and Aura Noir and not blush.