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Weird and uneven but interesting - 58%

Noktorn, January 27th, 2011

Given the title of the album, I expected something a little more symphonic and overwrought and a little less primitive. I got the opposite- Native In Black's debut album is a pretty raw, oldschool slab of black metal with some interesting influences if a rather amateurish presentation. Arising from some undoubtedly awful Russian hole, Native In Black are making a form of black metal that's both resolutely oldschool and yet modern in the way it's constructed, making for a pretty interesting listen, though a very uneven and clearly unpracticed one.

There's an odd combination of elements at work here: a somewhat thrashy take on second wave black metal mixed with a stomping, rocking sort of early Bathory worship. Thumping rock drums and thrash riffs swim against a tide of insistent tremolo riffing and stuttering blast beats (double bass is used very infrequently). It doesn't always work- the short, compact songs do keep the ideas from dragging, but some of the tracks just come off weird, like opener 'Blackest Northern Orchestra', which is basically a rock song in black metal drag. Native In Black are a lot better with a more even sense of pacing and development, like on the very next track, the restrained and surprisingly good 'At The Mystic Gates', where the band slows down their style enough for it to articulate its ideas a bit more, coming off like early Dimmu Borgir minus the symphonic elements mixed with modern, dissonant black metal. It's surely a very odd album as a whole.

In the end though, the structuring of this music needs work. Riffs tend to clash with each other and the band doesn't write very organically, just sort of stringing passages together without a lot of defined meaning. The primitive rehearsal room production doesn't help things either, overly dry and not creating the sort of body necessary for this style. That being said, it's music with a lot of potential and some glimmers of brilliance when the dissonant, gnawing tremolo riffs do manage to coalesce with the more rocking, restrained elements- it's rare, but it does happen in fits and starts. The sloppy playing (especially the drumming) is sort of endearing in its passion, and the ripping vocal performance does smooth over some of the weaker spots in songwriting, but clearly the band does need a bit more time to come up with something really enduring.

While I don't like this album a whole lot, I'd rather listen to this than another one of the generic black metal releases that have been cluttering the scene for years. Check it out if you're interested in the weirder areas of black metal in Russia, but otherwise this isn't essential.