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Taking a formula that has been done to death, Malaysian act Qharinth attack the world with their own special brand of symphonic black metal. Their debut release, entitled “The Valley of Humiliation & Contempt”, reaches for all of the great aspects of symphonic black metal but manages to come up exceedingly short of even being called generic. There are a few rare enjoyable parts, but a twenty minute release should not be this painfully difficult to sit through.
Beginning to describe why this is worse than generic is difficult. The musicians aren't terrible, the production is surprisingly clear and all of the instruments are audible. Oh, that's right! You have put everything together into cohesive songs: something the music industry has incredulously dubbed songwriting, and this is where Qharinth's problem is. They can't write an enjoyable or listenable song to save their lives. There are some enjoyable riffs, some really interesting drumming patterns and even some cool keyboard wankery, but when Qharinth put them together, it sounds like monkeys trying to sodomize a football.
While the tone is rather dry and flat, there are some nifty guitar lines. Borrowing from all corners of extreme metal, the guitarist decided to cram as many different styles and approaches as possible into this twenty minute EP. From the traditionally inspired lead work on “Darkness Eternal”, that frankly sounds like a teenager noodling after learning a few scales, to the sloppy, fast paced trem work on “The Deathstone's Heron”, to the chunky amalgamate of melo death and thrash used during every verse, there's a shit load going on. I mean, hell, there are even some melodic wanderings coupled with thick power chords akin to early Old Man's Child followed by disjointed, disharmonic soloing ripped straight from “Reign in Blood”. If you've heard it on anything remotely extreme before, than the guitarist probably threw a dash of it into this EP somewhere.
The drummer sounds like he's decent, but I bet he's wearing one of those old school “Doesn't Play Well With Others” shirts because, you guessed it, he doesn't play well with others. The drum range from a pseudo blast beat, as heard on “Grieves to the Grave” to a thrashy style with some short double bass runs, with cymbals and small fills blasting away the whole time. You may have noticed that I said “pseudo blast beat”, and that's because it sounds like he's trying to conjure some speed from the book of “How to Play Black Metal”, but falls short, sounding like what I imagine a kid with ADHD would sound like if you put him in front of a drum set for the first time: fast, fast and faster, but with little control. Add all of this into the fact that when the guitars are firing away their melodeathy, thrash chugging, the drums don't match the pace or rhythm, sounding even more disjointed than they would alone.
The keyboards are really, vocals aside, the band's only real link to symphonic black metal. While the guitars and rhythm section blast away, the keyboardist wanks away with some nineties fantasy video game music. At times, the keys resemble an airy string section floating behind the disjointed and choppy music, really adding nothing at all to the music. Wait, wait, they do add something: a reason for Qharinth to whore themselves out as “symphonic” black metal. When the keyboards aren't emulating string quartets or playing a final round of anything put out by Square (before the merger with Enix, mind you), they are non existent.
The vocals would be laughable, if you didn't feel so bad for the guy singing. He has two distinct approaches: generic high pitched rasping and low guttural grunting. Sounds great in theory, right? The high pitched rasping sounds like most other bands with high pitched rasping, except there is no display of emotion: no anguish, seething rage or undying hatred. The guttural, deeper vocals are utterly terrible and by far the worse part of this album. It basically sounds like what everybody who doesn't listen to death metal thinks death metal vocals sounds like. The closest thing I can find to what it sounds like is how the orcs sounded on Warcraft II, only filtered through a deep groaning style.
“The Valley of Humiliation & Contempt” should be avoided by everyone. Calling Qharinth a symphonic black metal band is like taking your mom on a date: it's just wrong. The guitars are all over the place, but not in a good way. The drums are sloppy and disjointed. The keyboards sound best when they aren't being played. The vocals are utterly terrible. Worst of all, nothing matches up for longer than a few seconds. If you feel that your time is precious and should not be wasted listening to garbage, then please avoid this.