Monday, 1 February 2010

Alpha Drone - Alpha Drone (2006) 80/100.

Having never afforded much time to old school styled black metal bands that incorporate the dark ambient, or noise genres, I was fairly excited about hearing Alpha Drone’s self-titled debut full-length when it arrived in the post. It’s somewhat intimidating reviewing a record created by someone who lurks on these here parts, but it’s made much easier when you’re reviewing a genuinely good piece of music with bundles of atmosphere, which is what we have here with the enigmatic arrival of John Gill’s solo project, one which reminds me of the Scandinavian second wave in some ways and the movement in France of the Les Légions Noires in others, whilst maintaining an incredible sense of individuality. Originally intended to be a follow-up to Gill’s other venture, Black Tribe, a band with whom I’ve not heard much of, Alpha Drone have kept on going, despite the fact that this is intended as a side-project to a band who have since changed their name a few times, finally settling on Antabus.

With the mysterious band photo, the lyrical themes of esoteric occultism and the origins of the bands name (stated in the additional information), Alpha Drone are certainly an intriguing prospect for any listener looking to expand upon their knowledge of all things ambient, black and noise related. My only experience of black noise last year came with the discovery of Worm blood’s ‘Mastery And Creation’, a difficult, but ultimately rewarding musical adventure into the realm of living nightmares and melodic undertones which thumped beneath the surface like an unsteady pulse. Given the level of experimentation carried out on that 2009 debut by the three piece American band, I expected the same levels of experimentation to be a leading factor on this record and I was right for doing so. Despite the fact that this is probably a very cheaply made, perhaps bedroom based band, the material is often quite delicate in places, despite the use of waves of chaotic distortion throughout most of the records duration.

Given the long nature of some of the songs, it’s to be expected that Gill, who has a history with experimental black metal bands, would meld high levels of creativity and innovation into this record. So much so that it’s hard to decipher who or what the influences are, beyond looking to Aldous Huxley's masterpiece novel "Brave New World". At times, I hear variations of what Burzum laid down in the early 90’s in Gill’s shrieking vocals (as shown perfectly on ‘To Take Earth Back From Man’) and at other times, I hear instrumentation akin to work done by Darkthrone on some of their earliest black metal recordings. The lack of explanation serves one true purpose and that is to help build upon the already huge sense of mystique behind the music. The atmospheres present within the songs themselves already do this tremendously, but with the help of other factors, it makes the feeling of mysteriousness even stronger.

One can only assume what the influences might be and how they are used to pull the strings behind the scenes, but it would definitely seem that Norway and it’s long history with black metal have a major part to play in the formation of this record. As I pointed out previously, songs like ‘To Take Earth Back From Man’ show a distinct likeness to Burzum’s material from all eras as it blends repetitive guitars, distortion and Varg-esque vocals superbly. The production is very thin and doesn’t do the greatest job at holding together the music and vocals that well, but it does suffice and still manages to highlight the better areas of Alpha Drone’s performance where old and new meet to form a relationship between differing characteristics as shown in the use of clichéd weather samples, repetitive riffs and Burzum inspired vocals. Although I wouldn’t call him an inspiration to Gill, given the timeline in which this record and The Ruins of Beverast’s records came out, but some of the disturbing ambiance reminds me of Alexander von Meilenwald’s eclectic style, especially songs like ‘The Sophonaut’.

Areas such as these are very cyclical and don’t tend to offer the kinds of variation a person might wish to find within associated genres such as dark ambient and noise, but there is enough creative spark hidden deep beneath the poor production as the instrumentation aligns the various influences with a good degree of melody and wintry haze, which is viewed as perfection to people like me who’re fans of bands who use huge, densely populated atmospheres where each facet of the instrumentation works closely together to form a tight knit community - though, to be fair, Gill was probably working on a very tight budget and has managed to transfer his macabre ideas well. In fact, despite the production, much of the material still manages to form atmospheres worth hearing due to their eerie nature and compelling listening. Definitely one for the open minded metal fan who has an interest in black, ambient and noise music.

No comments:

Post a Comment