Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reverence - The Asthenic Ascension

Reverence are a French experimental industrial black metal band that formed in the late 1990s and started releasing material a few years later. This is their fourth full-length album, and it came out last month.

When I put this on, I had the feeling I really wasn't going to like it. The first track seemed so passively uninteresting that I barely even noticed when it finished. It had simply lost my attention and faded into the background. I was afraid the entire album would have this effect, but fortunately things picked up as it went. One thing that didn't really change, though, was the weirdly mellow and soothing sound of the guitar. The riffs were often sharp and fast, but in many other places they took on a slower, more melodic sound and the tone remained surprisingly smooth and reverb-heavy regardless of the pace. This contrasted distinctly with he vocals, which were belched out in a harsh, distorted snarl and stood out as clearly the most hostile element in the music. There were also some chants and even clean vocals sprinkled around that provided some vocal variety. The drumming joined the two at the mid point, fast and precise with an aggressive edge that stopped just short of an outright pummeling. The bass is basically hidden in the background, but that's not particularly surprising.

Throughout the record, the band seems to shift between three primary sounds. In one, the riffs are very tight and fast, clinging together in a frigid black metal wall. The drumming in these places blazes away in typical black metal speed demon style, and the overall effect is definitely most in line with their evident black metal roots. In the second sound, there is a good deal more space. The guitar plays slower, ringing metallic notes over top of scattered drum fills and the odd patch of vocals. This sound is more eerie and mechanical, like an abandoned factory. I might even go so far as to call it doom at times. The third sound is almost symphonic in nature, with choral background strains and a tendency toward less extreme vocals. In these places, an occasional soaring guitar solo would emerge and carry the song forward into its next transition. Despite the fact that many of the tracks started out sounding very similar, the constant fluid transitions between these different general sounds helped keep things continually interesting.

There are some dull patches here and there on this record, places were the band seems to be killing time in between different more interesting segments. This may be an intentional way of maintaining a certain pace, though it feels like many of the tracks could be strengthened with some light editing cuts. The total album length is nearly 53 minutes with several tracks over 7 minutes long, and I think that if it were to clock in somewhere closer to 45 minutes it would be much tighter and more effective. With that said, I don't have any other major complaints, and the overall effect of the album is quite good.

Grade: B
An interesting take on industrial black metal that verges on doom in some places. Could stand to be tightened up, but is nonetheless an enjoyable listen.

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