Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Joyless - Unlimited Hate. 85/100.

Joyless are a forgotten addition to the Scandinavian black metal scene. When we think of the careers of the musicians behind the original line-up for this band, during their black metal tinted career, we think of Forgotten Woods. This band was always meant to be a side-project for Olav, Rune and Thomas, two of which still represent Forgotten Woods, so perhaps my surprise is silly, but given the familiar feeling of the material and the fact that Forgotten Woods are a well known black metal band, even in today’s scene, I imagined that Joyless would pull in the crowds in terms of their early career work since the band have now evolved into a depressive rock outfit since two of its earliest members, Rune and Thomas, have now departed. Perhaps the hype surrounding this band has died down because of the severe lack of material in recent times? Joyless’ last full-length record was nine years ago and whilst it didn’t reflect a black metal world, it still had ties to Forgotten Woods who have had a major impact on the global scene, innovating the depressive market during the mid 1990’s with their best full-lengths.

Despite the fact that Joyless’ debut consisted of two male vocalists, Olav and Thomas, I would imagine that Olav, the only surviving member of the original threesome, isn’t content to play lead vocalist by himself and for that exact reason, the impressionable Ida was conscripted to play the part of the leading vocalist and in doing so, the band were forced to change their ways on the second full-length effort and as a result, the sound was completely different from what existed on this debut, ‘Unlimited Hate’. To me, essentially, this band HAD to change styles because the debut is really similar to what Forgotten Woods were pioneering and having two similar bands, with similar styles, was never going to draw in the crowds and didn’t have the affect that the musicians had hoped for, thus the reason they left. Of course, I am purely speculating on why things evolved as they did, but I am glad they have taken the course they have since depressive rock has come on in leaps and bounds since Ida’s inclusion into the scene with her powerfully and emotive voice leading the way forward for a band truly without joy. ‘Unlimited Hate’ isn’t a pure black metal breed. It is accompanied by rock elements that were later fully focused on during the days of ‘Wisdom & Arrogance’ with Ida and company.

All three original musicians, alongside session members, were experimenting on this release and, in some ways, I think this record contributed to the post-rock/black metal affair that is taking place today. This record is littered with outside influences and doesn’t rely solely on a black metal buzz to give its listeners an adrenaline rush. Though I consider ‘Inherent Emptiness’ a rather weak opening introduction to this rock inspired black metal band, ‘Your Crystal Fragments’ really does turn this record from seeming mediocrity into a gold mine of innovative structures that has a prominent bass, wonderful array of guitar leads and devastating vocals courtesy of Thomas. Although he doesn’t quite lead the line at forcefully as Ida, this style is completely separate from what Ida created on the sophomore. It wasn’t as delicate back then as it is now and ‘Unlimited Hate’ contains a vast raw energy that consumes a lot of the atmosphere and spits it out in the form of an experimental genius. Though I consider latter day Joyless to be more experimental, one has to take into consideration the dissolving on the second wave era at this point in time and recognise the fact that black metal was making a huge step into the unknown.

In 1996, when this record was released through No Colours, black metal was beginning to see the end of the second wave which finished sometime in the late 1990’s and with it, we saw a rise in experimentation. So, although Joyless in 2000 with Ida leading and departing original members were a completely new entity in the form of a depressive rock band, this era of Joyless was a current take on modernised black metal. So, essentially, this record was ahead of its time and that might explain the lack of support. I would even consider the Forgotten Woods records, which are similar in texture, to be ahead of their time given the fact that they played a style which is more favoured by musicians today than it was back then. The fact that there is a long running debate on this records genre description really does highlight the fragility of the second wave which didn’t see many movements away from the dirty underground sound which famously ignited the career of black metal from nationwide to worldwide. Some say ‘Unlimited Hate’ represents a truly avant-gardé sound, whilst others claim it also pioneers the depressive black metal sound. Whilst sitting on the fence isn’t a favoured personality trait of mine, I’m going to say that it did both, as well as adopting new personalities along the way which includes post-rock.

Alongside other notable greats such as Fleurety and In The Woods…, Joyless’ early career isn’t given the recognition it deserves amidst the undying praise of Forgotten Woods. Songs such as ‘Your Crystal Fragments’ and ‘Blå Melankoli’ are the epitome of Joyless’ early black metal inspired sound. The former, in particular, takes all the aforementioned genres and flings them together like paint, in order to create new sounds with vividly running colours. Surprisingly, the depression of the lyrical themes, is felt more in the cleaner vocals than the distorted screams. The clean vocals are, by far, more emotive and captivating alongside the catchy drums, splendid bass lines and harmonious atmospherics which displays lush textures, rather than fierce black metal patterns. The lyrics are often decipherable given a lot of the content is clean and the production, despite pertaining to a dirtier feel, is wonderfully juxtaposed giving the sound a more varied appeal. The prominence of the repetitive bass draws this feeling out, especially when in contrast to the fluctuating guitars. Though ‘Unlimited Hate’ is, essentially, a continuation of Forgotten Woods’ full-length career, its an outrageously daring piece with many successful moments.

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