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The triumph of diversity - 92%

ultraviolet, June 11th, 2012

There are cases of artists that set the trends and cases of those that follow them (successfully or not). But there are also some people who don’t give a shit about all this and simply pave their own, distant path. Like i.e. the latter Varg Vikernes. Such artist is Andrew-Curtis Brignell, who, under the Caϊna name, introduced himself to us by playing primitive raw blackmetal only to stray soon into more trippy post metal/rock soundscapes.

And while that post trend has rushed like a whirlwind into blackmetal (and other subgenres), only to cover, in most cases, the lack of composing talent, with Caϊna this mixture works in a truly unique way. So it comes to this year’s “Hands That Pluck”, where Brignell, helped by his brother Jon in bass guitar, asks some friends to assist him in lyrics and vocals. One of them is Imperial from (slightly unrecognized) Krieg, who contributes in the ten-minute “Murrain” track, where he spits his misanthropic manifest over a layer of dense blackmetal riffs interrupted by atmospheric synth melodies. Yet, the change in rhythm and mood seems so natural that it doesn’t produce any annoyance.

As the record flows, almost everything looks abnormal at first hearing. I.e., the title track is not the album’s “opus” (as is usual) but a small instrumental interlude. It is followed by the ethereal “The Sea Of Grief Has No Shores” for which I speculate that Red Sparrowes would kill to have on their last record. Not only that, but in the next track Brignell is accompanied by the vocalist of Starkweather (a pioneer metalcore band from the early 90s –nothing to do with nowadays shit) in a collaboration that ends up to a paranoid avant-garde/prog/blackmetal orgy bringing to mind vocals equivalent to Czral or even Buddy Lackey. Without a joke, the guy (Brignell) can produce the most emotional harmony on one moment and the next he can howl at moon or maybe pass the microphone to Chris Ross (of Axis Of Advance/Blood Revolt/Revenge fame) without disturbing the homogeneity of the material at the slightest point.

I have no idea how he manages to do that, but during the epic conclusion of “Ninety Three” I could do nothing but stand in awe from the grandeur of this work. In ideal listening conditions (seclusion, dim lighting, red wine), “Hands That Pluck” is destined to be one of the main soundtracks of the forthcoming autumn and this is something you have to ascertain yourselves. Icing on the cake, the bonus CD (“Old Songs, New Chords”) with reinterpretations of older Caϊna material (which is also included) as well as a fine cover of Nico’s “Roses In The Snow”).

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Not quite the farewell album it could have been - 67%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 25th, 2011

This double CD set appears to be the swansong release for Caina as it is and what a way to go with a set of reworked songs. For this release Andrew Curtis-Bignell hired some big names including Imperial from Krieg, Rennie Resmini and Chris Ross to help out on vocals and lyrics. The result is quite impressive if not coherent and unified.

The first CD in the set is the "Hands that Pluck" album proper, the second CD being a bonus EP that reinterprets old songs. Hard to tell the difference between the two CDs though where the music is concerned: on both discs, the style is often all over the place and wildly so at that. Even within the same song, the style of music can veer and dip suddenly into cosmic space ambience from a tide of black metal fury or something almost punky. The first two tracks "Profane Inheritors" and "Murrain" tend to pass in a blur but there are undercurrents of sonic tunefulness and steady rhythm. More complex moods, atmospheres and musical structures come with the title track and the track following after: post-rock and a martial rhythm dominate the fourth track in particular with a lonely plaintive mood. "Callus and Cicatrix" introduces a more decadent Gothic flavour with weirdly theatrical voices amid the roars and brittle black metal. The album continues in this way with a mixture of spacey ambience, flourishes of black metal anger and long passages of contemplative melodic rock. Not the most consistent collection of music and sometimes I think there's too much jumping around among the genres; for a last album, you'd think Caina had finally found a fairly definite and distinctive style to settle into. The last track "Ninety-three" is a tribute to Current 93.

The second CD features 2011-dated reworkings of songs released on previous albums; the new versions might not be to everyone's taste as some are definitely lite-metal pieces heavy on atmosphere and a delicate touch. As on the "Hands that Pluck" release proper, there is a bewildering variety of music styles here running from jangly dark melodic blues rock boasting plenty of atmospheric space and intensity to steely black metal roar and trilling guitar tone, to spacey acid synth effects. "Validity" is a deeply affecting instrumental with pretty melodies and a jazzy percussion rhythm overlaid with wispy synth and jagged BM riffs. "The Last Song" is a surprisingly laidback countrified piece with jangly guitar, a lazy loping rhythm and melodies that drip, drip, drip like beautiful raindrops.

"To Funk the Night Up by its Shit" is one of two reworkings (the other being "To Pluck the Night Up by its Skin") of the track "Wormword over Albion" that appeared on "Mourner": surprisingly this is dance-friendly disco instrumental with a rubbery marching pace, pleasant enough in itself but not leading anywhere much at all and sounding very much like filler material. "Permaneo Carmen (2011 remaster)" is hardly different from the original on "Mourner", just a bit bulked up more perhaps. The second reworking of "Wormwood over Albion" features new lyrics delivered in a highly abrasive and noisy style that doesn't quite suit the melody (a bit stand-offish) but is otherwise an agreeable track to finish the album with, with a spoken word field recording that incites unease and slashing riffs cutting through the talk.

As farewell albums go, I wish "Hands that Pluck" had more focus and fire than flightiness. You always want your favourite bands to go out with a bang and "Hands that Pluck" doesn't quite reach that pyrotechnic level. "Callus and Cicatrix" is the highlight of the disc with a delirious blend of tough BM and deranged voices.
If you come across this album, make sure you get the bonus disc to make it worth your while.