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Only you can prevent awful drum machine samples - 68%

Noktorn, November 25th, 2007

Chaos Moon is probably known to those reading this review as 'that one black metal band from Tennessee that released those two albums at the same time'. 'Origin Of Apparition' is the Wraith Productions side of the band's ambitious, simultaneous two-LP debut, with the other, 'Languor Into Echoes, Beyond', being released by another somewhat new but increasingly renowned label, Ars Magna Recordings. This half of the duo is composed of nine tracks of depressive, ambient-tinged black metal clocking in at nearly fifty minutes, and a cursory look at the tracklisting, which contains not just one, but two overarching multi-track arrangements, will show you just how ambitious this band is. In some ways, it's just the sort of thing you'd expect to come out of Wraith Productions: black metal that doesn't reinvent the wheel, but does its best to craft said wheel in a particularly well-rolling fashion.

The music on 'Origin Of Apparition' could actually be described as somewhat like another release on Wraith Productions: Absonus Noctis' 'Penumbral Inorgantia', though more openly and traditionally melodic and with a rather different atmosphere. The general mechanics are similar, though: black metal/dark ambient with an emphasis on extremely straightforward, single-minded delivery, minimalist construction of compositions, a large vocal presence, and ultra-cyclic song structures in the 'Transilvanian Hunger'-era Darkthrone vein. In this case, though, as opposed to the strange, atonal, meandering black metal that Absonus Noctis plays, Chaos Moon creates a more conventional breed of 'suicidal' black metal with lengthy dark ambient sections, which overall isn't a great deal different from a band such as Make A Change... Kill Yourself or Denmark's Angantyr in delivery. The general tempo of the music ranges from a mid-slow plod to high-speed blasting, but unlike most suicidal black metal bands, Chaos Moon actually excels much more at the former than the latter. Fitting the tempo, the band is also very good at crafting the delicate, minimalist ambient sections that the album is dotted with; far in excess of most black metal bands. The music at the best of times embodies a dismal sorcery like a fairytale gone not quite bad, but dull and listless due to endless days of rain and decay. It's a unique atmosphere that's very well employed at times.

The fast sections do not fare nearly as well. While the riffs throughout the album are quite strong, and the generally distorted vocals employed better than many bands of Chaos Moon's ilk, there is one thing handicapping the band's overall aesthetic: that of the perpetually ticking, clanging, unbearably noisy drum machine. I can hardly think of more inappropriate drum voices to employ on this album than those chosen, with extremely loud, brackish cymbals, rubbery bass drums, and snare that gets buried under the layers upon layers of Xasthuresque keys, such as on 'And So Are The Words That Never Made It. II' (ironically probably the best song on the album). Where the music succeeds the most is where the drum machine stops blasting, and, by extension, stops filling up the musical space and overriding the other instruments in the mix. The drum machine is the Nguyen Ngoc Loan to the album's Viet Cong soldier, and the fast parts are frequently a long, grotesque, point-black gunshot into the music's overall delivery.

But let's say you get past that most glaring of problems. Is the music worthwhile when you get down to it? I'd say that yes, it is, though with some reservations. Like most Wraith releases, Chaos Moon is not blazing new trails in the black metal wilderness. Most of the elements on 'Origin Of Apparition' have appeared in other locations, although they are frequently rearranged and appear in a somewhat new way, and I'm not entirely sure that the strength of such straightforward songwriting is always able to carry the band beyond other similarly unoriginal but well-crafted artists. When it works, it really works well: 'Pale Cast Of Thought' through 'Intro, Timeless Disease' is an extremely powerful block of songs, where the tempo is dropped and the depressive minor-key riffs are able to bleed through in full. The rest of the album is essentially a rollercoaster of quality, depending almost squarely on the ability of the riffs to overcome the noisy drum machine. Sometimes it works (the title track), other times not so much ('Illusions Of Dusk And Dawn'). But that middle block of songs is able to make what would have been a pretty average album into a pretty good one, all things considered.

The material on 'Origin Of Apparition' is not precisely up my alley, but it is fairly well executed overall. Those into the suicidal black metal scene who are seeking something slightly different would be advised to give this a try, as long as you're able to get past some of the more obvious aesthetic difficulties. They have a drummer for live performances, so I just hope to god they start using him on recordings.