Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Striborg - Nefaria/A Tragic Journey Towards the Light

Striborg – Nefaria/A Tragic Journey Towards the Light
Southern Lord Records


Lone member Sin Nanna creates lo-fi ‘depressive black metal’ with inaudible vocals and few refinements in structure or otherwise. Some may find it difficult to continue listening past the first few minutes of the first track (“Nefaria”). Honestly, I am no snob in regards to production values, but rarely have I heard anything this poor. The instruments are separated so much in the mix that it sounds as if there are multiple songs playing at the same time, and they do not mix well. This may be an extension of disjointed song writing, but whatever the cause it’s hardly listenable to my ears…just somewhat boring. Next comes the haunting keyboard instrumental track titled “Permafrost Forest,” followed by “Somnambulistic Nightmares.” The atmosphere changes here, introducing a doomy vibe and more coherent instrumentation/production. Thankfully, the much of Nefaria is an extension of this and finds it’s feet somewhere in the realm of Xasthur territory and the shadows of Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger on the blast parts. It’s nothing new or special, but those who crave the noisier side of darkness will be appeased.

A Tragic Journey Towards the Light

Striborg’s 1995 demo material begins with a dramatic intro and promptly falls flat on its face. Reverb-soaked vocals overpower the fuzzy guitar parts, the programmed drums even sound off time, and I’m not sure as a whole what’s even happening here. Why it’s been preserved is beyond me, but that’s just my opinion.

Year of No Light - Nord

Year of No Light – Nord
Crucial Blast

The sludge/shoegaze mixture has unfortunately become the newest in a line of ‘hot shit’ trends that cross genres and attempt to make metal ‘safe’ for hipsters to be into. I have to admit there are a few bands that do it well, but France’s Year of No Light misses the mark. The opening track, “Sélénite” sounds like a lost cut from Cult of Luna’s second full-length, Salvation. However, the band quickly fall flat after this opening instrumental piece. There are several other instrumental moments on Nord that revisit the potential of “Sélénite,” but they are quickly overshadowed by unnecessary modern hardcore tinges and screamy vocals that just aren't burly enough and don’t fit.

Unleashed - Midvinterblot

Unleashed – Midvinterblot

Although this is not a ‘new’ release at the time of this writing, Midvinterblot certainly warrants attention and some words of praise. Unleashed is no strange entity to many death metalers, but I think they often get brushed aside for the more celebrated sons of the classic Swedish death metal scene. This boggles my mind, as their debut full-length, Where No Life Dwells (1991), is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Midvinterblot is a slab of classic Unleashed, although the brute force is much more melodic than I would have expected. I haven’t given any attention to the past few records so maybe this isn’t a new development, but it took me by surprise. The production is solid and thick, although the guitars could’ve used a small boost in the mix. My first exposure to underground metal was through Swedish death metal bands and that style almost always satiates me. Unleashed have produced a solid record with Midvinterblot, but I will say that it’s almost too slick and too melodic at times for my taste. It seems out of place to hear Johnny Hedlund’s raspy growl over the top of constant noodling, lead guitar wails.

Choice tracks include “In Victory Or Defeat,” “I Have Sworn Allegiance,” and the epic closing track “Valhalla Awaits.”