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People won't 'get' this album - 80%

Egregius, October 25th, 2003

Rakoth is currently in a slightly awkward position. On the one hand, they blew everyone away with their second album Planeshift, the first to be released on cd and in the west, as it sounded so completely different from all the other bands, and was a fresh wind in a creative quagmire that was metal at that moment (at least to me). On the other hand, their third album, Jabberworks, which was as I am told a rerecording of their first album (but with an orchestra utilised), was received less well. The band was accussed of experimenting, and on the whole the album was deemed not as coherent and powerfull as Planeshift. And then fact that they had signed to Elitist records, a sublabel of Earache with bands like Ephel Duath and Farmakon, doesn't do good to battle the idea that Rakoth has gone the way of pretentious 'avant-garde' bands like most view their labelmates. Because then there was 'Tiny Deaths'.

I downloaded the mp3 of 'Tiny Deaths'' title-track from the labels website a while back, and while others told me they didn't like it, it had grown on me. At first I didn't like it either, but after many plays on winamp in the background while doing other things, I had to admit it did grow atmosphere after a while. It was subtle at first, but then I was gripped by it, like both Planeshift and Jabberworks had managed to grip me.

When discovering this album in the store I gave it a listen there, and at first my thoughts were: "What the..?". After a perfectly haunting intro with almost dissonant flutes that were just right, there was 'Planekeep The Crypt' which featured a corny-sounding drumcomputersequence looped, with a repeated keyboard-diddle. Huh? I knew they replaced the drummer on Jabberworks with a drumcomputer (and suspected this to be the case already on Planshift), but this was overblatantly a drumcomputer! And then those keyboards...wha? Luckily Fevered was next, otherwise I might have given up hope. Fevered features more haunting sounding flutes; reminded me of Planeshift where both track 1 and 3 are flute intros.

After having listened various tracks on the album, I figured I was missing things because the volume was set too low in a noisy story (I was missing things), and that the tracks would grow on me like the title-track had. Well..it was a hard labor. As it turned out, many a track had that slightly corny-sounding drumcomputer, although not as much as track 2. The flutes are there, but not in their 'traditional' role of grand atmosphere setters. Most of the vocals are clean, and the harsh screams were used very sparingly. In fact, the blackmetal-esque guitar-riffing and the harsh vocals spring forward only at a select few moments (I think in only 4 or 5 different songs and even then not the entire song long) to give a brief onslaught (onslaught in comparison with the rest of the album).

But my (fear of) dissapointment proved to be (mostly) ungrounded. Rakoth have merely moved to a territory where only a select few fans will follow them. I put this album on my cd-alarmclock to wake up to it every morning, and a while after, the album had grown on me. The album isn't really a straight-up masterpiece, it's more of a soundtrack to presumably the lyrical world of Nick Perumov (the guy who sequeled Lord of the Rings on his own), or some other strange (fantasy?) world.
It's basically a soundtrack to a dark and cold rainy night where you read a fantasy-book by a small light.

The looped drums in track 2 to which I referred earlier, they basically set a mood in combination with the keyboard refrain. Then the bass and guitars play their own seemingly simple riffs, but in the interplay with eachother, and with the clean vocals, they actually create an interesting multi-layered structure, with very subtle differences in the sound throughout the song. Many songs on Tiny Deaths are like that. The more I hear it, the more I'm convinced this album has a great atmosphere, albeit subtly hidden at first. Consequently, most songs aren't strong in the oomph department, and somehow it wouldn't be right if they were. Of note however is the title-track again, as this song has a lot of drive, not to mention a great build-up with the use of some very moody and fast bass-lines. Overall, the album is for people who like music with a 'dark' atmosphere. I suspect fans of extreme metal won't be that much impressed with this album however. Or at least turned away by the fact track 5 'Trust This', which is basically a short outstep into elektro-type music (the drums lose all pretense of sounding like human drums here, but this is not necessarily bad).

I'm giving this album an 80. It's a fairly good album, but for most people hard to impossible to get into. If you think Jabberworks was a major step in the wrong direction for Rakoth, stay away. If you could really dig Jabberworks, give this one a listen, but keep in mind it *really* takes some time to grow on you.