The Black Curse
posted on 9/2008 By:
Critiquing an album solely by how it stacks up to the norms of the genre it inhabits seems limiting to me. In my mind, context clearly has to play a part in the evaluation of any work of art, but a reviewer can get caught up in comparisons to genre peers and miss the real value of the art, whether it fits squarely in a pre-existing genre or not. I think this is an obvious point. I bring it up because The Black Curse seems more than happy coloring inside the lines and pushing a clean melodic black metal sound on its listeners. Accordingly, I'll review it merely as melodic black metal, because, sadly, there really isn't much else going on here (save for some symphonic touches).
All the requisite pieces are here: black metal vocals, cold guitar riffs, blastbeats, and occasional symphonic keyboards and string sections to add depth. But the pieces don't fit together to create much of interest (especially over 52 and a half minutes). This is standard Swedish black metal stuff, and it's not bad. It's just not particularly interesting either. The vocals recall Dimmu Borgir more than Marduk. The riffs are serviceable and often melodic but usually not too grabbing, though the talent is obvious. And then there's the issue of the drums: they're way too processed and that annoyance drags this standard fare down a notch (the upshot of this production is the loud-and-clear bass). So it's vanilla at best. And change-ups, when they appear, fail to impress. Spoken word breaks like at 2:10 of "Antichrist Reborn" only hurt songs that already had trouble feeding fire to the engine. (Though the clean vocals that follow in this song at least change things up for the short while they last).
In the end, Lord Belial's biggest problem, in my humble opinion, is their desire to play melodic black metal to the exclusion of anything else. The band relies too heavily on a formula with a short shelf life. When they hit the target dead center (the opening sections of "Trumpets of Doom" and "Primordial Incantation" and most of "Unorthodox Catharsis" and "Soulgate" for example) it's interesting enough. And the soaring guitars do a lot to pull these tunes out of schtick territory, but the bottom line is a processed-sounding melodic black metal record that lacks bite and reason. "Devilish Enlightenment" and "Inexorable Retribution" are never more than boring. I've read a lot of positive words written about this album, but I just can't get into it at all. Lord Belial provide no good argument here for me not to simply spin a Limbonic Art album when I want a melodic black metal fix.
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