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Not What I Had Expected, Or Wanted. - 40%

Perplexed_Sjel, June 11th, 2010

I must admit, I was more than a little surprised and taken aback when I was informed that Canadian one man project Würm had released a new full-length album entitled ‘Insomnies’. A few months ago I had the chance to converse, albeit briefly, with Mortenak via e-mail after he contacted me about my previous review. He told me not to expect a new album for a long time after I asked him whether he was ready to release a new title, since his personal social networking site suggested one was being worked on. I assumed this was due to financial restraints and a lack of time, given his relative youth. I was just pleased that one was being developed and planned for the future. Again, to my surprise, I became aware of ‘Insomnies’ existence and, although pleased about its conception and issue to the public, was thrown by the conflicting comments he made to me several months previous. Having listened to and inspected the release in detail, I’ve come to realise that all is not as it seems.

This supposed new full-length is more of a best/of compilation rather than a full-length. As you can tell by the varying production values throughout the majority of the five songs, tracks 1 and 2 are taken from a different source to track 3 and tracks 4 and 5 are taken from a different source from all three of those. This, to me, definitely takes on a compilation feel to it and my assessment of this release would be backed up by the thoughts and opinions of Mortenak himself, though, to my knowledge, he hasn’t said anything publicly about the status of this material. In fact, I can’t find any source of information, be it on his personal MySpace account, or his other website about this release. He appears to be a very withdrawn, private fellow and this is shown in his lack of communication with the viewing public. There isn’t much information supplied by the record label who’re distributing this release either, so I’m stumped for answers as to what this is exactly.

I’ll go with my belief that it is a compilation rather than anything because a re-release of old material normally comes with a re-working of the songs and a re-mastering of the quality. As these songs are in their current form, they’re very under-developed. In fact, as the record stumbles from one song to another, the production gets worse and worse, as seen on the lo-fi affair on ‘Days Are Like Years’. The material is definitely like that of all the notorious bedroom bands, though, in my eyes, Mortenak is far more competent at delivering actual depressive atmospherics through his distorted projection of grief and loneliness. The opening song, ‘Chapitre 1’ is definitely the stand-out song. I think the first two songs are taken from the 2008 ‘Nocturnes’ demo, which would explain why their sound is far more distinguished than that of songs like ‘Days Are Like Years’. The song opens almost exactly like the second song. A long, languid introduction to a truly depressive journey.

The introduction includes a lone piano playing solemnly amidst the background of rain samples and thunder. Clichés dominate the openings of the first two songs, but they’re both likeable, even though ‘Chapitre 2’ ultimately fails to deliver as it doesn’t evolve like the opening song does. For several achingly beautiful minutes, the piano builds and builds towards the burst of life that occurs as soon as Mortenak introduces his clean guitar. These cleaner opening structures from the guitar are nothing new to this sub-genre, but they’re good at developing the emotive side of the introduction and furthering the atmosphere. This doesn’t last long as the projection once again changes, for the third time in the song, and finally introduces a more familiar sound for the Canadian one man band. The repetitive drums and guitars come in, backed by the distinctive rasps of Mortenak himself. I’ve noticed a number of people have a problem with the strength, or lack there of, of his voice, but I see no problem with it. Although his voice is simply the standard rasp, he projects his feelings well, though evidently isn’t the best the sub-genre has to offer.

The production is the one area which really lets down the entire affair. It isn’t as clear cut as on the full-length. Even ‘Chapitre 1’ and two have their moments of crisis as the production gives a rather flat feeling to the atmospheres when Mortenak isn’t focusing on solos, which take an age to come, or the main repetitive riff of each song. In between these parts, the songs fall flat on their face with a lack of variety and bite due to the productions restrictive grasp on the material. It strangles the initiative away from Mortenak, though he does fight against its powerful grip by using slower and cleaner passages and an attempt at varied vocals on songs like ‘Days Are Like Years’, though the vocals are very weak, despite being able to make out the lyrics, which isn’t something you can often say about vocalists in genres like this. During ‘Chapitre 1’ in fact, Mortenak’s vocals suffer from poor recording equipment. The drums sound very static and his voice tend to crumble the longer the song goes on.

‘Chapitre 2’ feels as if it could have been reduced to a much small length because it’s, essentially, an instrumental version of the first song. ‘The Night Rider’ is also an instrumental song and though it’s short, it feels completely worthless. It doesn’t offer anything to the release. So perhaps if ‘Chapitre 2’ was condensed, it would give off the same feeling? The vocals tend to make bands like this, in sub-genres like this, more accessible because, even though the instrumentation might be frail and lifeless, the vocals can always offer a respite from the mediocrity given the extent of the emotions they convey. The opening piano segment is fine. It lulls the listener into a false sense of security with its gradual build-up and accompanying samples of singing birds and flowing water. This, again, subsides leaving the more familiar side to the band in its wake. I am partial to the layering of cleaner instrumentation as on ‘Chapitre 2’ with the guitars layered over each other and the bass factoring in, but the production is very thin on top. Although I’ve not heard the ’Nocturnes’ demo, I imagine the only real difference seems to be that Mortenak has made the first song the second, and the second the first on this piece. All in all, I’d say this is an incredibly deflated and disappointing released despite the occasional good passage of instrumentation. It doesn’t feel like a full-length and I’m not going to treat it like one.