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Where to begin exploring a catalog as vast and intimidating as good ole' Senmuth is an obviously daunting dilemma, so after some perusing and self-reflection I decided to go with the one featuring the naked babe on the cover. I like pyramids, trippy landscapes and esoteric runes and symbols as much as the next bloke, but that snuggable round ass piqued my interest in ways in which the other covers could not compare. As it turned out, my highbrow approach to the matter worked out because not only is this some pretty cool shit, but there's a whole lot of interesting female vocals to be found within, ensuring that the cover actually bears significance to the album's contents.
I haven't actually listened to any of this dude's other works, so there's really no frame of reference I'm going to compare this too as far as his releases are concerned. This particular collection of songs hover in the industrial metal zone with occasional doom influences, and all of this is dressed up in gothic garments and spiced up with some Middle Eastern and South Asian flair. Every song has vocals of some sort, and the instrumental work, particularly concerning the keys, is not only proficient but even clever concerning the mingling of metal and traditional ethnic dirges that somehow wind up not sounding cheesy or retarded. Maybe a bit pretentious, but any self-indulgences are counterbalanced by the way the songs are constructed and by the presence of numerous guest artists. Nothing drags on for too long and some of these numbers are even catchy.
Probably the best way to describe this music is to dive right into one of the songs, with one of the most striking offerings being "The Priestess" aka track three. Featuring the weirdly seductive slyness of Estella on vocals, it starts off brooding with some heavy percussive strikes and an immediate sense of garish gothic pomp before the heavy guitars veer everything into doom metal territory while Estella wildly soars over the pounding bombast. The music sounds professionally mixed with the right amount of clarity and bulky bass presence, and even the vocals aren't too up-front. Estella does come across like a demented fortune teller, but she's got the right tone to make the atmosphere work. She also shows up doing 'spoken word' Russian spiel for "Hatshepsut", sounding like a double agent ready to “provide you with pleasure” while pocketing your top secret microfilm, over an otherwise minimalist gloomy ambient soundscape.
There's a lot of other singers to bring up as well, such as Annie Red Hat, who does the 'operatic' thing for the "Dark Goddess" numbers, which sound like something Nightwish would have released if they actually were a gothic metal band that some still stupidly categorize to this day. Much better though is her psycho Eastern-inflected performance for "Para-Brahma", which really brings out the ethnic jive and battering tribal rhythms while the instrumental melodies are augmented with some mammoth low end. This monster sounds both contemporary and fucking ancient, reminding me of those days when Dead Can Dance were more into being 'eerie' than 'new-agey'. Add Annie's delirious wails to the mix and this album is already worth the price of admission, that is, if it wasn't a free download. Another female singer named Skandy21 gets the call for the fifth track, providing us with a pretty accessible slab of heavy industrial goth rock thanks to her indie-cool delivery dueting with Senmuth's own gruffer vocals. Soprano Muza also pops up for the last couple of numbers, like a more balanced Annie while unleashing vibratos amid an industrial metal storm.
For those of you morons in the "women shouldn't sing in metal" camp, relax and enjoy "Heaven and Earth" featuring Eresh's manly yet piercingly odd vocal approach. Better yet there's J. Kay, who’s like a cross between a sauced-up vampire and that groaning Laibach guy, jazzing up a lean NIN sounding "Nothing Is Real", boasting English lyrics no less! Of course there's the legend himself, mighty Senmuth, who sings on a few tracks like a Russian Trent Reznor, with "There, Where's an Eternal Dream" being the most notable thanks to some gorgeous melodies and unusual chord progressions.
And that's the thing right there, there's some unusual melodies and intricacies at work throughout this album, which to me was a bit of a surprise. I figured the whole "quantity over quality" deal would come into play, but for the most part, these aren't the kind of songs based around singular riffs, and they weren't haphazardly constructed ideas sewn together either. Considering this is one of like seven releases Senmuth pumped out in 2006, at least this album sounds like plenty of effort was put into creating it. It's certainly far removed from those equally prolific idiots on Bandcamp who think the world wants to hear their instrumental bedroom djent dogshit. Sure, although the production is pretty crackin', there's room for touch-ups and polish here and there, but I wouldn't call this a rushed effort whatsoever just by hearing it. Christ, if this guy has more albums up to this standard, I'm game to delve deeper than just plucking one out because of some nude hottie.