posted on 12/2010 By:
It's been said many times that vocals represent something of a fulcrum in heavy metal music. Lo! how many times we've relegated to the shelf an otherwise quality album because the vocals render sallow even the brightest music. Bands recognize it, too, and many take measures to address the problem. They might devote huge time and energy to finding just the right throat. Alternatively, some acts fashion their music to suit the singer they have. Borean Dusk is one of those bands that says "fuck the words" and ditches them altogether. Though the vocals dilemma is thusly resolved, this approach often presents its own problems. When instrumental metal doesn’t work, it’s often quite simply because the music tends to bore without the vocals to push, pull or drag things along. Borean Dusk knows this and had initially planned on using a singer, but early rehearsal work convinced them that their music was sufficiently engaging in and of itself. So this particular heavy metal gang of four capitalized on their strengths for their self-released, self-titled debut, words be damned.
Borean Dusk hails from that world-renowned heavy metal hotspot, Bridgeton, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis, for the neophytes), and they count among their influences Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull, Mastodon (check the cover art), and European folk music, which should give you a fair notion of the sound to be heard. Respectively, expect to hear sharp, dual leads, progressive structures threaded with varied instrumentation, thick and complex riffs, and traditional folk themes throughout. What they don't mention in their bio is that there's a slew of other influences at work, as well, most of which support the notion that heavy progressive is the best kind. Though rooted in a sound that sometimes reminds of Megadeth, this is generally a fatter kind of thrash, alternately descending into doominess and bursting with the occasional flash of Coroner and mid-period Death. All of that considered, it’s probably enough to simply call Borean Dusk 55 minutes of kickass heavy metal music.
Much of the folk comes from the sweet sounds of classical guitar, mandolin and Irish Bouzouki ringing out various regional melodies in the intros and such, but these gifted guitarists have mastered the art of rolling the traditional feel of the acoustics cleanly into the electrics without sacrificing authenticity. In fact, the transitions are a clear point of excellence on Borean Dusk. These are really long songs (range: 9 to 19 minutes) that only rarely test the listener’s patience. (The Middle Eastern/acoustic run at the end of "Scarab Wings and Scorpion Eyes" is an example of where they do drift away from their center.) The songs are wisely crafted in seamlessly melded sections, so that each plays like a series of chapters in a larger story (three of the four make this obvious with clearly delineated subtitles). The transitions are clear and yet strong enough that no single piece between wears thin.
As a function of solid songwriting, good instrumental pieces play well in the background and great ones refuse to stay there. The four tracks on Borean Dusk drive the point home by riding a riff to its utter breaking point, lulling the listener into a bit of trance and then snapping it by twisting the riff a bit to wring out just a few more drops of juice. That riff magic is given sustained power through a savvy sense of dynamics flowing from European and Middle Eastern traditional melodies and atmospherics. Clever use of occasional samples (a baying wolf, the low growl of a hungry beast, distant ringing of battle horns) further elaborates the compelling storylines.
“Wolf-Totem” is woodsy and dark, and it imbues the air with the moonlit relentless pursuit of the wolf-pack, while “Blood on the Hoar-Frost” lurches with heavy footfalls before plunging into barbarous battle. And, then, there’s the beauty of wordless stories. For instance, during the mid-section of “…Hoar-Frost,” titled “II: March of the Gargantuas,” it’s easy for me to picture a pair of monolithic monstrosities relentlessly clubbing each other to bloody bits on a snowy mountaintop, but you might just as easily envision a battle between yetis and an army of relatively tiny yak-skin-clad soldiers. Or maybe you’ll see a buck-naked ten-ton Rosie O'Donnell chomping The Donald off at the neck like so much fried cheese. You get to choose! And as closer "Lord of the Tundra" strides into Mastodonia, I get brightly colored panels straight out of Heavy Metal magazine depicting galactic mercenaries descending to lop off the heads of the unfortunate inhabitants of a farflung icy world.
That the songs tell cool little stories effectively, though, is critically secondary to the brimming heavy metal vitality of the players. That is, the fundamental strength of Borean Dusk is simply that it rocks throughout. The interludes not only guide the narrative but are strategically and mercifully placed to save your goddamn neck. Round it all out with rippin’ solos that range in spirit from Mustaine to Wino, some just-off-kilter jazzy drumming and a load of exuberant bass play that loves the spotlight, and Borean Dusk has all the bases completely covered. Well, except for the words. But, yeah… fuck the words.
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