Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Liturgy- Aesthethica(2011)

Liturgy- Aesthethica

So far, my forays into so called “Hipster Black Metal” have left me incredibly confused about two very important things:
  1. Who the Hell is labeling these bands as Black Metal?
  2. What the Hell about these bands are so irredeemably terrible as to generate such vitriol against them?

And so far, both off those seemingly important questions have remained unanswered. It is a predicament that has left me with only one real option: listen to a lot of “Hipster Black Metal” and come up with my own damn opinion: an opinion that up until my time with Liturgy’s Aesthehtica has been a very positive one. After Liturgy’s Aesthethica, my cool has been damaged. Aesthethica helps me understand my second question a little bit more.

Lets get the positive out of the way right off the bat, because there is some positive to be found. There are some really, really cool individual riffs on this album. The dudes in this band clearly know how to play their instruments and clearly love dissonance as much as I do. Liturgy are not afraid to experiment and do not fear creativity, two qualities that is not common enough in today’s Metal scene. A lot has been made about the bands views on Black Metal, and issue I am not going to bother discussing, but I will say this for Hunter Hunt-Hendrix and Co.: they are fearless, and Aesthethica is a monument to the bands fearlessness.

It is also a testament to the bands arrogance and pretentiousness. Aesthethica is wealthy with ideas and barren of anything to keep these ideas from being utterly useless. Imagine a leg with no tendons; a book without a binding. Aesthethica feels like a recorded jam session: impromptu, herking and jerking to and fro, occasionally thrilling but mostly filled with throw-away material not worth remembering outside the heat of the moment. It is not hard to draw parallels between Liturgy and The Dave Mathews Band, which might be the most “insane-like-a-fox” thing I have ever had the (dis)pleasure to type. But the more time I spent with the amorphous blob of something vaguely Black Metal that is Aesthethica, the more that comparison makes total sense. Also, both bands feature some of the most horrid vocals ever recorded, which just makes the whole situation that much sadder.

And as with every one of these albums I have reviewed so far, I have a hard time with classifying this album as Black Metal. Is shrieking vocals and tremolo picking all that is needed to slap the Black Metal label on a band now? Aesthethica does have it’s moments where is sounds kind of like Black Metal, but the often cheery arrangements evoke a very positive sound. “Returner” sounds more like a Converge on anti-depressants, while “Glory Bronze” starts with an upbeat intro that for some fucking reason reminded me of Green Day played at inhuman speed. That song later heads into one of the most Black Metal sounding arrangements on the album, but the intro of the song could be a Weezer hit if the band slowed it down from warp speed. Yeah, I did just write that.

Aesthethica represents the dark side of unbridled creativity: when self-absorbed and self-serving experimentation destroys self-editing and common sense, it often creates something that can’t stay grounded because it is too insubstantial. Aesthethica stands up to listening like a whisp of smoke stands up to a stiff breeze, and leaves about the same impression on the world around it. I give Liturgy points for their effort, but Aesthethica is the kind of wasted musical effort that comes about when the only people the band are trying to impress are themselves.

Rating: 5/10

Heresiarch- Hammer of Intransigence(2011)

Heresiarch- Hammer of Intransigence

Torrid storms of punishing, golf ball sized hail and the sonic screams of victimized demons being raped in Hell is all one can expect from Heresiarch’s debut EP, Hammer of Intransigence, a title which would be almost hilariously appropriate for the product on display if it weren’t so painful. The weak and the lame shall be obliterated under the heel, and the strong will merely live long enough to suffer for their endurance and foolish hope for survival. Blood will pool underneath your shapeless, mushy remains, and your final thoughts will be of pain.

Too bad Hammer of Intransigence isn’t more fun.

While no non-sense brutality is always a nice thing, New Zealand’s Heresiarch are a force of massive destruction that leaves no actual room for anything else but frankly ridiculous chaos. Hammer of Intransigence is a mostly unoriginal piece of dime-a-dozen Death Metal, drawing from Deeds of Flesh, Angelcorpse and Bolt Thrower without grabbing any charm along the way. Points must be given for not ripping off Incantation, but merely exceeding an already sad expectation will not win anyone any medals. For all of its Hell fire and brute strength, Hammer of Intransigence cannot break free from the chains of conceptual inadequacy.

There are certainly some redeeming qualities on display here: the band are tight, know what they want and play with a clear zeal for Sadism, and the spectacle this album makes of mass annihilation is something to behold. But unlike the bands this group clearly idolize, or even unlike the bands that sired Heresiarch(fellow New Zealander’s Witchrist and Diocletian), this group just can’t help but destroying themselves along with everything else around them.

Rating: 6/10

Nuclearhammer/Begrime Exemious- Heretical Serpent Cult(2011)

Nuclearhammer/Begrime Exemious- Heretical Serpent Cult

Nuclearhammer and Begrime Exemious are two names I have picked up as I perused the various forums, blogs and distros in my ever eternal search for music. Both bands have built up a solid reputation across the internet, which we all know is the final authority on what good Metal is, so when I saw these acts had a new split, Heretical Serpent Cult, I thought this was a good chance to check them out.

And once again, the old school curmudgeons that stalk the internet’s various dank and lifeless holes are rewarding old school sensibility and image.

Forgettable and basic, Heretical Serpent Cult is as generic and lifeless as the albums title. On one hand we have Nuclearhammer, who unabashedly steal ideas from Blasphemy and Archgoat at every turn. Devoid of any personality or creativity, Nuclearhammer blast through the first half of this split like a barely functioning jackhammer, beating on the eardrums without any reward for your endurance. The band even throw a Taxi Driver sample at you on the opening track “Storms of Wrath,” which while adding a certain irony to the bands utter lack of creativity, is just as generic as the bands plagiarized and lifeless sound.

Begrime Exemious make an even worse impression. While Nuclearhammer might be pointless, they are at least tight and nasty. Begrime Exemious can’t even play as a band: sloppy, listless old-schoolish Death Metal that lacks any attitude or real brutality. Clearly influenced by early Floridian Death Metal, Begrime Exemious are a scattershot and inorganic mix of Obituary, Morbid Angel and Deicide. Everything about Begrime Exemious’ side of the split is offensive to the ear and so poorly played, it is a wonder the band were ever allowed to record for any label. No doubt the fact the band are perceived as “old-school” is likely the bands only leg to stand on.

Listening to Heretical Serpent Cult has me wondering about the state of Death and Black Metal in 2011: is creativity and originality truly dead? Does all it take to make a record nowadays is your ability imitate older bands that are exponentially better? I understand that everything has already been done, and I also get that originality is not always good. I can get behind blatant worship as well as anybody(I have listened to Putrevore’s Morphed in Deathbreath an ungodly number of times), but what I cannot get behind is a total lack of personality. Heretic Snake Cult has about as much personality as Kobe Bryant on Valium. A truly horrifying, and boring, vision

Rating: 3/10

EDIT: Well, I knew it would happen eventually. I made a mistake, important enough to bare mentioning: this split features four covers, three by Nuclearhammer(three original tracks) and one from Begrime Exemious(five original tracks). I stand by everything I wrote in this review 100%, but it was pretty dumb for me to forget to mention that the split featured covers. Rather than merely edit the review and try and cover up the mistake, I am gonna own up to it with this edit, as a reminder of my hubris... or whatever.

You can find an edited version of this review on Metal-Archives.