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From the fascinating to the incredible - 93%

MikeyC, March 11th, 2016

In this age, it’s difficult for a band to create a certain niche for themselves, but French duo Spektr have managed to do just that. For those that have not followed their brilliant – albeit short – career over the past 15 years, they play a sort of experimental black metal in that their interesting take on black metal is spliced in by all sorts of other weird noises/sounds/samples/whatever they can think of to create a soundscape of creepiness and introspection. They have been at it since 2000, and they look like they have no intentions of stopping any time soon with the addition of their fourth full-length The Art to Disappear. This one is slightly better produced than anything they’ve done before, but make no mistake that this is basically what you would expect for this band.

Spektr have a habit of mixing all sorts of noises and unorthodox musical choices in their songs. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, these sudden changes wouldn’t work because the immediate step away from the black metal would be too jarring. However, that’s Spektr’s bread-and-butter, so to speak – their niche. To say that it works is a complete understatement, because their choices, while seemingly random, fit so well that it’s hard to comprehend the album without them. After two minutes into “From the Terrifying to the Fascinating,” all the while being hit by some awesome riffs, the whole thing stops, some yelling sampling comes in, and then all of a sudden it’s quasi-jazz drums with some industrial abrasion. This section works really well and my first imaginative focus was some industrial torture chamber. Or take “That Day Will Definitely Come” – possibly one of Spektr’s finest songs – beginning with what sounds like rhythmic speaker interference, before what I seriously thought was a hip-hop beat. Again, this sounds fantastic and unexpected before launching into an awesome tremolo black metal riff. Just a couple of examples of where The Art to Disappear likes to throw the listener and come out with something completely from left field, and every choice they make fits like a glove, even if it shouldn’t.

As per earlier releases, the shorter songs act like segues into the longer ones. “Again” and “Kill Again” do not even reach a minute and a half together but bookend “Through the Darkness of Future Past” with the same theme. “Soror Mystica” is an ambient section with strange industrial noises throughout its runtime that make me think of the harshness of space, and “The Only One Here” takes its name from the quote in the movie Taxi Driver, which is a recurring sample throughout. Don’t be fooled into thinking that The Art to Disappear is wasted on nearly half the tracks being essentially fillers – that’s what they’re supposed to be and they are placed exactly where they fit to bring the album to life.

The black metal itself, once all the stuff that makes Spektr the band they are is taken away, is absolutely superb. Choosing individual riffs and saying that one is better than another is futile, since basically all of the riff patterns here are exceptional. The harmonics used in “Through the Darkness of Future Past” make that song perhaps the most abrasive in terms of riff choice, but open the album in a way you wouldn’t expect. Towards the end of “From the Terrifying to the Fascinating” a new riff is introduced that is very powerful – you’ll know it when you hear it. And the black/thrash riff in “The Art to Disappear” also deserves a special mention for giving the long song a lot of punch. The drumming is also to be commended, too. While the black metal drumming is obviously exceptional, pulling off double kicks and blasts with ease and conviction, it’s the lighter, semi-jazzy sections that make him stand out. The drum work all over the album is amazing.

Starting from Cypher, Spektr have decided to do away with vocals, which I believe is a good choice. Not that I didn’t like the vocals from their first two albums and the EP, but their omission means the music is the only thing that shines. Since it’s usually very interesting on its own, the riffs and samples and whatever else they decide to chuck in can carry the album on their own, without the need for vocals to fill in space. Any vocals they do have are spoken word samples, integrated perfectly into the music. “The Art to Disappear” possibly has the best one here - we have seen illusion and reality begin to overlap and fuse. The line between them begins to disappear - and that’s their version of anything resembling vocals. This decision by the band is a good one, and I hope they continue that on future albums.

What makes this band so special (to me, anyway) is the fact that they can combine all sorts of different sounds and have it all work perfectly. Ultimately, it’s the fact that when you first play a Spektr album, you really don’t know what’s ahead, and the unknown is very exciting, if only because you know Spektr is going to pull it off, no matter what they try. The Art to Disappear follows that trend this band has carved out for themselves, and is a strong contender for one of the best of 2016. It may have a little more black metal than some past albums, but it’s still an incredible conglomeration of all sorts of outside influences, and each song – including the shorter ones – have something to offer. An album and band not to be passed over.

First Album of the Year contender - 94%

DSOfan97, February 5th, 2016

The industrial black metal act that is called Spektr has returned with what is without a doubt their career best. But what is it that qualifies The Art to Disappear as Spektr's top? To put it simply, the band has finally realized how potent they are and they have acquired the tools to churn out albums that showcase their abilities to the full. In no more than 39 minutes they managed to merge black metal with thrash influences, industrial music and even some ambience. Hth does a great job at delivering dazzling guitar riffs with over-distorted sound and twisted harmonies however the one person that shines here is kl.K. The drummer of the band has already proven that he is skilled and full of ideas but here he takes the thing to a whole new level... Influenced even by jazz beats, he utilizes blasting techniques as well as really slow patterns. The feeling of the album heavily depends on the drums as well and that's not something you come across very often.

There's a lot of sampling going on. Actually sampling serves as a replacement to real vocals which are completely absent here. Both sampling and the rest of the instrumentation make this one of the most obscure releases of the year. In 'That Day Will Definitely Come' the band creates such a climax that you will literally feel that you've been depraved of oxygen for 8 minutes. The apocalyptic sound that manifests second by second is so abrasive that it just sweeps you away and this song will be on my playlist for a long, long time. Actually I think it is one of the most emotional tracks I have ever heard, ranging from fierce guitar work to downtempo ambient music.

The members of Spektr contribute in various ways to the music. Sure Hth does the stringed instruments and kl.K. plays the drums but they both deliver programming, sampling and even vocals when needed. I believe that makes their sound so rich and unique as opposed to so many others.

Long story short, The Art to Disappear is the soundtrack to your everyday nightmares, those little things that make you feel anxious. The album has a soundtrack-ish feel to it. But it is so redeeming yet demanding that you'll feel the need to listen to it again and again. Just listen to the closing track. It makes Dodheimsgard and John Coltrane seem relevant! Which other band can claim something like that? But does it teach you how to disappear? The answer is: fuck yes. With albums like this one, everything seems possible.

Favorite tracks: 'That Day Will Definitely Come', 'The Art to Disappear'.

94/100.

The Only One Here - 97%

Apteronotus, January 29th, 2016

Spektr’s latest and better-than-excellent release, The Art to Disappear, may be devoid of lyrics, but the overall emotional pallet can be summed up by the following sample: “We have seen illusion and reality begin to overlap, and fuse.” Using varied audio clips from sources like Twin Peaks, The Animatrix, Mondo Keyhole, and Taxi Driver; Spektr paints a mystifying and fuzzy picture of the album’s reality blurring themes. This ambiguity is remarkably apt because of how the amazing album transcends the usual trappings of industrial black metal. The Art to Disappear isn’t the kind of constant interstellar-mechanical-pummeling that you may hear in bands like Mysticum or even Thorns; the atmosphere is comparatively laid back. There’s an eerie lounge vibe that makes you feel like you are listening to a 50’s nuclear PSA from an alternate reality, and it’s incredibly compelling. Having said that, the album is still rife with fantastically heavy moments, and the ambient sections never make you feel like you are stuck in listening to a monotonous radioplay. (The Axis of Perdition’s Urfe is the best example of this kind of a pitfall.)

Since Spektr isn’t focused on always using industrial black metal’s drier cliches, the album is given a remarkable breath of fresh air through absolutely beautiful percussion. Yes, it’s mechanically precise, but holy shit does it sound full and rich; everything from the drum samples to the more traditional industrial samples sounds incredible. Some of the cymbals are perhaps even better sounding than standing right next to the real thing. The real star of the mix however is the guitar’s crunchy tone, which is more satisfying than the crunch of stomping through a thin piece of ice on the ground when you were five years old. It’s a major part of how the album manages to be so convincingly heavy. You have an inherently satisfying sound, even if you were to strip the razor sharp and crushing riffs down to only the palm muted tremolo picking. This is also a clear contrast to the band’s tone on their prior album, Cypher, with its characteristic emphasis on legato slides and flanger/phaser infused guitars.

There is so much on this album that is just spectacularly executed. “Through the Darkness of Future Past” boasts a truly brilliant use of simple unisons - then the band bends them into a sharp minor-second intervals, and the band lingers on them. “From the Terrifying to the Fascinating” has the guitars drop out for the midsection to provide a break, which is kept interesting through the intricate hi-hat playing over the pulsating synthesizer. Even the way the samples are used is creative and thoughtful. I absolutely love how the band takes a really overused quote from Taxi Driver and focuses on a different part of the line. This completely reshapes the meaning behind it. On “Kill Again” the intro’s rhythmic theme is reprised, and the words “kill again” are repeated over and over as they are mixed into the earlier theme. It works, because the focus is on the rhythm rather than the words. You never get a cheesy impression from what is basically a murder chant.

All of the interludes, samples, and changes in atmosphere highlight how masterfully balanced the album is. (I say this as someone with little patience for filler, especially ambient filler.) At just under 40 minutes long, the pacing feels just right because it never drags, but it also leaves you with a sense that you’ve heard a complete album. For those reasons The Art to Disappear is easy to listen to, and the best part is that it has the depth to make it an experience well worth repeating. Along the same lines, this isn’t some kind of catchy riff-tastic album designed for you to hum along to. While the band rises above hackneyed industrial themes it’s important to keep in mind that this is, at its heart, a fundamentally alienating album. Spektr even makes this point explicit with the Animatrix sample: “Your flesh is a relic. A mere vessel.” This is one of the best albums I have heard in quite a while. Overall, The Art to Disappear lodges itself right into that precarious sweet spot, where there is a wonderful balance between creativity, heaviness, and atmosphere.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones.