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Unusual style of BM but actual music is a let-down - 50%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 26th, 2008

The version of the album under review is the Autopsy Kitchen Records one which features 16 short tracks of dreamy and slightly sinister atmospheric black metal. Ensepulchred's style is eccentric for black metal: what we would call guitars exist only in the background as a misty presence and their usual function is taken over by pure-toned 1980's synthpop keyboards and electronics. Drumming is the minimal drum-machine tapping often found in lo-fi bedroom BM (though Ensepulchred is a trio) and even the vocals are electronically treated so that they sound like a grim little goblin cursed with a continuous vocal diarrhoea and unable to stop complaining behind the electronics and tinny rhythms. The overall effect of the music is eerie and bewitching as though a bunch of woodland fairies and elves decided to form a black metal with miniature fairy versions of guitars, drums and keyboards.

None of the short tracks stands out in the way of definite rhythm patterns, riffs or melodies so they all tend to bleed into one another and are very like linked episodes in an ongoing black metal concept. The vocals hardly change from track to track: they start when the music starts (so, no proper all-instrumental introduction for most songs), stop when the music stops and keep up a breathless conversational patter in-between. The musicians sprinkle some of the music with samples from horror movies and documentaries - look out early on for track 6 "Macabre" for the spoken voice sample from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". While we're paying close attention to that and other samples, I should add that we need to follow the music closely anyway and forget about trying to pick out songs with great melodies or riffs: the whole recording is the thing we should look at, it's about a strange and enchanting, and also a little scary, alien dark depressive world. Variations in the music are to be found in its details - a couple of tracks feature some church organ but not much - and involve changes in the overall keyboard sound which can border on schmaltzy or cheesy.

For most people the main drawback of this album is that for 55 minutes it's very limited in what it does and stays within a comfort zone of its own making. The attractions of the album can wear out quickly even before the halfway mark. In a way Ensepulchred's brand of ambient BM resembles Striborg without the latter act's determined cantankerousness, virtuoso playing and slight acid guitar feel, and sometimes I can hear the wintry ambient side of Swiss act Paysage d'Hiver in the keyboard tones. Fans of Burzum's two-fingered keyboard music, if you exist, should check out "Suicide ..." as an example of what Varg Vikernes could have achieved in prison. It's quite frustrating in a way to listen to this album: the style of music is unique and refreshing in a way but the music can grow stale. It's a shame Ensepulchred don't take the soundtrack approach to making this album very far at all.

And what's really maddening is that the best tracks are actually at the end of the album: these are "Flesh" which is elaborated with rumbling volcano noises, touches of dulcet xylophone and almost-warm synth; and "The Eulogy of One Poignant Ra'Por" which appropriately ends up disappearing into a bubbling, boiling pool of mud, shit, noise and melted helicopter propellers. These are the only tracks that are mini-movie soundtracks in themselves and I wonder why that particular approach was not extended to other tracks on the album. I hear the Ensepulchred guys are fond of foreign horror movies, especially old Italian horror movies of thirty to forty years ago, and wonder why they didn't try to create mini-soundtracks for famous movies like "Suspiria" and "Cannibal Holocaust" on this album.