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Weird but outstanding - 90%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 16th, 2007

This is perhaps the weirdest album I have heard from this productive Tasmanian artist. Right from the start with that long and eerie intro you are plunged into Striborg man Sin-Nanna's mystical and damp forest world where his only company is the dark trees, the shy nocturnal animals, the winds and the rains. (I believe he doesn't even have a phone connection to the outisde world.) The all-instrumental intro leads into the epic title track "Mysterious semblance of spectral trees" which is very long and meandering and barely holds together in parts but which also conveys the artist's isolation and the dark atmospheres of his home effectively. Bass guitar melodies that are deliberately off-key, percussion rhythms that change a lot, mood swings and faint buzzsaw guitar resembling constant drizzling rain make this an unusual black metal piece. The singing is so drenched in reverb as to be washed-out and this makes Sin-Nanna sound very like a remote and sinister forest god. A delirious, almost demented quality to the music exists. Bewitching keyboard tones add magic and mystery to the distant guitars. About the 12th minute the song goes off an almost free jazz tangent and the rhythm section takes over the rest of the track as though with a life of its own.

Between this marathon and the last track there are five other tracks of which two are instrumental ambient poems with descriptive titles: "Dark storm brooding / Lightning in the southe" is a mysterious droning meditation with clouds delineated by synth melodies hit by slashes of rumble, and "The screaming winds" which has churning blizzard guitar and more ethereal synth tones. Between these two tracks you have three songs which are tight compared to the long songs and slightly more like conventional black metal with definite melodies and riffs, and guitars acting like guitars and not like a drizzly backdrop. The singing is still very washed-out and almost acidic, taking secondary place to the music which can have a very trancey and hypnotic effect. "As sad as a cemetery in the winter darkness" has really spidery vocals and the production sounds as if battery acid is raining down as Sin-Nanna as he plays.

The last track "Lurking the murky damp forest" is another long epic remarkable for passages of high black metal drama that are full of sadness, longing and pain. Even in Sin-Nanna's private world melancholy is never far away. As the song progresses an unseen spirit infects the music and takes it to a whole new level, psychedelic in nature and possessing tragic majesty. In about the last third of the track, Striborg really starts to rock out, preparing to zoom off on a black metal psychedelic trip in another universe, the music building in eager anticipation of release from the mortal plane. All of a sudden there's a shut-down, the spirit departs, a few wisps of ambient tone and it's all over!

Much of Striborg's work is good if highly unusual for most black metal fans with the rhythm section tending to come to the fore and the bass sometimes taking the role of lead guitar while the actual guitars themselves fade into a just barely audible presence. "Mysterious semblance" is outstanding in its ambition, blending psychedelia, high emotion and ambient tone poetry under the black metal umbrella. Although the production is tinny and fairly basic, the musicianship and arrangements are very polished. The atmosphere is strange, bleak and very cold. Sin-Nanna's singing is not great (he has done better on other recordings) and on a few songs here his voice is drowning under layers and layers of echo but to be honest I can't see how he can improve this aspect without affecting the atmosphere of the album. The music itself is more than enough to express Sin-Nanna's disgust at the way humans have ruined the natural environment and his desire to escape humankind and merge with the dark forest.

I recommend this album as a great introduction for those people who are not already listening to Striborg's work.

Great release - 95%

Taliesin, March 12th, 2006

This is Striborg's second album, his first "Spiritual Catharsis" was a harsh and unrelentingly cruel descent into the darkest forests and the bleakest realms of the soul. It had a very distinct guitar tone (like all Striborg) and a distinct dark atmosphere. This album follows suit, with a distinct feeling on it, less based in the forest, and more based on the dark visions of the soul. The guitar tone is less cathartic, and more atmospheric, while keyboard is featured much more, with strong keyboard tones mixed with strange ethereal tones. The bass is less audible then before (most of his demo work, and on "Spirital Catharsis" the bass was quite strong and clean, providing a strange framework), sometimes it becomes more audible, sometimes less. The vocals tend to be more agressive as well. But there is a distance on here, perhaps less cruel feeling, but still quite strong. Striborg is not concerned with the listeners own perceptions. You have to get used to his methods, which is more like early black metal. Bathory didn't bow down to peoples needs when he recorded "Under the Sign of the Black Mark" with that harsh guitar tone (which is by the way an obvious influence on Striborg's chosen guitar tone), instead people had to grow to like it. When the artist places artistry above pleasing the masses, that is when innovation begins to grow, and with Striborg one can hear innovation growing. On each of his releases, even the demos, one can hear the boundaries of black metal being pushed forward, even as the music itself is solidly grounded in the black metal of old.
This release is like all Striborg essential. But Striborg is true cult, being beyond even the kvlt bastards that are giving the style a bad name. Striborg should be listened to by all people who want to hear where the true future of the style lies, but sadly most people will probably not even realize the greatness of this work, because like all great things it is so idiosyncratic that it passes by the minds of lesser men. In short, true eeire forest black metal, true-er then any "trve" band could ever be.