Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Black Lotus - Light Subsides (2006) 62/100.

Black Lotus were recommended to me as a band I would enjoy immensely. Apparently, we’re a match made in heaven, but having listened to this awkward debut, entitled ‘Light Subsides’, I felt rather differently to my peers. This nature inspired Canadian band play a more-black-than-folk style of metal, which is usually the type of thing I gobble up. I enjoy black and folk hybrids as long as there is more black present than folk because folksy music tends to be a bit too upbeat for me. Recent bands like Norway’s Galar are a good example and, in some ways, remind me of Black Lotus given the mixture of clean and harsh vocals present on an album which has steadfast, unrelenting instrumentation for long periods at a time before something breaks down the dark atmosphere, forcing some light into the equation. This usually comes in the form of the sparse clean vocals, or acoustics, but even when these are implemented into a song, the production does a firm job of keeping the music sounding quite rigid, as shown perfectly on songs like ‘Canis Lupus Luna - The Song of Boreas’.

Generally speaking, the music present here on ‘Light Subsides’ definitely isn’t upbeat, though this may be masked by the production and the stance that the bass and guitars take up, rather than the atmospherics themselves. I find that often the title for the album speaks for the instrumentation as a metaphor for what occurs during the albums forty minute plus duration. The light, which is provided by the folk elements, is submissive to the darker aspects of the album, once again shown well on songs like ‘Canis Lupus Luna - The Song of Boreas’, where the harsher instrumentation and vocals command the performance at first, before the cleaner vocals influence the structure of the song, before they’re shunted into darkness again as the lighter elements subside. If you’re expecting an album which focuses on the folksier aspects of the bands stylistic approach, then you’re bound to be disappointed as the black metal aspects rule the roost here.

As with bands like the aforementioned Galar, I much prefer the clean vocals to the harsh. The clean offer more in the way of contrast to the music, making everything seem more interesting and heightening the emotions that come from the occasionally substandard instrumentation. ‘Seal 46’ is a good representation of this. The rasped vocals and faster, more repetitive style of instrumentation isn’t very cohesive. The structures of the songs are fair, but not outstanding by any means. The harsher elements lack the impact they need to become memorable and although the juxtaposition of the cleaner elements does provide this, the cleaner side to the band is often hidden by the other side to their game, which is a shame. Although I said I prefer when bands focus more of the black side than the folk, there are always exceptions to the rule. Some bands seem more at home playing with a heavier influence from the folk side than they do the metallic side. Diadema Tristis, for example.

Black Lotus are certainly more capable than that Argentinean band however, as the increased levels of craftsmanship and musicianship shows. However, songs like ‘Seal 46’ are completely forgettable because they lack the contrast needed to make this band seem more organic and natural, which is what their lyrical themes suggest they’re meant to sound like. I thought it was a shame that the instrumental song ‘Incandescence’ went to waste because it could have quite easily been meshed into the previous song, instead of wasting away as a lone instrumental song with no real direction to it given the way in which the song previous to it panned out. This instrumental, with its acoustic and woodwind sounding base could have been incorporated into the previous song and it would have been worth a damn if it had been, but there goes another missed opportunity.

As I’ve stated on more than one occasion previous to this, the production is shoddy. It feels too dark for such a timid album. I’m aware that the band used Scott Henderson to record this album, but took a different route for the sophomore, which sounds far more professional by the by, after asking different professionals to mix, master and record the album. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine that the band were left unimpressed by the job done on the production for this album because it’s too lenient in regards to how much input the bass has -- which has a very dull sound -- and it doesn’t glorify the folksier elements as much as it should, which would have enhanced the emotional aspects of the album. If you’re looking to get in touch with what Black Lotus do, I’d recommend skipping this album and sticking with ‘Harvest of Seasons’, which is a more mature, finely produced effort than this rather mediocre piece. The occasional good use of clean vocals and lighter passages from the guitars isn’t enough to save the album from languishing in mediocrity.

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