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Surprisingly varied lo-fi forest black metal - 88%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, March 3rd, 2007

Striborg presents a fine album of surprising variety while retaining his distinctive lo-fi washed-out black metal style: the music here now extends its reach into ambient, drone and Gothic territory, and in so doing, Striborg man Sin-nanna creates a genuine Australian or rather Tasmanian-flavoured black metal music that draws inspiration from the cool wet forests of his home state where unusual plants and animals like the Tasmanian devil (a little black hairy creature that makes eerie screams) live and where the now-extinct Tasmanian tiger used to live.

After a slow start involving a repetitive guitar-only instrumental, Sin-nanna establishes the tone of the album with "Within the depths of darkness and sorrow" featuring varied and skilful drumming, lightweight guitars buzzing in the background, cheesy-sounding alien vocals drowning in lots of reverb and distortion and a strange and spaced-out ambience. This is followed by "Beneath the fields of rapacious blood" an early highlight with strong trance-like percussion and rhythms and keyboard passages reminiscent of 1980s Gary Numan-like synthpop. You'll notice straight away that with the guitars backgrounded into little more than a constant buzzing whine or the sound of pouring rain, the drums and keyboards end up carrying the music and as a result the music becomes strongly rhythmic and often very hypnotic. Sin-nanna also drops in keyboards-only instrumental tracks like the dreamy "Glorification of mother nature", the rumbling industrial dronefest "The haunted gum trees" and the sinister, vaguely New Age-y "Eternal blackness surrounds the bushland".

I mentioned "Within the depths of darkness and sorrow" as a highlight before. Other tracks to look out for include the 13-minute "Spiritual Catharsis", dedicated to the artist's father (the whole album is actually, but this track in particular makes a reference to him) and featuring a lot of droning synthesiser, complex drumming, spaced-out atmosphere and even more spaced-out vocals thanks to those excessive layers of echo; "Dicksonia antartica" with bombastic tom-toms and ultra-creepy banshee singing; and "Black metal is the forest calling ..." which cuts across black metal and noise music territories at near-blizzard speed. Quite a number of songs can be really long which in the case of the title track and a couple of others doesn't matter but for a so-so meandering and not very hateful-sounding piece like "The radiance of hate emanating from within", the length can be annoying. Fortunately this particularly song is the only one here that is on the boring side, the others usually hold your attention right to the end.

Unusual perhaps for a black metal album to have such insubstantial guitars that sound a bit gutted but Sin-nanna's all-rounder skills as a drummer and in arranging all the different instruments and elements like atmosphere and effects compensate for the weak strings and the music has a psychedelic tinge as a result. The production is very basic but then Sin-nanna lives in an isolated rural part of Tasmania and as far as I know does not have a phone connection so you can imagine he probably only has one of those analogue 4-track recording things to record his music. It often happens though that shortcomings present opportunities to create something really unique and off-beat and this is what Sin-nanna has seized on, and we Australians are blessed to have such a distinctive and mesmerising if eccentric kind of black metal in our little corner of the planet.

Half the tracks on this album have singing and the lyrics dwell on Sin-nanna's reverence for the forests and his loathing for humankind and what people have done to nature here. His vocals aren't great and he uses a lot of echo over them but they do have a very unearthly and horrifying quality about them. They can sound a bit cartoony, sort of like a black metal Donald Duck singing, but again this adds to the off-beat nature of the music.

...travelling through a forest at night - 95%

vrag_moj, May 5th, 2005

OK, this artist’s work was never within the realms of the ordinary, but here Sin-Nanna really outdoes himself. I speak of production as that is the first thing that strikes the listener dumb. I have literally never heard anything like this! Drowning in reverb the distant droning guitars are mixed out into a high-end, ghostly fizz – you’ll need a good stereo to hear the changes! But fear not as what really makes the melodies and riffs stand out are the odd ringing keyboard tones and clear bass that carefully accompany almost everything that is being played. “Tones” I think is the best way to describe them as these are not recognisable instruments being synthesised in the instrument’s memory, but pure oscillations painting great depth through digital reverb and distortion. The plodding drums are precise and once again nicely removed from the foreground with echo and reverb. The voluminous lyrics are sung in a scary digital whisper. The overall effect is indeed of travelling through a forest at night, haunted by the many echoes as they fly through the gullies and among the trunks. The artwork very fittingly compliments this feeling.

The songs vary in length and speed quite a lot from the 4 minute instrumental “Misanthropic Necroforest” blurred over impossible blasts and the 11-minute “Within the Depths of Darkness and Sorrow” which is slow and atmospheric. Also here are a few keyboard interludes that paint this or other aspect of Sin-Nanna’s forest visions. There are literally some classic moments on this, such as for example the opening riffs to track 3.

The title track begins in a fashion uncharacteristic for this album, but more in the vein of earlier Striborg works – fast blistering Black Metal. About 3 minutes in the madness stops and a soft acoustic interlude leads into an eerie dark passage, veiled over in sheets of guitar foam and morbid keyboard tones. The track progresses as if in steps through the dark woods, until the listener is once again borne away as another blasting passage completes the song.

Tracks 8 & 9 will remind one, possibly of Xasthur especially in their morose, metallic pace and ringing guitar tones. The sessions are notably different in the way they are mixed and layered having a thicker guitar sound and little synth. While I like these more than some of the songs Xasthur have come up with they are not my favourite on this album.

Track 10 – “Black Metal is the Forest Calling…” is a total blur, due to a return to Misanthropic Isolation-like aesthetics. Some great depressive riffs here are oddly stretched out over quick drum-work. When the track finally slows down to an even, marching beat and the shrill vocals call out over the sad guitar melody, does one feel a sense of accomplishment. The track has a good climax and the disk ends with another ominous, pulsing ambient piece.

While this definitely fits into the depressive category of Black Metal (and it’s getting a little tired), there is much more to this. This is a highly accomplished work and I think is very much worth your attention, if only for that bizarre production. The atmosphere herein created is indescribably profound and dark.