Release DetailsLABEL United Guttural
RELEASED ON 4/27/2012
People From The Lands Of Vit
posted on 7/2012 By:
You’ve no doubt read the old cliché critics like to trot out to assuage a potential hatchet job: “…but, they’re probably really nice guys.” Sometimes, it’s just a shuck and jive to avoid pissing off the wrong parties. The local xtoughxguyx hardcore crew is awful, but they have heavy-ass, meat-covered anvils for fists, so “they’re really nice guys.” Other times, it’s just the plain, honest truth, meant more as a charitable counterpoint to a laundry list of downsides. It's a Hang In There! kitty poster in the form of a critique. It’s the iron that smooths out the wrinkles, meant to encourage more than shame. It’s a designation reserved for bands with working wings, yet haven’t figured out how to launch themselves from the nest.
Bulgaria’s Enthrallment comes off as really nice guys. The group hits most of the marks fans of old school, pummeling death put snout to ground to sniff out: They derive their name from a Suffocation song, load up their riff-plates at the Rusay & Owen Buffet, and probably single-handedly keep the local whammy-bar supplier in business. In addition, drummer / group founder Ivo Ivanov is the kind of duder you want in your scene, lending his production and drumming abilities to a number of fellow countrymen who probably wouldn’t have a chance to make metal otherwise. Even though Enthrallment, now on LP number three, is still a lump of coal, not yet (and maybe not ever) hardening into a glittering gem, it's heartening band members would even consider dedicating resources to releasing a compilation of fellow Bulgarian headbangers; to give back even when they haven't taken all that much to begin with.
But, let's be real. Laudable actions and commendations aplenty won’t add weight to 120 millimeters of polycarbonate. Hell, one could stack a lineup with tattooed and talented George Baileys and, for most, it wouldn't mean a damn thing, because the metal fan in the digital age — he or she with horns made of keyboard-calloused phalanges used to row through the flood of 'camps and 'clouds and streams and Kickstartered dreams — gives nary a fuck unless you're ready to rip and/or rejuvenate. So, a continually expanding array of artistic options and altruistic endeavors get reduced to just two outcomes at the audience level: Blow their minds during a fifteen second perusal of blackmarket Mediafire-moved materials or get flipped out of the pond by a thousand other hungry, absurdly talented fish looking to gobble a blind, paper president off one of the few remaining legitimate hooks. For nice guys, the new, globalized market must be like looking up at the night sky for the first time with educated eyes. Meanwhile, your nine-guitar-string theory utilizing neighbors accidentally charred your wagon while blasting towards Alpha Centauri in rockets powered by advanced drop-G, poly-rhythmic explosions of anti-melody. And here's the kicker: Even if those guys go full Challenger, incinerating shortly after blast-off due to an unnatural and forced evolutionary cycle, they'll always have a market advantage. Human ears perk up when exposed to the nouveau, leaving those who trade in threadbare wares to toil in nostalgia; a Sisyphean exercise in perfecting an already purified sound. Needless to say, it's not an immediate way to nab a niche or attain attention. Fair it is not. Them's the breaks.
Where does it leave our genial gentlemen, then? Well, honestly, in a hole they can't claw their way out of. It can be said Enthrallment doesn't do anything egregiously wrong in their quest to emulate the kind of death metal grown in the sewers of the Empire State and painfully ejaculated out of America's wiener. In fact, you don't have to dig very far to find the album's true strengths. For one, People From the Lands of Vit sprinkles a dash of regional flavor in the title, name-checking the lads’ local river. Various interviews have commented on a conjoining lyrical concept examining the fear and resulting depression of the townspeople, which is neat, in a sort of European Deliverance kind of way. (However, we can’t confirm as a lyric sheet was not available). And, the guy delivering those barbs, Plamen Bakardzhiev, has a burly roar; one of those thick, vocal-chord rattlers sounding like a sentient garbage disposal. Finally, lead-off track “Chronicle of Sorrow” grinds from the gate sans noise intro bullshittery — they, strangely, save the failed art installation / DVD root menu ambiance for “Punishment for Baneful,” but at least it's a full track you can wipe off a playlist — generating much goodwill from your bashed and battered skip button. The song's exposition features a tremolo-picked earth-shaker, throwing in a ringing, pleasantly dissonant chord for flavor, while being herded by speedy kicks. From there, a thrashy bridge segues into an adept, shreddy solo with a touch of Allen West-ian grime and then flies through a CliffsNotes version of the growlier side of Metal Blade in the early '90s. Once complete, rinse and repeat. It's certainly not the worst way to spend 156 seconds.
But, we've been real, so let's be clear: it's not the best way, either. Even when Enthrallment peers at their predilections through their previously donned autopsy goggles — the eye-wear favored by the typical kayo syrup-splattered Obscene Extreme opener — it isn't enough to push Vit past the pedestrian. Part of the reason is due to the inconsistency of the songwriting and performance. "Unholy Diviners" could have been an album highlight if not for a sloppy opening with unintentionally shifting tempos. Enthrallment derives their drive from the false momentum created by blasting, so midpaced sections tend to expose the band's clumsy gait. Because of this, Vit works in fits and starts and usually only when snares are snapping at high bpms. The product, then, is a LP with an EP's amount of solid ideas. Cut away the fat, the bungled bruisers, and you might end up with fifteen decent minutes. Granted, an EP isn't as sexy as seeing your album title on Encyclopaedia Metallum in bold print, and it sure as hell won't get you back in the black quicker, but quality over quantity never hurt a band's legacy. Even if they did figure out their flow, though, their legacy isn't going to amount to much if they stick with this kind of production.
Acting like a magnifying glass and allowing the audience to dissect every gaffe, the clinical, dry mix and mastering is the absolute dealbreaker. It's the killshot. It's akin to finding the meanest, mangiest junkyard dog, dropping it off at the groomers, and returning in a few hours to pick up a far less fearsome pooch. Sure, the now-benign looking beast may bristle with the same ferociousness — the Achilles tendons of dog scrubbers still wedged deep within the gaps of its incisors — but, at a glance, a polished puppy is more apt to inspire reactions of "DAAAAAWWWWW!" and "Oh, he thinks he's people!" than a mad scamper back to your car where you'll consider how much shorter Cujo would've been if cellphones existed. The point is looks deceive and, in this case, undermine credibility. In the realm of chugs, the production is our "look." This isn't Tiger Beat, sound is our initial impression, and Ivanov could have better introduced his band by filtering Vit through a knuckle-dragging design. Slams thirst for a prehistoric thud, a thunderous rumble presaging a brush-fire-creating lightning strike, in turn causing the smoke of fallen brontosaurus burgers to fill every nook and cranny of the headphones. Young bucks will surely disagree, but a few twists and turns of the knobs on a cobwebbed analog multitrack would've done wonders, propping up, at the very least, the cardboard cutout of a nasty, hulking mammoth instead of letting slip-ups shine through a well-coiffed digital updo where the snares have been replaced by the 808 in Herbie Hancock's “Rockit.”
In the end, it amounts to little more than nitpicking as the group will never escape one of the unfortunate quandaries of the current crop of new school of old school death: Their near-slavish insistence on replicating twenty-year-old motifs nullifies their existence. The guys show us they care about genre classics — and, lest we forget, we can't fault anyone for simply doing something they love — but they just don't do enough to make a consumer care for a new iteration that's little more than a shambling, zombified windmiller groaning in the back of the virtual record store. It raises the predictable question: What stops people from thanking them for the reminder, cutting out the middleman, and turning on Tomb of the Mutilated? Worse, by positioning themselves closely to past masters, it's damn difficult not sizing Enthrallment up with the same measuring stick. That's unfair, as the band doesn't yet have the chops to bear the burden, but, with each familiar riff, they invite the same criticism. It's a shitty cycle to get stuck in, like a sapling starved for light because it took root right under its progenitor. Enthrallment has got to break some limbs if they want to sneak a few leaves into the canopy. Sure, there's enough glimpses of promise to think this band could grow bark (search out “A Land Full of Worms... From the River to the Void” for evidence), but keep in mind, at this current juncture, you're missing the forest for the Charlie Brown Christmas trees if you give this some serious spins.
Alas, they're probably really nice guys, though, and the work they do to extend metal's shadow should be recognized. Sometimes that's worth more than being in the most br00ful, badass band in the land, right? Your $7.70 might not think so, but quite a few Pleven kids with death metal dreams do and that's not a bad place to be.
Enthrallment, take your lumps as tough love, we wish you better luck with the next one.
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