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This was disappointing on first listen. I read a lot of reviews before finally picking it up, and they all talked about its jazz influences and general weirdness.But I was disappointed by how flat it sounded, I couldn't hear much in the way of dynamics or anything to get my ears around. It all went by in a nondescrit blur. In short, it bored me. After a few more listens, though, I realized how very wrong I was. I now think of this as the black metal version of Gorguts' Obscura--an unsurpassed groundbreaking album for its genre--and there is no higher praise from me. Bands like Deathspell Omega are great, but the best, most experimental parts of their sound are only approximations of VBE. Same goes for all the other avant-garde black metal greats--Dodheimsgard, Fleurety, Blut Aus Nord, Lugubrum, Mayhem (I won't include Arcturus here, since I don't care for them)--all have done groundbreaking things, but none compare to VBE. It's hard to believe this was recorded 13 years ago. The rest of black metal hasn't caught up yet.
Supposedly, VBE borrowed a lot from the arty hardcore band Slint--I can definitely hear the resemblance, although I haven't listened enough to the former to really know. Voivod must have also been an influence. The thing that really sets VBE apart are their dissonant, jangling chords. They use them relentlessly and the riffs are mostly mid-paced--unlike a band like Deathspell, they don't mix it up with faster sections--which gives the album a somewhat monotonous feel at first. The vocals are mostly a gloomy moan, and although they get on my nerves, I think they fit the music well. The drums use a lot of off-kilter patterns straight of prog rock. They're not overly busy, though, and although they're complex, they have a stumbling, lurching quality to them. Same goes for the bass, which is audible most of the time, and often does its own thing. All of these elements contribute to a certain feeling of lugubriousness that emanates from the music and puts a lot of people off, I think. I've developed a taste for it, though, and I have absolutely no trouble getting into it. Like the best music, it takes a number of different influences (jazz, prog rock, black metal) and integrates them seemlessly into a coherent and singular whole.