It's been a while since I've done a review round-up, but I found myself dealing with four separate albums that shared way too many similarities of influence: Deathspell Omega, Blut Aus Nord and Ulcerate. So rather then be all redundant and shit(you guys all hate that), a few mini-reviews seemed in order.
It doesn't get more fresh then this: a brand new duo from Iceland(though both members have plenty of experience), Azoic have released a damn fine debut with Gateways. It's not exceptionally original: if you have heard anything from Deathspell Omega, Ulcerate or Blut Aus Nord(or just about any current "Orthodox" Black Metal band or modern "Atmospheric" Death Metal band), you have heard much of what Gateways has to offer. The strength of the album comes with the details: the production is thick and warm, featuring brilliantly ethereal vocals and a rich, full guitar sound. Gateways consistently mixes up the intensity and tempo, and it's fairly effortless in it's atmosphere while remaining highly technical and aggressive. It may be little more then the sum of it's influences, but Gateways works and works well.
Beyond Terror, Beyond Grace- Nadir(2012)
I just don't get this album.
Beyond Terror, Beyond Grace were once one of the better young Techgrind acts around, and seemed well on their way toward joining the elite of that genre. Then comes this massive shift in sound, and a massive down-shift in quality: Nadir is not a bad album per-se, so much as a just terribly boring one. Nadir feels like a practice recording, a band toying with a massive change is style and getting the feel for the genre. These moments have their place, but not on a major release. Nadir has a few individual riffs and moments where things pick up, but the tempo remains consistent most of the album, the production mix is atrocious and the vocals do not fit the new style in anyway. Nadir is an ugly, incomplete-feeling album that struggles to find a voice in a crowded, trendy genre... a rehearsal recording dressed up as a full-length album.
No album has been more polarizing for me then Dodecahedron. The part of me that craves adventure, creativity, originality and personality wants to love Dodecahedron for the experimental, genre-bending tornado that it is. While featuring a dozen or so obvious influences, particularly Deathspell Omega, Dodecahedron never becomes reliant on these influences to justify itself. From the first note to the last, the album pushes as many boundaries as it can, and quickly as it can. Mixing elements of Death Metal, Black Metal, Prog Rock and Post-Rock, Dodecahedron is the kind of album that would normally get me all hot and bothered.
Unfortunately, Dodecahedron is equally as limp-wristed as it is progressive. A strange complaint perhaps: it seems likely that this Netherlands five-piece weren't really trying to crack open too many skulls or slaughter too many innocents with this album. Yet this particular reviewer still laments the total loss of aggression and intensity in the search for genre-decimating technicality and progressiveness, and it makes Dodecahedron a major missed opportunity for me. It also doesn't help that the vocals are... well, bad. Anaal Nathrakh bad.
Like Azoic, Esoterica are another oven-fresh two piece(US based), and their new EP Idololatriae is fairly solid. It's a very similar album to Gateways, though it also features the strongest modern Blut Aus Nord vibe of all the albums featured here. It's another slab of thick, warm and technical Atmospheric Black/Death that isn't strikingly original, but works for what it is. "Dilated" in particular stands out as a dissonant wall of noise, though this track also stands head and shoulders over the rest of the album. Solid and acceptable.
Deathspell Omega- Drought(2012)
Since their shadow looms large over this entire post, it seems appropriate that we touch on the brand new EP from the masters themselves. They need no real introduction: Deathspell Omega are without a doubt one of the defining Extreme Music acts of this, or any, generation. Whether every note fills you with intense love or sickening hate, Deathspell Omega have always held great power, regardless of how many times they made drastic, explosive changes to their sound.
Until now anyway. Drought is an appropriate album title: it's dry all right, in both new ideas and evil. Imagine Paracletus, merely devoid of any real Black Metal sensibilities, and you have Drought. It has far more in common with the progressive, Proggy Death Metal of acts like In Mourning or Fallujah then anything else, complete with a butchered production sound. At times, through sheer force of musical prowess, Drought begins to show some life: regardless of genre, the members of Deathspell Omega are some of the finest musicians in the world and Drought proves it unequivocally. Yet it was always the song-writing that made Deathspell Omega truly great: a black fog of un-life, filling the air with electricity and suffering beyond compare. Drought evokes none of these images, drenched in Prog and unimpressive melody, seemingly trying to get by on technical prowess and nothing else.
It's not a devastating blow to the legacy of Deathspell Omega by any means: it is more slight and forgettable then truly disastrous. Deathspell Omega have always sought new ground for each individual album to stand, and truthfully Drought is yet again a new direction for the band musically. It was an album of calculated risks, and when a band takes risks, no matter their talent or history, they are capable of a mis-step. Drought is a failure, but an admirable one.