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Malevolent Grain - 87%

Asgrimm, February 24th, 2009

I picked up this record after a Wolves in the Throne Room gig not too far away from my home because I had made the mistake of bringing enough cash, while I am the sort of person that compulsively buys music. To be honest, I was not expecting too much: I do like the band, but I am not totally adoring them, even though they performed well that evening. But when listening to this record, I was pleased to find out that this release was more than worth acquiring.

The first track, A Looming Resonance, starts quietly with a clean guitar, almost immediately followed by some sort of buzzing sound which, in a way, sets the tone of the atmosphere throughout the album. The song sort of flows on, the music now being accompanied by warm (I can’t think of a better word here) female vocals, sometimes together with more echoing angelic vocals and the riffs being combined with cleanly picked guitar bits. It must be noted that a significant part of this track does not have too much metal in it: it floats somewhere between atmospheric black metal and shoegaze for the first half, then shifts to something more akin to black metal. Or black metal with the aforementioned gentle vocals to put it in other words. Regardless of the way I put it, it works quite well, creating a melancholic atmosphere. The track doesn’t have an awful lot of variation, but the combination of all its elements do make it a song that captures your attention and diverts it to some trance. Well, if you are the kind of person for that, at least. This track is what actually justifies buying this release, as the second track doesn’t live up to the standard this track sets.

The second track, Hate Crystal (which, according to me, is far from a good song title) immediately blasts into more raw black metal, yet sounds a bit generic, but still carries a fairly well-crafted atmosphere, mainly due to the overall hazy and ethereal production of this release, I would say. Unlike the previous track, we do not come across any female vocals here: here, we again hear the black metal rasps we are used to when it comes to Wolves in the Throne Room. This song is again quite repetitive, and is built up around only very few different riffs. Hence, if you do not like repetitive black metal, this will probably not be your cup of tea. I, on the other hand, am the kind of person that enjoys Hypothermia, so I do not mind listening to a song built up around two or three riffs, as long as I appreciate those riffs. Put shortly: I like the riffs used on this track, so I cannot say I dislike it. It must be said though, that there is room for improvement as, to me, this track feels like it has been written too quickly, without fully using the pontential the band has. Another thing that disturbed me now and then was the volume of the drum: every now and then when the other instruments take a step back, it suddenly lies way too high in the production, playing a rather dominant role.

To summarize things: we have one excellent track, and one that is better than mediocre, yet not spectacular. This record is all about the atmosphere actually, and luckily does a decent job at that, aided by a fitting production and good musicianship. The downside it that this could have been a lot better. Still, this will more than likely make it to my personal top 10 of 2009.