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Moody Prog with Black Metal Tendencies - 78%

forceofevil, July 18th, 2017

One of the weirder black metal records I've ever run across, this superbly-titled album stubbornly refuses to commit to a genre -- it's very clear that the band grew up on old Pink Floyd records, and probably co-signs plenty of post-Blackwater Park Opeth, but they're not ready to put down their black metal irons yet, or they can't find a clean singer who's up to the task. So what you get is a gothy and sometimes goofy mix of classic rock grandeur in a black metal package: the raspy vocals are sort of soldered onto whatever multi-genre stew the band has working at the moment, whether it's the epic sweep of "Emerge Affliction" or the straight-up speed metal of "The Knell and Thrice the Dawn," replete with Maidenesque twin-guitar breakdowns.

If you described this album as "all over the place," it'd be a fair jab: some intervals sound so nakedly Floyd-damaged that you wonder why the band doesn't just commit to a style. But that's also part of the album's charm: while it's hard to settle into its groove, it's also a fascinating listen. The weird European jazz-prog of the 70s had a similarly restless mood: sometimes a little stoned, sometimes agitated, sometimes chaotic. In tha Umbra never really approaches chaos, though they come close in the synth-noise freakout of the album's concluding track -- but they do a neat job of traversing styles, and tracing a line, however occasionally tenuous, between the style of metal that predates much of what we now call metal and the dominant post-BM/DM styles of today.

Probably not anybody's favorite album of all time, this is nonetheless worth spending an afternoon with. It feels like the sort of band Fenriz would like: just weird enough to stand out, just connected enough to the main thread to feel true.