Monday, 1 February 2010

Be Persecuted - End Leaving (2009) 80/100.

Whether or not the Chinese scene has adopted characteristics of the Scandinavian scene, during the period where the second wave dominated, is on people’s minds when it comes to this talented three piece band, Be Persecuted. Having been a firm favourite of mine for many years, I was pleased when No Colours announced that the Chinese outfit were working on a new full-length record, entitled ‘End Leaving’. Given the similarities between the debut demo and the debut full-length, I had not expected a major overhaul in terms of how Be Persecuted come across. However, ‘End Leaving’ throws up a few noteworthy surprises that had me gasping with shock and some attributes have little to do with the outcome. There is, or was a degree of mystique surrounding the band due to the lack of information regarding their origins and on the musicians themselves. Initially I thought, as most misogynistic metal fans would do, that the band were an all-male concoction, but doubts were raised when I began to read some information about the band. With it not being too detailed, perhaps I should have taken it with a pinch of salt, but with my unenviable personality trait of wanting to please the reading public, I assumed there was no reason to believe the information was misleading.

I was wrong for placing my trust in untrustworthy details. Photographs of the band were inclusive in the past and, as you can now tell with the newly updated band photo, there are no doubts over the vocalists gender, as Zhao is clearly male. People had suggested that the vocalist was female in the past and I suppose that left a far greater impression on me than if I had known the vocalist was male because men are associated with black metal vocals more often than women, something I would like to see change in the future with an influx of capable female vocalists, such as Kriegtalith from Darkestrah, for example. Now that I am viewing the vocalist as being male, my desire is to scrutinise his performance as the lead vocalist even more, due to the competitive field that is bolstered by some truly astonishing vocalists, such as Icare from Gris. Normally I don’t place too much importance of vocals, but the vocalist has been under the spotlight for some time, due to the inability of the public to decipher what his gender was before recent information shed some light of the problem.

Zhao is a capable vocalist, his performances on the previous full-length highlights this, but the portrayal of the vocals, and the instrumentation in general, has altered from ‘I.I’ to now. To me, it sounds as if Zhao actually has more creative influence than any of the other musicians because Be Persecuted have gone down a similar road to many modern black metal bands and his side-project, Dopamine, a shoegazing post-black metal band, or whatever you wish to call them. Regardless of their genre description, Dopamine’s sound has been transferred over and onto Be Persecuted’s new record with a view to incorporating more softer textures. Now, I love what I’ve heard of Dopamine and am generally a huge fan of post-rock and shoegaze being intermingled with black metal, or metal in general, but I certainly didn’t expect Be Persecuted to shake off the characteristics which kept them firmly rooted to the depressive scene. A few things haven’t changed, but there are notable differences between the two records and even now, I’m not sure whether they’ve found their niche or any real fluency to their game.

As I said, some areas are the same, so it’s easy for someone like me to comprehend how they’ve moved from one full-length to another. For example, the production, though smoothed out in other places, still fixates on distortion like most black metal bands would do in terms of the guitars. The record does contain a number of cleaner aspects than the previous record, as songs like the emotive ‘Curtain Call’ highlight. Though this is only an instrumental song, it works as a good example of the cleaner passages that Be Persecuted have integrated into their music on the new record. I consider this record far more accessible to the modern listener than the previous. With it’s semi-acoustic passages and expected sombre weather samples, the record introduces a sound which is both comforting due to its familiarity and shocking due to its unfamiliarity. The record poses some interesting juxtaposed ideas as shown in its movement to be both familiar and unfamiliar to the hardened Be Persecuted fan. The more I listen to ‘End Leaving’, the more I believe Zhao has a lot to say when it comes to the formation of the songs.

Although Autism seems to be the central figure when it comes to actually pouring those influences onto the disc - seeing as he controls the drums, guitars and keyboard arrangements - Zhao seems to have led Be Persecuted into the new year with an eye on the modernity has struck the black metal scene as of late, with genres like shoegaze being integrated into the soundscapes. As ‘The Last Right’ finished, I was left with an uneasy feeling that Be Persecuted might have unwisely dug a deeper hole for themselves, one that they wouldn’t be able to get out of. Switching from one much maligned sub-genre to another is probably not a wise move, but evolution is unstoppable. I’m glad that Be Persecuted have moved in a new direction, I’m just not entirely sure this is the right one for them. I suppose I’m sitting on the fence in regards to my opinion of this record. Given the change in sound, they either have significantly improved upon the fuzz-laden sound of old (which is still largely in place), or demolished a solid reputation. I love the cleaner guitar passages and stronger connection of the listener to the drums, as on songs like ‘All End Soon’, but some of the cleaner vocals remind me of poor South American bands, or even acts like Happy Days. Although I loved the wintry haze of the distortion on 'I.I', I'm glad it isn't the main domineering force anymore. Areas like the bass have more involvement as such and this definitely gives the record a more prominent sound. Once again, this is terrific in parts, but certainly could do with some work.

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