Monday, 11 January 2010

Alienation Cold - Forest of the Dead. 85/100.

The development and progression of the Eastern European scene has been slow and sluggish, particularly across Russia and the Ukraine, areas where black metal has a mighty reputation. To say the scene hasn’t taken off in the way that I would have liked it to would be to underestimate the problems that Eastern Europe is facing. For every gem I happen to come across in this part of the world, there are several more in the West, a place where black metal has truly flourished since the beginning of the much coveted second wave. Considering the East’s capacity to produce modern legends like Drudkh, a well respected force in the modern era, the Eastern European circuit hasn’t lived up to its potential, which it most certainly has in abundance. The surface material isn’t showing the strength that Western Europe has provided black metal with over a number of years and is faltering behind the likes of America as well and even Japan. Despite its ability to produce one, or two outstanding bands, the scene is devoid of a long list of talents. It’s bare bones, as far as I’m concerned.

The position of the East is difficult now that the West has gotten a firm grip on the scene. Most fans seem to neglect this area of Europe simply because it’s easier to find outstanding bands in the West and why bother trawling through hours worth of time and effort in the East when you can easily access the very best the scene has to offer in quick time in the West? A sheer lack of experience and creative know how is what Eastern Europe is facing. Though they have an array of talented musicians, they’re just not creating the spark that would make fans more inclined to follow the scene elsewhere. In order to grab our attention, the East needs to provide something the West doesn’t, or at the very least something like it, but in a slightly different vein, in order to keep things fresh. However, as far as I can tell, the scene, both the well known and obscure underground factions, has an abundance of “clones”. This means bands who look to recreate what the Western European side had in the early to mid 1990’s.

Whilst this would have been seen as terrific a number of years ago, it’s time to let bygones be bygones and start a fresh, tapping into new sounds and new streams of thought which get the creative juices flowing and the listeners salivating as if they’ve just smelt a nice plate of steak and seen a cold beer. Alienation Cold are here to provide people like me with an ounce of hope. I don’t foresee a sudden rush of fans to Alienation Cold’s door, nor do I even see a steady rise in popularity. The fact remains that Russia and Russian black metal is far too obscure to provide a succession of bands who can compete with the likes of fellow Eastern European act Drudkh, or Nokturnal Mortum, for example. This side of the world requires an awful lot of talent, perhaps outspoken methods and values in order to become recognised and Alienation Cold’s blissful atmospheric black metal with ambient touches just isn’t marketed well enough to become the next big thing, on a global scale.

Personally, though it may seem as if I think very little of Russian black metal, I regard ‘Forest of the Dead; Alienation Cold’s debut full-length, very highly. This seemingly generic entity has pulled off one a remarkable feat because, as far as I can tell, they have a small, but strong fan base who’re dedicated to spreading the word about this bands sound. There are elements about the bands sound which won’t appeal to people, such as the drums seemingly being programmed, rather than performed by an actual living drummer. If they are in fact programmed, then they’re done tastefully and do not detract from the genuine creativity that comes in bursts during this memorable debut. The drums may not be authentic, but they still play their part in conjuring the awesome atmosphere that swells to boiling point even in the early stages of this mammoth record. This level of positivity is amassed by two different areas, the first being the keys and synths, which delicately layer the atmosphere with a soaring quality that inspires and the second is a Blut Aus Nord styled distortion of guitar and in atmosphere.

Although I didn’t pick up on it immediately, this record definitely sounds akin to Blut Aus Nord’s earlier works, like ‘The Work Which Transforms God’. This comparison is drawn up by the textures of the guitar and the atmosphere, which is huge throughout the entire record. There aren’t too many other elements which remind me of the successful French band, or any other band for that matter, but this breeds a feeling of individuality in Alienation Cold’s music. The use of keys and synths is pivotal to this because, whilst the other areas of instrumentation may seem typical of the black metal genre, playing repeatedly and in a fast fashion, these two key areas give a feeling of development upon the sound that the aforementioned French act performed many years before. This is important because it moves away from the stereotype that all Eastern European bands look to imitate the West down to the last detail. So, once again, although this isn’t a ground breaking piece of atmospheric black metal and I cannot foresee it taking the world by storm, it is still genuinely strong and definitely worthwhile investing your time in if you feel that the East deserves its chance to impress.

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