posted on 1/2008 By:
Stating that symphonic black metal has seen its heyday should illicit few shockwaves. Like melodic death metal, the genre’s decline has largely coincided with the dearth of quality material from its forerunners as of late. Dimmu Borgir, while making significant financial strides, utilize far too much pomp-n-polish and not enough Vortex. Cradle of Filth haven’t been relevant or exciting for at least a decade (say what you will about Dani and his court of jesters, but they were doing something sexy back in the mid-to-late 90’s). Even Limbonic Art have reared their heads recently, emerging from the ashes with a reunion album that failed to generate significant waves. Granted, the combination of weak promotion and an album title suited for a “Best Of…” collection didn’t help their situation much, but the argument that can still be made: there isn’t a high demand for the symphonic stuff these days. Loyalists, however, will still pan for their gold. Vesania is a higher-profile purveyor currently on an upward trajectory, and this improvement over their last work, God The Lux, should definitely staple them to the shortlists of interested parties.
Distractive Killusions, the band’s third offering, isn’t really a black metal record by definition (as if the full-time organ grinder and “Phantom of the Opera” motif weren’t dead giveaways). Fronted by Behemoth’s Orion and backboned by Vader’s Daray, this thing is jam-packed with the expected Polish death-heft. Vesania play around on both sides of the fence skillfully, largely relying on a lurching style that accentuates their slightly pompous bombast. The first capful of tracks, “Narrenschyff”, “The Dawnfall”, and “Infinity Horizon”, groove with chunky syncopation. Daray spiderwebs his drumheads with millions of precision blasts and smacks, while the rest of the band is guided by Orion’s sinewy vocal twists and the cartoonishly regal keys. The super-thick guitar work, while solidly rhythmic, raises nary an eyebrow until “Rage of Reason” makes its appearance.
Quite the turning point, this song is. Channeling shades of Susperia, they unveil a crushing, handcuffed riff, a gloriously melodic solo (where the fuck have you been hiding these?!), and an ultra-catchy chorus within the span of 45 seconds. Everything is clicking, all cylinders are firing…and then a monkey jumps out of a big-top tent and starts humping your face. A newly discovered species of monkey named “Weird Unnecessary Detour into Circus Metal”. And, really, it’s not that ridiculous, because the giant jester-head thingy on the cover should’ve been a significant warning that these dalliances were bound to surface. So, if you get down with this sort of thing, hop on the carousel. Despite a general lack of brain-burning memorability, the remainder of the record builds in quality, upping the ante in both quickness and melody finally reaching a peak with the final track, “Aesthesis”, and its outro, “Distractive Cryscendo”. Unsurprisingly, this track is the most death metal-oriented of the bunch…squarely in their comfort zone.
Ultimately, the appeal of this record is going to live and die on the symphonic leanings. When Vesania lean more towards the mid-period Borknagar vibe, they triumph, but they dance in the carnival-on-crack Hangman’s Hymn realm far too often, and this quirkiness undermines their tenacity. Those in search of unadulterated symphonic blackness would be better off in unearthing the back catalogs of Obtained Enslavement and Profanum, but fans of highly-polished straddling could definitely do worse.
Now, has heavy metal finally met its quota for obscenely lame, jester hat album covers, or what?
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