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Rich sound palette of doomy black metal drone - 75%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 7th, 2013

Cicadan is a new black metal act based in Cobram which is located on the Victorian side of the Murray River in southeast Australia. Helmed by Shamus Toomath who happens to be the only member as well, Cicadan plays doomy black metal with ambient, drone and experimental / abstract music influences. "Mother" is the debut album, featuring three tracks whose titles suggest a description of a 24-hour period in a location somewhere in Australia during a time when European settlers were yet to arrive and change the landscape forever.

Cobram's Wikipedia entry says its climate is a Mediterranean-type one with hot dry summers and cool wet winters averaging 300 days of sunshine a year. This balmy background would hardly favour the rise of black metal bands, let alone one as intense, powerful and sullen as Cicadan, yet his first recording is a dark and smouldering one. At the same time the album is a creature of its surroundings: each track is topped and tailed with field recordings of the natural environment of Toomath's home town. Chittering birds and insects like cicadas, from which the project obtains its name, and the deep stillness of the Australian bush form the underlying inspiration for the music. Something of the flat expanses of the Australian continent is captured in the album's more meditative moments. Lyrics in all three songs hint at the endless cycles of life and regeneration of nature in a long history; funnily, there is something about the lyrics that reminds me of Al Cisneros' lyric-writing for Om - something a bit hypnotic and a little remote, and perhaps hinting at a sudden change that leads to a changed and heightened awareness of nature's connection to the cosmos.

"Day" has a hot and dry start with insects chirping loudly in the trees and birds sheltering in the tree canopies. The acoustic guitar introduction is lethargic under the weight of the heat. It soon weighs into the steely acid grind of the black metal guitar which falls like heavy rain across the sonic landscape. The pace is slow and majestic with powerful droning doom guitar and an ugly chanting BM vocal. "Dusk" is similar to "Day" in its basic structure: a soft melodic guitar intro builds into a shimmering and malevolent piece with a spiky lead guitar solo melody and muttering demon voice. Droning riffs add some variation and tension to the music. The track is quite creepy with a regular loop of reverb-touched clicks appearing early and gradually coming to define the song's structure and atmosphere. It all becomes quite post-rock in a way reminiscent of the Cascadian black metal scene with a quiet choir of ghostly voices and the sounds of nature following a melancholy lead guitar tune.

The real glory of the album is "Night (Dendronic Pessimism)", the shortest of the three songs but the most varied and atmospheric. It's very powerful in its long booming drone riffs against a background of burning black metal rhythm guitar. Quiet acoustic banjo or mandolin-like strings with night-time ambience and a spoons percussion rhythm feature for a brief time as well. The piece fades into crackling fire.

With a sound palette that includes BM-guitar rain showers, huge deep sonic bass booms and competent drumming that doesn't appear to be programmed, Cicadan has a rich foundation for his music to really soar. At present the songs here aren't greatly different from one another in their basic elements and structure, and their differentiation mainly lies in the kinds of field recordings and the quieter, more introspective acoustic music sections attached to them. There is huge potential for Cicadan to become much bigger and more well-known outside Australia; he needs more music composition practice. Writing music in conventional song structure formats might be worthwhile to enable him to understand more about building up tension and emotion to maintain listener interest, and to appreciate better the freedom and limitations that unconventional music structures have. Sometimes in order to break the rules, you have to know and obey them first. A couple of tracks on "Mother" don't have very obvious climaxes and the music starts to tail away too soon with the result that endings seem to take forever.

Here's hoping that once Cicadan improves on his music composition skills, he will become an unstoppable force in Australian black metal, the equal of acts like Elysian Blaze and Striborg in their intense and idiosyncratic approaches to the genre.

Sombre Spirit Of Australian Thickets - 85%

Killer_Clown, October 25th, 2012

Here's the debut release by a new Australian one-man band called Cicadan. Shamus Toomath (the only member of Cicadan) reached on this release the dark atmosphere of melancholy and special spirit of Australian wilderness. This work deserves the particular attention of many devotees of the obscure and gloomy black metal art.

"Mother" consists of three complete tracks rich of deep dark atmosphere of southern forests and wilderness. These tracks sound not very heavy but, as I said, they are rather sullen and lowering, what makes them special and with a little bit depressive sounding. Every track has the similar layout - it has the black metal part with distorted guitars and fast drums and acoustic parts with ambient elements. The last one is what I appreciated most on this album.

In spite of being kinda long, songs are neither boring nor protracted at all. The length there is not the drawback. Moreover, this length is quite pertinent there as it contains all the components of music the musician had to express.

Unfortunately, sometimes it seems that the recording lacks a bit of professionalism, but again it is not the shortcoming too, because the music is done full-heartedly and it distinguishs by its candour. Just wait a bit and then we will hear a true masterpiece from Cicadan in a near future. This band in a whole and Shamus particularly have a big potential, which will fulfil soon.

As an advice for musician it'll be pretty useful to note that he probably should adhere to the style of music he had chosen and continue in the same way just developing his skills from release to release. This will bring more benefits to the musician and his listeners.

The other thing to discuss is the design of the album. On the front cover we see some separately standing tree in the conifer forest. This tree is dead, there is no leafage on it, the life has entirely gone away. That shows us the want of hope and the failing strength. Cover fully reproduces the atmosphere of music on that album. Songs are alloted in the same sequence - initially comes "Day", then logically "Dusk" and in the end "Night"...

The total result is 85 of 100.

To highlight: "Night".

From prehistoric forests... - 70%

ConorFynes, October 5th, 2012

Cicadan tells of a time before man, when nature was left to grow wild and unabated by human interference. Although this one-man ambient black metal project hails from Australia, much of its sound and aesthetic shares a partnership with the left-wing Cascadians of the Pacific Northwest. The obvious regional separation aside, this brainchild of one Shamus Toomath may be seen as a sort of extension of that scene; raw production, field samples, and ten-plus minute tunes are the norm here. On his debut “Mother”, there is rarely the sense that Shamus’ Cicadan stretches past his influences. The sonic beauty here is tarnished by a needlessly unruly sense of song structure, although the album’s dark, nature-based atmosphere ultimately makes it a trip worth taking.

Taking a hint from Wolves in the Throne Room and Cicadan’s own label mates in Skagos, “Mother” is a very dark sounding album, but there’s nothing evil about it. While I’d say that a lot of these so-called adherents of the ‘Cascadian sound’ halfheartedly try to give an intolerant style of music a brighter outlook, there is nothing about Cicadan which indicates good nor evil; such is nature. Plainly evident however is a sense of environmental regression Shamus seeks with his music. Hearing a tortured call of an owl or the rustle of bushes in between Cicadan’s doomy riffs somehow doesn’t bring to mind a mere retreat from society. Instead, it evokes a time period where the world was much younger and tumultuous. There is an intense, raw energy here, although that does not always equate to speed. Split into three parts, “Mother” is a single piece of music, split into a “Day”, “Dusk” and finally, “Night”. If anything, Cicadan’s greatest accomplishment is creating a sonic aesthetic completely detached from the granted safeties of society. It would not feel entirely out of place to hear “Mother” playing if I was out in some Triassic forest, taking shelter in a cave from the rain.

Anyone familiar with the raw, nearly punkish production of Skagos or early Wolves in the Throne Room demos will find “Mother” to take the sound down a similar path. A good bit of the album’s forty minutes are devoted to a sort of quiet raw ambiance- listeners aren’t even introduced to Cicadan’s black metal leanings until several minutes into the piece. In fact, only the seventeen cornerstone “Dusk” feels like a song at all. “Day” and “Night” ultimately come off as a respective extended intro and outro- they never adopt many twists of their own, and certainly don’t have the substance to survive as standalone pieces. Fortunately, the quality on “Dusk” manages to keep the entire album afloat. Although the opener and closer don’t feel much more than acoustic soundscapes, “Dusk” is a monster, taking the listener deep into a prehistoric aether. It’s dark and fierce, and reminded me at more than one point of Agalloch’s own seventeen minute epic, “Black Lake Nidstang”. With that being said, I can’t say much for its structure, which is too wild and unfocused to make it a consistently enjoyable venture. “Mother” has a mystical sense of wonder to it, but I don’t think I’d be out of bounds saying that there’s been plenty of bands who have executed the atmosphere-based nature worship more successfully. I do not share the voracious enthusiasm some have shown for it, but it’s rare that I’ve felt such a sincere sense of nature in music of this style before.

Profound Animist Art - 90%

heimlich, October 4th, 2012

Cicadan is a solo Australian act, and Mother is its debut 38 minute release (available only in digital form, and listenable in full on Bandcamp). It is a powerful voyage into the heart of the Australian wilds, and fearlessly explores the seemingly irresolvable tension between mechanized modernity and timeless nature.

Moving between ambient, acoustic, doom/black metal, drone, and almost progressive feels, Mother is first and foremost an impressive testament to the artist’s multi-instrumental gifts and talents for evocative arrangements. Because on this release form mirrors content, and it succeeds admirably in transporting the listener into the liquid solidity of Nature.

As an expatriate Australian I believe I am uniquely equipped to review this release; I have to admit that it made me terribly homesick for the unforgiving land of my birth. Both the music and the creative use of naturalistic samples evoke the harsh, flinty, yet also verdant Australian environment. The baking sun, the vast blue sky, the endless hordes of industrious (especially insect and avian) organisms. The sense of desolation that conceals fervent and frantic life lived in endless multiplicities.

In a sense Mother takes its point of departure from animistic black metal outfits from the Pacific North West of the United States, bands like Fauna. But where the latter evoke the damp, mossy Cascadian wilds – all grey and green and rot – Cicadan’s inspiration comes from the brittle gum trees, the grinding drone of the cicadas, the lick of bush fires that destroy and rejuvenate.

Indeed, in many respects this release throws down the gauntlet to the many extreme bands that today seek to negotiation the contradictions of modernity and nature in their art. The dry, searing heat; the grim, flinty fertility – these and more faces of the Australian land reach forth from every note of music on this release. It’s a tremendous homage, if a rather grim one.

The instrumentation, as I have already alluded, is just wonderful. The acoustic guitar sounds rich and full and alive; the drums are pummeling and cruel. The electric guitars have inexorability and heft, and more than succeed in evoking the great stony landscapes, the broken teeth of an ancient continent.

The vocals – largely in the form of rasps, shrieks, and whispers, but also with some very tasteful clean singing – serve as the vehicle for Zen-like lyrics that evoke the timelessness and the fleetingness of the natural world all at once. They turn reluctantly from the reflecting pool of thunderstorms and sunburned birdsong into the grim face of humanity’s destructive blindness; its technological obsession, its unthinking passion for reducing vast complexities into barren psychological and ecological wastelands.

Mother’s capacity to roam from the textural, to the punishing, to the foreboding and hypogogic, is simply remarkable. It carries us on a journey that spans time as much as space; there is something tremendously ancient in this music, ancient, intimidating, yet tremendously vulnerable and in desperately in need of shelter. The sensitivity with which the performances have been captured is highly refined.

Indeed, in a way this release reminds me of early and mid-period The Third and the Mortal; another band that voyages deep into the tectonic dreaming of humanity communing with nature. Admittedly, Cicadan are harsher, more extreme, less pretty; but like The Third and the Mortal, they’re both immediately accessible (as extreme music goes!) and highly original.

The fact that this is a solo project is all the more astounding. Cicadan are onto something extremely promising. Their quest for the sacredness of the immanent is already yielding rich rewards. This is the kind of release that portends amazing things to come.