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Night Conquers Day Revisited. - 70%

Perplexed_Sjel, August 31st, 2009

As far as underground musicians go, surely Michael Bayusik is one of the busiest? I came across Night Conquers Day a long time ago. In fact, they were one of the first American black metal bands I uncovered and what a gem stone they are. Unnoticed and unappreciated, Night Conquers Day may have managed to conquer the light with their consuming darkness, but they never managed to take the American scene, let alone drawn a significant global appeal, by storm. The people who do know about their existence often praise their music, saying it was “ahead of its time” and “as fresh back then as it is today”. Whilst these statements are true, the band were still neglected in favour for this Bayusik project, Tearstained, a band I haven’t managed to get into until now. I’m surprised by my own actions, once again, as the similarities between this band and Night Conquers Day are truly overwhelming, so the transition from one to the other should have been made with relative ease, but I never managed to sit through an entire Tearstained record until recently when I forced myself to listen to what Michael had to offer on an individual basis. A significant portion of Night Conquers Days’ praise was generated by a combinational style that took subtle hints of symphonic black metal, given the heavy involvement of the keyboards, and the ever present guitars and the same can be said for Tearstained who operate much in the same vein as Michael’s other project.

The debut, ‘Monumental In Its Sorrow’ could very well be a Night Conquers Day record if you ask me. The similarities, as previously stated, are simply overwhelming. Perhaps Michael was unhappy by the split of the previous band and decided to continue the style, as he probably thought it still had a place within black metal at the time, with this entity who’s name might be different, but he doesn’t pull the wool over my eyes with this almost identical sounding band. If you have any experience with Night Conquers Day, but not Tearstained, as was the case for me, well, welcome home because the bands sound very similar and I expect the transition from the keyboard based style of the former will have geared you up for the keyboard based style of the latter. Michael is an unusual man, who’s methods often take a much more unusual turn than with Night Conquers Day. He offered vocals on that band, so one should expect a similar style on this record and that is most certainly what we have on offer. The vocals, however, tend to deviate more on this record than on either ‘The First Snowfall’ or ‘Rebellion Is The Art of Survival’. At some points, Michael’s vocals descend into madness as they take on a style closer in relation to power metal than black metal. As far as I am aware, there are no power metal influences on this band but the vocal styling would suggest otherwise as Michael hits high note after high note, singing like a glorified 80’s power metal vocalist in his prime.

The vocals are ludicrous in relation to black metal, but they work, which is odd and exciting. His banshee style of screams, high pitched wails and spoken melodies, whilst being different from one another, all join forces with the juxtaposed instrumentation that has a much harsher tone to it. Having said that, some of the black metal screams still exist here, just sparsely. They don’t seem to figure in the plans of Michael’s vision of this band and whilst this does strike me as a little strange, his usually clean voice is different from the majority of bands, giving him a distinctive edge in the battle for creativity and dynamism. His voice, the vocal point of the bands style, is definitely dynamic and forceful. His high pitched screams do have a tendency to draw a few laughs from time to time, but the instrumentation seems to take itself dead seriously. Though the production seems a little weak on the surface, it has its advantages. Somehow, despite being a little darker than I’d like, it allows the lighter passages, such as the delicate symphonies of the keyboards to tread lightly across the fragile base. Songs like ‘Bat Horde’ allow the production to show its full disdain by crushing the listener with the typical rasps of Michael and dirty black metal style which is oddly led by the bass and double bass.

A lot of the guitar work on the rawer, dirtier songs is a bit thin as it enables loose melodies to attempt to flow, but never quite reaches its full potential. The ethereal passages led by the airy keyboards are the best one’s, especially when combined with the wild style of Michael’s clean vocal expressions but, at points, this style is lost in the melee as the dirty style overrides it. This is when the structures become rather clichéd and take on a lifeless style closer to that of the poorer Darkthrone efforts, but with keyboards, as ‘Suicide Pact’ highlights. However, these moments are few and far between for the most part and service is resumed as normal when more melancholic songs, filled with emotion, are drawn back into the mix as with ‘Dead To This World’ with its eerie vocals and light hearted acoustics in the background. Though I rate Night Conquers Day higher than Tearstained, at this point, I do enjoy this debut and as far as one man bands go, this isn’t the worst and is, in fact, very unusual, giving it more of an appeal despite the unflattering production values and temperamental guitar work on occasions.

Monumental, Indeed. - 90%

VileRancour, November 21st, 2003

That rumored Bathory album which Quorthon supposedly recorded between 'The Return' and 'Under the Sign of the Black Mark' but never released... imagine what it would sound like if Quorthon traded off vocal duties with King Diamond on it - they would have probably ended up with something very similar to what we have here. Provided that both of them were also transformed into grim and determined suicidal maniacs so deeply entrenched in black hollows of utter despair that the only remaining impulse is a cold and calculating resolution to terminate, dematerialize and transcend.

For the most immediate point of reference is indeed Bathory circa '85-'86, yet this one-man band is very far from being a clone. The cavernously reverberating, throat-searing shrieks like those pioneered by Quorthon are omnipresent here, but the most distinguishing aspect of the vocals is revealed when Mikael slips into his King Diamond persona - the similarity is unnerving. The high-pitched wails, the low rasps, the midrange echoing moans, all are faithfully reproduced, yet this too transcends mere "cloning", since in the context of the violently despondent music they aquire a new essence, resembling that of "a lost, forgotten, sad spirit", a desperate wraith already in the process of dissolving into the chthonic element and merging back with Hades.

The music is firmly based in the fast, frenzied, raging riffing of albums such as 'The Return', with a dose of some of that numb-to-the-world, grim and bleeding style characteristic of some more modern bands often described as "suicidal black metal". Keyboards are sometimes used, but very tastefully, merely augmenting the music when needed, giving it a certain ambient quality. When the music slows down, it enters a mode of monomaniacal, midpaced intensity radiating utter malevolence and blackness ('Bat Horde' is a perfect example), or slowing down even more and creating truly lumbering and depressive blackened doom, such as on 'The Death of All that is Beautiful'. Other tracks (such as the opener 'The End of This Incarnation') integrate those varied influences into a singular blend which characterizes Tearstained; this is a diverse album which does not try to blindly break new ground, but takes some tried-and-true ideas and works with them in ways never before attempted, with the ultimate result being a real uniqueness and an astounding atmospheric quality.

As for the production, it is reasonably sharp for a black metal recording, with a very meaty and acidic guitar tone. The drum programming sounds a little awkward, but also somehow bears an uncanny resemblance to the drumming on 'The Return' (perhaps intentionally).

There is an unlisted bonus track with two cover songs - without spoiling the surprise, I will just say that one of them is excellently performed (if a bit obvious), while the other one put me off a bit because of the choice of the band covered. All in all, this is an album worthy of enthusiastical appreciation from fans of old-school and modern black metal alike (the GOOD varieties, of course - not the watered-down crap), and an amazingly accomplished composition, especially considering that this is the debut album of a one-man project. No wonder that this got them signed to BW. Wholeheartedly recommended.