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Tardigrades are Fucking Awesome - 82%

Thumbman, February 19th, 2017

Tardigrades are the most metal animal ever, and I'm honestly surprised that a metal band hasn't named themselves after them sooner. These eight-legged microanimals, also known as water bears or moss piglets, are the most resilient animals in existence. They can survive heat that would reduce most animals to ash as well as cold that would turn most into an icecube, they can survive extreme pressure - they are found both high in mountains and in deep ocean trenches, and can survive without food or water for thirty fucking years. Now, are Tardigrada the same paragon of extreme badassery as their namesake? Well, no. Tardigrada are in fact quite atmospheric and Emotionale Ödnis is pretty relaxing as far as black metal goes. However, they are quite good at what they do and this is a quality atmospheric black metal offering.

There are five pairs of songs, each consisting of a shorter atmospheric track numbered I-V and a more long-winded black metal opus. The atmospheric offerings are all quite peaceful and serene, possessing a lush wintery vibe. The black metal follows in the same atmospheric vein. It's not a languid lily-llivered wussfest as some of the black metal bands treading on the lighter side of the genre tend to be. It's not particularly hateful or savage either, but it's legitimate black metal and it succeeds at capturing the emotions it set out to explore (the English translation for the album title is Emotional Wasteland, after all). There is both despair and bittersweet beauty in the sounds, with tortured shrieks impaling themselves upon frozen rolling hills of wandering tremolo. They remind me of Forteresse in how the slow-winding melodies gradually unfold.

Instrumentally, everything is on point. There's no fancy guitar work, with Tardigrada relying on tasteful atmospheric melody, potent atmospherics and wistful tremolo. They do employ the occasional more rocking riff, but these moments are few and far between. The bass is there, but has no real standout moments, getting lost in the hazy blizzard of tremolo. However, it does its job and Emotionale Ödnis doesn't sound thin. What actually impressed me immensely was the drumming. The tone is quite clean, but it fits what they're doing. This guy has no problem blasting away; no problem with holding back and letting the guitar speak for itself. His drumming is quite varied and dynamic, whether he's laying down some cascading toms, doing some cool snare rolls or rocking up a groove, he always sounds fantastic.

If there's one thing to criticize Tardigrada for, it's probably that they're not particularly original and adhere strictly to a well-defined style. This didn't really bother me, though. While it certainly isn't one of the best black metal albums I've seen come out of 2016, it's still better than most. While perhaps not outstanding, it is quite good and scratches the itch I have for some quality black metal when a snowstorm hits. While I wouldn't mind if they were a bit more adventurous for the sophomore, this is a strong first strike.

Powerful atmospheric BM lacking original style - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 9th, 2016

I never cease to be amazed at the inspirations for black metal bands' names, especially unusual ones like Tardigrada. I first came across that word while reading internet and magazine articles about water bears (tiny microscopic segmented creatures with eight legs) often found in the most extreme environments such as living in deep water ocean trenches under immense pressures or in places where levels of radiation are hundreds of times higher than what would be needed to kill human beings. Perhaps that fact alone is enough reason for a band aiming at the extremes of musical expression in black metal to adopt water bears' Latin name as its own. And Swiss band Tardigrada's first album "Emotional Odnis" can be a tremendous test of endurance and emotional resilience for listeners: aside from its length, the music can be very intense and overwhelming in its power and emotional expression.

The album consists of five pairs of tracks with the first track in each pair being a short instrumental introduction to the second, far longer track in the pair. In each second track of each pair, the music is never less than epic and stupendous, filled with utter melancholy, sadness and despair, reaching to the farthest limits of the night skies in its scope and ambitions. The riffs and rhythms brim with muscular, thunderous power and the atmosphere on all tracks is always wintry, sharp and icy. There can be some great head-banging moments where the music is continuously pounding away or pouring out dark malevolence by the bucketloads. Vocals are shrill and shrieky ice-cold howls from the spirit world. The ambience can be overwhelming and too much to bear in its coldness and absolute pain.

For all that though, too much of the music lacks originality and sounds very much as though you've heard it all before, only maybe not done as dramatically and as drawn out as here. As each pair of tracks comes and goes, listeners can get the impression they're going around in circles, as each set ends up being a variation on the same theme and all the riffing and thunderous percussion lines, no matter how groovetastic they become (as on Track 6 "Erschöpft"), pass by to be replaced by another lot of riffs and tremolo guitar melodies. The instruments stay much the same from one set of pieces to the next and the style of music does not change greatly either - it's melodic atmospheric BM, often played at blast-beat speeds - so there's the danger that listeners' endurance will flag well before the last set of tracks makes its entrance.

If you don't care all that much for original presentation and style, and just want to get your head into some great passages of runaway BM power and anguish, you'll probably be happy with the album as it is. Whether you'll always play it in its entirety or just play the pieces that appeal to you most will depend on what your expectations are of black metal generally but I can't see myself playing this album from start to finish in the way Tardigrada intend. While some tracks are very good, others are just too long and monotonous with thin guitar music and screechy flagging vocals. Even in its quiet moments, when the atmosphere is clear and sparkling, and the mood is brooding and sometimes comforting, the music seems to lack that vital edge that would make it always sound fresh and on edge.

These guys have a lot of work cut out for them on their follow-up album - there are so many dark atmospheric BM bands in the wild black yonder that listeners can take their pick and Tardigrada have to lift their style into something more distinctive and which stands head and shoulders above the competition. The guys have the technical skills and the power but sometimes these are just not enough.