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Listen or Be Persecuted! - 95%

Perplexed_Sjel, April 18th, 2007

I recall reviewing the demo a few years back with such excitement having discovered a rather unknown Chinese band called Be Persecuted. I remember that, at that time, Be Persecuted were still very obscure. They didn’t have much of a following bar a handful of people crazy enough to explore China for some black metal magic. What I found in Be Persecuted was not what I had expected in any way, shape or form. A Chinese black metal band fronted by a woman, supposedly. Those were the rumours however. Years later I would discovered that the vocalist, Zhao, is in fact male, not female which, to some extent, takes away a bit from the intrigue, mystery and uniqueness of Be Persecuted, although I still regard them highly in comparison to other bands of the same sub-genre. I would go as far to say Be Persecuted were, from their isolated home in the Communist country of China, a pioneer of the modern day depressive black metal scene.

After people starting discovering the band for themselves, and with the help of word of mouth, the Chinese group helped spearhead an increasingly popular movement, despite their isolation from the scene and most of its fans. Such is life today, the internet is such a powerful tool and can propel a band from obscurity to worldwide acclaim in a short space of time, as with what happened to Be Persecuted after the release of their debut full-length, entitled ‘I.I’. Just last year I was embracing the bands return with their sophomore effort, ‘End Leaving’. However, the follow-up to their widely well received debut was plainly not as good. It lacked the conviction that this debut has and the alterations, including in production and style, saw Be Persecuted drop in my esteem. Personally, I love this slightly lo-fi approach that we have on ‘I.I’. The bombastic nature of the production heightens the sheer velocity of emotion behind the release, especially in regards to the insane vocals of Zhao.

The difference between the two albums is hardly surprising given certain side-projects of the musicians. As with a number of modern bands, Be Persecuted began leaning towards the infamous “metalgaze” sound on ‘End Leaving’, an album which introduced subtle hints of post-rock and shoegaze and whatnot. Although the move from this style wasn’t that drastic, the end result was. Zhao’s now defunct side-project, named Dopamine, are a fine example of why Be Persecuted made the leap from depressive black metal to the new “metalgaze” style a la bands like Alcest and Les Discrets. Dopamine themselves can be tagged with the “metalgaze” description and, seemingly, signify Zhao’s creative control over Be Persecuted and his influence on his fellow band members. Although he is only the vocalist, opting not to play any instruments, Zhao’s imagination comes to life on ‘End Leaving’, whereas ‘I.I’ appears to be more of a collective effort, which is possibly why it fares better than the more recent album. In terms of differences between this album and the early demo, well, there aren’t many. In fact, they’re almost exactly the same bar two new songs, ‘Wilderness’, which conjures wonderful imagery alongside the fuzzy style and the brilliant ‘Revolves Weakly Falls’, one hell of a catchy song.

The novelty of having a female vocalist perhaps made this album appear better than it is, though I still regard it as a classic of the sub-genre. Now that I’ve learned that Zhao is male, the significance of his role has died down a bit, though he still gives a charismatic and distinguished performance as vocalist. His vocals are easily recognised because he definitely has a unique sounding voice. His voice on the album is utilised perfectly. Despite the overwhelmingly buzzing qualities of the production, each element is easily distinguishable amidst the haze and fog that the distortion creates around the atmospherics. Songs like ‘Revolves Weakly Falls’ even contains cleaner sections of instrumentation, whilst still maintaining the aggressive, primitive sound of the distortion in the background. The album wonderfully juxtaposes distortion with cleanliness and, through the aptly titled tracks like ‘Wilderness’, Be Persecuted successfully portray the wildness of negative emotions and how they can have a significant impact upon one’s own personality.

There is a feral quality to the album which is fantastic. The distortion doesn’t obscure elements like the bass entirely, as seen on songs like ‘Wilderness’ again. The distortion is the main feature of the album, but it certainly doesn’t derail the fact that there are other elements to this album, each vying for a spot in the limelight. The cleaner aspects of instrumentation are sparsely interjected into the album well and the aspects like the bass are ever presents. With the addition of the two new songs, 'Wilderness' and 'Revolves Weakly Falls', the latter being my favourite track on the album, the length of the piece is dramatically increased from 28 to 47 minutes giving the album a more refined feel, as well as a feeling of being more wholesome and worthwhile. The band have more time to concentrate their efforts and collectively pull in the same direction, whilst the demo simply left me yearning for more, whereas the debut full-length is filling and satisfying.

The vocals depict the lyrical themes completely and truly. They're your standard black metal wails full of hatred and suffering. The riffs are often repetitive, utilising the tremolo picking style well. Aggressive and mid-paced with the inclusion of some beautiful acoustic parts, this album isn’t entirely what I had expected. After numerous listens, you begin to see the full picture reveal itself slowly beneath the surface. For example, the bass isn’t used entirely as a back-up to the guitar. It can have a mind of its own, injecting a sense of underlying creativity. The two new songs follow the pattern that the songs from the demo have taken. They're both emotive, hard-hitting and memorable. So much so that I find myself still coming back to this album, many years after having discovered it and despite the influx of bands into this particular sub-genre of black metal. This album remains a classic for many reasons, not least its ability to create intoxicating melodies through overpowering fuzziness.