Thursday, January 10, 2008

Best of 2007 - from #90 to #86

90. [beforetherain] - ' day less'
The long awaited debut full length of these Portuguese doomsters is vast and contemplative to the point of feeling like a journey. In fact, it feels like several journeys in one - both a journey to the most dramatic of human emotions and also a musical journey to a time when Anathema were putting out albums like 'Serenades'. Darren-period Anathema is indeed the main reference point here, especially for Carlos D'Água's mournful vocals, but in a genre in which it's hard to innovate, it's the work of riffmeisters Valter Cunha and Hugo Santos (who is also in the gigantic post-doom band Process Of Guilt) in particular that lifts '...One Day Less' above the usual norm. The pair weave a perfectly balanced tapestry of sorrow without being mushy, of melancholy without being wimps. Those seventeen minutes (count 'em!) of the closing title track must rank very highly on the song of the year category.

[BeforeTheRain] - 'You... My Ruin'

89. wormwood - 'starvation'
A very hard record to analyze, because of the highly unusual mix of elements that it contains. On any given song, this Seattle band can be building up a downcast riff worthy of My Dying Bride, only to have it mutate into five minutes of Neurosis atmosphere build-up, and have it climax on a female-vocal symphonic bit worthy of Peccatum. It sounds a mess, but it strangely works, and in case you're worried, the one theme running through the album is the murky darkness that envelops it all, so those cleaner atmospheric and symphonic parts don't really sound like artsy-fartsy meanderings and actually help to enrich the entire experience. Of course, the musical concept behind this album is so ambitious that it doesn't grab you completely for the entire duration, but in the wide majority of songs it does and as such it ranks as one of the very positive surprises in originality of 2007. The press release that came with the promo called it 'Panic-stricken Terrified Woebegone Metal of Hell' and, for once, it might be on to something.

Wormwood - 'Release From Expectation'

88. ravencult - 'temples of torment'
I was pretty excited about this record a few weeks ago, and my opinion still holds up!

87. bergraven - 'dödsvisioner'
[review published on the July 2007 issue of Rock-a-rolla magazine]
Don’t commit the mistake of raising the volume during the deceptively quiet beginning of this strange album. You would regret it three minutes or so later, when the black clouds are fully formed and finally descend upon you. Single member Pär (plus session drummer) single-handedly creates a black, hellish miasma, a mix of suicidal doom and ambient black metal as if Shining were playing ‘Dunkelheit’, expressing nihilistic self-hatred throughout the eight painful songs. Some interludes like those first three minutes come and break the overall thick fog now and then, although the album never meanders too far into ambient territory, and even the quieter parts feel somewhat alien and intangible, adding eeriness to the ensemble in a way similar to Ved Buens Ende. A few clean guitar leads also make their presence known and they are the disc’s weak point, as besides not being anything fantastic on a musical level, they detract from the very real black mood ‘Dödsvisioner’ is capable of creating. Otherwise Bergraven offer here an oblique approach to black metal that is very refreshing indeed. In a fetid kind of way, of course.

Bergraven - 'Ondkall'

86. boris with michio kurihara - 'rainbow' (michio) (boris)
[review published on issue #157 of Terrorizer magazine]
Something on Boris’ ‘Pink’ it didn’t quite fit the rock-out of the rest of the album - that opening atmospheric track, ‘Farewell’. This collaboration with guitarist Michio Kurihara picks up precisely from there, as opener ‘Rafflesia’ sounds like ‘Farewell’s missing 5 minutes, except greatly enriched by Kurihara’s endless-sounding leads. Such is their mesmerizing quality that they bring to mind the similarly infinite guitarwork of Katatonia’s ‘Brave Murder Day’. Given Boris’ increasing exposition, it’s easy to relegate Michio’s participation to secondary status, but nothing could be more unfair. Having shown consistent touches of genius in several bands, of which psychedelic rockers Ghost are probably the best known, he lifts some of these songs to brilliant status. Good examples are ‘You Laughed Like A Water Mark’, on which his swooping, swirling guitar contrasts with the laidback stoner vibe of the song, or the bluesy sounds that twist the otherwise shoegazing ‘Starship Narrator’ into something quite different.. Boris don’t lie back and watch, either. Showing no wear from the wealth of releases of the past few months, they push limits and explore new ground, always sounding exciting and otherworldly. The loud/quiet dynamics on ‘Sweet No. 1’ are pure Boris, as is the hazy cloud of ‘Fuzzy Reactor’. Just like ‘Altar’, ‘Rainbow’ is a consistent, tight collaboration that is much greater than the sum of its already excellent parts.

Boris with Michio Kurihara - 'Sweet nº1'

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