Saturday, 16 October 2010

Halo - Subliminal Transmissions (1998) 10/100.

I have no idea why I continue to do this to myself but here I am again, listening to another tasteless and untalented sludge band. Coming into this experience, I knew very little about Halo, an Australian based two-piece band. From what little I have read on them and their music, they’re like a less catchy and less rhythmic version of Godflesh, or at least their latter material could be described like that. Whilst Halo do have small similarities, for example, having a slightly industrialised sound, there isn’t much in the way of Godflesh inspired material to be found. What we do have is a weird mixture of industrial, noise and sludge. Certain songs, like ‘KKNKZK’ even remind me of the dark ambient genres, with its slowly moving soundscapes and wickedly minimalistic content. Various small descriptions I’ve seen on this band have also labelled them as “anti-music”. Seriously, what? The concept is absurd, though nowhere near as absurd as the band thinking this album was worthy of public release.

‘Subliminal Transmissions’, the title for this debut full-length, loses all respect having read the “anti-music” statement. In a way, I can understand the claim because the music on offer is trash and doesn’t deserve to be put into the same category as the musical genius of your choice. This is an abomination for a number of reasons, let alone the awful “anti-music” description. To be fair, I don’t know if it was the band themselves that have bestowed such an awful statement on themselves and, if it turns out that they have, then I will never listen to another Halo album in all my life. Come to think of it, I probably won’t anyway, given how atrocious this album is. Certain songs, like ‘Spiral Close’, do show some signs of talent, building very slowly with a huge wall of sound and injected a bit of melody into the atmosphere. However, this song stands alone amidst a collection of songs which are almost the total opposite of it. There are very few injections of noteworthy melody as the album strives to be as monotonous as possible. Monotony isn’t always a bad thing, though bands like Halo live to give it a bad name with their useless instrumentation and uneventful atmospherics.

The other songs, particularly those short filler tracks, are worthless. Generally two to three minutes of lifeless ambiance which, presumably, with their anti-music stance, are meant to be considered minimalistic art. Sometimes, having to use your imagination makes material sound much better, but there is generally a sturdy basis of good instrumentation and ideas before your imagination comes into play. When an album like ‘Subliminal Transmissions’ comes along, it hinges solely on your imagination being able to save the drivel that proceeds once you’ve firmly pressed that play button. There is a lack of direction to this album which is damning beyond belief. No track is backed up by a similar one. Each has its own individual status amongst the rest with the longer songs, ‘Worm’ and ‘Transmission’ willing to thrust mediocre ideas unto the listener for long periods at a time, causing them to pull out what little hair they have left by the time ‘Transmission’ comes around. These two songs, in particular, are also too long. They could have been condensed to a few minutes and still had the same disappointing result.

The sparse content doesn’t flow properly. The industrialised sound doesn’t mix well with the noise based material and the vocals don’t sound too comfortable within this already disastrous mixture of faltering ideas. On ‘Transmission’, for example, the song opens with a delightfully brooding atmosphere, one of real conviction, but the ideas are dwelt upon too long and soon become stale, especially as they aren’t developed anywhere near as well as they should be. The spiralling ambiance, mixed in with the droning drums and reverb of the distortion create a nightmarish world where the album finally begins to show some signs of potential but, after a period of nine or ten minutes, these ideas and this sound never evolves. It digresses and digresses to a point where the earlier potential is obscured and unworkable. The vocals, by this stage of the album, have also taken a back seat. They’re nowhere to be seen. They tend to come and go as they please without any meaningful interaction with the instrumentation. Not only do they fail to tie things together, but they help in tearing things apart.

The balance between ideas is also very uneven. Songs like the short and sharp burst of life that is ‘Null’, have no place on the album. This type of brief interlude wouldn’t be out-of-place on your average grindcore album but, even on this total mish-mash of ideas, this song doesn’t feel at home despite the fact that the direction of the album has been unclear since the very first moment. After this pathetic attempt of experimentation, the album again settles down into a much slower pace. Now, I’m a fan of minimalistic, slow music, but there still needs to be some interesting developments taking place and there just isn’t. The album begins promisingly with the likes of ‘Absence of Light’, which is probably the only song similar to the early style of Godflesh, particularly with those distant screams of the vocalist, but it eventually fades into nothing more than a ridiculous attempt at being overly different and weird. A total disaster that will only live in the memory to warn me in the future to steer clear of bands like this. Awful.

No comments:

Post a Comment