Thursday, 10 September 2009

Tearstained - Monumental in Its Sorrow. 80/100.

As far as underground musicians go, surely Michael Bayusik is one of the busiest? I came across Night Conquers Day a long time ago. In fact, they were one of the first American black metal bands I uncovered and what a gem stone they are. Unnoticed and unappreciated, Night Conquers Day may have managed to conquer the light with their consuming darkness, but they never managed to take the American scene, let alone drawn a significant global appeal, by storm. The people who do know about their existence often praise their music, saying it was “ahead of its time” and “as fresh back then as it is today”. Whilst these statements are true, the band were still neglected in favour for this Bayusik project, Tearstained, a band I haven’t managed to get into until now. I’m surprised by my own actions, once again, as the similarities between this band and Night Conquers Day are truly overwhelming, so the transition from one to the other should have been made with relative ease, but I never managed to sit through an entire Tearstained record until recently when I forced myself to listen to what Michael had to offer on an individual basis. A significant portion of Night Conquers Days’ praise was generated by a combinational style that took subtle hints of symphonic black metal, given the heavy involvement of the keyboards, and the ever present guitars and the same can be said for Tearstained who operate much in the same vein as Michael’s other project.

The debut, ‘Monumental In Its Sorrow’ could very well be a Night Conquers Day record if you ask me. The similarities, as previously stated, are simply overwhelming. Perhaps Michael was unhappy by the split of the previous band and decided to continue the style, as he probably thought it still had a place within black metal at the time, with this entity who’s name might be different, but he doesn’t pull the wool over my eyes with this almost identical sounding band. If you have any experience with Night Conquers Day, but not Tearstained, as was the case for me, well, welcome home because the bands sound very similar and I expect the transition from the keyboard based style of the former will have geared you up for the keyboard based style of the latter. Michael is an unusual man, who’s methods often take a much more unusual turn than with Night Conquers Day. He offered vocals on that band, so one should expect a similar style on this record and that is most certainly what we have on offer. The vocals, however, tend to deviate more on this record than on either ‘The First Snowfall’ or ‘Rebellion Is The Art of Survival’. At some points, Michael’s vocals descend into madness as they take on a style closer in relation to power metal than black metal. As far as I am aware, there are no power metal influences on this band but the vocal styling would suggest otherwise as Michael hits high note after high note, singing like a glorified 80’s power metal vocalist in his prime.

The vocals are ludicrous in relation to black metal, but they work, which is odd and exciting. His banshee style of screams, high pitched wails and spoken melodies, whilst being different from one another, all join forces with the juxtaposed instrumentation that has a much harsher tone to it. Having said that, some of the black metal screams still exist here, just sparsely. They don’t seem to figure in the plans of Michael’s vision of this band and whilst this does strike me as a little strange, his usually clean voice is different from the majority of bands, giving him a distinctive edge in the battle for creativity and dynamism. His voice, the vocal point of the bands style, is definitely dynamic and forceful. His high pitched screams do have a tendency to draw a few laughs from time to time, but the instrumentation seems to take itself dead seriously. Though the production seems a little weak on the surface, it has its advantages. Somehow, despite being a little darker than I’d like, it allows the lighter passages, such as the delicate symphonies of the keyboards to tread lightly across the fragile base. Songs like ‘Bat Horde’ allow the production to show its full disdain by crushing the listener with the typical rasps of Michael and dirty black metal style which is oddly led by the bass and double bass.

A lot of the guitar work on the rawer, dirtier songs is a bit thin as it enables loose melodies to attempt to flow, but never quite reaches its full potential. The ethereal passages led by the airy keyboards are the best one’s, especially when combined with the wild style of Michael’s clean vocal expressions but, at points, this style is lost in the melee as the dirty style overrides it. This is when the structures become rather clichéd and take on a lifeless style closer to that of the poorer Darkthrone efforts, but with keyboards, as ‘Suicide Pact’ highlights. However, these moments are few and far between for the most part and service is resumed as normal when more melancholic songs, filled with emotion, are drawn back into the mix as with ‘Dead To This World’ with its eerie vocals and light hearted acoustics in the background. Though I rate Night Conquers Day higher than Tearstained, at this point, I do enjoy this debut and as far as one man bands go, this isn’t the worst and is, in fact, very unusual, giving it more of an appeal despite the unflattering production values and temperamental guitar work on occasions.

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