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Post Rock anyone? - 63%

nilgoun, December 18th, 2011

The introduction is done quite well, as it carries a lot of atmosphere and has a lot of details in it, but it also disguises the true intention of the record a bit. There are melancholic guitar melodies accompanied with equally melancholic piano sounds and everything is underlined with the sound of a clock ticking. As you could get the impression, that the record will be another post-black metal record with some social critic intentions you are totally wrong, as you will realize some tracks later that Tales Of Wanderings is simply an indie/depressive rock record without real highlights. At least the instrumental passages are well done though, but there are some points that are badly going wrong on this record.

As I said before, the instruments are well played, but who would have thought otherwise, as he or she read that the members of Drudkh were responsible and Alcest isn’t bad either. The root of all evil can be found in the general composition: The fundament of the songs is done through really shallow melodies which have nothing im common with black metal and there is nearly no tremolo picking on the whole record. The whole sound reminds of post-rock and the songs are similar structured. The drums are playing mostly standard beats with some really slow blasts appearing now and then. Post-rock influences doesn’t have to be bad, as Drudkh have shown with their latest output A Handful Of Stars which was hardly post-rock influenced. If you take some songs of their latest output and slash all the black metal roots you’ll come to the sound of Tales Of Wanderings which could scare the Drudkh fans off.

The vocals are somewhat monotonous and completely clear on the whole record, although they are mostly deeper than the ones on the Alcest records. If he uses the high-pitched, spherical ones the songs usually gets a bit more exciting as they are merging with the orchestration which results in really beautiful moments. The songs are nevertheless mostly surfing on a big wave of easy accesible melodies without big variation and they rely on dense layers of guitar sound which everybody knows from several other records and even the sparsely sawn piano melodies can’t really make up for the lack of highlights, though. To conclude with some positive points: The production is done really well, as the instruments have enough room to breath. The bass lines are quite convincing and I like the allusion of Star Catcher to A Handful Of Stars in terms of melody and its name, although the track in general is quite boring.

Conclusion:

Tales Of Wanderings is a mediocre record which can’t really stand out of the flood of records in the post-rock genre. You surely could be drawn into the atmosphere for a while, at least if you like the romantic atmosphere and if you can ignore the lack of highlights, but the half-life period is quite low either way. The record will be fine, if you want something you can listen to while doing other stuff but it’s nothing you would like to enjoy while concentrating on the songs, as they are a bit monotonous. The lack of black metal elements is the main flaw of the record which surely can be tracked back to my expectations, as the record is way worse than everything both, Drudkh and Neige, ever produced before. If you are really into the stuff Neige is doing you could try listening to it anyways and you should like it.

Originally written for http://threnodies.com

In Need of a Lockpick - 30%

GuntherTheUndying, December 6th, 2011

With Drudkh diving into the post-rock void with “Handful of Stars” and the circumventing influence trailing Neige of Alcest, Old Silver Key almost seems like a match made in tranquil heaven. The aforementioned band created the Old Silver Key project to form something chilly like a November breeze, and one would be crazy to trash the addition of the French vocalist to this experimental project. Simply put, the two seem made for each other, yet “Tales of Wandering” is miles away from what it tries to be. Instead of producing a captivating journey through the imaginations of poets, Old Silver Key bumps on in a calamitous, forgettable sequence of powerless shoegaze/post-rock occasionally locking in Drudkh’s black metal lore with little perseverance.

And it is very important to stress the fundamentals of Old Silver Key: this is pretty much the polar-opposite of a metal album, even by Alcest standards. While its rudimentary featheriness does not bring down “Tales of Wandering,” the vapid songwriting and the insipid instrumentation do, and the collaboration of experts specializing in the field of melancholic rock fail to make Old Silver Key worthwhile. So, being that Old Silver Key is the brainchild of Drudkh’s Roman Saenko and involves his entire band, one could expect some very rock-orientated moments, especially compared to the band’s works prior to “Tales of Wandering.” As I said though, this is nowhere near a metal album. There are trace amounts of an occasional section of tremolo picking, but again, the motifs of post-rock/shoegaze are the focal points of the record, probably instilled for Neige’s dreamy vocals.

There’s no clean transition here, so I’m just going to drop the bomb: this is some of the most unmemorable, recycled stuff imaginable. The tracks generally include the same norms reshuffled into powerless guitar chords and piecemeal arrangements that all blend together, and time after time the band refuses to drop anything relevant or captivating. Oddly enough, Neige should shine here, but he really doesn’t. His voice is generally whiny and flat, just kind of sprawling a spike above the flavorless foundation with little to contribute or exercise, which is certainly disappointing, because he’s supposed to be this project’s main reason for fruition. Giving him some credit, his vocals fit, but his actions are so dire and powerless that it really doesn’t matter overall to the record’s theme or nature.

Interestingly, the semi-sequential burst of Drudkh’s black metal traits add a vibrant theme to the album, and things certainly turn around when other instruments (pianos, keyboards) make waves instead of the expected rock-orientated trite which consumes nearly all of “Tales of Wandering.” There are no true standouts that I care to mention, because again, the lifelessness consumes everything this project has to offer. Essentially, Old Silver Key is an embodiment of a generic post-rock group siphoning every last drop of originality for some fragile sense of emotion or imagination, and it’s perfectly normal to feel like Old Silver Key isn’t going anywhere. As you see, Old Silver Key flops in the honest opinion of this reviewer, and I’d definitely skip this even if you’re a Drudkh fanboy or Alcest scribe to avoid the impending dissatisfaction that will certainly follow.

This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com

Oh I'm wandering, I'm wandering out the damn door - 42%

autothrall, September 19th, 2011

On paper, a collaboration between the membership of the Ukraine's Drukdh and prolific French artisan Neige (he of Alcest, Lantlôs and numerous other projects) seems a natural fit. Both specialize in nature worship, depression, and drifting compositions with a lot of wall of sound guitar styling and subtle twists of melody. The two also share a cross-section of admirers, carving a large chunk out of that swath of solemn and modern shoegazing populace who have turned their sights upon the permutations of the black metal genre into the terrain of post-rock, indie rock, or what have you. Well, the time has arrive, and Old Silver Key is that very collaboration; Tales of Wanderings the anticipated debut through Season of Mist.

Let me preface the rest of this review by stating that Tales of Wanderings is not by any stretch of the imagination a metal album. So those expecting a black metal coupling of the two parties had best be prepared for something exponentially lighter on the ears and spirit. There might be a few tremolo picked passages here or there redolent of the genre, akin to Enslaved's excellent Vertebrae or perhaps the German band Island, but these are marginal at best. Old Silver Key is instead another chance for Neige to flex his 'soft side', far softer even than Alcest, while it simultaneously allows Roman, Thurios and crew to delve even further along the course they had started with some of their recent fare (Microcosmos, Handful of Stars). Unfortunately, while it does have a few moments of appreciable bliss and escape, some tranquil sparks of variation that allow the listener to feel he or she is walking on air, Tales of Wanderings falls well short of either of its progenitor's mainstays in terms of quality.

In fact, this is for the most part a lame and tired pastiche of indie/emo rock cliches without the strong songwriting to support it. Granted, I'm not an Alcest fan to begin with, but I've enjoyed a number of Drudkh's past releases (Blood In Our Wells in particular), and I'm a bit disappointed to see their ideas wearing thin. Yet as jaded, pedestrian and unmemorable as most of the music on this album seems, it is the vocals which drive it over the edge towards irritation. Neige has never impressed me in this field, at least not with his clean tones, but with Tales of Wanderings he has completed his transformation into any-random-hip-kid-singing-the-adolescent-blues-at-any-random-coffee-shop-anywhere, only with English as a secondary language. His performances on tracks like "November Nights Insomnia" is naught more than dreadful, wall-gazing tripe, with no real range to it, no captivating melody, and it does the reasonably well produced music no service whatsoever.

There are particular points at which he shifts to his more graceful, higher pitch (as in "Burnt Letters"), reminiscent of Alcest's 'climactic' build-ups, but these are only superior in so much that his voice drifts off into the background, overtaken by the melodic drift of chords. How this man has developed such a following with such a wimpy, deadbeat intonation is beyond my ability to comprehend, but the fact is that Tales of Wanderings would have worked out better as an instrumental record, with another singer, or with Neige snarling the entire time to provide a strange contrast with the light-headed music. If you think this guy is a great singer, then I've got an open-air banana grove in Antarctica to sell you. Mind you, this does not excuse the music itself, much of which is derivative shoegaze rock 101 in nature, with slightly distorted streams of chords playing against soft mute streams that themselves occasionally break into chords in predictable Gothic rock fashion, but without Neige, even this might have functioned as passable elevator music.

I didn't loathe the album entirely. I'll give some credit for the snowflake-like bass lines that dust the guitars in "About Which an Old House Dreams". As limp wristed as some of the songs come off, Old Silver Key manages to somehow elude the burden of utter stagnation and monotony through their willingness to mess with tempos. Hell, "Cold Spring" even has an arguable blast beat running through its depths. Where the pianos and ambient sequences appear, they provide a flawless integration, a natural balance. The production, too, is bright and fitting. It really let's the listener feel the expanse of each guitar pattern, but then, this is pretty much the standard for a form of rock whose spiritual ancestors include Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms and other 90s alt radio. But at least with those bands, you had singers who were striving for those huge #1 hit single chorus parts. With Old Silver Key, it just seems like an afterthought. 'Hey, we've written some pretty chill music, let's phone in some mellow vocals and show everyone the hearts on our sleeves'. And I'm afraid, at least this time out, that this particular handful of stars have not aligned properly.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com