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Album of covers and tributes by L'Acephale - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, July 22nd, 2009

L'Acephale released the album "Malefeasance" at about the same time they released their other album "Stahlhartes Gehause" but these are not much alike at all. "Stahlhartes ..." has a definite narrative underlying it and is mainly a black metal album that happens to include a lot of non-metal trimmings. "Malefeasance" contains cover versions and tributes to various bands and people who have influenced L'Acephale and the music runs the gamut from field recordings and found sounds to industrial, noise and ambient all the way to eastern European and Japanese folk cultures and even what sounds like Tibetan Buddhist trumpet drone. Here black metal is limited to a couple of tracks and where it does appear, there is not a full band playing.

All tracks are very different from one another in style and the particular influences that inspired them. The only thing they might have in common is their very slow pace and the drawn-out, glacial way in which they develop. "Vainamoinen Nacht" is an evolving ambient piece that gradually collects field recordings of men singing and chanting eastern European folk poetry; this track refers to L'Acephale's interest in cultural anthropology and liking for Ukrainian black metal bands like Drudkh and Hate Forest that draw on their native folk music and their country's history for inspiration. "Hitori Bon Odori" is a slow repetitive song of low droning voice and guitar. "A Burned Village" is the first proper black metal song (a cover of a song originally done by a French metal band) with guitars that sound ridiculously sped-up and cartoony with a crabby voice to match. At this point I should mention all songs on this album apart from "A Burned Village" last longer than 10 minutes each and as most of them are very slow as well, they have a very static quality that can encourage listeners to think there is not much happening at all.

The slow droning "From a Miserable Abode" features an evil-baby-screaming vocal (now we all love the sound of screaming demon babies, don't we?) against a background of prolonged guitar drones and various frightful werewolf and other demonic noises, out of which Tibetan Buddhist droning trumpets emerge and come to dominate the track. In a recent interview L'Acephale man Set Sothis Nox La said this song is primarily a homage to Japanese doom metal band Corrupted but there are noisy sections in the second half of the track that appear to reference Japanese noisician king Merzbow for inspiration.

The industrial-sounding "Sleep Has This House" is a squealy Current 93 cover dominated by chainsaw drones under which dark mutterings are just audible. The Black-and-Decker orchestra soon acquries some "proper" instrumental accompaniment like piano and strings and the whole thing acquires a jaunty rhythm. Chanting appears in the last third of the track along with another infuriating squealing drone that reminds me of loudly humming fluorescent lights and crummy electrical household appliances.

Final track "Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted" is a 23-minute noise / drone / ambient soup through which various random effects and snatches of recrodings including what sounds like sustained cymbal drone float and slowly unfold. By this point we have heard an hour's worth of music so if your attention is flagging, you can break your listening here and come back to the track later on when you're in the mood for experimental ambient music. This track is the least structured and most out-there piece of music on the album. For the first 10 minutes you hear mainly overlapping long sounds and then an acoustic guitar melody that is Spanish / Middle Eastern in feel begins and continues all the way to the end.

I do like this album a lot because of the variety of musical treatments that appear here but it's best regarded as not a black metal album at all and if you're reading this because you want to hear decent black metal and don't want to hear anything else, "Malefeasance" is not for you. The tracks are very long and due to the way they unfold and take their time about it, they come over as unstructured. If you like your music energetic and flowing, and to have recognisable rhythms, beats, riffing and melodies, you need to look elsewhere. L'Acephale make no apologies for creating music that baffles people and you have to do some work to find out where the band is coming from to be able to appreciate the music.

For others who are used to the genres of music represented on this album - ambient, noise, musique concrete among others - "Malefeasance" is a peek into the bands and influences that have inspired and made L'Acephale into the entity it is today. Your main complaint would be that some of the music, especially on the last track, could have been edited for length. According to a religion / philosophy called Discordianism which holds that chaos is all that exists and is a natural and desirable thing to strive for, the Law of Fives is an important principle governing how the human mind works (I'm trying not to laugh while writing this) and the 23-minute length of the last track fits in with this principle as 2 plus 3 equals 5.