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I have to admit, I just picked this up on cassette for 50 cents in a local used record store three days ago...and it has not left my cassette player yet.
I also have to admit, this one took me a few careful listenings to wrap my head around completely.
I found myself questioning how a band with the guitarist from Hades could put out an album with so few solos. I found myself also questioning how a band playing this slow, sludgy doomish brand of metal could work with Alan Tecchio wailing away over the top.
Then it occurred to me. I was reading the lyrics to these songs and I realized what this was.
This is something of a concept album.
More to the point, this is a man who finds himself realizing what a truly fucked up place the world he lives in is at the very time this world he's in is caving in around him. He suddenly finds himself truly aware of what's going on, yet torn between wondering what he can do about it and wondering if in fact he can do anything at all. What ensues lyrically is a mix of questioning, despair and rage...
...which explains why there are so few guitar solos and why Alan Tecchio's banshee screams work in ways that it otherwise wouldn't...
...This album is all about the lyrics and the tales those lyrics convey.
Suddenly, this all makes sense, this combination of downtuned, sludgy guitars, slow to middling tempos and glass shattering vocals. And when this is understood, there is alot to like about this album, because for the most part, Non-Fiction pull off what they're trying to accomplish here...and this is a good thing because underneath the sometimes simplistic riffs and structures is quite an ambitious attempt at high art.
Yes, Hades was also trying to pull off high art and also made a few really good records in their day, however that's where the comparisons end.
Where Non-Fiction succeed is in writing mid-paced material that, while not technically dynamic and not crammed with 30 riffs per song, rarely gets dull and rarely overstays it's welcome. Shit, one of the most memorable tracks on the record is the acoustic guitar driven "Next To Nothing", which has that middle-eastern feel Alice In Chains would catch onto later on (think "What The Hell Have I").
There are a few issues with this record. It seems at times that the band struggle to keep it together when the tempos go down to pure sludge, in particular "Peaked", "Reason To Die" and the title track have moments where it seems to fall apart a little.
As for the song "Peaked", I personally feel it would have been best left off the record, as it is a dull, dull tune with something of a misfit lyric...The best way I could put it is "emo for shoegazers". Also, the acoustic riff that is "No Comment" is a really good IDEA, something that the band could have done something amazing with I feel...as a "song" it really serves no purpose other than to further kill the momentum already halted by "Peaked".
Other than those minor flaws though, Non-Fiction went and made one really good sludgy, yet diverse record that mixes tempos well enough to keep things moving and mixes styles well enough to keep things interesting (check out the straight up blues of "One Last Time" as an ender, it really works well in terms of the greater concept).