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Excellent post rock - 87%

Lustmord56, April 3rd, 2009

Review originally published at by Erik Thomas

Post rock is off to a busy start in 2009 with the likes of Nanda Devi, Tombs, Buried Inside, and the new Isis (which is killer BTW) - already before the start of spring. However the album I was most anticipating in the genre this year, the sophomore effort from Michigan’s Battlefields as I thought the short but excellent 2007 debut, Stained with the Blood of an Empire, was one of the most enthralling examples of the genre I had heard.

I had used the term ‘doomcore’ to describe the debut album and its primal heft and that term seems less relevant as the band, with a longer (58 minutes compared to the debuts 33 minutes), more diverse second album, has much more typical, post rock structures and a lot more introspection. That’s not to say it’s a worse album, it’s in fact a brilliant album that sees Battlefields fully unfurl their sound to its potential and should see them mentioned in the genre’s elite.

Three of the 9 tracks (”Stasis”, “Approaching”, and “Nibiru”) are actually instrumental numbers, in part giving the album its more traditional post rock feel, and there are some other shorter tracks, but the nuts and bolts of the album are the epic, lengthy tracks; opener “Disacknowledge” (12 minutes), “Blueprint” (10 minutes) and “Threshold” (13 minutes) - all just stunning examples of music that mixes delicate elegance by way of builds and ebbs with massive, crumbling explosions and grooves. Throw in a multi faceted vocal attack of screams, mid range roars and some huge death metal bellows, and you get a post rock album that has a little bit more of an edge when it does deliver the heft, even if the more introspective filler seems a bit more piecemeal than actually required.

Arguable standout “Blueprint” has a doomy, rending melody line resurfacing and a haunting midsection amid the seismic heaves while the other highlight, “Threshold” builds tensely and adds layers after later before a climactic main riff to die for. Sure, the shorter “Of Imbalance”, “Quake and Flood” and more angular closer “Majestic” are all top notch, more direct heaving, thunderous examples of the genre, but they don’t quite the epic scope and scale of the previously mentioned monsters.

This could easily be 2009s second best post rock album behind Wavering Radiant, and that’s no small feat. My only minor gripe is what happened to the more unique artwork from the debut?

Too Artsy For It's Own Good - 50%

joethecabdriver, March 18th, 2009

Such pretentiousness has invaded our genre that formally took pride in a kind of adolescent self indulgence, gleefully rolling in the mud, enjoying every bit of its depression. But now, Sludge Metal is the new proving ground of thoughtful young men and their highfalutin ideas and moonscapes under the influence of mild to hard drugs, but unfortunately has lost that sense of graveyard reveling. Such is the case of Battlefield's sophomore epic.

There are many long, boring excursions into the musical ionosphere, too many for anyone looking for a little arhhh in between the art, too much ambiance and not enough element. This is not due to lack of inventiveness on behalf of the musicians, as there are many inventive riffs and rhythm patterns. This is due to a philosophical shift in the post-metal landscape, and is indicative of the genre as a whole. The heavy parts are not nearly as abrasive as to make the long, quiet parts ring with an eerier putrescence that lays the foundation of catharsis and release, which is vital to the whole Heavy Metal experience. The guitars are much too muted and hollow sounding, with out that deep throb that makes sludge so satisfying.

The quiet parts reek of Sonic Youthful artiness, which seems to be the focus of the album; long dissonant passages that do succeed to create an atmosphere of subtle disquiet, but indulge in too much whispery navel gazing to be considered truly metal.

This album succeeds as heavy indy rock, but not as metal. Label under Isis-clone and pull out the Exodus and Manowar to clear the sinuses.