without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Swedish supergroups are all the norm in this day and age, due to the high profile of a great many metal bands in this country, covering almost all the genre's sub-levels. They are snapped up sight unseen, sounds unheard thanks to their built in audiences. Back in the early 90s, of course, most of Sweden's death metal bands had yet to truly break out, with the exception of Entombed and a handful of others getting decent signings (Grave, Dismember, Unleashed). I'm not sure we can classify Liers in Wait as a 'super' group due to the fact that its members' constituent bands were not yet massive at the time, but in retrospect, the enormous talents that went into this sole EP recording would classify it in that category.
Vocals here are provided by Christofer Johnsson of Therion and Carbonized, who at the time was still using his more ghastly guttural edge as per Of Darkness... or Beyond Sanctorum. He also covers some of the guitar here, joined by Kristian Wåhlin on guitars and keys, also the primary songwriter of this band. You'll know Wåhlin not only from his work in Grotesque or the later Gothic rock of Diabolique, but also his alias, Necrolord, famous Swedish cover artist responsible for legendary albums like Storm of the Light's Bane, In the Nightside Eclipse, Purgatory Afterglow, and so forth. Let's put it this way: the man never ran out of work in those days, and he probably never will if he maintains his consistent quality. Other Liers in Wait included Hans Nilsson of Crystal Age, Dimension Zero and Luciferion, and at one point Tomas Lindberg of At the Gates was in the band, though not for this particular recording.
With such a plethora of involvement, you'd think Spiritually Uncontrolled Art would lie at some vortex, some cross gates between the sounds of these other bands, and to an extent, maybe that is true. But I found that the material actually carried a huge influence from faster USDM bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide and Malevolent Creation, spiced up with some frenetic, cosmic and philosophical atmosphere, lyrics rooted deeply in the Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. This flailing assault is mostly felt through the more direct blasters like "Overlord" and the band's namesake "Liers in Wait", both credible and competent acts of aggression that shine brightest when they evoke melodic, higher pitched notes or the frenetic leads that cut through like vorpal tentacles from beyond a tear in reality. Often the material is so insanely paced that it seems to crash over itself, resulting in a slight, loose facet to the songwriting.
While those were certainly decent tracks, I found myself more involved with the "Maleficent Dreamvoid", which opens with a cerebral synthesizer of cosmic horror before it too joins the calamitous chaos, a million riffs per minute elevating the frenzied assault, only here the individual guitar lines carry a more curious weight to them. "Bleeding Shrines of Stone" opens with a spliced melodic groove not unlike something the Finns Demilich would write, only given the added benefit of keyboard atmosphere and another burst into the band's overwhelming whirlwind of confusion. The final piece, "Gateways" is an instrumental with some of the finest guitar work on the EP, an extensive use of synthesizers for a doomed atmosphere, and writhing, razor sharp rhythms that slice below the tolling bells.
The production is accurate for its day and reminds me of the first few At the Gates records, or Crystal Age's Far Beyond Divine Horizons, though this is far more brutally inclined. I can only wonder what advances this band would have made had they pursued this band beyond just the one EP, potentially bringing in more of the scenes luminaries for a few full-lengths using this same concept material. Spiritually Controlled Art is 17 minutes, so it won't take you long to flesh out its various threads of insanity, but a fine example of how bands were taking the pure death metal strains of both shores and twisting them into novel formulas. The mix of cosmic, cerebral horror and violent, proficient death metal might not seem so novel anymore, as bands like Mithras, Morbid Angel and others have explored deeply these vacuums of fright beyond comprehension, but Liers in Wait were one of the first to make it stick, albeit briefly. This effort is a good leap short of legendary, but its qualities yearn to be experienced by anyone seeking those dimly glowing gems of 90s potential.
Here's another of that breed of absurdly overrated forgotten gems; this band having broken up is nowhere near the tragedy that some would have you believe, and I seriously doubt the band would have made anything of amazing value had they kept going. This is just another random Scandinavian death metal EP that would have been completely forgotten had not a small section of people latched onto it like it was one of metal's crowning achievements. It's certainly not bad, but it's nowhere near deserving of the crazed praise it gets so frequently from the underground scene.
I take issue with Scandinavian death metal in general, and Swedish in particular. Above and beyond the scourge of Gothenburg melodeath, the typical oldschool Swedeath sound is fairly annoying to me. It seems to me that many of the seminal Swedish artists essentially took the technical, oove and violent music of early death metal artists like Morbid Angel and Deicide and piled on groove and easy-to-digest melodies, and the result is a poppy, overly accessible version of death metal much in the way Gothenburg is a poppy, overly accessible version of melodic death metal. This is a gross overgeneralization, of course, but the fact that 'Swedish influences' is these days a term indicating chirpy pop-punk rhythm guitars and fast thrash beats probably isn't entirely out of line with the movement as a whole.
This is why I think Liers In Wait have probably gotten so much recognition; instead of taking what Morbid Angel did and turning it into pop music, they simply take what Morbid Angel did and fail to water it down, making them seem like visionaries when compared to their compatriots. But much in the way that baking a cake without shit in it doesn't make you a great baker, cloning a style without making it terrible doesn't make you an artistic genius, just an adequate clone. Liers In Wait's style is taken almost wholesale from the 'Blessed Are The Sick'/'Legion' school of death metal with just a bit of Finnish abstraction thrown in. The riffs have a semi-technical, fulminating Azagthoth quality to them, and the overall pounding aggression reminds one of Deicide in their younger days. You might hear a bit of the weirder Scandinavian scene here and there with the occasional riff that reminds one of Creepmime or some similar artist, but overall there's little really unique about this piece.
The production is rather flat, without a lot of depth to it, and the technical performances occasionally leave something to be desired, particularly in the drum section, where you could probably take a shot every time he starts playing the wrong beat accidentally and abruptly shifts to another and be passed out before the CD's over. The riffs are occasionally memorable, and would be moreso if the band didn't feel the need to change the melody entirely every few seconds, which prevents any real cohesion from forming, but the nature of the music isn't really chaotic enough for that style to make sense. It's not really bad music; it's cleverly constructed with some interesting song structures, solid riffs, and a fairly intense vocal performance, but it feels like the formative stage of a band who would become decent, not the stroke of pure genius that so many make it out to be.
Anyway, this isn't really a necessary release in any regard unless you're a Scandinavian death metal fetishist (and I know some of you are). It's not really relevant to anything on a historical level and the music is only okay, so it's mostly valid as a curiosity piece and nothing more.
This is an all time favourite of mine, especially considering that it is one of the most unique albums I have ever heard. It's tech-death, back when it was fresh and interesting. But it's also incredibly brutal, and difficult to listen to if you're not ready for what is coming.
Liers in Wait offer you a ferious whirlwind of slamming, technical riffs, probably influenced by early Atheist and Possessed, combined with Scandinavian evil and Lovecraftian horrors. Each song is composed of a great many of rapidly shifting riffs and skillful drumming, sometimes breaking into a very brief atmospheric solo or chunky riff. I'd compare it to a 20 minute long car accident--very disorienting, very chaotic, but not without a motive, albeit a very alien one. It will make your head spin the first time you listen to this, but after a few listens, you'll be able to figure it out enough to enjoy the sinister technicality on here.
I can say that the vocals are probably the least original element, sounding very gurgly and slimy. They certainly do work, because you can barely make out what Christofer is belting out. What I can say is that this Necronomicon/Lovecraft lyrical content perfectly compliments the complex and sinister nature of the music.
The outro, "Gateways," is a bit of an atmospheric affair, summoning up images of possibly Nocturnus crossed with De Mysteriis-era Mayhem, and it's the only track on here that isn't kicking in your face a million different ways.
Overall, this is a jem.
If technical death metal is your dinner, then tempo shifts, interludes, and fiery leads are the spices that make the meal tasty. But if more spice makes a dish more enjoyable, one might get the idea to forgo the main dish altogether and serve a plate of spices alone. Liers in Wait, if you haven't guessed where I am going with the metaphor, deliver us the musical equivalent of a plate of spices on Spiritually Uncontrolled Art. Each song is a fitful sequence of time shifts and abrupt starts and stops, punctuated by the occasional indiscriminate outburst of notes from the lead guitar.
And just as one imagines the hypothetical plate of spices might delight the mouth but fail to nourish the belly, this album provides no shortage of interesting moments, but ultimately leaves the listener unsatisfied, as there aren't any enduring melodies to linger in the memory, and the constant changes of direction ultimately lack effect, as no prior direction to the music had ever been sufficiently established.
The drums and vocals dominate the mix. The drums are deftly played but a challenge to follow, as they never seem to maintain any beat for more than a few bars, only vaguely outlining the constantly shifting time signature. The vocals, provided by Christoffer Johnsson from Therion, are a forceful growl that occasionally rise to an emphatic scream. The lead and rhythm guitars are mixed low, suffer from an indistinct tone, and generally don't sound to be played with a great deal of precision. It could be argued that the music on this album doesn't have much of a harmonic element.
You have to admire the band's venturesome spirit, as this is a unique effort. But in my opinion the song structures are a bit too ambitious, and final product comes out as indecipherable as the band's logo.