Wednesday, 13 January 2010

From the Sunset, Forest and Grief - ...Empty, Cold & Forgotten.... 82/100.

Can depressive black metal still be considered a niche market? I’m not so sure. The sub-genre has become what I would consider to be “dangerous”. It’s far too easy to pigeon hole bands and state, without doubt, that they’re a depressive act, even if they themselves do not consider their music to be in line with its methods. There seems to be a general sound which most depressive bands abide by and stick strictly to, so when artists claim their music doesn’t pertain to this certain branch of black metal, fans will still persist of calling them a member because the facts seem to be on their side. Or are they? There have been heated discussions on the subject almost everywhere I see black metal being mentioned on the world wide web. The sub-genre is even stretching its hand of confusion over other sub-genres, tightly gripping and squeezing the life out of them. Bands who would not normally have had anything to do with this movement before its popularity really began to boom are feeling the force of its suffocating presence simply by being associated with it.

Exile due to associative ties is not uncommon in the metal world, one known for its elitism and snobbery, particularly towards sub-genres and the modernity they bring to the scene, as well as the new crowd it draws to an otherwise reputable genre. According to a lot of old school fans, particularly those of the 1980’s scene, new faces are welcomed as hostile foes. Popularity draws claims of being “hipsterish” and this is something that appears to shun newcomers away, as well as distancing old friends, through fear of discovering the opposite of all that is metal. Bands like Alcest are facing stark realisations when a change of direction is implemented into the music and how it is when you’re viewed as all that epitomises the demise of the modern metal industry, due to the fact that they transformed from a raw black metal band, into a “flowery” overdose of oestrogen and femininity. There is something in Alcest’s situation which I see occurring in the current depressive scene and the cause of this shattering revelation is placed in the hands of long time fans and life time haters of the sub-genre.

Whilst the themes of the majority of bands still working within this much maligned sub-genre haven’t changed, over the course of the past year, late bloomers within the depressive scene have begun to search their souls for an eye catching design that will set them apart from the hordes of imitations, and the individuals who believe all you really need to do to become a success within this scene is to preach your self made material like a stereotypical religious nutcase. Acts like Pensées Nocturnes are a good example of those who have successfully managed to find an eye catching design with which to promote themselves as “not just another” depressive band. By simply adding an outside factor, the French one man act has risen to stardom and perhaps now created a rise in hybrids who utilise the classical genre alongside regulation black metal. As with Pensées Nocturnes, the pretentiously named From The Sunset, Forest And Grief have found a sound which isn’t often implemented in the sub-genre these days. This one man Mexican band have taken ambient soundscapes and plastered them over standard depressive music, forming a sound which compliments one another extremely well.

From the devastation of the distortion heavy black metal material, which features mesmerising, repetitive structures, to the juxtaposed ambient beauty courtesy of what I believe to be keyboards, this Mexican entity have tapped into a free flowing river of emotions that most bands in the sub-genre are simply missing out on. Recently however, there has been a rise in depressive acts who like to compliment their music with ambiance, such as Lustre and their debut ‘Night Spirit’. Although that record features a lot more minimalism from the keyboards, both records apply a tasteful, fragrant ambient section to their music which adds a lot more depth to their songs. Although, on the surface of things, this may just seem like another by-the-book showcase, From The Sunset, Forest And Grief actually do a number of things differently to most bands, albeit only small gestures, but these do make the world of difference when considering the lack of innovation that has placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of the sub-genre.

With prejudice rife in this area of the metal spectrum, it doesn’t bode well for Daniel, the bands sole musician and creator, that he is situated in Mexico, a nation well known for its deflated depressive scene, one filled with untalented bedroom bands. Like a victim of the destructive powers of nature, it will be even harder to work around the damage a storm can bring about. Others may have been responsible for the demise of this sub-genre and its growing unpopularity, but he is facing the trials and tribulations of simply being associated to the scene, despite the fact that the bands description would have people know them as an atmospheric black metal band. Although atmosphere is here in abundance, this debut is definitely striking me as a depressive black metal record. It has all the features of one, from the biting distortion of the guitars, which cuts through our skin like the icy cold on a winters day, to the repetitive soul of the music, which is aiming to draw out a feeling of entrancement. We’re helplessly hypnotised by the forceful nature of repetitive black metal, which this most certainly is.

If it were not for the addition of the keyboards, which adds a lightly textured backdrop to the disdainful distortion, this might be considered a slightly above average record. There are also some noteworthy acoustics, used on songs like ‘Lifeless’, which actually has a lot of heart to it, sprightly moving along due to the juxtaposition of the acoustic and electric guitars. The vocals aren’t very noteworthy. Rasped and rather generic. The bass is almost unrecognisable, but that was to be expected given the incredible bite of the distortion, chomping down onto the listeners emotions like a snapping crocodile preparing for the inevitable death roll. I’ve noticed a few Mexican bands have trouble perfecting their percussion section and this unfortunately applies to this band, too. The drums sound flat and could perhaps be programmed, which would explain a lot. I don’t have a major problem with them, they just sound uninspired, especially when one takes into consideration the fact that Daniel obviously does have a far more expressive side, hence the inclusion of keyboards and the wonderful folksy interlude at the end of the record, which features bright samples and an Agalloch inspired sound with whispered vocals alongside acoustics. ‘…Cold, Forgotten & Empty…’ is a refreshing record is some instances, but an all too familiar one in others. Definitely a band to keep an eye on in the future.

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