Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Whirling - Faceless Phenomena (2010) 82/100.

I’ve seen surprised at the sheer amount of criticism Whirling have received, especially since they’re only in the early stages of their career. With only one full-length to their name and I find it’s my duty to allow a band to settle into their rhythm and find their feet. Even if I don’t like a bands debut, I usually tend to listen to their sophomore regardless -- that is if they even have one -- to scope out whether they’ve improved in certain areas or not. In regards to Whirling, a Swedish trio of avant-gardé musicians, I thought they got off to a blistering start with this edgy, well structured debut aptly entitled ‘Faceless Phenomena’ (I consider it apt due to the lack of information on the band and their lack of a profile picture). The debut appears to combine elements of all the bands that the musicians have been in past and present, such as Lönndom’s full-length debut, ‘Fälen Från Norr’ and perhaps smaller elements of Sorgeldom’s psychedelic nature. The riffing and bass, in particular, are aspects that remind me of Lönndom and their use of entrancing structures within songs to really draw the listener in.

As with Lönndom’s debut, as well as Lik’s material perhaps, the vocals play an integral part in the entrancing nature of the album. Songs like ‘Infinity of Ghost’s’ are especially good examples of how Whirling weave psychedelic riffs around the entrancing bass and vocals to form a huge sound with lots of atmosphere to spare. The album does use a session vocalist, in the form of P. Gustafsson, a vocalist whom I know very little about. I’m unsure whether he’s worked with any other bands before, but it seems as if this is his debut on any album, for any band and he works his harsher vocals into the songs well, particularly ‘Night After Night’ which starts off at a blistering pace with a catchy bass line and backing guitars. The audibility of the bass, in particular, is very important to Whirling. Much like Lik, the occult black rock with whom none of the musicians had a part to play in (though AE does play alongside Lik’s creator in Lönndom), the bass is an integral aspect of the instrumentation.

I find it rather unsurprising that this is the case since AE has worked closely with Lik’s creator for years and has obviously seen how well Graav melds the bass into the atmosphere to enhance the entrancing qualities. Due to this, Whirling work the bass into every song very well, including songs like ‘Night After Night’, which are more pressing when it comes to the atmosphere and hammering home a harder sound which could be related to the black metal genre. Given AE and JM’s past experience with black metal bands, it is very likely that they do contain some black metal influence. In fact, if it were not for the genre description of avant-gardé dark metal, I may have recognised this as another occult black rock band given the primary clean vocal style and the importance of merging the bass and guitar together to form a catchy basis of material. Given Lönndom’s recent transformation on their latest full-length into a fully fledged folk rock band, I’m not at all surprised AE has decided to form a new metal band along these lines. It’s very closely related to some of his earlier works and possibly inspired by his good friends band, Lik.

Given that AE is now so used to working with clean vocals, I found the inclusion of a session vocalist, who provides harsh screams, a little unexpected. Though, in order to deviate from what he’s been producing recently, I daresay it’s a good, albeit bold move. The music itself doesn’t necessarily require a harsh vocalist to make it appear stronger, though the harsh vocals do suit the more furious songs like ‘Night After Night’, even if it does descend into a typically clean affair, despite the distortion of the guitars. I’ve read a number of comparisons to bands like the legendary Ved Buens Ende and though I’ve only heard their one full-length, I didn’t really get the comparison myself. Though both bands contains quite psychedelic bass and guitar riffs, and though the vocals are clean over a black metal inspired conception, I don’t see too many comparisons in the sound of either band.

To me, Whirling are more like a mixture of Lik, Lönndom, Sorgeldom (with whom the drummer here plays for) and outside influences -- possibly including post-punk bands like the mighty Joy Division given the downbeat nature of the vocals, which are superb, and the bass orientated music. Though this is regarded as avant-gardé, the format is really quite simple and easy to predict, though that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The emotional aspects of the band, given the sheer intensity in the atmosphere, are much more complex, dealing with a range of emotions through the clean and harsh vocals. ‘The Watcher’ is a good representation of how the songs unfold in a short space of time in a number of different ways. We have the cleaner side, with more progressive instrumentation towards the middle with clean guitar riffs and audible bass, then we have the fiercer side shown through the harsh vocals and hypnotic distortion. The music is cleverly wide ranging without seeming so.

The band themselves have even suggested this on their personal page, stating that they produce, “densely layered music, moving skilfully between fragility and powerful outbursts, graceful melodic and twisted imagery.” Which is precisely how it feels on songs like ‘The Watcher’, in particular. The band are experimental, though not heavily so. I had expected hauntingly clean vocals, entrancing riffs and audible bass lines. These are all delivered and successfully so. The song writing is exceptional throughout with the sparser elements, such as harsh vocals, written in suitably along the way. The songs tend to merge into one, but I enjoy that aspect of the band. The album flows more consistently that way. Perhaps not as mesmerising as Lik’s debut, or as brilliant as Sorgeldom’s psychedelic black metal ways, but this is definitely a step in the right direction for AE in particular. After the awkwardness that was Lönndom’s recent transition, I was beginning to worry that AE would lost his touch and his love for dark metal. It would seem, on the basis of this album, that he hasn’t. A solid debut.

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