posted on 5/2008 By:
The well must really be running dry for available metal band names. I mean, Brown Jenkins? Seriously? I personally don’t understand that at all, and if I didn’t know ahead of time that this was a black metal project I would have assumed this to be some sort of washed up, Southern fried hillbilly rock monstrosity. In fact, this solo American project is actually the newest addition to the acclaimed Moribund Records roster, and Angel Eyes is the outfit’s debut full-length following last year’s Dagonite EP. What this album offers is seven tracks of solid, doomy black metal with a heavy focus on sludgy, depressing riffs and... more sludgy, depressing riffs.
Describing the sonic framework of Angel Eyes is easy: guitars, guitars, guitars, with all other instrumentation taking a distant back seat. The guitar work is the driving point of not just the riffs themselves, but the entire atmosphere that Brown Jenkins creates; drumming is programmed and minimalist, and the cavernous vocal growls are kept to a low profile throughout. Sole member UA (you mean his name’s not actually Jenkins? Pfft…) instead concentrates on weaving dense, heavily distorted guitar soundscapes that are somewhat reminiscent of Xasthur’s less keyboard-driven material. What’s interesting is that this outfit completely forgoes the usual speed and tremolo-picked melodies so characteristic of black metal in favor of more down beat tempos and plodding, doom-influenced riffing. The production enshrouds the guitars in a lot of distortion, allowing UA to meld various types of chord progressions to create a dense and unusually heavy sound. A common compositional method employed on Angel Eyes is to layer more melodic picking over a chunkier rhythm section, creating a strange and disturbing contrast in the guitars--a notable strength for this project showcased in just about every track.
So it’s a shame that more wasn’t done to give individuality to the songs themselves. You’ll notice that I didn’t single out any specific tracks in this review, and despite what you may think, it's not because I’m a lazy bastard. It's because none of the songs here have any distinctive moments that cause them to stand out from the rest of the album, and therefore none that really warrant special attention. While the writing here is of high quality from track to track, there is a noticeable feeling of sameness felt with each number that can make digesting this from start to finish a chore. The sound Brown Jenkins achieves here is very enjoyable for me, but I appreciated it much more in small doses; when I tried listening from front to back, I found myself somewhat bored by the fourth of fifth song, and that‘s not really what black metal is about. Simple lack of variety is the biggest culprit here--while the strict focus on the guitars serves the atmosphere well for the most part, none of the riffs are distinct enough from one another to really compel the listener towards repeated listens, relegating the material here to mostly background-music status. The bland nature of the programmed drums (oooh, how I hate drum programming, especially in black metal) and lack of depth and emotion in the vocals exacerbates this problem. With stronger contributions from the other instruments and some more dynamics and hooks in the songwriting, Angel Eyes could have been an excellent black/doom outing. Instead, it's merely an O.K. one. But the building blocks are definitely there for ol ‘Jenkins to hit us with something improved in the future.
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