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Mirrored Hate Painting - 87%

cellistovmetal, May 10th, 2012

After releasing a fairly modest debut album (“Majestic Nothingness”), Carpe Tenebrum returned in October of 1999 with “Mirrored Hate Painting,” a confident, twisted work of pure black metal. To put it simply, this cd is pretty much Dimmu Borgir’s “Spiritual Black Dimensions” Mark II. This does not merit criticism, of course, when one considers how both Nagash and Astennu, the two members of Carpe Tenebrum, were at the time involved in the making of the aforementioned album; they admittedly lent much of their style in its composition. Sweeping keyboards dominate a relentless chaotic soundscape, while blurred-sounding guitars, mixed excellently, both hold their own in some areas and provide a solid backdrop in others upon which the music can unfold, and Nagash spews forth rasps with strength and consistency through the entire album. The lyrics are somewhat vague, but seem to cover general black metal themes of darkness and the cosmos. The song structures are unconventional and unpredictable, keeping one guessing and interested, while the riffs and melodies have a sort of “creepy” vibe to them. This last attribute does not make the music sound “cheesy” at all, but rather genuinely evil.

After some odd (and frankly unnecessary) distorted speech, the cd opens with “The Abyss’s Mystic Haze.” The style is exactly as described before. Blasting drums and tremolo-picked guitars play a complex 12/8 riff that seems to alternate between 5/8 and 7/8 with every measure. Vocals enter and eventually so do the keyboards, and the time signature straightens out to a simpler sextuplet format while arpeggiated keys roll along. The time signature warps again, and soon our ears are treated to one of Astennu’s atonal guitar solos that somehow fits perfectly with the music. The music goes on with variations in riffing and rhythm, another fantastic solo, and then comes to a close with more bizarre distorted speech. “Lured Like You Thought” continues in this same direction, with more fast riffs, keys and solos, but retains its own distinctiveness throughout.

“The Painting” is very similar to Dimmu’s “Grotesquery Concealed (within Measureless Magic)” from - you guessed it - “Spiritual Black Dimensions.” While not as fast as that song, “The Painting” slows down near the middle from its relentless riffing into an ambient sea of keyboards and vocals, and then the rhythm guitar chugs steadily while the lead breaks out into a solo. The song becomes faster again and fades out, and then there’s those annoying speech samples (again).

“Mirrored in Scarry Skies” is perhaps one of my favorite songs from this album. Right from the beginning, the drums blast away and the keys softly whisper while the lead guitar plays a blistering and downright evil c-minor to e-minor tremolo riff in 4/4 at the fastest opening tempo yet heard on here. Vocals and thrasher-style drums enter, another chaotic riff begins with the next verse, and then back to the first riff. What follows at 2:23 is a simple yet almost catchy f-minor to e-minor chord progression, almost a breakdown of sorts, which will have you banging your head along. The song meanders along for a bit, expanding upon the previous riff, and then goes back into more furious blasting until the song’s end.

“And Fever” (misspelled “And Forever”) is another sturdy song, which alternates from 12/8 to 4/4 frequently, with a particularly nice riff at 1:46. Not much to say about this one, but it holds its own and doesn’t bore the listener if one is listening to the album in its entirety. Same with “Ludus,” a particularly aggressive work which features another guitar solo around 3:20 which leads into a storm of blasting and a subsequent breakdown, fading out into those god-awful samples.

“Void Dress” and “Dreaded Chaotic Reign” bring the album to an eerie close. The former is a short track that at times seems reminiscent of the riffs in the songs before it, but also contains some original thrash-influenced riffs and shrieking chanting, ending with a guitar solo. The latter in a slow instrumental, containing ambient effects and acoustic guitars whose melodies hint at some coming demonic entity, reflecting the title quite well.

Overall, I give this album an 87 percent. While each song is well-composed and executed excellently in its own right, they are sometimes too stylistically similar as a holistic album; one can forget to which song they are listening. And also, in my subjective opinion, the vocals don’t serve as a cool transition between songs; they just ruin the atmosphere. “Mirrored Hate Painting” is a good listen for die-hard fans of black metal, but perhaps the non-initiated might want to listen to something like Dimmu Borgir’s “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant” first.