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The band's low point - 42%

iamntbatman, November 22nd, 2009

This is, hands down, the worst sounding Bone Awl yet. The band's releases have always had incredibly raw production but in most cases, this has worked in the band's favor as the music they play is about as raw and primitive as it comes. The raw production emphasized these traits and I can't picture releases like By Ropes Through Dirt having crystal clear, squeaky-clean production jobs at all. Bone Awl have always drawn comparisons to Idjarn but I feel like this is the first time they've reached that band's level of "lo-fi".

Funny thing is, the production job here seems almost intentional. Undying Glare is more blatantly black metal than anything the band has done up to this point, with only the extremely short title track retaining the explicitly punk elements the band has established in their sound. The other two tracks - "Visions of Altitude" and "Passing Through Shadows" - are black metal songs through and through - hyperspeed blastbeats and dissonant tremolo riffs are the name of the game which, coupled with the roaring shrieks of He Who Gnashes Teeth's tortured delivery, transforms this material from some sort of blackened punk hybrid into something that couldn't be mistaken for anything other than black metal. The production mirrors this approach perfectly; the mix is almost entirely devoid of bass and the guitars have that fuzzy-as-hell-yet-super-trebly sound that's not a far cry from Filosofem. The utter lack of bass presence in the guitar, bass guitar (if there even is one this time around) and even the bass drums gives the entire EP a very high-end mix that's rough on the ears. Adding insult to injury is the horrible clipping distortion that permeates the recording, on the guitars to a degree but most notably on the cymbals, resulting in a release that's coated in an unpleasant layer of white noise.

The production creates a blurring effect that makes it almost impossible to really decipher what's going on with the instrumentation, not helped by the band's choice to use more conventional aggressive black metal songwriting techniques for the EP's two longer songs. If I could hear the guitar more clearly, there was less clipping in the cymbals especially, and if there was some semblance of bass (bass drums would be nice but audible bass guitar would be even better) this new style might be a bit easier to palette. The drums themselves are buried under all of that noise as well, making it impossible to use them as a focal point for the listening experience rather than the riffs. The only real positive here are the ever-interesting vocals of He Who Gnashes Teeth which sound just as enraged and powerful as ever, although like everything else on this EP they're washed over with white noise.

I would really like to hear re-recorded versions of "Visions of Altitude" and "Passing Through Shadows" with a production job more along the lines of Transilvanian Hunger or Filosofem (lo-fi and heavy on the treble yet with a strong bass presence and none of the white noise that plagues this release). "Undying Glare" is a decent enough song but could stand to be longer. It does reappear on the All Has Red demo, but unfortunately is just as brief there. The song does have the EP's most, um, observable riffs and is pretty enjoyable but hardly makes up for the painful listening experience of the EP as a whole. This is not representative of Bone Awl and would probably disappoint most fans of the band. Perhaps fans of ultra-lo-fi bedroom black metal will enjoy this, but there are much better examples of even that genre than this.