Saturday, 24 July 2010

Kodiak - Kodiak (2009) 58/100.

My search for funeral dooms saving grace continues with a seemingly well respected three-man German group called Kodiak. Until their split album with Nadja, a colossal Canadian drone/doom band, I had no idea this band even existed. Through my blatant fanboyish ways when it comes to Nadja, I was introduced to this bands torturous blend of drone and doom, though not through their split with the Canadian duo, but through their self-titled full-length effort, an album which I managed to pick up for free from the bands record label as they’re kindly allowing people to download it legally. I had few expectations as I took my first venture into the world of funeral doom/drone in the form of Kodiak, but I had expected them to be like a less dreamy version of Nadja, given the fact that this band also attempts to blend funeral doom into their atmosphere.

Having listened to Kodiak’s debut, I can safely say the two cannot be compared. Unless you’re looking to draw comparisons from minor details like lengthy songs, then there is no comparison to be made as they’re worlds apart. Blending different spectrums of the metal universe together is a difficult task, but it’s made even harder when one of those genres you’re looking to incorporate with another is funeral doom. Of course, Kodiak have played it somewhat safe in merging it with drone since drone and doom are very alike in many respects. They can both be pretty sluggish genres, especially when combined as Kodiak do here with their two mammoth songs, one titled ‘Beginning’ and the other ‘End’. Out of the two, ‘Beginning’ is definitely the stand-out addition to this full-length, but perhaps not for reasons you might expect if you have heard the song for yourself. In regards to this being funeral dooms saving grace, well, it isn’t.

In actual fact, this debut full-length is just a continuation of all things mediocre as far as the unhealthy sub-genre and its beleaguered reputation goes. The one reason which makes ‘Beginning’ stand out is the lush opening to the song. It begins with a really sombre string section. I assume the sound is created by a lone cello, though it could have help in forging the brilliant, but unfortunately short introduction to what is a song of considerable length (it clocks in at just under twenty minutes long). The more I listen to this song, the more it seems to follow a certain pattern and, possibly, the more a storyline is revealed, giving me the impression that this album is a concept album. Now, there are vocals available on this song, or so I think, but they’re distant, harsh and too indecipherable to make out. Lyrics are not important. Instead, it is the emotional value of the instrumentation and vocal outlet which is important.

Given the nature of the song titles, I’d like to believe I’m correct in thinking there is some sort of concept behind the material. The way ‘Beginning’ begins, evolves and ends also seems to back up my ideas. In the beginning we have a solitary cello, this plays out the most sullen of sounds. After a minute or two, the cello is joined by a distorted guitar and slow, heavy percussion with pivotal crashing cymbals that initiate the progression of the song and the album. The cello, unfortunately, eventually fades away leaving a much more hollow shell of instrumentation. Though the guitar continues the same song structure, playing exactly what the cello had done before it, the elongated chords, heavy repetition really don’t have the same affect as that of the beautiful cello, an instrument which added a significant amount of depth to the shallow atmosphere in a matter of seconds. When the cello is omitted from the song, ‘Beginning’ evolves into a generic description of anger, pain and loneliness.

The song itself is much cleaner than I had expected, but the guitars and bass do use a lot of distortion and feedback effects which make the atmosphere swell up somewhat. After a number of monotonous minutes, the vocals come into play and add very little to the album. They’re distant, dissonant screams of a slightly black metal variation. They’re muted so they don’t overwhelm, or overshadow any other element. The guitars and percussion continue to dominate for long periods, dully and without too much depth. The addition of the cello towards the end would have been an exquisite way to wrap things up, but it never comes. The song eventually gets heavier and heavier, in the way Corrupted build their songs but without as much impact. The slow, trudging atmospheres are fine, but mediocre and not in the least bit memorable. The repetitious guitars become stale, the percussion becomes dull and, thankfully, the vocals fade into the bleakness of the atmosphere.

‘End’ is equally as disappointing, though it doesn’t have the same opening. It isn’t anywhere near as captivating, mind blowing, or beautiful. The guitar work reminds me of a number of post-metal bands who use shimmering atmospherics in their build-ups. Lots of feedback, slowly introduced percussion through the cymbals and an aquatic style of atmosphere, but the song doesn’t have the middle or an end worthy enough of my time. The same slow, tedious build-ups leave me with the impression that the songs could, and probably should have been cut down and into smaller chunks because the mediocrity of the instrumentation for long parts doesn’t require twenty or so minutes to progress. Though this album seems to want to highlight the slow inducing nature of pain, the way it gradually builds, takes over, becomes so huge that nothing else seems important anymore, but eventually fades in time could have been achieved in half the time and with more effort to create longevity through captivating instrumentation, something which doesn’t become a factor until at least sixteen minutes into ‘End’ which feels too little, too late. There are flashes of worthiness, but most of the album unfolds in an unspectacular fashion. Distinctly average.

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