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Bedroom DSBM? Surprisingly not half bad. - 71%

dystopia4, December 12th, 2013

Taste Swap #1 - MuttantClannfear

Despite MutantClannfear being a reviewer I read regularly (and one of the more entertaining ones lately), one who begun the same year as me, has roughly the same number of reviews as me and is someone I talk to about reviewing fairly often, we really don't see eye to eye all that much in terms of our tastes. Obviously with some exceptions, I generally tackle a lot of doom, sludge and what I'm sure he would consider “hipster” black metal. Now, in Noktorn’s absence, he's largely taken up the flame for being MA's go-to reviewer for brutal death metal (and to a lesser extent deathcore), and is indeed one of the few people who cover this territory who possess more than five brain cells. I remember back, well over a year ago, I did a few slam reviews that in hindsight were quite horrible and naive. In the end, I was blindly attacking a style I did not understand. Clannfear understandably derided me to no end for this (I think at one point he threatened to kill me). (Thankfully I still don't like most of those releases, but that is no excuse). Now, much to his encouragement, I have made a genuine attempt to give the style a fair chance, and while descending further down the shit-stained wormhole of pseudo-thugerry and unrepentant wiggerdom I've actually found a few acts I really like (seriously, check out Jenovavirus, Pencil Lead Syringe and Veiyadra). Still, I'm a relative newbie to the style, and as such I assumed I'd be getting a wiggered-out slammin' BDM record for our style swap.

Instead, he gave me . . . black metal. Black metal is one of two of my home base metal genres, with the inter-related doom and sludge styles collectively being the other metal realm that fits snugly into my comfort zone. While I fully realize I cover a lot of post/cascadian/blackgaze stuff (read: “hipster” black metal) - although I’m recently becoming increasing skeptical of these scenes -I do listen to a wide range of “normal” black metal. However, there are two styles that never really caught on with me. DSBM (depressive black metal) is something I largely dislike or at the very least am apathetic towards. Nyktalgia is amazing and I love Gris's Il Etait Une Forêt and Nocturne Pensees' debut album, which both draw from a large amount of DSBM tropes. However, while may be a bit of an oversimplification, most of the DSBM stuff I've come across has come off like sub-par Burzum worship, with excess melodrama and thoroughly ridiculous vocals. I've also never really liked what is commonly referred to as “bedroom” black metal – basically particularly poorly produced one man black metal. Although horrible on paper, I do have to admit to loving Animus's debut, but what the vast, vast majority of what bands in this style muster significantly underwhelms me.

Enter Mareritt. This Norwegian one man act is essentially bedroom DSBM. And you know what? It's not actually all that horrible. It's not great, but something I do get a sense of enjoyment listening to. The biggest trope of depressive black metal it draws upon is a vocal style I usually hate – a distinctly high pitched wailing rasp. The sort of thing where it actually sounds like the vocalist is in a substantial amount of pain, like he just got his leg amputated with a chainsaw or something equally as gruesome. Although I can't say I love it here, it's well done and doesn't go too far over the top. A bit of variation in the rasping could have been nice, but eh, it doesn't ruin the release and it works with the instrumentation.

For the bedroom part, this has amateurish lo-fi production and what is a blatantly obvious drum machine. You don't even have to wait more than ten seconds after they kick in to realize it's not live drumming we're dealing with. The drum machine, while unimpressive in terms of technicality, isn't all that bad. I dig the slowed-down rockier beats that make up a lot of this. The rolling tremolo, while rather raw and cold, does have traces of fuzz. Despite its bleak tone, it still is quite melodic. The juxtaposition of prominent melody with cold, withdrawn black metal with an unrelenting self-loathing streak culminates in a rather potent contrast. Otherwise catchy melodies are filtered through a bleak and twisted lens, creating something quite interesting (although, it's certainly not like this is the first time ugly black metal has possessed arguably uplifting melodies).

While the cold slight-fuzz of the black metal guitar work does add some incidental atmosphere, more direct atmospherics are injected through way of interludes and whatnot. The intro to this release can only be described as weak and unforgettable, consisting of a limp clean guitar sound with lazy arpeggios that never really go anywhere. The piano on the outro is rather decent, although this release probably should have stuck to purely black metal. In all, this release is successful enough at what it does and surely better than your average bedroom DSBM affair. Still, my mind is not exactly blown, even if this was a pleasant enough surprise.

Although I do listen to quite a large chunk of your standard black metal, I will begrudgingly admit to listening to a fair amount of prettier and more atmosphere based styles (don't worry guys, I haven't grown a neckbeard, got oversized horn-rimmed glasses and started swilling Pabst Blue Ribbon yet). Neither DSBM nor bedroom black are styles I really care for. Although there are some exceptions, my attitude towards both of these is a loud and resounding “meh”. It would be logical that I'd hate a combination of the two (and lets be honest, a lot of DSBM doesn't have the best production), but I can spin this and dig it well enough. In the end, even if I would have been perfectly happy to get some obscure slam or even caveman deathcore, I think it's rather cool to be thrown outside my comfort zone (if only by a bit) in a genre I'm usually totally at home with.