Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Im Nebel - Vitriol (2008) 60/100.

Im Nebel are my first taste of Georgian metal, as far as I’m aware. This sovereign state, located in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, has had a lot of negative attention in the media in recent years due to the political problems occurring from within her boundaries after engaging in armed conflict with Russia. This state has a long running history with Russia after being annexed by the Russian Empire at the beginning of the 19th century and being incorporated into the Soviet Union in the early 20th century just a mere few years after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Due to her association with Russia, it isn’t unwise to expect a metal scene as strong as the Russian underground. The metal scene within Russia can be exceptional, particularly in relation to her black metal roots. Georgian metal is a new concept to me and, after listening to Im Nebel’s debut full-length, entitled ‘Vitriol’, I must say I’m somewhat hesitant to revisit Georgia again for another stab at succeeding within the black metal genre, though this is technically a symphonic black metal band. Or at least that is how they’re depicted.

In actuality, they’re a black metal band with a keyboardist who supplied piano-esque passages more so than symphonic structures and when he does supply them, they’re not at all imperative to the direction of the songs. Not a symphonic black metal band because he doesn’t many any symphonies, or symphonic structures. As ‘Exodus’ perfectly showcases, his performance when it comes to producing symphonic undertones is minimised by the overbearing guitars which produce riffs that don’t seem central to the songs. This isn’t to say the album is a complete waste of space because it isn’t. The mixture of clean instrumentation and vocals can be pleasing, but the harsher aspects, particularly in relation to the guitars and vocals, is quite poor and under-developed. I imagine the scene with Georgia is still somewhat primitive and certain sides to this album showcase that theory quite well, such as songs like ‘Zeitgeist’, a real mixed bag of elements.

The clean vocals explored on this specific song are very good. Alongside the sweet sounding acoustics, they feel exceptional and enhance the atmosphere of the song. I find, even though these sections feel warm in comparison to the harsher side of the Georgian band, that the atmospherics are very cold and unmoving. The vocals, though splendid in their Garm-esque (or perhaps ISC Vortex style -- particularly on the final Arcturus album, ‘Sideshow Symphonies’), don’t manage to hide the abrasive nature of the darker side to the band. Though it’s always nice to see a symphonic band embrace the darker elements of black metal, Im Nebel are a raw talent and unrefined. Their attempts to incorporate soft, lighter passages seem unwise given the extent of the distortion displayed by the guitar and the lack of fluidity supplied by the drums, which often sound very out-of-place.

Songs like ‘Unbeliever’s Script’ sound fairly pretentious in their attempts to meld a piano into a song which is, on occasions, rather unrelenting in its belief that pushing harsher instrumentation will heighten the grimness of the black metal elements, whilst this clearly feels like a black/gothic hybrid at times, particularly when the clean vocals spread their wings on songs like the aforementioned, though I do genuinely like them, but with the addition of multiple acoustic sections alongside a really poor, unmotivated guitar tone which fails to establish a connection with the listener and lazy bass then it doesn’t sound right. The bass is mostly used as a back-up to the guitars, as shown perfectly on ‘The Journey To The Center of I’ and although it does occasionally show some degree of experimentation, it never really strays from what the guitar does. As a back-up, it doesn’t enhance the emotional side to the guitars because there is no emotional side to the guitars.

This album doesn’t tend to convey much through the rasped vocals, which really should have been left off the album altogether, or the expected greater elements like the bass and, primarily, the guitars. The introduction to the album is also poor. Two very short, unnecessary songs lead us into the album without much warning of what is to come. They don’t prepare you, they don’t inspire you and they don’t move you. They’re needless and made no difference to the album whatsoever. If they were stripped off from the album like dated wall paper from a dusty wall then it would have had little bearing on the outcome as they simply offer very little.

The atmosphere is heightened significantly by the acoustics, piano and even the clean vocals, but the harsher aspects drag it straight back down to Earth with a bang as they’re simply unmoving, cold and callous towards the listener and don’t hook me in at all. The song writing can be a right old mess at times. The guitars don’t pull in the same direction as most other elements. They want to show-off and control proceedings, but they’re merely hindering what little good what does proceed after the brief introduction. There is a really juvenile feeling to the album, especially the rawer parts of the instrumentation which attempt at being avant-gardé by simply placing keyboards over the top with no real purpose, or enhancement of the soundscapes. This is a distinctly average album from a band who I was genuinely interested in hearing and desperately hoping to like. It just wasn’t to be.

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