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Emo Black Metal? - 60%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 17th, 2009

Morbid’s Happy Days were always easily digested before ‘Happiness Stops Here’ and then shat out immediately afterwards given the terrible nature of the style, particularly on the early demos. Being a bedroom black metal, and depressive black metal at that, it’s understandable that there is a vast amount of negativity vehemently and viciously directed at Morbid and co. because if there’s anything the modern man hates, it’s bedroom black metal played badly. Being under produced was never really a problem. As black metal fans, we’re somewhat accustomed to lo-fi ensembles of black metal dirges since that was the way the genre used to be before it began to expand. In fact, the lo-fi sound typified a certain era of black metal creations, like the enigmatic ‘Transilvanian Hunger’, which destroyed the hope within many young fans back in the early to mid 1990’s. If you’re a musician who craves the negative attentions of adamant haters, bedroom black metal is the way forward, especially when that style falls into the depressive sub-genre category. A lot of South American bands seem to follow suit when it comes to lo-fi depressive sounds.

This time however, North America has graced us with a band who’re perhaps one of the most rejected bands in the history of black metal - Happy Days. Essentially, Morbid is the leading man behind this project and is, presumably, a young man influenced by the lo-fi outings of the 90’s and the depressive bands scattered in and around Europe like the Czech Republics formidable Trist and Sweden’s scarred Hypothermia. Happy Days have signalled these bands out as probably influences on their own music by even covering a few Trist epics along the way and, to be fair, doing it well. Being young and impressionable isn’t necessarily something anyone wants others to know about, but in terms of this band, the opposite of a happy-go-lucky act, they cannot control themselves and give away all inspirations immediately, leaving no mystery surrounding the music. Unlike mammoths like Hypothermia and Trist, Happy Days lack the technical abilities to ever be able to mount a serious challenge towards the depressive crown as they’re often laughed off the stage before they’ve even begun.

I imagine, by now, that the bands reputation proceeds them and they’re no longer going to be able to inflict a serious dent in European hopes of dominating this sub-genre. Morbid, in particular, is noted for his roles in other generic black metal bands like Deep-Pression. I don’t imagine anyone will ever hold the hope that one day Happy Days can obtain a positive legendary status. The bands which they try to emulate have gained a positive type of notoriety within the depressive scene and are one of only a few bands who have played this style of black metal with any credibility. To gain success from this genre, you must be brave, a visionary and, essentially, some talent. Many complaints have been levelled at Happy Days for not possessing the most pivotal of all personality traits that makes any musician, or band of musicians a success - talent. To their credit, Happy Days have altered significantly since the early days and have, most notably, dropped the pretentious production values which gave them the not-so-desired title of “kings of awful bedroom black metal”. The one thing we can ask for, despite knowing Happy Days will never be as gifted within this field as someone like Kim Carlsson, is to simply improve upon what they created before.

Personally speaking, I thought ‘Defeated By Life’ was a marked improvement upon the debut and undoubtedly over the poor demo collection the band amounted. Cid’s departure from the band was a turn-around point in the bands short history and has improved the technical side of Happy Days tenfold, but there are still mounting problems which don’t enable this to break from its generic mould into a healthier position, in terms of the public opinion. Although Happy Days obviously realise their fundamental lack of technical skills, they have still tried to improve upon earlier efforts by introducing more unique aspects. These aspects include the omission of the dual clean and rasped vocals (which were a saving grace on occasions, so this isn’t exactly a positive, but it does make this record unique in comparison) and the cleanliness of the material. The production is much improved from the shoddily produced demos which gave lo-fi recordings a bad name and sparse elements of the guitar work, in particular, is clean, which was surprising. ‘Don’t Go’ highlights this fact and whilst it doesn’t exactly bolster the technical side, it does generate some positive feedback since we’re not used to a clean Happy Days style.

Another strange omission is the movie samples. I had become so used to them and had grown to actually like them, so considering they’re missing, I was slightly disappointed, though I see this record as a more serious indication of Happy Days intent within the scene. Before they seemed like fans of the genre, and of movies, and nothing more. Now they appear to be musicians within the genre, albeit not the most technically gifted - as shown with their odd structures they changes the production style on occasions without warning - for example, the first song sounds a lot cleaner than some others like ‘Take Me Here’, which has given the music a rather synthetic feel. The ethic is here, but the conviction is not. The vocals have improved simply because the recording equipment has, but the lyrics really need to be addressed and reworked. They could easily fall into the “emo” genre of music. I expect depressive black metal to be somewhat self-indulgent, but these lyrics, on this record, are atrocious at times:

“I'm torn open,
I'm on my knees, asking you
to stay and not to leave.
Please Don't go,
Please Don't go…”

The simplistic style of black metal was never a problem for me. I’ve often stated how I’m a fan of simplicity, but the music, the atmospherics and the soundscapes need to be memorable in order to serve over a long period of time and the songs here wither and die rather easily. They’re unable to endure the test that time brings along and because of that, Happy Days will continue to have problems if they do not rectify the situation which has led them to have generic records. Also, a little maturity would go a long way in the process of rebuilding and recreating themselves as an act we, the fans, can take seriously. Supposedly, some of the material of previous records was created because of the ending of a relationship and given the content of the lyrics, though I’m sure we can all sympathise with the idea of hating break-ups, seems a little melodramatic and rife with the “qualities” that are the make-up of “emo” music. Overall, this record is lackadaisical, with a lyrical structure that draws more laughs than pity and is still plagued by a lack of natural talents.