Castrum (Ukraine) – Phenomenonsense

This is the rare case of an album that somehow manages to be less than the sum of its parts. I mean, it has all the necessary ingredients to make a very good album: catchy, solid riffing, good vocals, effective drum performance, good songwriting, but somehow it just never seems to come together. Maybe it’s the way the parts don’t seem to transition properly, or how some of the riffs seem entirely inappropriate at moments, or how some of the drumwork is too active and technical, but something about this release as a whole does not sit right with me no matter how many times I listen to it. The album isn’t outright bad, but it just doesn’t seem to reach the apex that it really should be able to.

Okay, so Castrum play melodic death/black metal. That’s an incredibly loose and vague label, I know, but they make it seem pretty good. Melodeath and occasional black metal tremolo riffing take up the guitars, a fairly technical DM inspired drum performance packed to the brim with small fills and transfers forms the rhythm, and the gruff Slavic vocals are nice and powerful. The production is crystal clear and without any apparent flaws. The songwriting isn’t particularly varied, but has enough clean breaks and clever songwriting to make it interesting. A lot of this sounds like Dub Buk on ‘Rus Ponad Vse’, minus the thrash and grime. But it doesn’t seem to have the sort of punishing intensity of that band, despite how aggressive the music seems to be. ‘Phenomenonsense’ drives me crazy simply because it SHOULD be so good yet fails to grab me in any significant way. My ears perk up for the occasional riff, but overall it just sort of drones on, even though there’s a great deal of activity in each song.

For some reason, the songs on this feel incredibly long (and not in a good way) despite their rather average length. Maybe it’s the fact that all the songs appear to have been padded out with extra repetitions, as if each song could easily be a minute shorter for the ideas that are actually present in the tracks. Additionally, despite the propulsion of the instrumentation, the songs don’t seem to be going anywhere. They’re running incredibly fast but gaining seemingly no distance. The band moves seamlessly between slower atmospheric portions and faster blasting portions, but there are no real dynamics to it: it just sort of changes without any rise or fall in what’s going on. One moment, it’s fast, one moment, it’s slow, with no interim slide in between to indicate, ‘Hey, maybe you should be paying attention here.’ Yes, it seems unreasonable to me as well to need the album to tell you where you should start caring, but the impression never seems to shake off. It’s just not as good as it naturally should be!

Perhaps this is a case of me just not being into the music. That would be a pretty reasonable statement, given my feelings. But I can’t help but feel that this album is really more a collection of riffs than anything else. Whenever it’s on, I find myself drawn to the guitars but ignoring everything else. I’d recommend that most melodic black and death metal fans pick it up; it certainly appears to be a good album. But if it is, I simply can’t see it, despite how badly I want to.

(Originally written for http://www.vampire-magazine.com)

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~ by noktorn on August 7, 2007.

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