posted on 11/2009 By:
The French black metal scene is loaded with bands who are easy to write about. Blut Aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, Glorior Belli (who share a guitarist with the band in question), and Amesoeurs, to name just a few, are all highly distinctive, thematically-driven groups who beg for descriptive analysis. Merrimack, unfortunately for me, pose a greater challenge.
I’ve been sitting on Grey Rigorism for a few months now, and I’m still not sure exactly what to make of it. Merrimack have chosen to attempt a number of different approaches here, and it’s difficult to account for all of them at once. These guys certainly don’t fit the French-BM stereotype of noisy abstraction (Blut, DsO) or über grimness (Peste Noir, Vlad Tepes). Instead, their sound is rooted in a more polished, modern assault a la Marduk.
Grey Rigorism’s best moments come when Merrimack make use of their proclivity for high-speed savagery. Tracks like “The Golden Door,” “Kirjath-Ra” and “Cold Earth Mourning” feature some truly vicious blackened aggression. Their impact is maximized by Tore Stjerna (Watain, Funeral Mist)’s production, which is neither murky nor marred by the robotic sterility of a Marduk or Dark Funeral recording, and by Terrorizt’s unexpectedly mid-rangey screams.
That Merrimack chose not to rely solely on ravenous blasting is admirable, but their delivery at other paces falters at times. They consistently remain earthier and more rhythmically oriented than most of their better-known countrymen, but occasionally flirt with more atmospheric, progressive textures (“Omniabsence” and “In The Halls of the White Death,” among others). But the execution just isn’t quite there, especially on interludes like “La Saintete du Mal” and “Desavue,” both of which crawl agonizingly past while some band member mumbles in French in the background.
To be fair, Grey Rigorism does include some successful digressions. Though “Cold Earth Mourning” does feature some excellent blasting, most of the song rumbles along in a hearty groove, as drummer Necrolith’s pummeling double bass keeps the keening guitars aloft. Meanwhile, “When the Stars Align” is built around a spacey, Blut-style melody that contrasts nicely with the rest of the album’s grinding-teeth feel.
Merrimack are obviously a group of very strong musicians, and considering Grey Rigorism’s hour-long runtime, it was wise of them to play around with a few different approaches. But the album’s inconsistency also betrays its lack of a distinctive voice. Though Grey Rigorism certainly has its high points and wouldn’t be a bad pickup for the black metal fanatic, it’s just a little too middle-of-the-road to be a top flight release.
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