posted on 3/2011 By:
Recently in the metal world, there have been many discussions about musical atmosphere and its place in any given album. Although many see this as merely a matter of personal preference, there are some interesting talking points that could be derived from such conversations. Luckily, Necronoclast's latest album, Ashes, is a perfect way for me to jump into this debate and still remain as neutral as possible. Ashes is the fourth album by the UK's very own Greg Edwards (It's cool that he doesn't need a stupid mythological nickname to go along with his music, isn't it?), and it's pretty similar to his other three. Necronoclast is a one-man project in the true sense of the term, as there has never been even so much as a session musician on any of the four albums. Although there aren't a whole lot of songwriters who could pull off the instrumentaton of an entire album, there's not much positivity that can be expressed about Ashes as far as Edwards' actual songwriting goes. Truth is, the man's entire discography is neither disappointing nor exciting. It just kind of... exists.
Necronoclast definitely places more emphasis on the atmospheric side of things. Although many would argue that all black metal is fundamentally based upon certain atmospheres, the fact of of matter is that emotion, not atmosphere, is what has always taken the dominant role. Since the previous statement could easily turn into a dead-end argument of circular logic, let's try and focus on the big picture. Atmosphere in music has always been comparable to abstract art. Adding more structure (riffs, song pacing, etc.) to a specific atmosphere will gradually allow the songs to become more defined, much like adding actual shapes to a paint-splattered canvas. Ashes is abstract in that the songs all blend together and are not very distinguishable from one another. The guitars layering is clever, but not genius. The drums and pacing of each song both vary from time to time, but in the end they don't allow the album to develop into anything more than the black metal standard. At times, keyboards are brought in to help add density to whatever it is Necronoclast is trying to create. This instrumental combination helps make "Ghostways" one of the album's standout tracks. Aside from "Ghostways" and the album's concluding and possibly strongest track, "Kajicnicke Saty," which is actually a sign that Edwards can do a lot more than what he has shown thusfar, the songs are practically interchangeable.
It wouldn't matter if you listened to this album out of order, backwards, forwards, sideways, in Finland or in Africa, because it would have the exact same effect on you regardless. That's not a bad thing, as creating a consistent atmosphere isn't easy to accomplish, but the atmosphere lacks a strong and distinguishable method of instrumental delivery. "Kajicnicke Saty" is a perfect example and is the song upon which I base my entire argument. Adding things like solos, or even simplistic chugging would help the listener receive the rest of the music in a way that's easier to digest. Without any type of pattern whatsoever, an album wouldn't actually be music, would it? Patterns are the only thing differentiating music and noise, so it would make sense then, that an album's noisy atmosphere would have some sort of underlying pattern to help carry it along at least. As for Ashes, the times that this does occur still don't allow the album to really stand out the way that I believe Greg Edwards has the potential to stand out. If Edwards doesn't mind (the man is Scottish, after all), I'm going to raise a glass on this very St. Patrick's Day in hopes that Necronoclast's fifth studio album (if there ever is one) will finally be one that breaks through.
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