posted on 5/2010 By:
The material presented on MXCII walks a very fine line between two very contrary sides to a coin that's honestly had my brain in tangles for the last few days. Having never heard these black-metalling Belgians before this, their fourth full-length amongst a handful of additional splits, I approached the "progressive black metal with atmospheric doom passages and slight rocking parts" (courtesy of the band's bio sheet) with a fair bit of caution. Sure enough, the "doom" passages in question turned out to be little more than ample stretches of a more idle pace (doom does not equal slow, although it can certainly help), but the "slight rocking" parts did indeed do a handy job of branding the otherwise nasty assault from these four with an additional and fairly fitting "progressive" tag.
The "hellish" side to the Gorath coin:
No qualms about it, this band is at their best when their more atrocious angle is directly in line with the sun. These are the moments where the black metal peels the paint with sharp, cutting riffing and castigating drumming that whips the listener bloody with flogs of Ondskapt by way of Deathspell by way of Malign, so those who like their black metal discipline to be rife with surprisingly thick riffs, a pinch of angular, barracuda attack and occasional nods to the death realm, take special note here. And while the three tunes that herald the beginning to MXCII show blunted evidence of this cruelty, it really comes to light further towards the album's end, and particularly with the platter's most foul offering, "Heidewake."
Two of the harsher elements are worthy of further spotlighting because they also add a necessary component that ensures the record's more chill moments don't drift too closely into any sort of "blah" terrain. The drumming throughout MXCII has a very animated, bustling and strangely "plasmic" feel to it. Plasmic in a sense that it sounds like the man behind the kit was born with the sticks in his hands and has to play because it's bloody-well innate to him. Even during the album's quieter moments, he always seems busy filling the corners with something engaging, and that's a thing undoubtedly worthy of appreciating in a realm that sadly often turns to computers to fill the role. Unfortunately, it appears as if this fellow is no longer amidst the fold, so I'm certainly hopeful that his replacement is up to the task.
Also deserving of accolades are the absolutely abominable vocals found throughout MXCII. Founding member/guitarist F. Dupont is the sort of leather-lunged, gravelly howler that brings to mind a solid blend of Mikko Aspa and mid-era Culto, so his delivery is nothing short of grossly gruesome, and I'd not be surprised at all to find his mic speckled brightly with throat blood.
The "casual" side to the Gorath coin:
I understand that's a term some folks get nervous seeing associated with black metal, and it's exactly the element that caused the most initial struggle during my inaugural visits with this record. A good portion of MXCII, particularly at the heart of the first three tunes, is spent mid-paced with a rather composed and relaxed approach. But what I initially mistook for being a bit "tepid," actually turned out to be simply...well, "calm," for lack of a better term. The guitar work often strums from the speakers in a gingerly manner, and notes get rockingly bent and carried skyward with light use of airy atmospherics buried in the backdrop. But as I mentioned, thanks in a large part to the drumming and Dupont's still noxiously callous voice, things never quite drift too close to being completely mundane or fully relaxed. The "progressive" tag flutters most clearly during "Gesta Sancti Servatii," the album's 11-minute closer, which drifts from the gate and ends on a dark breeze that could easily have been penned by Åkerfeldt himself.
Although it took a while for me to fully wrap my brain around the full gist of MXCII, I can now say I'm certainly glad I did. In a world that seems all too ready to kowtow to newfangled measures employed by black metallers obsessed with pushing the envelope right off the goddamned ledge, it's refreshing to find a band who does it rather modestly and candidly through more casual means. And they thankfully do it without losing sight of the equally important "devilish" side to the coin. I'd recommend full investigation through large, punishing speakers.
Register to post comments.