Saturday, November 10, 2007

Vrag - Vrag 2007

Vrag, on this release at least, have labelled their music as droning black/doom metal. Doesn't sound very appealing, does it? Musicians seem to use the word 'droning' in their genre description to poorly disguise a lack of talent. Although I doubt that any of the musician/s behind Vrag are virtuosos, they aren't trying to hide a lack of talent. The droning element is pulled of well enough, especially throughout the first half of Vrag's untitled '07 release.

Lyrics don't often have any relevance when describing music, but I feel that the lyrics here are worth a mention to aid the musical description. The lyrics aren't very poetic, just the usual dark, blasphemous black metal themes, but they're written very compellingly; if you read the lyric booklet you almost forget about the music and the raw, home-recorded mic-cracking (lack of) production just to hear the next part of each song's story howled and shrieked out in reverb drenched Wormphlegm-style screams and rasps akin to Under a Funeral Moon-era Darkthrone. As I stated before, the lyrics aren't unique, but the wording and sentence structure makes them more understandable and somewhat accessible. Lines like "The dusty aeons have erased my home" demonstrate the creative wording of the band's message while still being easily understandable.

The music reminds me slightly of Katatonia's Brave Murder Day; heavily distorted guitars backed by simple drum patterns throughout repetitive songs. Guitar work is very simple: there aren't any really convincingly played riffs. Most of the time the guitars just play long, stretched out notes supported by reverbed, programmed drums or, like on songs such as 'Black Amber', aren't playing anything at all, just there to provide background noise and layering, similar to what Havohej does. The only riffs that are present are semi-tremolo strumming chords and a few changing notes present in the indiscernible sludge of the guitars. The bass, which is very prominent, does the most technical work here; strummed bass chords, varied notes and muddy bass clunking push through the guitars, propelling guitars and everything else along. Drums, programmed as mentioned before, consist of simple bass/snare patterns that alternate at various speeds, backed by cymbal ticking and ominous, reverb-laden tom toms placed in between spaces of the main body of the drumming, as well as a few blast beats that appear without warning. The songs occasionally change tempo seamlessly, moving from simple plodding underneath lifeless guitars to livlier snare work or blast beats and strumming riffs, demonstrated most notably in the song 'St. Germain'.

Vrag demonstrates droning in music quite well, along with well written lyrics and music that effectively creates atmosphere through repetition and subtlety. There is an element of uniqueness to be found on Vrag's self-titled/untitled demo, but the uniqueness is subtle, making Vrag appear to be another bedroom project when, in fact, the well pulled off combination of black metal, drone and doom metal isn't something found frequently. Interesting ideology, even if the music isn’t that appealing.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Living Fields - The Living Fields

The Living Fields call their music 'epic progressive doom metal'. While this may be a good overall description, it doesn't do justice to the wide variety of musical styles presented on the band's self-titled album. Aside from the predominant doom metal parts of the music, there are elements from black, death, thrash and even a bit of traditional heavy metal, as well as violins, acoustic guitars, the tympani and (somewhat predictably) pianos to name a few non-traditional instruments. The music tends to segue from one style to another, with the only amalgamated styles being death and doom metal. This isn't anything to do with lazy or bad songwriting, simply because there are too many musical elements here to effectively blend more than two styles together.

The Living Fields, similar to Arcturus circa The Sham Mirrors, has a very wide, epic sound to the music, created both by the use and effective placement of pianos, violins and various other classical instruments and the lyrics which deal with worldly issues rather than the personally depressive issues employed by other doom metal bands. The music is labelled by the band as progressive, but that term can be interpreted in plenty of different ways, and this album is a good example of such an interpretation; the music has plenty of progressive tendencies: tempo and time signature changes, thickly layered vocals, a diverse array of instruments and a mountainous pile of musical elements, but I think that the band calls their music progressive on the basis of the last two points rather than because they write extremely complex, technical pieces.

Vocal stand out quite a bit; it seems like there are more vocal styles than musical elements at times. There are Alexi Laiho style screams, black metal shrieks, falsettos closely resembling King Diamond's vocals, throaty rasped growls similar to Dave Vincent's growls, Garm-esque operatic clean vocals and melancholic crooning ala Aaron Stainthorpe. Occasionally there are a few non-layered vocal lines, though most of the time vocals are double, triple and possibly even quadruple tracked vocals combining growls, screams, chants and falsettos. Riffs aren't so easily discernible because of the slew of instruments employed by the band: piercing, mournful pianos and violins in the vein of My Dying Bride, Master's Hammer style tympani accompaniment, acoustic guitars as well as very technical violin fiddling. The riffs I can make out are thick death metal chugs with a doom metal touch, Black Sabbath-esque crunchy straight chords like the ones displayed on 'What is Left Behind' and thrash breaks that sound like something from Metallica's Ride the Lightning. Even though the riffs tend to get overshadowed they still provide an element of heaviness and layering to the music. Drumming is pretty lively and propulsive, not what you'd expect from a standard doom metal band; aside from the standard driving snare and bass 4/4 beats there are odd time signatures, snare rolls, intermittent cymbals crashing along with the bass drums and violins, death metal blast beats and thrashy bass rolls. There are plenty of varying time signatures on the faster songs like 'The Overview Effect' and 'The Soil Giveth', supporting verse lines and breaks with plenty of rolls and fills propelling the music along. The only problem with the music is that there isn't a lot of tone variety; everything is in the mid-range, making the music sound slightly flat and less brilliant than they actually are. Despite this minor flaw, the production is very clean and pretty amazing considering that all three band members live in different parts of the world and have never met one another.

On their self-titled full-length The Living Fields display a sense of direction and vision that many bands take multiple releases to cultivate and to have done all this through long distance collaboration is a spectacular effort. They're one of the most talented new bands to have popped up in recent years, and with the vast array of musical styles displayed, there's something for everyone to enjoy here.

Daemon Foetal Harvest - Abducted and Compacted

Daemon Foetal Harvest sound like they try to play old school death metal, and they succeed to a degree; there are plenty of underlying old school influences, though the music still comes off as primarily modern death metal. That's not to say that this is a bad thing; the performance on Abducted and Compacted is very tight and the songs are pretty consistent, if not too similar, throughout the EP's 16 minute running time.

The music here is highly influenced by Cannibal Corpse, including the imagery and lyrical themes; song titles such as 'Dumped Beneath the Mangroves' and 'Anniversary Rape', as well as the cover art, are strikingly similar to what you'd find when looking the case of a Cannibal Corpse CD. In fact, the whole EP sounds like a Cannibal Corpse album, except that the music present here is a great deal more coherent than Cannibal Corpse. There are elements not found on a CC album, like the cleaner, more hollow sounding guitars playing electric sounding noodly tremolo riffs and the harmony lines and the noticeable tempo breaks, while the vocals, excessive blast beats and double bass runs sound almost like a carbon copy of Cannibal Corpse, especially the main body of the songs with their cohesive combination of unrelenting blast beats, tremolo riffs and growling. Musically, Abducted and Compacted is very linear due to the driving blasting and drum work. Basically, each song is built on a foundation of drumming (especially bass drums) and standard death metal chugging thrummed riffs, with cymbals, toms and other fills added secondarily on top of the main elements.

The music isn't completely Cannibal Corpse influenced; there are some Morbid Angel style old school solos scattered throughout and the pounding drum intro, descending-note riffs and screams on the opening title track that loosely resemble Sarcofago. The flurries of tom and cymbals are also similar to Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, most apparent on the song 'Anniversary Rape'. As I said before, the music isn't a complete CC clone; there are a lot of tempo changes where the drummer employs a lot of creative 4/4 bass and snare rhythms and tom runs that wouldn't be found on a typical CC song. The riffs aren't particularly memorable, though this isn't so much a failure on the bands part; the music is too unrelenting to fit in any really spectacular riffs. Most, if not all of the time, they're just the driving body of the songs, with the occasional solos and higher-tuned guitars noodling away with little tremolo picked lines complementing the rest of the guitar work. The drumming makes up for the lack of interesting riffs, with the previously mentioned flurry of fills and slower, creative rhythms and the lively cymbal, bass and snare trade off on 'Eaten'.

Overall, Daemon Foetal Harvest have produced a solid slab of death metal supported by clear production and pulled off with an impressive amount of talent considering they formed in 2006. Abducted and Compacted isn't anything that hasn't been done before, but it's been done more than well enough to make Daemon Foetal Harvest a band worth at least a listen.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Iciclan - Frozen Dimensions

Iciclan is a pretty unique band, not because of the music they play, which is basically highly Immortal-influenced brutal black metal with a few death metal elements and mid-paced rockish sections scattered throughout, but because of the band's ideology. Frozen Dimensions is a concept album about a creature that eats ice every ninety years to survive. The short description I provided may not sound appealing, but it's way more intriguing than the themes a lot of other black metal bands confine themselves to.

The music on this album is extremely concise and to the point. At twenty-four minutes, there isn't any room for filler tracks or even fills throughout the songs, for that matter. Songs are mostly made up of blast beats and riffs that are almost exclusively tremolo picked. As I mentioned before, this album is completely filler-free. The only fills present are flurries of tom rolls played at every little opportunity and speedy double bass kicks played at breaks in song verses, most noticeably on 'Ice Eater'. Riffing is played with a great deal of tightness and precision. None of the riffs ever fade out before the next riff simply because riffage is constant. The guitar tone and riffs are pretty melodic, but the savage speeds reached throughout songs like 'The 16th Cycle', with it's relentless blast beats and chainsawing tremolo riffs, strip the guitars of any easily discernible melody. Drumming is very consistent and tightly performed. Whenever the drummer isn't furiously blasting away, he's pulling off heaps of seemingly random tom fills and rolling double bass kicks rhythmically interspersed with snare, cymbals and occasionally tom hits every three or so kicks.

There are a few death metal elements present on this album, like the death metal lyrics on 'Twisting Ear Then Embrace', the guitar solo on 'An Ancient Place' that wouldn't sound unusual in a death metal song and the growls that are often double tracked with the vicious black metal shrieks to created a cool layered effect. Twenty-four minutes doesn't seem like very much for a full-length, but the detailed concept of the album alone provides enough material to qualify this as a fully thought out album, not to mention the complete absence of fillers.

Frozen Dimensions doesn't waste time with pointless ideas, musical experimentation, intros and outros or ambient interludes. Just look at bands like Xasthur, who have hour-plus running times but only thirty minutes worth of ideas present in any given album. Iciclan doesn't try too hard be unique or different, they just do what is necessary while sticking firmly to their black metal formula and leave it at that.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bane of Isildur - Bane of Isildur

Bane of Isildur labels their brand of melodic death metal as 'triumphant war metal'. This perfectly describes the feeling and atmosphere present on the band's self-titled EP. The music has an essentially uplifting sound, creating moods and images akin to triumphing in battle. As I mentioned in the first sentence, Bane of Isildur play melodic death metal, that's exactly what it is; death metal that's designed to be melodic in sound and structure, not estrogen fuelled melodeath or Gothenburg.

The music present on Bane of Isildur's self-titled EP isn't overly complex or layered; it's quite easy to pick out the individual elements that make up the music: one down tuned guitar, a higher tuned guitar playing clearer notes, bass, drums and vocals. This isn't a bad thing though as the production, composition and more than competent performance make the music sound fuller and richer than my synopsis of the music would imply.

Songs generally start with a short instrumental intro up before the vocals kick in, like the songs 'The One', which starts with some mid paced cymbals and bass drumming in sync with thrummed riffs. Once the intros are out of the way the verses of the songs are very up tempo and intense with songs like 'Arise Triumphant' that make use of fast 4/4 patterns and double bass sections supporting both guitars as they both play the same riff. Songs are, for the most part, structured like this (with the exception of 'Grey Skies of Winter', which is essentially filler free and straight-forward): they start with a mid-paced intro followed by a verse, which is then followed up by an instrumental passage before another verse or blast beat section begins. The music isn't pure death metal, after all, the music has more of a Norse mythology/viking centered aesthetic than a regular death metal band, so the band has sacrificed some of the elements that would make the music purely death metal in favour of more triumphant, upbeat melodies, and even a few riffs that wouldn't sound out of place in a heavy or power metal album, like a few of the riffs scattered throughout songs like 'Howling Winds of Eternity' and 'Grey Skies of Winter'. That's not to say that the music isn't death metal either; blast beats and tremolo picked riffs among other traditional death metal elements are present on the entire EP, though they can seem a bit tagged on in places. The intro track is a good example of death metal instrumentation, albeit a bit modernised, with the constant bass drumming propelling death metal chugs along for most of the song.

There are two distinct guitar styles used here: a heavy, distorted guitar that forms the foundation of the music chugging underneath a cleaner guitar that plays more complex and melodic riffs. The distorted guitar tends to play straight chords and tremolo picked riffs that are more inclined to work in sync with the percussion, though that isn't the case throughout the entire EP, while the clean guitar plays higher notes and riffs that alternate between different chords both smoothly and rigidly as well as tremolo picked riffs. Bass is present in the form of short stretches of low-end rather than clunking strings underneath the guitars, and often follows the guitars along. Drumming is solid and not overly intricate and provides a good base for the structure of the music. Drum work makes use of a lot of steady 4/4 drumming composed of alternating bass and snare hits backed by tinkling cymbal work in the longer instrumental passages and blast beats backed by tremolo picked riffs, with cymbals often being second in priority to the rest of the percussion work. Double bass is very propulsive and makes use of lots of short little double bass fills as well as long mid-paced runs that drive the instrumental passages along. Vocals are well suited to the music: a raspy growl-roar that is clear enough to be able to make out lines of the lyrics without having to read from a booklet. Occasional double tracking is used, for example at the beginning of 'Howling Winds of Eternity' or other lines beginning while the other fades out, like on 'Grey Skies of Winter'.

Bane of Isildur have, if nothing else, provided a solid leg to stand on with their debut EP. They don't try to be innovative or experimental, but the music they play isn't dull either, apart from a few overlong filler sections. It's a pretty good, solid effort for a first release and Bane of Isildur is definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Demental - Tales of Alienation

Tales of Alienation describes Demental's music perfectly: completely alien. It's not surprising that they hail from Canada, home of bands such as Gorguts and Augury. The music to be found on this album is unrelenting, aggressive and alien in sound and nature. Just listen to the creepy intro track and you'll hear that this something completely different from your standard death metal band.

Drumming is the driving force of this album and bass drumming forms the base that the drumming is structured around. The most prominent feature of the drumming are the bass drums; a good deal of the fills are completely performed on the bass drums; fast double-bass rolls and constant double-bass drumming are present throughout the album. The rest of the drumming consists of crashing cymbal abuse, occasional tom rolls, short and long snare driven blast beats, militaristic snare rolls, fast, rhythmic snare fills and combinations of alternating snare and cymbal hits. Guitars are, of course, a prominent feature of this album, but rather than the riffs being the main focus of the music, riffs and drumming cooperate together, augmenting and driving each other along. Riffs are more often than not melodic tremolo picking filled with squealing guitar licks in between and aided by the bass, which acts a third guitar, more noticeably in the infrequent 'calmer' sections of the album, and chugging stop-start riffs between section changes in a song. There are three different vocal styles used here: a guttural, gurgling growl, medium to high pitched raspy screaming/growling reminiscent of black metal and occasional clean vocals, which usually develop into or build up to the previously mentioned scream or growl. The songs, which are produced clearly, are quite fast and intense; the album is a mere twenty-four minutes in length, but it feels like a full album because of the complete absence of filler tracks or sections in any shape or form. When a song changes into another section, everything stops for a fraction of a second, then blasts into the next section. This may sound as if the band is awkwardly jumping through their songs, but these stop-start parts are completely natural in their context; the ferocious, unrelenting nature of the songs wouldn't allow for subtle, smooth transitions without slowing down the songs and and taking up way too much time. Vocals alternate between the aforementioned growl and raspy half-scream, half-growl seamlessly, with whole sections being either a scream or growl or the two different vocal styles alternating sentences or even words. Drums and guitars are always doing something, whether they're performing the main body of the drumming made of the blast beats, the whirlwind of tremolo riffing, chugs and squeals, double bass runs and cymbal bashing or the little bass drum fills and tom roll.

All the songs flow naturally rather than rigidly sticking to a one-way song structure, almost to the point of improvisation. The only thing giving away some hint that there are song structures are the stop-start section changes. The music played on Tales of Alienation certainly wouldn't pass as progressive, but they aren't repetetive due to the unconventional structures of each song; for example, if a blast beat section has just finished, you won't hear that same blast beat section in that song again. Some may argue that at twenty-four minutes that this album should be an EP, but to clear this up, look at Reverend Bizarre's Harbinger of Metal EP; it's seventy-three minutes long, but the band still considers it an EP because it contains only three 'real' songs. The same principle can be applied here: Tales of Alienation is densely packed with 'real' songs. It's difficult to bring up any songs that stand out from the rest, not due to excessive repetition but because of the speed and intensity of the songs, and because so much material has been densely packed into such a short running time, it's hard to discern any particularly memorable moments on this album.

Demental manages to play a unique and interesting style of death metal, both musically and ideologically with imagery dealing with things such as possessions, aliens and various related ideas and subjects while still retaining their death metal formula and without resorting to using instruments atypical of metal ala Nile. It's an interesting release well worth taking the time to check out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Roadkill Sodomizer - Killing Machine

When I saw Roadkill Sodomizer listed as 'industrial black metal' I thought it would be black metal with industrial elements, but once I listened to their debut demo, 'Killing' Machine', I realised that this is not industrial BM like The Axis of Perdition, which was my initial pre-listen comparison, but black industrial - obscure black metal elements fused with industrial cacophony.

This isn't the beat heavy industrial that the genre label implies; the music has a really chaotic industrious sound to it. Songs like 'Empty' and 'Warfare' are industrial in the sense that they convey an atmosphere filled with images of harsh, drab landscapes completely covered in factories and smog. All songs have an uneasy, heartless feeling to them; it's like an audio equivalent of wandering aimlessly through grey, drab cities with strange noises and unfamiliar sights assaulting your senses.

The music initially sounds pretty flat and low-fi; MIDI keyboards and drums, occasional guitars, harsh noises and low growls, black metal screams thrown together in an apparently thoughtless manner. But upon further listening it's apparent that everything was done that way intentionally to create that harsh, industrial vibe; the flat, dry sounding MIDI instruments are much more representative of the monotony of an inustrial society than warm, rich analog tones. The music has very little to do with black metal. Flitty keyboard tinkling that sounds comic at first combined with solid, pounding synthesized noise form the base of the music, with industrial infused black metal blast beats buried under the cacophony making appearances in songs like 'Sybian Torture', a murky, bassy, obscure track with only the constant programmed cymbal ticking to cling onto and keep you from being completely immersed in the sickness of it. Vocals, used as another instrument to add to the industrial madness of the music, are usually distorted screams, or like on 'Technophobic Dillusions', are tortured, alien growls and moans blurting out disturbing nonsense. There's an eight-and-a-half minute harsh noise track at the end of the demo, and listening to it seems like a melodic respite after the mess of fast-shifting noise and obscurity of the previous five tracks.

This isn't going to please many people; it's anti-music and amelodic in nature, and a lot of people aren't going to 'get' this demo. If your tired of bands claiming to be industrial and want something that conveys that feeling of bleak hopelessness and looking for something to grab onto, or are looking for something 'sick' or unusual, then Roadkill Sodomizer is for you.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Leviathan's Mandible - Desolate

'Desolate' is an unrelenting four-and-a-half minute demo from a three piece US death grind outfit by the name of The Leviathan's Mandible. At only four minutes and twenty-seven seconds, the demo is completely filler-free and to the point.

Production is clear and sharp, letting all the instruments come out clearly while still retaining a slight sludginess to the riffs. This demo is completely bass-less. I think this is a good move, because I can only see a bass guitar in the mix being completely cumbersome and slow for the furious tempos reached on this demo. Riffing is a vortex of tremolo picking, smashing chugged riffs and squealing guitar licks. The riffs are very prominent and thrashy, and only ever slow down for about 10 seconds throughout the entire demo. As I've mentioned in the beginning of this review, there are no fills, just a furious barrage of riffs, blast beats, screams and growls until the end. Drumming is made up of copious cymbal smashing, fast hi-hat runs, pummeling double bass runs and smashing blast beats. Vocals are semi-distorted screams and unintelligible guttural roars and growls. The parts that stood out for me are are the guitar squeals alternating with vocals and snare hits on 'Constructs of a God Complex' and the slow, pounding section made up double bass runs, chugging riffs and cymbal crashes at the beginning of 'Slither'.

Overall this is a quality piece of modern grindcore, and the demo can be downloaded from their MySpace page, so there's no reason not to give the demo a listen and support a grindcore band that displays a great deal more competence then the countless gore/grind projects floating around out there.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Elysian Blaze - Beneath Silent Faces

Beneath Silent Faces is the second demo released by Australian black/funeral doom metal act Elysian Blaze, before the band kicked off with the full-lengths Cold Walls and Apparitions and the brilliant Levitating the Carnal. This demo showcases Elysian Blaze minus the focus and polish found on later releases, most notably the aforementioned Levitating the Carnal.

As far as I can discern, there are no funeral doom elements whatsoever, just depressive black metal. The music on here lacks the aged, majestic atmosphere that the band later succeeds in producing. This is because the demo is basically the sum of it's parts; all it is are the instruments that make the music up. This is mainly due to production (or lack thereof). Compared to Levitating the Carnal, this album is pretty clear and reverb free, and just a little too 'clean'; there isn't that murkiness aided by the reverb that gave the following albums that flow and cohesion between instruments and vocals. For instance, whenever one of the mechanical, tinny blast-beat sections start, the vocals don't fit, they just tend to float over the drums and sound completely out of time with the prominent percussion work.

My main problem with the demo is that it is a little too repetitive. So was LTC, but the repetition was a lot more smoothly done and endurable. And when the songs vary to a different section, they do so in awkward jumps rather than smooth transitions. As usual, the guitars are ambient backdrops, though there are a lot more coherent riffs that on LTC (for example the main riff on the title track) and synths aren't usually as prominent. There are some decent riffs, but due to poor recording/production, a lot of the time they just sound very synth-like and tend to bounce up and down pointlessly. Drums are pretty much composed of cymbals and snares. this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Take for example, 'Anvil Chorus': the song begins with some thundery guitars, then the ominous synths kick in with the cymbals being in a very hypnotic CRASH-tap-tap-tap pattern, followed by the simple piano tinkling which, like in LTC, are very useful in conveying the atmosphere intended by the band. The blast beats, which are quite common in black metal, sound out of place with the aesthetic of the music; kind of like an oncoming train or a washing machine. Vocals are quite terrible. They are far too high pitched and distant, and due to a crappy mic, usually crack and clip whenever the vocals build up to a loud howl or shriek. Most songs just seem to be written for the sake of writing a song. As I've mentioned before, the repetitiveness still present on later albums used here is far too noticeable. I can see that a kind of hypnotic atmosphere was intended, but again, the terrible clarity and poorness of the production really screw that up. The best and most thought-through songs here are 'Anvil Chorus' and the title track. The former uses sweeping synths and clean, ambient guitar work and the previously mentioned hypnotic cymbal-snare pattern throughout the song, really creating the hypnotic atmosphere initially intended. The latter builds up with a slow, almost bluesy riff, followed by a drum pattern similar to 'Anvil Chorus', then after a short ambient interlude the drums go into a more lively version of the pattern mentioned on the opening track, varying between vocals and drum patterns/speeds. Both tracks make the demo worthwhile and have enough variation to redeem the rest of the demo, thankfully.

Don't be put off Elysian Blaze because of this review; this is Elysian Blaze trying to find it's sound, and the formula used on this demo is used more effectively in the albums to follow. I've been mentioning Levitating the Carnal a lot throughout this review, because of the contrast between them. The repetitiveness is pretty much the same, but the improvement concerning everything, from the songwriting to the production, is amazing considering it's only been two years between the release of this demo and the excellent 2006 full-length. If anything, this demo is worth a listen just to hear the contrast, differences and similarities between it and Levitating the Carnal.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Elysian Blaze - Levitating the Carnal

Elysian Blaze is a one-man black/funeral doom metal band hailing from Victoria. When you hear funeral doom in a genre description, you generally expect slow, trudging tempos with very little emphasis on technical song-writing and more on 'atmosphere'. While Elysian Blaze is a very atmospheric band, the song writing is well thought out and the music is quite up tempo, bordering straight out black metal in speed in places, making Elysian Blaze not a blackened funeral doom band but a black metal band with funeral doom elements.

The atmosphere is what really gets me into this. The reverb used makes the albums sound cavernous, especially when used on the vocals and drums. The imagery and aesthetic, combined with the music, creates dark, majestic atmosphere, conjuring up mental images of ancient cathedrals and halls. It's very soothing and beautiful, once you're into the album. Repetition is very frequently used throughout the album. I never find this boring or tedious, I just feel very mind-numbed, and don't notice how good the album is until I've finished listening and find myself thinking, 'wow, that album fucking ruled'. The entire album is very ambiental in the way guitars and synths work equally together. Production, though nowhere near professional studio quality, is good, murky but still clear enough to allow you distinguish all the instruments at work.

The guitars and synths form the backbone of the music here. Rather than the guitar being drowned out by the synths or visca-versa, they are used equally, effectively making both instruments and ambient backdrop as much as the focus of the music, blurring the line between guitar and synth. This leaves little room for any memorable riffs. The only riff that stood out was the opening riff for 'Macabre be thy Blood', a slow, menacing riff complemented by simple tinkling on the piano, which, by the way, is used quite effectively and to compliment riffs and drumming. The piano is used pretty much throughout all the songs, particularly on the track 'Eclipse', filling in spaces between cymbal hits to form the flow of the song. The vocals are excellent, a really raspy growl-scream, not annoyingly high pitched. In quite a few of the songs, the vocals are often sparsely used, resulting in brilliant instrumental work and creating a hypnotic mood. Drums are pushed back quite a bit in the mix, and the kit itslef is rather minimalistic, with only the various cymbals, snare and bass. Cymbals make up the rhythm of the music and drumming, with snares thrown in the slower to mid-paced sections, and bass drum rolls used excessively in the faster parts, and plodding along in the slower parts. There are a lot of ambient interludes played on synths and pianos/keys, like the droning pulse before the demonic vocals kick in on 'Macabre be thy Blood', as well as intros and outros, like the leads up to 'Beyond the Shape of Mortality' very dark, subtle and slow shifting, to the majestic choir from the outro of the title track. They get rather tedious during a casual listen, but if you put this on in the background or are really relaxed, they are very soothing and provide some respite and variation from the guitar/synth duo.

To be honest, at a casual listen the band seems like a generic depressive BM band; ambient interludes, excessive synths, even ambient intro and outro songs. But give it a chance, it's a cut above the rest of all the other suicidal BM bands out there, with subtly unique imagery, if not a slightly typical aesthetic dealing with death, nature, suicide and the like. A very promising release from an upcoming Australian band. If you completety detest any kind of 'depressive' black metal, then stay away, but if you can get past the typical suicidal BM elements, there's a brilliant album to be found here.