Friday, 18 September 2009

Pestilential Shadows - In Memoriam, Ill Omen. 90/100.

Pestilential Shadows are a typical band in some senses of the word. The band are the epitome of the clichéd “evolutionary style”. This means that the band began with firm roots that attached them to the iconic second wave lo-fi style and then, step-by-step, the sound gradually altered towards a more perfected, professional style that was audible on all fronts, not just one. With ‘Embrace After Death’, Pestilential Shadows established themselves as an odd band who were seemingly influenced by the modern movement of depressive black metal, but with a productive style that draws our minds back to the Scandinavian second wave that embraced the lo-fi qualities that made their music sound far more aggressive, cold and dissonant. Sound quality has been the main difference between each of the recordings and whilst this is expected, given the fact that the band have now released three records with three different record labels - and that ‘Embrace After Death’ was conceived several years before a record label even decided to hand it out to a wider public audience - the alterations have been drastic.

‘Embrace After Death’ was a throwback to the days of old, when Scandinavia had their hands on the black metal scene, with its showering of lo-fi qualities that turned it into a chaotic and cold masterpiece that portrayed the hellish qualities of the afterlife. ‘Cursed’, on the other hand, was a step up from the debut in terms of sound quality but, perhaps ironically, the band lost a lot of appeal with a more professional sound. It was a more mature effort, but it lacked the drive and minimalistic vision that ‘Embrace After Death’ showed us with its evil and wicked guitar and vocal combination. ‘Cursed’ was plagued with a lack of originality and, once again, ironically, this was a concept widely used on the debut that worked wonders for the band given the lo-fi style. Unfortunately for Pestilential Shadows, after my harsh review for the sophomore record, I considered the band to have lost a future fan. However, after many months, I grew to find ‘Cursed’ more tolerable and even likable in some respects and no matter what sort of feelings I harboured towards the bands future, I could never have expected what I got with ‘In Memoriam, Ill Omen’. Though, as previously stated, the production has changed, again, there are no gripes with what Pestilential Shadows have achieved here.

This is a more focused effort, drawing my mind back to the haze and mist of the lo-fi debut that constructed a record of evil proportions. This record, like that one, is evil incarnate. The vocals, the guitars, even the bass - this record screams of pure unadulterated hatred towards mankind. ‘Cursed’ the decidedly mediocre middle ground is the brunt for more abuse now that ‘In Memoriam, Ill Omen’ has finally arrived. This record was set for release at some stage during 2008, but there seems to have been numerous problems with the recording. I’m not precisely sure why the record was delayed as long as it was, but I do remember thinking we probably wouldn’t get to hear it for a few more years whilst the band sorted out their record label issues. This time, the Australian act have switched from influential label GoatowaRex, to the lesser known Pulverised Records, who I am largely unfamiliar with. With GoatowaRex, Pestilential Shadows seemingly had a label that would take them on to the next level and, given the fact that the band have now moved elsewhere for assistance, the Aussies have realised that their relationship with GoatowaRex were not a match made in heaven and ‘Cursed’ is a truly apt name.

With the move to Pulverised, Pestilential Shadows have come back - fresh and renewed from their lacklustre mid-era sound. Thankfully, the best bits about ‘Cursed’, which includes this fresh guitar sound, have remained, but been heightened in the process. Since its been three whole years on from ‘Cursed’, the band have had a lot of time to become accustomed to one another after the numerous line-up changes that occurred in the early stages of this bands career. With ‘Cursed’, a more mature sound was trying to force its way out of a paper bag, but came up short as it lacked the metaphorical punch to give it that much needed boost. With ‘In Memoriam, Ill Omen’, there is an energy to the sound that was previously unheard and it has culminated in some truly astonished songs, such as ‘Beautiful Demise’ and the infectious ‘Sundered’. Slowly moving on from their sketchy past, Pestilential Shadows have worked around their previous issues and built a foundation upon which they can grow into a mighty act, enforcing their lyrical themes of death and genocide upon the human race.

One thing ‘Cursed’ truly lacked was the style to conjure up vivid imagery of what they’re singing about - this is not a problem on ‘In Memoriam, Ill Omen’. The song writing has improved, to accommodate a more wholesome, infectious vibe that gives the songs a more melodious depth, that they truly needed. This is a visionary record, reliant on some repetition (though not as much as the debut) and a collaborative sound through the audible production that actually gives the bass a stable ground to work from. Even the instrumental song showcases the bands ability to cope with instrumentation alone, whereas the debut was perhaps reliant on the guitars and vocals to produce the massive wall-of-noise sound. The distortion hasn’t been lost, but it is now controlled with a much more professional sound, one which allows all elements to freely move around like haunting apparitions. ‘In Memoriam, Ill Omen’ is a major step up from ‘Cursed’ and indicates that this Australian band are once again a great prospect.

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