November 7, 2010
Usually when a compilation is released especially one that only features a track per artist (such as a record label compo) I tend to ignore it completely. More than likely these releases mean nothing more than mere promotional tactics from the company at hand to try and get their more obscure artists to gain more recognition when fanboys of the more established bands pick it up to complete their collection. We are generally given each artist’s most mainstream and accessible sounding singles that will or are already featured on their own full-length releases, and with them appearing on an album with less talented acts it really defeats the purpose.
That being said, completely throw all that out when talking about this release from Hypnotic Dirge Records, which marks the company’s 2 year anniversary, for while it can also be seen as a promotional stunt, it more than makes up for it with exclusive tracks from prominent guest artists such as Njiqahdda as well as some of the strongest pieces from many of the label’s own artists. But that’s not all; we are also treated to some promotional videos as well as official music videos that are very professionally done, despite the independent budget. Not only do we have these two common musical mediums, but it is also lined with interesting album art that links the aesthetics of each artist’s contribution to become one grand opus, let alone 11 random tracks. This is finished with a few very interesting essays and short stories about a few of the tracks and the project as a whole, that despite being fairly lengthy (as far as albums are concerned) are rewarding to read, even for someone who doesn’t care for it normally, as it really puts the finishing touches in on the release and really helps the general message.
I will begin what should be a rather lengthy review with the audio section, which is opened up with “Big Crunch” by: The Foetal Mind. This track reminds me a bit of Katatonia and Esoteric mixed together if that makes sense. Very nice production quality and the vocals are impeccable. The only pet peeve I have is that the track fades out, but I’m probably the only person I know who gets annoyed with stuff like that.
We then see a pretty similar funeral doom style in Funereal’s “Of that which Lies beneath…” though being the second track in this is a nice transition to allow a slow progression between the artists’ styles throughout the release. The track itself is very acceptable for the genre if not solid. The Gothic influence toward the end with piano and violin incorporation is very organic and not overdone at all.
“Stargates Eternal Beheld My Nightmares” is next up from Funeral Fornication. Now we start to see things going from a funeral doom genre into Gothic black metal. When I reviewed a previous FF album (a year ago, I believe) for the label itself, I mentioned that this one man outlet from Canada had great atmosphere in the music, but was a bit too repetitive for my liking. With this track, while things are not complex, the tediousness associated with previous work has been fixed greatly and the song is very enjoyable.
Exiled from Light’s “We Writhe as Worms (‘Neath Withering Skies)” is the first “epic” on this release spanning over 12 minutes in length. Not only that, but this is where the album really kicks into gear. While Mort still uses basic MIDI output for synthesizer, he has learned it’s best to use the more atmospheric sound outputs if going down that root and the average listener will probably enjoy it very much. His depressing shrieks for vocals and dissonant guitar riffs make this a great depressive black metal piece. It may not need to be as long as it is, but as background music, you can’t go wrong.
This leads us to my personal favorite of the release. “Outside… Alone” by netra. This one man act from France has a very eclectic sound which shows he must be a very diverse listener as well. While it can easily be labeled as black metal, there are too many outside influences that deserve recognition as well, such as heavy blues influence in the melodies, Goth rock atmosphere and even trip-hop vocals. I really enjoy this because of how organic and non-gimmicky it sounds and I appreciate someone going out of the conventions of “what’s metal” to not only incorporate a sub-genre of hip-hop (and no, not throwing in party rap or Eminem like many mallcore bands do) but prove that it can be done tastefully.
A rather interesting change of pace is given to us when we transition from that depressive urban track to the nature inspired, “The Shimmering Radiance of a Thousand Stars” by ambient/neoclassical great Ancient Tundra. It really connects with the messages provided in the album art critiquing industrialism. Unlike other AT works, this has completely different software and is unusually optimistic, yet strangely haunts the listener and may also be seen as pessimistic by others as well. It may be a bit schmaltzy (not the best word, per se) but I enjoyed it a lot, and while not my number one Tundra song, it’s definitely up there and the most professional sounding. Actually, this may be a bit tangential but when I first heard this, I imagined the scene from Hayao Miyazaki’s film “Howl’s Moving Castle” when you see the title character’s childhood. Weird? But anyway...
There’s a great transition from this piece to Njiqahdda’s “Nji taaevaasti vortaa est flaami.” You should already know about this Illinoisan band from my previous review, so I don’t really need to go into much detail. I will say except for the intro this piece is a lot more black metal inspired than other works I have heard from them, and it just keeps them all the more interesting.
Another album highlight comes with the epic folk black masterpiece “Croix de Feu, Croix de Fer” by Québécois great Neige et Noirceur. I already reviewed the album this track comes to us from, so I again don’t need to go into the details. I will say though that if the rest of that album was as good as that individual track (not to take anything away from their merit, since they are indeed great) instead of an 8/10 I would have gave it the fan boy rating of 12/10.
The next two tracks are probably my least favorite on the album, but that is no insult at all, as they themselves are excellent. Funeral in Heaven gives us some straight up black metal with the epic “Bhandhana [Gatahaththey Katha Wasthuwa]” which after over 12 minutes is complimented by Autaric’s death metal styling in “Cremation Divine.”
We conclude the hour and a half of audio goodness with Old Forgotten Lands featuring Requiem Nocturne. They bring us another ambient piece in “Hour of the Wolves.” When I reviewed the Ancient Tundra/OFL split, I wasn’t that much of a fan of the OFL side despite É being a band mate. I felt it was too generic and the melodies were too basic. While we are given a primitive folk style of ambiance, this track is a major improvement over the previous releases of Old Forgotten Lands. I see a huge influence from Wardruna in this one, with ritualistic percussion, indecipherable whispers and inspiring ambiance. RN also gives us added flavor with nice acoustic guitars; very nice work for these guys.
I won’t go into too much detail on the six videos, since two are merely promo videos for forthcoming albums and two of the four music videos are also released on this album as audio. The only video only tracks (as far as this release only) would be netra’s “La Page,” and The Foetal Mind’s “La Corde Rouge;” both of which are very enjoyable. As I said earlier every video is very professional, and I’ll leave the text media up to you to enjoy. In conclusion, this is a very special compilation and worth picking up, especially since it’s free of charge. If not the, this is definitely one of the best promos I have ever had the privilege of experiencing and HDR and all its artists deserve much more recognition than they already have.
Download this release at: http://www.hypnoticdirgerecords.com
Reviewed by; Matt Coughlin