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Man, sometimes I forget how pretty black metal can be. To someone not all that familiar with extreme metal, the concept of black metal having the potential to be pretty, beautiful or even uplifting must seem completely absurd. While many black metal bands that generally get described as pretty use plentiful acoustic guitars, shimmering synths and even incorporate non-metal genres such as post-rock and shoegaze, this Finnish one man band sticks strictly to traditional black metal instrumentation (save for that little acoustic intro in “In Endless Circles"). The one thing that does it for Kanto Aboretum is inserting large doses of melody into the traditional black metal framework.
Now, melody in black metal is certainly nothing new, and it would be foolish to claim that the old guard never used it. However, melody is at the absolute forefront with this band, and they never get sugary and they never sound overtly modern. What they've basically done is taken the croaky buzzsaw tone of Burzum, made the songwriting to the point and added sweeping melody. A stubborn layer of hazy fuzz perpetually wafts along the backdrop, while buzzing tremolo plays surprisingly sweet melodies.
Not that this is an overly raw recording by any means, but with a more polished production this would have been absolutely turned to hogwash. With a saccharine production job, this release would be straight up irritating. The contrast between the overtly ariose melodies and droning fuzz is what makes this release. Take away either aspect and we'd be left with something completely unmemorable. The rolling melodic haze is what generally drives this release, though the songwriting is definitely there and done well (if not sparsely). The vocals are not all that atypical – an arid rasp, still intelligible enough to make out much of the lyrics. Drums are simple enough, but get the job done; it's not like they're the main focus, anyway.
These four long songs bring to mind a vast panoramic view of rolling hills. This should not come as a surprised from a band so concerned with ecological issues. At times this sounds like a more focused Horn. In the end, this release only focuses on one thing, but they do that thing so well that it's hard to care about anything else. When it comes to melody this man obviously is not intent with just fucking around. Drop that into a festering muck of hazy droning guitar tones and we've got a winner.