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A new, heavy direction from Senmuth.
Before even listening to the album titled 'Sebek' by this Russian experimental artist, I had been told that this was Senmuth's crowning achievement, as far as his 'metal' music was concerned. On top of that, I had listened to dozens of lighter, ambient albums that begged for even a little bit more energy to give the music a greater matter of interest. Under both of those conditions, it seemed a perfect time to give 'Sebek' a listen. While Senmuth has had quite a few mediocre albums in his years of music-making, there have always been a select few that make the journey worth it. 'Sebek' is indeed one such album that stands out from the others, not only in it's style but also it's quality. Dare I say, but I think I've heard the best Senmuth album thus far, or possibly ever.
While much of Senmuth's work has been instrumental since the early industrial-doom metal albums of old, Senmuth's original, pseudo-melodic, distinctive yet slightly irritating vocal style are still very memorable. While the vocals did add a somewhat human flair to what was otherwise very cold, robotic music, they ultimately deterred through their distorted, weird but unprovocative delivery. While 'Oracle Octave (Part II: Sirius Mystery)' showed Senmuth opening up to the idea of death growls in his music by inviting fellow musician Lefthander to do vocal tracks for a song, 'Sebek' is the first time Valery Av does full growls in his music. While I may have been very skeptical that this would be a good idea at first, the growls here are quite powerful and effective, giving an extra edge and sense of distinction to the songs here. Barring the vocal tracks, there feels like there is a much greater depth to the songwriting here than ever before. While there are still similarities between this and the conventions of his songwriting, each track here employs a very intentional feeling of building up; something that by comparison, sorely lacks in many of the other albums.
The best written, one of the most distinctive, and- without a doubt- the heaviest album Senmuth has ever done. While the guitar tone here is pretty similar to the sound that Senmuth used to death with his early metal records, the addition of the harsh vocals, and some looming dark orchestral samples give it the extra sense of foreboding and crushing nature that sets this apart. Of course, the execution here still suffers from some of the problems all of his other albums have (first and foremost being the substitution of 'fake' instruments in the stead of real ones) but 'Sebek' is made such an impressive addition to Senmuths discography even simply based on how much of an improvement over anything else the man has done in the past.
With all having been said, 'Sebek' is the first of countless Senmuth albums that has truly dazzled me and struck me as being a truly professional-grade album for Valery Av. I always knew I would find at least one truly excellent album in this man's discography, and while it does have a few issues to yet contend with, this is undeniably Senmuth's magnum opus.
Senmuth’s hordes of ambient/ethno albums are quite enjoyable and interesting, but the man’s truly exceptional moments come when he combines those sounds with metal to create something completely unique and unheard of elsewhere in the realm of metal, or music for that matter. Such is the case with his ninth and last 2009 album, Себек, an Egpytian-themed 80 minute masterpiece.
The first 15 minutes or so of the album, split into three tracks, begin as an ambient-like instrumental section, mixed with metal by way of the complex guitar riffs. Thus, the must consists of keyboard ambient sounds, seconded by constant guitar playing, some non-metal drumming, which is basically the type of percussion one expects from folk-themed music, and a kind of synthetic chanting that isn’t actually vocals, but only an additional element designed to evoke Ancient Egypt, which is the objective of pretty much the whole album. One curious aspect is that these elements, while exclusive only during this brief beginning, continue existing alongside the rest of the music all the way through to the end of the album, sometimes more in the background but never completely absent.
The fourth track, Гимны Себеку в Праздник Воды, truly begins the main metal portion of the album. The drumming visibly takes on a more aggressive and fast-paced role, with its presence decisively given the main position within the overall sound. The riffs remain conspicuously the same as during the previous tracks, but a few more complex patters ones, including some solos, appear. The mix of these two elements is what truly makes this album a new force in the metal world. However, any attempt to define the kind of metal played by Senmuth here within traditional genre boundaries is bound to give any and all who try it headaches; in the end I hear a bizarre mix of death metal, doom metal and a solid dose of industrial metal, while the word experimental definitely has its place here as well.
Along with the above mentioned elements, Гимны Себеку в Праздник Воды is also where Senmuth’s vocals appear. These, too, are relatively hard to describe and especially to classify. He does a kind of repetitive semi-loud yelling, which borders on the harsh vocal without ever fully being a growl. His lines are sung very quickly, in keeping with the quickened pace of the rest of the music, while the overall thing tends to have a little of that repetitive, perhaps even droning effect to it; variation is very rare on this album. His vocals, and their evocative style, work in a similar way to the very different Blood of Kingu vocals. The final point worth noting on his vocals, and this is obviously natural, but he truly sounds very Russian, not only on account of the language but also having that distinctive accent whenever Russians sing in metal.
In the end, the primary objective of this album is to sound like a death/doom/industrial metal album, with additional ambient elements, in its attempt to capture the apparent atmosphere of Ancient Egypt, like a good number of other Senmuth releases do. Its complexity is impressive and the end result is a new kind of metal masterpiece, fusing foreign elements very successfully to create a brand new sound. This is another extremely worthy Senmuth album.