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Strange, trying, but worthwhile - 73%

michinoku, March 19th, 2006

So you really, really wanted to see more of the enigmatic Proscriptor McGovern, famed skinsman of Absu and Melechesh, exploring sonic terrain different from what he normally does? Lo and behold, the equipment list cites synthesizers before guitars, surely serving as some indicatior of the type of music what to expect from this curious side-project?

with the exception of two covers (neither of which are recognizable compared to the original material, which is interesting), this music is mostly instrumental and is either atonal or musically simple. Some tracks focus on extended percussion and drum repetitions layered over swirling analog synth washes, while some feature vocals (whispered, sung, distorted but rarely straight-up growled) - still others combine the aforementioned approach with some interesting if predictable guitar picking and strumming. Only "Devil Woman" resembles the traditional idea of a song, where all the rest are instrumental/psychedelic events rather than linear sequences of musical ideas. This works with varied results - the ambitious epic bookending tracks "Tin Formulae" and "Tin Formulae (reprise)," with its slightly off-kilter rhythmic approach and restrained guitar vamp, does not benefit from synth-programming that sounds like it was ripped from the Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle." On the other hand, the cover of Styx' "Castle Walls" makes sense here as an ambient fragment - it undermines the significance of the lyrics, but the audial atmosphere created as a whole is far more satisfying. As for the pieces based solely around percussion and synth, whether or not you appreciate them depends on how contemplative/stoned you are while listening, as their value as stand-alone soundscapes is limited.
So maybe this doesn't sound like the most promising album - especially since Proscriptor managed to avoid a single mind-blowing drum fill on this album (although listen to the beastly drumming barely tempered by restraint on certain moments of "Devil Woman"), and the guitar additions seem for the most part like an after-thought. But it is worthwhile to see Proscriptor's interpretation of his ideas of sonic magic(k) into a different set of musical values, and there are some truly rewarding moments scattered throughout. It remains to be seen whether this album will have any further value after the initial surprise factor has worn off.