posted on 12/2005 By:
Haemoth are the latest vermin to come crawling forth from the Black Metal sewers of France. Like much of the genre spawning from that area as of late, they pride themselves in providing the type of music that could easily accompany the Apocalypse, and openly support any means necessary to bring mankind's inevitable collapse to early fruition. Kontamination, their 3rd full length since their 1998 formation, is the first US release for this two man group, thanks to the fine people at Southern Lord. Furthering the cause for all that is kvlt, S.L. has also limited the cd release of Kontamination to 2000, and the picture disc to a measly 300, so if you’re planning on stuffing someone’s stocking with this slab of revulsion, you better get off your collective fat asses.
Let me warn you right off the bat, the packaging of the cd version of Kontamination absolutely honks, in my opinion. It’s frustrating because it looks like it could be a really cool album cover, but the colors are far too dark to make out any details of the artwork. Actually, the packaging is so dark you can’t even make out the bloody song titles on the back of the cd. Ok, ok, so maybe I’m being a bit too girly. I don’t really need 'the visual' if the music can speak for itself, right? The same thing happened with the excellent Act Which Transformed God from fellow French maniacs, Blut Aus Nord, and it ended up being one of my favorite albums of 2004…maybe the same could hold true for this release.
To be completely honest, I was initially disappointed in Kontamination. After the first few listens, nothing really hooked me, or made me cringe with that “this is some fucked up Black Metal” face. I’ve now spun the album countless times over the course of a couple of weeks, and I can comfortably say the music on Kontamination is fucking solid. It’s the sonic equivalent of getting your throat slashed in the bathroom of a rest stop; it’s calculated, vicious, unforgiving, and razor-fucking-sharp. The overall sound of the album is rather tinny, but it features some solid breakdowns and nice Black Metal riffing here and there to hold interest. If I had to draw comparisons, I’d point my finger in later era Gorgoroth’s general direction. Track three, the aptly named “Kontamination”, is definitely a standout for me. It starts off brutally, breaks down into a filthy riff after 1:30, and even features a rather nice bass 'breakout' towards the end. Another putrid gem is “Famished”, which slows things down and coats the listener with a bit of Black Metal sludge before eventually drifting into some light piano plinking. Haemoth uses quite a bit of foreboding, atmospheric layering between musical slashings as well. For example, songs like “Poisoned Mind Haemoth” quiet the attack, but leave the listener with an unsettling “when am I gonna get pounced on again” feeling. Very nice.
My problem with Kontamination isn’t actually a problem, per say, it’s simply a preference. The vocals used by Haemoth don’t have enough variation to hold my interest from start to finish. I understand that a number of Black Metal fans might say they fit the album perfectly, but they almost fit too well. They’re quite raspy, and have a vocal effect that amplifies the ‘high end’ to the point where I hardly notice their presence at times because of the overall tinny production of the album. A little variation would have added to the album tenfold.
In the end, Kontamination is a release I would recommend to stalwart fans of the genre, but I’d probably steer those newly interested towards some of the originators of the French Black Metal scene; Vlad Tepes, Mutiilation, Belketre, or Torgeist…or just say fuck it and tell them to hop on the Deathspell Omega wagon, it’s hard to go wrong there.
The low score of 3.5 in the production column is also worth a quick explanation. My version of this cd from Southern Lord has a strange 'pop' noise between tracks on the first half of the album. I have no idea if this is an anomaly, or if it’s found on all the cds pressed, but it’s definitely a distraction…especially when a song tries to roll seamlessly into one of the atmospheric numbers.
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