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It's almost unimaginable to me that One Master could have possibly followed up their debut with an equally strong sophomore release, but here we are. I never thought they'd be able to pull it off again- 'Forsaking A Dead World' was such an inspired, essential piece of music I figured it was a one-time fluke of artistic brilliance that couldn't be replicated. Apparently not, as 'The Quiet Eye Of Eternity' is just as strong (though a very different beast). Refining their style but not softening the edges, One Master have returned with an album that is every bit the first's equal. If you want to hear the very top of the USBM scene, look no further: One Master is here to provide for her panda babies.
The music on this record is altogether smoother and more streamlined than on the first- losing much of the primordial black/thrash influences of bands like Bathory, this album seems to be a more straightforward take on Scandinavian second wave black metal with a few modern USBM tricks as well. The droning strains of 'Under A Funeral Moon'-era Darkthrone are a clear influence- that album's wavering, undulating atonality is a big part of a lot of the material here, alongside early Gorgoroth's straightforward barbarism. All this explains the rawer side of the equation at work, but identifying what exactly One Master's melodic, contemplative side comes from is more challenging. Early Emperor is definitely a part of it, but I'd point to more obscure members of the raw/melodic style like Satan's Almighty Penis or even, yes, Weakling as a big part of it. While One Master does take some influence melodically from the west coast hippie black metal bands which are all the rage these days, this band chooses to ignore all the post-rock nonsense and just make more melodically dynamic black metal. It's a wise decision.
The five lengthy tracks that compose this album all neatly flow into each other, made easier since they're all composed of similar elements: brackish and atonal tremolo riffs that thrum in the background, plodding, wandering passages defined by high, crystalline guitar tones, and the frantic, wildly melodic passages over beds of too-fast blast beats. This is a riff-oriented album, certainly, and the play between guitars and (very audible) bass does a lot to expand the record's creative palet. The guitar tone is a perfectly represented 'Hvis Lyset Tar Oss' sharp buzz, and the rest of the production fits the 'intelligent but raw' feel of the rest of the music. The guitarwork tends to waver between more riffy, traditional arrangements, and sprawling, seemingly random stretches of tremolo noted chords, with simple melodic structures that link together and just sweep across the constant drums like wind over a sand dune. Then, after a while, those chords eventually transport you to another place in the song entirely, and you wonder how you got there. Both modes are incredibly solid: the riffcraft is rich, varied, and unfailingly interesting and surprising. One Master isn't afraid to play with melody, be it sudden infusions of more major key melodic structures in otherwise bleak songs or in the daring sparseness and minimalism of some of the album's moments. They're definitely the centerpiece of this release, and they make every moment worth the listener's time.
In general, One Master's music here is much more sprawling and wandering than the tracks found on their first LP. The tracks on 'Foresaking A Dead World' were lengthy and involved, but more focused and driving. This release is more content to just sort of explore the musical canvas, so to speak- while there certainly are moments of extreme aggression, intensity, and drive, when the vocals depart and the music relaxes a bit, the songs tend to wander off into the grey, misty deserts that this album inspires images of. This is actually perfectly fine- somehow, the feel of the album as a whole is conducive to this vibe. More importantly, One Master never feel like they're wandering because they have nothing to express- it's more as though they're expressing something very abstract and wandering is the only way to speak of it. It's a fascinating feel for an album to have, and I wish more bands would explore it in this sort of manner.
In short, One Master has completely upheld their history with this release. Why this band isn't signed to a large underground label is still completely beyond me- the two albums this collective has independently release smash entire discographies of other, better known bands. If you have any desire to hear what the forefront of USBM sounds like, buy this immediately. This is an underground act who deserves your support.
Nothing like the old American black metal, present since the primitive days of the early norwegian sound, ignored, skipped when reviewing the history of the genre, distant and unwilling to participate in the experimentations of the late nineties and early 21st century, but above all, constant and still standing.
We have seen many sides of the American black metal scene: either in their most orthodox forms like Judas Iscariot, their variants touched by thrash and death ala Sathanas and Acheron or the mystic majesty of Wolves in the Throne Room, all of them less grandiose and especially less exhibicionist than their scandinavian counterparts. That’s why ever since I listened to One Master for the first time, with their previous release Forsaking a Dead World, I felt that there was a certain promising halo around their music. They’ve entitled their second album The Quiet Eye of Eternity and this has to be said: it’s an enormous step forward from its predecessor.
In the Quiet Eye of Eternity we are going to find every element known and every element tried in black metal. But let’s stop for a second and think: Just because an album is created with tools already known, does it necessarily lose quality? Sometimes we can overreact our indignation before lack of originality, but we’re only hiding the fact that today, nineteen or twenty years later, great primordial black metal albums are still possible.
Pay attention to the main riff in The Destroyer (Part 1): its greatness can’t be denied, period. But make no mistake, I’m not talking about the eighth wonder of the world either, because this album shifts between simplicity and effectiveness, and the brutality which is always necessary on any good black metal opus, nothing more and nothing less.
The harshness of their riffing has been kept, but now the wall of sound is much thicker, blacker and stronger; this is clearly perceivable in The Destroyer (Part 2).
Infinite Void, The Wanderer and Field of Ruins are three anthems working as the main columns; none of them clocking in at less than 8 minutes, and in each one we assist to great displays of varied black metal, with sutile changes in texture and depth, but where you get this overall sensation of listening to strong healthy black metal, something unvaluable in a scene where many big names have moved from being leaders to buffoons in just a blink.
The Quiet Eye of Eternity is not an album which will grasp you violently from the first listen, it’s one of those needing room to grow instead, and for that reason precisely, this is the perfect album for any blackmetalhead at heart.
Originally submitted to (http://www.metalicos.com) on November 25, 2009.
If there's one thing that can safely secure a band as a favourite of mine, it's consistancy. And putting out consistantly good, faultless albums is great, but it's even more interesting when the band changes their sound quite significantly and still sounds just as great, proving that they didn't just strike a lucky chord but are genuinely talented musicians. And similarly to Alignak when they changed styles from 'Mainlining Goats Blood' to 'Murder, Music, Magik, Medicine, Madness' whilst maintaining high quality, so did One Master alter their sound somewhat on from 'Forsaking a Dead World' to 'The Quiet Eye of Eternity'.
On One Master's self-released debut, you'll find a very embryonic style of Scandinavian black metal, perhaps reminding one of early Gorgoroth or Darkthrone's first black metal works. And while that isn't absent here, they've also began to embrace the audial art created by many 'wall of sound' black metal bands, there's a significantly bigger Burzum ('Hvis Lyset Tar Oss') influence here than we might have heard on the first album. This isn't always a good thing in black metal, many bands nowadays use such a high level of atmospheric distortion as a distraction from the fact that they couldn't write any real good riffs or compositions that flowed well.
Of course, this doesn't apply to One Master though, who (like Burzum), have the ability to write magnificent, breathtaking compositions that sound too divinely (or infernally) inspired to have possibly been conceived by humans. What I mean by that is, the flow of this album, and how each perfect melody soaked in atmosphere and emotion sews into the next so cleanly, make it difficult to comprehend that this is the music of mere mortals. And that is the sign of perfect black metal, when you listen to an album and you can't picture a group of regular people writing and jamming some songs, as they songs take your awareness to another level, a level described as nostalgic by some although that term doesn't really fit.
If you're a fan of the first album, this one is a must. One Master have essentially taken their old formula and added heaps of Paysage d'Hiver influence. If you haven't heard the first album, and you consider yourself a fan of real, passionate black metal, especially that pre-'94 atmospheric yet barbaric Norwegian sound, I'd highly recommend you listen to both albums, you'll find it impossible to be disappointed.
There is nothing quite as refreshing as a band from the good old USA bucking the trends and putting out something that doesn’t shift with the proverbial winds of popular culture. Most Americans have a tamer view of style, relying heavily on the progressive elements of Enslaved and post-1994 Emperor, along with the lighter shoegaze approach of bands such as Alcest. But that’s not the game that One Master plays with their latest release “The Quiet Eye Of Eternity”. What emerges instead is a more traditionally oriented take on the style, but with a good eye for distinctive ideas and a unique variant on the raw production common to the earlier adherents to the style.
The band is fully forthcoming about their traditional influences, citing such noted 2nd wave acts as Gorgoroth, Immortal and Darkthrone, alongside arguably the most consequential 1st wave influence upon the early 90s scene Bathory. The influences of the first 3, particularly their earliest studio contributions to the style, are the most pronounced. Darkthrone’s droning riffs definitely played a sizable role in formulating fuzz driven, yet aesthetically beautiful guitar lines like the ones heard on “Infinite Void”. The garbled vocal timbre definitely takes on that wicked goblin-speak quality that Pest’s contributions to Gorgoroth’s “Antichrist” embodied, though at times the frog-like sounds that Abbath came known for later come into play.
The influences from the older pioneering act Bathory are a bit harder to pinpoint, except for through the influence that they had on the 3 Norwegian acts cited as principle influences by the band. Quorthon’s 80s output under the black metal moniker had a much more thrash oriented presentation, while this tends more towards the somber melodic themes more suited to “Under A Funeral Moon”, and to an extent “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”. Likewise, the production is much fuzzier and rawer, almost as if attempting to merge the most low-fidelity elements of early Darkthrone and Gorgoroth into a frosty stew of icicles and snowflakes. The drums have a very dry flavor, and are about as distant sounding in relation to the guitars as was heard on “Transylvanian Hunger”.
What this all manifests as is something along the lines of what you could’ve heard during the highpoint of the 2nd wave, but didn’t. It’s not so much an attempt at reliving the past as it is a successful attempt at restating the true meaning of the style, unadulterated darkness and aggression, right down to the inverted eye of Horus, suspended in the air above an alter in a blackened temple adorned with serpents that makes up the album art. It transitions from being wicked to being haunting effortlessly, putting forth a measured development of riff ideas that avoid the hypnotic repetition of some of the older guard, but still avoids the overtly technical, and sometimes directionless madness that came to embody Emperor’s latter two albums. It essentially walks a fine line between being old school and being original, successfully capturing the necessary nuances between substance and style that separates a good black metal album from being either a monotonous pile of noise or a disjointed merging of clashing styles.
Those who want a good USBM album in a fairly similar tradition as that of Judas Iscariot will definitely want to look into this. For an independent band battling a tide of popular misconceptions about where now commercial friendly acts like Dimmu Borgir and Satyricon originally came from, this is among the better acts out in the scene right now. There is definitely a sense of familiarity to be heard between this and the early 90s Norwegian sound, but it definitely manages to carve out its own identity, even with all the expansions that have been going on of late.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 30, 2009.