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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Unerathly Trance - V (2010)

Unearthly Trance - V

   V begins with "Unveiled", a quarter time lament of mud-covered guitar and bass. Horizon-wide guitar melodies overlay upper/mid-range screamed and shouted vocals in this somber and dynamic opening. It fades into "The Horsemen Arrive In The Night", a short and chaotic slug fest that is every bit as ominous as the name implies. "Solar Eye" sways with raw, building rage that becomes almost catchy as the furious waltz rhythm is maintained until the end of the song, its hooks made of insane rage. It grows brighter with anger until "Adversaries Mask I" begins, a doomy ballad with sinister monotone vocals and an insistent guitar to match. The song degrades into loud, sludgy desperation midway through, ending the way it began. "Adversaries Mask 2" Offers a torrent of feedback over warmongering drums and Napalm Death style battle-growls. "The Tesla Effect" explodes over the rigidity of the previous track, with a pronounced stop-start dynamic and deathly vocal narration that reinforce the continued ominous atmosphere. The song ends on an exceptionally brutal, machine like tantrum of guitar and full-throttle vocals. "Sleeping While They Feast" is wide open, with huge chords and arpeggios, and standard-fare post-metal sustained vocals. It ends in a destructive, manic crisis and is quickly followed by the unglued opening of "Submerged Metropolis", whose quieter parts echo with watery doom. The guitar riffing toward the end of the song is appropriately liquid, and a great atmospheric touch. "Current" emerges next, as likely the most mainstream track on the album. Its a midtempo beatdown peppered with dying-breath torrents of swirly guitar and suspended rhythms. "Physical Universe Distorts" forces on the listener the worst of all trips; a near-standstill tempo, massive rhythmic blows and unsettling, agonized vocals. "Into a Chasm" brings us out of the rut, with a terrifying hook and the rhythms to back it up. It settles into a searching groove toward the end of the song, and in fades "The Leveling", the longest and most epic track on the disc. The spoken word vocals and ambient bass slow it to an almost standstill, black and absolutely unforgiving.
   Production on this disc is tastefully done, skirting the boundaries between the clinical standards so characteristic of big name studios while avoiding veering into "the whole band is playing simultaneously in a tiny room" territory. Its a very natural sounding recording that balances a sense of space and clarity among each instrument with a slightly organic envelope, without the presence of badly engineered reverbs or fake sounding delays. The vocal tracks exhibit this perhaps more than other parts of the recording, maintaining a constant dirtiness without overshadowing other parts of the spectrum. When spatial effects are audible on the vocals or other tracks, they add to the mix rather than cheapening it. The tightness of the bass and guitar tracks deserves mention as well; they excel at extending one another yet sound together as one force. The cleaner guitar melodies maintain a sense of width thruought the album that does not compromise their substance, a welcome touch in these days of over-processed and noisy, gimmick-driven engineering and composition in some of the more extreme varieties of music.
   As far as lyrics and composition go, this is quintessential sludge material. The album's rhythms are not just successful in evoking that addictive, edge-of-sanity rage that makes us all return to the genre time and again, they are a textbook study. Unfortunately, its a double edged sword; there really isn't anything groundbreaking or revolutionary to be found here. The guitar, bass and melody tones are standard-fare for the genre, albeit they show a good bit of discretion in how tightly they mesh with one another. Themes of desolation and hopelessness are the order of the day, both musically and lyrically. The tracks "Solar Eye", "The Leveling" and "Physical Universe Distorts" deserve special mention, the first for its unparalleled execution of a rhythm that actually moves the way the sludge gods intended, and the latter two for their absolutely uncompromising darkness that borders on the unmusical. Their sheer sparsity makes them more oppressive than other tracks (and other bands) where ornamentation is used to convey the doom. For this reason, the album never reaches a point of sounding contrived or carelessley composed. All in all, tasteful.

Production - 9
Composition - 7
Originality - 5.5
Overall - 7.1

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