Perhaps it's best I start with this: I really, really want to like this album. Chryst's epic monstrosity PhantasmaChronica is usually the kind of stuff I actively seek out. I'm one applaud a band for taking the risk of writing a 50-minute operatic black metal suite. But I keep finding myself coming back to one hitch: the style of an album cannot substitute for its substance, and frankly, while this album isn't half-assed, it's certainly composed to only the most peculiar (and forgiving) tastes. And that's me being generous.
The album seems to be composed of nothing but annoyance after annoyance. Every single compositional technique they pull out to try and show off their musical technicality seems so poorly executed that the only possible result that could be expected is to grate on the nerves like Parmesan cheese. It begins with the buzzing synth lines that apparently are designed to resonate at the same structural frequency as my skull, carries onto the forced, artificially wavering tempos that completely ruin the mood of the piece, and gets topped off by the absolutely detestable vocals. They sound, for lack of a better term, hilariously incompetent. They're done in some over-the-top faux-operatic style without any actual vocal ability to back them up, making listening to them not only aurally displeasing, but also really uncomfortable and awkward for the listener. It's not even funny to listen to; it's just irritating, and frankly, you feel somewhat embarrassed for the band.
Oh, yeah, and we're only twelve or so minutes in at this point. I can't even listen to this full track in one sitting because of how much it absolutely punishes my aural patience. And, no, let me assure you, it doesn't get any better from there.
But what makes this most annoying is how casually the band themselves treat the song. You can really tell these guys want to be taken as seriously as the best avant-garde acts like maudlin of the Well or Ved Buens Ende, but there's just so little actual effort put into it that the whole project seems doomed to be a futile effort. At best, it's the bad borne of good intentions. At worst, it's just slipshod drivel. I keep telling myself that this has to be satire, but everything about it is so painfully earnest that it's actually depressing.
You know, maybe I'm wrong about all of this. You could legitimately approach me and call me out for all of these negative points and, perhaps rightfully, say my tastes just aren't refined enough to appreciate the subtlety of the art being made here. I do concede, that is an entirely valid point to make. Though I like to think myself an extremely forgiving listener, I, too, have my limits, and perhaps yours are even more tolerant than mine. In that case, I really do suggest you give this album a listen. Maybe you can hear something to it that I don't; maybe you can appreciate what it is that the band is trying to do that I seem to lack the eruditeness to grasp. But I would honestly, truly doubt it. If there are really hidden depths here, we're gonna need the Trieste to find them.
It seems like an understatement to say now, but this album is really gonna be a hit or miss. If, like me, the attempts the album makes at playing itself up equate to the pain of slamming your own head in a car door, you're not going to be able to enjoy it at all. If you're somehow a more lenient listener than I, and can hear what I can only assume is the intended depth of the piece, you'll probably find it's not that bad a slice of avant-garde black metal. Again, maybe I'm not as aurally accommodating as I think. Try it once and decide for yourself.
2.5 / 10
Alison Chesley (aka Helen Money) is mostly known for her excellent collaborations with a myriad of diverse artists, including Bob Mould, Mono, Russian Circles and Agalloch. A classical cellist herself ...
I have to admit, I chose to review this album with little knowledge of the band, based solely on the strength of their single, “La Mano De Lucifer,” from their ...
Looking for the SPB logo? You can download it in a range of styles and colours here:
Click anywhere outside this dialog to close it, or press escape.