Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Vulture Industries - The Dystopia Journals (2007) 78/100.

Vulture Industries, despite their similarities to fellow Norwegian band Arcturus, are a difficult one to pin down. Simultaneously, this avant-gardé act manage to pose interesting questions with both positive and negative outcomes. Since Arcturus are now a defunct entity, there is a possibility that there is room for a “clone”, a band who projects almost the exact same sound as an originator, which is Arcturus in this case. As many other reviews will suggest, Vulture Industries debut, ‘The Dystopia Journals’, is similar in its aesthetics to full-lengths like ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ and partially ‘The Sham Mirrors’. In terms of its characteristics, this record does display a lot of the same techniques that the aforementioned two records possess, particularly in reference to the bands vocalist, Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen, a man who sounds like a mixture of the power of Garm and the subtlety of ICS Vortex. I must admit I find it somewhat strange that a “clone” can exist without persecution in some sub-genres, whilst in others they’re ridiculed for a lack of invention and not being able to detach themselves from their own influences and enforcing their own style as a result.

Vulture Industries aren’t exactly a carbon copy of Arcturus as they do use a few different techniques, but the results of these minor differences doesn’t do anything to hide the glaringly obvious fact that ‘The Dystopia Journals’ is heavily influenced by aforementioned avant-gardé greats such as Arcturus. Whilst I see no crime in openly displaying to your audience what your influences are and how they have shaped your music, but I would still encourage musicians to deploy their own creative juices into the mix to pre-emotively quash any doubts that their brand of music is just the little brother of a well known giant. Unlike Arcturus, Vulture Industries use guest musicians to incorporate gentle string instruments, such as the cello and violin, into their sound which does dispel some fears that this record is just going to be a re-run of old sounding material. Whilst I do believe that a number of the Arcturus records do transcend time and sound fresh even against the modern scene, that doesn’t mean to say bands who adopt the style won’t sound old fashioned. After all, avant-gardé by definition is experimenting and there isn’t too much of that going on here when one considers the heavy influence that certain other records have had upon this unusual product.

For me, I’m afraid, incorporating subtle string sections into songs like ‘Soulcage’ doesn’t justify an avant-gardé description. Also, this record certainly doesn’t pertain to the black metal genre. Occasionally, Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen will resort to generic harsh vocals, which find themselves lost between a growl and a rasp but, other than small elements, there are no ties to the black metal genre. This record certainly doesn’t take the penetrative atmosphere of Arcturus’ debut, which was an experimental black metal record and harness that into an influence. It takes influence predominantly from the mid-era records, namely the two which keep cropping up in this review. I would regard this record as extreme metal with an experimental twist, though that twist is hardly surprising and doesn’t disguise any outside influence. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Of all the bands to take influence from, Arcturus are not the worst. It’s refreshing to see a group of musicians imitate someone other than Varg’s early Burzum records, or any of the usual suspects, including the major second wave bands like Darkthrone, particularly, and Immortal.

Although I do regard this as imitation metal, I still enjoy ‘The Dystopia Journals’, for the most part. The generic harsh vocals could do with ditching but, other than that, we have several capable musicians to dwell on here, with particularly delightful clean vocals from the Garm-sound-alike Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen and other such elements like the low-lying bass and soaring programming, shown exceedingly well on songs like ‘The Benevolent Pawn’, a song which highlights the capabilities of this otherwise well rounded bunch. Alongside providing some superb clean vocals, though they’re not quite up to the standard of the master himself (Garm), Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen also provides the background programming, though on songs like ‘Grim Apparitions’, the programming moves to the foreground alongside the drifting bass, which interweaves between instruments cleverly. On songs like this, the bass, though rather repetitive, doesn’t just act as a back-up to the guitars, it leads the atmospherics into the more expansive sections slowly, giving the listener time to dwell on the finer points.

The programming usually isn’t as forceful as it is on the Arcturus records though, perhaps something to do with the fact that Arcturus had an expert keyboardist providing the material, which can make some of the atmospheres appear frivolous when they ought to be outstanding. As with aspects like the bass, the programming enjoys living in the shadows and allowing the guitars to control the flow, though it will subtly move soundscapes along too. Although I would criticise Vulture Industries for believing adding strings to songs would make them more innovative, I do enjoy the sparse use of the cello and violin. These sombre instruments add a new texture to the material which isn’t as extreme as the guitars though, as I said, these aspects are sparse and don’t frequently change the direction of the record. Regardless, Vulture Industries are a competent act and with some consistency, and perhaps more of their own personalities thrown into the bubbling pot, they could be onto something special in the future as I, for one, sorely miss Arcturus and could do with someone to fill the void whilst they’re not around.

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