Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Chadenn - Aux Portes de la Mort (2010) 35/100.

A few months ago I started using the Rate Your Music website after an acquaintance suggested it to me, saying I’d like it and would probably be able to find a few good new bands on there through their recommendations. After an initial period, I started working my way through the recommendations with mixed results. I found a few good bands that I had previously not known about but, as with all genres of music, had to sift through the frightening amount of garbage that would make any tip seem inviting. Unfortunately the fresh faces of this four-piece French band come under the section marked “rubbish”. With their recently released debut, entitled Aux Portes de la Mort’, this young French act, with only one other piece of material under their belts (a 2008 self-titled demo), have stumbled onto the scene in bad shape. This debut album, even as far as debuts go, is horrendously bland. Songs like the self-titled and ‘Revelation’ occasionally dish up a decent riff, or two, but these are short lived and the good vibes are stopped dead in their tracks by a lacklustre change in tempo, or variation on the riff which started the feel-good-factor in the first place.

This concoction is much like a number of the “raw” black metal bands scattered around both France and Scandinavia, the birth place for this type of visceral music. The raw sub-genre was never a firm favourite of mine but, like any genre or sub-genre, there are gems to be found just about anywhere, so I never completely write it off. Chadenn are what I would describe as a “by the numbers” black metal act and these are hardly what we’d call few-and-far-between. As a matter of fact, it’s these types of bands which clutter up the black metal scene and make it look damaged and dismantled. Bands like this resemble acts like the better known Avsky, from Sweden, but they lack in quality whilst bands like Avsky are able to shine, despite their monotonous and repetitive trademarks. Chadenn’s debut full-length has a few memorable riffs, which is essentially what every great metal album comprises of, but much of the material feels lukewarm, as opposed to cold-as-fuck, grim and frostbitten, which is precisely how this is meant to sound.

Instead of becoming the intimidating, feral beast that it is meant to grow into, this will always remain a cute puppy. I’m also not impressed with some of the song title choices. Like ‘Black Metal’, for example. It isn’t eye catchy, it feels gimmicky and immediately hints at a lack of creative spark - something which is felt often throughout the duration of this rather tedious album. This type of music isn’t usually sustainable for long periods of time. Even 43 minutes feels too long with this unadventurous tragedy. Albums of this nature need to be around 30 minutes long, or thereabouts. The longer they go on, the harder it is to maintain the listeners interest because this style is overly in-your-face and difficult to listen to unless you’re in the right mood, something I find particularly difficult to muster up when bands like Chadenn produce albums as dull as this. Aside from the vocals, there are no redeeming features. The bass is a mere back-up, as suspected and the drums don’t engage the listener or the atmosphere, they’re simply too busy doing their own thing (including multiple tempo changes and a dismal use of blast beats) to bother interacting with the guitars.

The vocals, which are reminiscent of vocalists like AE from Avsky, are powerful and prevailing amidst the timid instrumentation. I say reminiscent, in actual fact, they are almost identical. The vocals are perfect and would be better suited to instrumentation which can actually follow in its lead and take command. The instrumentation is the sole reason this album fails to deliver as spectacularly as it does. The song writing, although rather predictable, wouldn’t affect the outcome of the album had the instrumentation not sounded so floundering beneath the disjointed production. The production feels flat throughout, which was a grave disappointment and ultimately what affects upon the instrumentation so negatively. As a first go, I suspect I should give a certain amount of leeway but when you’re as cynical as me, you become bored very easily with music of this type, where musicians don’t know how to command an atmosphere or use the production to their advantage.

Although aspects of the song writing are still important for bands as repetitive as this, a lack of creativity and innovation in the song writing won’t necessarily hinder the outcome. Almost all bands like this, which this type of raw breed of sound, lack creativity so it didn’t come as much of a surprise that Chadenn followed suit. The emphasis of the material isn’t the same as it normally is though. Again, take Avsky as an example. Although the vocals sound somewhat muted and distant, they’re still sharp and aware of when to take their moment to shine in the overwhelming darkness of the material. The instrumentation, more importantly, isn’t flat. It’s bombastic and vibrant, despite the darkness that dwells over the atmosphere. The instrumentation is perked up by a terrific, claustrophobic type of environment, one which suit’s the evil, usually satanic branch of music. The sheer lack of volume and veracity is overwhelming. From the off, this album is already in a steady decline before it even has a chance to establish some sort of positive reputation. Bland and uneventful.

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