Saturday, 16 January 2010

Arizmenda - Within The Vacuum of Infinity. 90/100.

Ah, the sweet sound of wall-of-noise black metal. Oh, how I love the wintry connotations and wretched instrumentation which turns my stomach inside out like a psychological thriller with a fair amount of gore thrown in just for fun. I’m a huge fan of bands who use the wall-of-noise sound to portray their themes. From the zoned out Darkspace, where it feels like you’re trapped inside a living nightmare for eternity, unable to escape, to the blizzard like conditions of Velvet Cacoon’s atmosphere on the classic ‘Genevieve’. Surprisingly, despite the seeming lack of originality which comes attached to this method of creation, each band sounds completely different to the next. Whether it’s Darkspace, or Velvet Cacoon, each band has a different way of portraying the same sort of technique. Bands like Velvet Cacoon prefer to add a sense of ambiance to their atmospheres, whilst Darkspace are considered cutthroat. They go straight for the jugular and never give the listener a moments peace from the hellish atmospherics which torture and abuse their power like a sadistic priest.

Once again, as previously stated, another band of this nature has sprung loose from the vicinity of the underground, where future legends are kept to make sure they’re ready to feature on our various lists, from “best find of the year”, to “biggest surprise of the year”, or even “best record of the year”. Whether we’re considering one, or all of these categories, Arizmenda should be considered up there with the rest of them. 2009 was largely regarded as a successful year for black metal, so to gain some sense of notoriety within the scene that year was particularly difficult, especially for bands who were only releasing their debuts, like this enigmatic American band who belong to the infamous Black Twilight Circle gang, one of the leading circles in underground American black metal. Given the harrowing content of this record, it’s easy to understand the position of the Black Twilight Circle amongst fans and musicians alike. It is only now that this circle is becoming widely known and it is due to bands like Arizmenda that this is occurring. Through their debut, fittingly entitled ‘Within The Vacuum Of Infinity’, Arizmenda are establishing themselves as a force in the underground movement.

I call the record title fitting for a number of reasons. The connotations of the words “vacuum” and “infinity” are especially important when considering my earlier statement. Both words are useful in describing the music of the band. A vacuum is what sucks in the listener with the whirlwind effect of the guitars and blended bass. The bass, as with most of the bands within this uncompromising state, does not feature as notably as it does in the cleaner factions of black metal. It easily blends into the atmosphere however, creating that vacuum like sound which, again fittingly, stretches into infinity. Songs like ‘Beyond The Shadows of Emptiness & Nothingness’ suggest that Arizmenda are not comfortable with playing a straight edge no-nonsense style which is normally associated with this type of black metal. There is some variation to speak of, a quality not normally attached to wall-of-noise bands. The bass plays its part on occasions, becoming audible for short periods of time in the midst of the hazy chaos which ensues for almost the entire duration. The percussion is notably varied, whilst elements like the integral guitars remain suitably repetitive for large parts of the record.

As I said, there are creative passages, as songs like ‘Poison Yourself … With Thought’ subtly hints at, until the blistering repetition and mesmerising chaos shrouds the atmosphere once again. There is, as with a lot of bands who utilise this style, a largely undeterred beauty hidden within the depths of infinity. The atmospheres tend to stretch to breaking point up until a cleaner segment forces its way into the mix, or an ounce of innovation clears a path for the listener to grab a few seconds of breathing space before being sucked back into the entrancing vortex of negativity. There is a lot of hatred to be found in the textures of this record, which parts reminding me of bands like Darkspace, whilst other parts remind me of America’s Leviathan. Although there is definitely a place for certain influences, these only come in small doses as the vocals tend to vary, though they do remind me slightly of Wrest’s more wretched rasps.

The feeling of influences is washed away by the waves of lo-fi inspired distortion and collective instrumental chaos, reminding me of hose black/noise bands lightly fuse melody into their structures whilst maintaining a seriously devastating decorative edge as repetition and creativity take it in turns to rule the roost. I cannot picture fans of truly groundbreaking black metal picking this up and enjoying it, but as long as you can take a hefty dose of repetition and lo-fi distortion, then this will go down a storm, especially since Arizmenda certainly know how to maintain a mysterious vibe for a long period of time, increasing and decreasing the levels of experimentation without notice, as shown perfectly on songs like ‘The Agents of Transformation’, which sounds as if it could break the mould in terms of playing to a different style than the rest of the songs before it crashes the listener back down to earth in one swift movement. An absolutely devastating record, filled with moments of inspiration and delicate chaos. Wonderful misanthropic vision.

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