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Different Era, Same Problem. - 60%

Perplexed_Sjel, September 15th, 2008

“According to the band, this material has never been released as a Birkenau demo, but is solely to be considered as a new I Shalt Become album.” I advise the listener to pay no attention to the word ‘new’ in that sentence. The material present on ‘In The Falling Snow’ is a carven copy of the material provided for us on an earlier record, ‘Wanderings’. The problem that I personally have with I Shalt Become is the aversion to change that S. Holliman seems to have. The main sources of both anger and joy from ‘Wanderings’ are exactly the same on this effort. The construction of the songs is the same. The outcome is the same. Everything is the same!

Having reviewed ‘Requiem’ yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that this one man American act isn’t about to change his ideals for anyone, not even himself. I suppose if he is happy producing music on a similar nature, which seems to be very much inspired by the second wave of black metal bands, then so be it. ‘Requiem’ did contain a few differences, but this record, ‘In The Falling Snow’, does not. The production is very similar to how it was when ‘Wanderings’ was released. A lo-fi sound, projecting the distortion better than any other element of the music. The same sound effects on the guitars, which are highly distorted and spew forth an evil sound which seems to imitate the impression that the second wave acts laid down, over a decade before this record. There are moments of a positive nature, for example, there are a few decent songs which embody the true nature of black metal. Heavy distortion, a influential double bass section which often attacks the listen through blast beats and the projection of evil through aggressive soundscapes which are enhanced by the distortion of both instrumentation and vocals which, in there mostly indecipherable state, act as another Hellenic instrument. Typically rasping, typically black metal. There isn’t anything innovative about this piece. There are those, of course, who will enjoy the dark ambient influenced I Shalt Become, but the majority of black metal fans these days seem to be wanting more than yesteryear worship.

The tremolo riffs, the double bass and the influence of the keyboards on the atmospheric styling is decent enough, creating aggressive and often eerie soundscapes to work across, but the same problem exists as it did on both ‘Wanderings’ and ‘Requiem’ The fact is, there isn’t enough memorable material that allows this record to have a lasting appeal. Songs fuse together in bundles of distortion which makes it difficult to even enjoy it during it’s again, rather annoyingly, short duration. To me, this record is fixated on reliving the old days and creating a feeling of nostalgia, which ‘Requiem’ also did, within the listener because the first effort of this band is, in general, held in high esteem by black metal lovers. While songs like the self-titled track do embrace the audience with a hard slap of melody, the brief attacks on the senses of the individual listening to the piece aren’t long lasting. The appeal of this record is just as short as the length of the material itself. If it had come over a decade ago, then perhaps the material present would stand a better chance of being viewed more positively, but it hasn’t. It has come out at a time where avant-gardé is making love to black metal and seducing us with experimentation. ‘In The Falling Snow’ is a limited offering.

Short album full of pain, despair and loneliness - 77%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, April 23rd, 2008

A short album at about 36 minutes but "In the Falling Snow" is ambitious for its size. The music fairly sizzles with melancholic guitar noise as sole ISB member S Holliman painfully groans and grunts the simple and plaintive lyrics. Like much bedroom BM of its kind, the album sounds fairly Burzum-ish with simple programmed drumming that at times is more hindrance than help to the music. Holliman includes quite a lot of synthesiser work to make up for the limitations in this approach to BM including a synth that does an angelic choir on a number of tracks. The music barely strays out of the minimal and repetitive but Holliman combines the raw guitar work, the synthesiser playing and the drumming in ways that can be surprising at times: to take one example, the title track becomes so full of despair with those pained synth tones and Holliman's groaning you feel you can't take any more. Next thing you know, Holliman takes the music to another level by dropping in an effect that gives the music a shaking feel, making it quiver with emotion too deep to describe!

Each succeeding track seems to get a bit darker and more trembly with more of those gnashing vocals which to be honest start to get a bit comic. The one exception is the short and dramatic clean-toned instrumental in the middle of the album which is a welcome airy relief after the heavy plodding rhythms, the laboured vocals and the pained noise textures of previous songs. Then it's back into the fray with "Dreamscapes" which isn't very remarkable and sounds Burzum-wannabe. "Acid Lights" is at least a step up and away with the inclusion of warm synth violins which surprisingly don't make the desolate music and vocals sound any better: the synths actually seem to heighten the pain and the perhaps growing derangement of the vocalist. Later songs retain the leaden rhythms but the keyboard and guitar work becomes grander and more complex. "Our Children Die" may not boast great drumming but there is a long plaintive lead guitar drone tone riff contrasting with the now-rejoicing hobgoblin vocals. The album closes with a sorrowful elegy combining clean but brooding guitar chords and a higher pitched lead noise guitar which are effective in their repetitive duet.

The music has a good sharp and raw sound and if only Holliman could have varied the rhythms more or employed live drumming on some tracks, especially in the album's second half, the guitars would have been boosted by a lot of power which could have helped to amplify the pain and anguish. The mumbling vocals are evil enough but because they tend to rumble beneath the music you're only vaguely aware of them as somewhat cartoonish grumbles. Most tracks tend to end fairly suddenly or fade out quickly which to me is at odds with the often grand music - I usually associate sudden endings with a loss of nerve or uncertainty as to how to end a song decisively.

Lyrics here often have a cryptic quality and on some songs like "These Cold Desires" and "The Lost Man", they have an almost haiku-like quality and require you to interpret them for yourself.

The album's short enough that you can hear it in one sitting which helps to emphasise the unity of the songs though they don't necessarily form a concept. Effect is what is important here and you do come away impressed by the pain, despair and loneliness in the music. Hmm - maybe not something to listen to late at night when you're already feeling lower than low and life seems hopeless and uncaring ...

The Unyielding Futility Of Human Existence - 80%

3EyedGoat, February 13th, 2008

This is further evidence that black metal has more than just a handful of talented artists here in the States. From unholy alliances of like-minded practitioners such as the HLP Army, to cloistered heretics like Leviathan and Sapthuran, USBM's power and influence is growing. It is to these elite ranks that I Shalt Become rightfully belongs. Not that I Shalt Become is new to the scene. A one-man black metal outfit from Illinois, S. Holliman has been releasing music, sometimes under a different band name, for years. I believe this CD, "In The Falling Snow," is a rerelease on the label, No Colours Records.

The album, as a whole, creates an almost hypnotic state in the listener. After a brief, moody intro, three tracks in a row all follow the same design: mournful melodies picked on a dark, buzzing guitar, dramatic monk-like chanting, and the evil croak of a malignant pariah. All stretched to nearly epic proportions. The fifth track, "All Alone And Dead," acts as a kind of segue to the rest of the CD, which consists of more absolutely bleak and forlorn songs. I found the album works best as a late-night affirmation of the unalterable and unyielding futility of human existence.