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Inner puddles - 50%

kluseba, December 23rd, 2018
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Independent

On Inner Oceans, Bulgarian sludge metal quartet Smallman collaborates with Ivan Shapov who adds a lot of ambient sounds, electronic instruments and programming to this unique release. The final result is quite atmospheric but sadly lacking in all other departments.

The guitar work is lazy, slow and sluggish. The rhythm section is bland, repetitive and unspectacular. The bagpipes only seem to be used in one single song and sound quite distorted in that particular track which gives them an awkward artificial flair. The melodic vocals sound hypnotizing and nasal and are lacking skills and variation. The final result reminds of depressive rock bands like Katatonia with stronger ambient influences but less emotional impact.

I'm willing to give bands a chance to experiment and one has to give Smallman credit for being willing to discover new soundscapes with a guest musician who truly leaves his mark on this output. To be absolutely honest though, the final result is a failed experiment. Atmosphere alone isn't sufficient to deliver a convincing effort. The ideas behind this release were interesting on paper but the execution is simply unimpressive.

A very small minority like introverted ambient fans and those who listen to particularly moody sludge metal might like this album but it's certainly an acquired taste. Personally, this isn't my cup of tea and I find it particularly disappointing how underused the bagpipes were on this record. Let's hope Smallman favours its folk influences instead of ambient soundscapes for future releases.