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Psych-trance-techno BM experiment falls flat - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 4th, 2017

With "Presence", Australian BM act Mesarthim are moving farther into a more psychedelic / trance realm with techno and even more dance-oriented ambient elements. True, the harsh atmospheric black metal elements are still strong (especially on tracks 2 and 3) but overall these and the other genre influences are now engaged in a lively duel / duet where sometimes the familiar BM genre has the upper hand and at other times the synthesisers dominate with clappy disco beats and happy female vocals. When the BM and the fusion of other styles play together, the result is very bright and boppy music which is probably a bit too fast to be very atmospheric and to include some darkness. At times the music veers dangerously close to cartoon kitsch synth-disco and only the harsh vocals and guitars pull it back from falling down a wormhole that leads into a flat one-dimensional New Age-sounding disco hell.

"Eschaton Part I" sounds the least BM of the three tracks on offer and features more ambient psych-trance music and moods along with techno beats which might not go down well with listeners. Too much of the music sounds mechanical and the range of sounds and textures isn't out of the ordinary for these non-BM genres. If both black metal and this psych-trance-techno fusion had been constant throughout, with the sounds and styles of both extended to their utmost in duetting / duelling with each other, that would have been something truly worth hearing. As it is, "Eschaton Part I" comes across as a track in search of proper direction, and is as flat as can be in expression - when all is said and done, even the subterranean bass groans at the end of the track don't quite know where they are and are groping around in the dark. At least "Eschaton Part II" has more definite backbone thanks to a bigger BM input, complete with harsh scourging vocals and a strong percussion that gives structure to the guitars and keyboards churning or swirling overhead. The music is very uplifting in mood but again it has a mechanical quality.

The title track has trippy New Age ambient elements that contrast well with the harsher BM guitars and vocals. The music can be bombastic and parts where the BM drops out can be very twee and cartoonish. I guess there is something to be said for the constant pace: at least the music doesn't dwell too long on those moments dominated by trite and tiresome cutesy effects. The repetition of the riffs and melodies can't compensate for the silly robot bird calls and the track fades off into a kitsch zone of flat and unremarkable synth noodling and guitar white-noise flood.

While I respect Mesarthim's right to experiment with their music in the way they want - and black metal could certainly benefit a lot from more fusions with other styles of music like techno and other beat-oriented genres - I really do think relying on synthesiser-generated sounds and rhythms isn't the right way for the band to pursue their goals. Too many other bands use synths and pre-recorded elements and music and end up creating work that may have good ideas but which comes undone because it lacks freshness and originality. The music ends up sounding insincere and flat, and lacks emotion and feeling. Mesarthim need to stay away from that crowd and try to generate a cosmic BM fusion style that includes wonder at the vastness of the universe and a sense of adventure and even a bit of fear at taking the first step into the dark yonder.