Primitive Graven Image
Celebrating Impending Chaos
posted on 6/2010 By:
Modern British black metal bands fall mostly into two categories. One camp consists of keyboard-loaded theatrical frippery that caters to people who put on crushed velvet top hats before going out to the local wine lounge for the evening (Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned, Bal-Sagoth). The other involves way more left-field kookiness and attracts angry nerds who stay home on Saturday nights watching Takashi Miike movies and defacing photographs of their family members (The Axis of Perdition, Anaal Nathrakh, Akercocke, etc.).
Chesham’s Primitive Graven Image falls into neither camp, which is actually kind of a shame. Both of the loosely-outlined subsets above subsist on idiosyncrasy and thus are automatically engaging, regardless of one’s opinion of the music itself. Celebrating Impending Chaos, on the other hand, is 100%-conventional black metal with a bad case of Scandinavia envy—spikes, corpsepaint, and song titles like “War ‘Til Death” and “Wandering Through the Woods” abound.
More specifically, Primitive Graven Image churns out percussive, riff-oriented black metal that falls somewhere between recent Immortal’s thrash metal crush and the speedier Swedish approach favored by Watain and the like. And I guess they play their chosen style well enough. Their riffs pack some frosty punch without ever venturing too far into the melodic outlands; the songs wander (through woods, presumably) despite their speedy tempos; everything is soaked in grym reverb mined from a windswept mountain that’s too kvlt to have a name. The production, too, maintains that far-away-in-the-icy-wilderness feel without muting or butchering any of the individual performances.
But avoiding failure doesn’t count as success, at least not at this stage of the game. Every metal fan has a pet niche, and Primitive Graven Image will probably hit the spot the kind of listener who just want some competent riffy black metal to tide him over until the next Marduk drops. For me, though, Celebrating Impending Chaos has little to offer beyond rote repetition of genre clichés, and there’s too much compelling stuff out there to spend much time tangling with mediocrity.
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