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Onward To The Recycle Bin! (Part XIV) - 68%

OzzyApu, October 28th, 2009

The debut can be seen as an achievement filled with fantastic passages and barbaric riffs to feast on. It wasn’t entirely a proggy black metal album, but the tone necessarily straightforward, either, so it required the listener to absorb every bit of it. Many of the songs on it were rocking black metal tunes, but at heart it could still be considered hard rock. This sophomore effort to me follows in the footsteps of Sigh and Enslaved, showing the band diversifying their bonds. In this respect, we have an album that tries to be something without having to give up its roots. That’s like if Opeth wanted to play indie rock without ditching the death metal aspect – unless you want to overhaul the writing, then its tough shit.

This album doesn’t hold too much value in the riff department, but many of the experimental breaks leave more to the imagination. Kawashima from Sigh handles some keyboard moments, but regardless of who’s playing them they’re some of the most magical and enchanting I’ve ever heard – it puts Lord Of The Rings to shame, really. The first few tracks don’t really offer too much because they sound either rushed or lackluster. An example for the former would be “God Is Rome,” which goes all-out without delivering anything to the listener. In live settings it might be a worthy opener to get everyone in the mood, but listening to it offers nothing in any department of instruments. “Blood Blasted Holy War,” however, puts all excuses aside and knocks you off your feet. The exerting force of Enslaved matches up with Sigh’s expressiveness to deliver a catchy but eerie and numinous track.

Further in you begin to notice how bizarre the disposition becomes, like an uncomfortable dream. You feel like you’re in a different era sometimes, bewildered at your misfortune. The guitar tone isn’t powerful and sports more of a rock tone thanks to the clear but dull production. The riffs themselves begin to sound more and more evil as the longer tracks progress, but over the course of the album its pretty spontaneous (much like the flow)s. Drumming I hardly even noticed until a few tracks in, since they’re very passive and stale. The band fixed the drum bass problem found on the first album and the capabilities of the kit master still hold up in all rhythms, but they’re a bit tedious and don’t really fit with the experimental nature of the album.

Usually I can tell what an album is trying to get out or show the listener, but here its still a tad difficult. The band consists of hard rock members playing black metal – blackened hard rock / heavy metal? Not too inconceivable, since the first album mastered the craft. With this one, it’s kind of a hit or miss deal, especially when most of it is pretty unexciting stuff. A track may have an interesting moment somewhere within, but when its surrounded by music that’s as interesting as a garbage can, then it brings the whole effort to a stalemate.

Davey on bass sounds pretty gruffy, usually heard and contributing with the rhythm as expected. The album no doubt has that warm atmosphere that hopes to keep you relaxed. There’s no hate or diabolical evil to be found here, but more of the “take a hit and chill” variety. Langton and Davey both come straight from Hawkwind, so expecting full on black metal is laughable. In fact, the moments where many of the relaxing guitar moments like that found in “Sons Of Anak Rise” show the band at their very best. If anything, they should drop the black metal and go straight for executing delicious, melodic, intricate passages such as that one. With guys from Hawkwind on their side, you can bet they can get job done.

“Guts For Sale” is also what I’d call false advertising, delivering the finest keyboard backdrop and a blissful acoustic rhythm. I feel like I’m in the clouds, soaring with Maverick from Top Gun and surfing with Dio down a rainbow. Easily my favorite track on the album because it makes you really feel alive, stands out by being completely different, and just has that inspiring tone that makes you wonder how something so beautiful is coming from a blackened hard rock band.

Vocally, I only like Metatron’s scruffy growls; the screams I’ve heard are from a different member, but the point is that I’m not a fan of them. The growls aren’t beastly like on the debut, but lovable, speech-like, and a bit reflexive like the Cookie Monster. The screams are drowned at a much higher pitch, which to me is a little annoying and useless. The growls handle the front very well without the need of an amateur sounding screams that don’t even sound like anything a black metal vocalist would utilize.

While hard rock is the general approach, you’ll run into some electronic moments, which is pretty much what “On Graven Images…” turns out to be… all >10 minutes of it. I find it to be rather useless and mechanical, as well as just plain boring and childish. Don’t worry about “Book Of Dreams,” it’s pretty much the same deal as “On Graven Images…” but shorter and with more sparse moments of ingenuity.

For an album that has a couple of Meads’ best songs, I don’t think I’m going to keep this one around. Youtube can satisfy my appetites if I care to revisit, but the replayability of this sophomore outing (and the band as a whole) isn’t all that high. They know how to write a song when it comes down to it, but they’re a bit stuck with pleasing too many crowds at once and end up alienating many fans in the process. This bars me from enjoying the whole thing, even though this type of music isn’t my typical deal anyway. I’ll stick to the few tracks I like, but if you’re curious then by all means check it out and give it your verdict. You’re bound to like something on here.