Monday, 2 August 2010

Suamanucaedere - Mortem Sibi Consciscere (2009) 58/100.

My perception on Swiss black metal is bound by a severe lack of knowledge. This isn’t a country I’ve cared much to explore until recently with discoveries like Astral Silence and this band, Suamanucaedere and their debut full-length ‘Mortem Sibi Consciscere’. When most people think of modern black metal and Switzerland, it’s hard to think of anything other than Darkspace, or even their associated bands like Paysage D’Hiver and Sun of the Blind, but to a much lesser extent. The country itself is relatively small and therefore it isn’t much of a surprise that they’re somewhat lacking in terms of quality and strength in depth, but there is the odd band scattered here and there that do fulfill the average listener. After a few listens to ‘Mortem Sibi Consciscere’, I can safely say this album is more hit-or-miss than a idiot proof investment. There are a few difficult areas which the listener must persist through in order to reach the better half of the material but even then, the side which consists of this better material isn’t exactly that strong either.

In ‘Mortem Sibi Consciscere’ with have a largely unsustainable sound with an odd use of bass and a very mixed use of production to increase, or decrease the atmosphere. On the first song , for example, the two musicians who have manufactured this band into what it is, focus on a sombre atmosphere through slow moving structures and a relatively clean style. The opening to ‘Covered’ is very typical of depressive black metal bands. It is formed of a slow single stroked guitar with a very engaging sound. The song quickly transforms in to the basis of what is to follow for the remainder of the duration, though it does have a tendency to occasionally, and briefly, break away into a sound which resembles that of the opening minute of the song. The bass was something I instantly recognised. Seeing as Thaarsis provides the bass alone, with Jehoruan providing the drums, guitars and vocals, he seems to want to stamp his authority on the atmosphere of this opening song in particular by playing over the top of the guitars at several points during the song.

The guitars, which remain largely clean for long periods at a time, don’t tend to dominate as much as they usually do on depressive black metal albums. In fact, for the entirety of this opening song, with the infrequent use of harsh Shining-esque screams, which add a doomier quality to the dense atmosphere, the bass and the double bass on the drums provide the main outlet. I was relatively surprised by this fact as the bass is usually a hidden aspect of bands like this. Although refreshing, the double bass can be a tad overwhelming on occasions and could have done with filtering into the atmosphere a little more cohesively and timidly instead of blasting its way through the slow to mid paced structure and causing general unrest. The bass itself relies too much on treble and rumbles on in the background without regard to the somewhat weak guitar distortion. The song itself is a decent opening overall, but could have had a tighter construction through controlling the habits of the bass and allowing the guitars to dominate with mood altering riffs, regardless of how repetitious they are.

Occasionally, the atmospheres will appear in the form of a second rate Velvet Cacoon track, or any other such wall-of-sound black metal band. Lots of layered distortion, but no real penetration. The band have the tools to amass a good soundscape throughout their songs, but are more concerned with other matters rather than concentrating on the quality of the riffs -- the central figure to any black metal song. ‘Disappear Into The Empty And The Mournful’ is where things begin to come undone. The production takes an unexpected turn and becomes far more forceful with the distortion from the guitars. As well as this, some slow variation of black metal screams are implemented into the mix with added force, giving the atmosphere a much less laid-back approach. This song, which is also a lot like a few others in terms of dynamics, can be described as the overwhelming mediocre side.

More repetition becomes a factor and considering the riffs aren’t all that impressive to begin with, given the lengthy nature of most songs, they can easily become tedious and dull. The vocals offer very little to the atmosphere, too. They’re far too slow and not heavy enough to match up to the guitars, or the bass backbone. Although the bass itself tends to fade away during the songs like this one, it can still be felt, though it becomes a back-up to the guitars which are fairly drab and monotonous. The drums remain quite clear and concise throughout, which surprised me. Even through the distortion and the use of cymbals, the hi-hat and such, the percussion sounds far less demanding on the atmosphere and less penetrative than the distortion. When ‘Close The Fills Me With Pain’ comes round, the album once again shifts its pattern towards a lighter sound with strange, haunting guitar effects dominating alongside the drums.

This song offers a doomier side to the bands sound, like the opening song, but also adheres to the depressive side of black metal through the distorted, repetitious guitars. Though the songs don’t lack emotional value, they’re not quite up to the standards of fellow European bands like Trist who have done this type of sound before and much better. On occasions, the album can feel rather amateurish as the production tends to hinder it at every turn. The drums will shift towards the mediocre sound of the guitars and the vocals will no longer become a factor, making me question why they were even used in the first place as they had no real control over anything. Also, songs like ‘Coagulated Blood’ and ‘Exit’ are simply far too long. They don’t have the depth, quality or dynamics to warrant such lengthy ventures. Also, every song seems vastly different from the last in terms of what it does and does not do, even in the production, so everything feels very uneven and unstable. The vocals during songs like ‘Coagulated Blood’ even adopt new styles unexpectedly and throw me off constantly. A real disappointment.

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