Happy Days – Drowning In Negativity

It seems that Happy Days is now hitting its stride. The third demo by Florida’s best (and possibly only) suicidal black metal band is a tremendous leap from the previous, ‘Alone And Cold’, and shows the band finally growing into its own skin. The music here now has a much more defined sense of its own style, as well as having corrected many of the technical errors that made the previous releases something of a taxing listen; but most of all, the music is clearly more mature and developed on this release, and all for the better.

The most obvious change upon the first few seconds of hearing this release is the dramatically improved production. The vocals have been dropped yet further into the background, and it sounds like a better microphone has been used, eliminating much of the crackling that the louder howls would often cause. Guitars and drums are now nicely balanced, and an extra dose of reverb has been added to the vocals as well as an echo effect to the drums, giving the music much more space and room to breathe. The instrumental performances have also been tightened up considerably, with very few errors being present compared to the earlier works; the drumming actually seems to be perfect throughout.

The material on this demo was originally supposed to appear on two separate splits; when those were scrapped, they were combined for a new demo. Thus, each half is quite different from the other:

Side one treads in territory very reminiscent of Lifelover. A perceptible depressive rock influence is highly audible, and the tracks overall have a more romantically depressed edge to them; more My Dying Bride than Winter, as it were. It’s pretty good: enjoyable to listen to, if a bit derivative, and it does get its atmosphere across very effectively. The two first tracks are, though, probably the least complex on the demo: emotionally and intellectually as well as musically. This doesn’t mean that they’re poor; far from it. Merely that they aren’t appreciated on as deep a level as side two.

And this side is where things truly get excellent, particularly on finishing track ‘En Annen Dag….. En Annen Død….’. The riffs and music in general here are much darker and more funereal, both in pace and in tone. The music here loses much of the rock influence and instead resembles a slower version of an artist such as Sterbend. The main riff to ‘En Annen Dag….. En Annen Død….’ is easily one of the finest I’ve heard in suicidal black metal, and cuts to the core of what the genre SHOULD be: not a celebration of depression, not a romanticization of suicide, and most certainly not a community of the melancholy: pure, unrelenting loneliness, with absolutely no ‘coolness’ found in the emotions that it represents. Only the true misery that comes with depression, just as it really is: devoid of any sort of severe emotion, but rather representative of the absolute absence of it; the desire to crawl in bed and sleep for a very, very long time.

The strength of that track alone could carry the demo, but the three others are certainly worthy contenders as well. So, now with most of the general technical issues worked out, there’s merely improvement of songwriting to gear up on. At forty minutes, this is the longest demo that the band has released, and truth be told, it does begin to wear thin by the end, despite the quality of the material present. The music here is pretty minimalist even by suicidal black standards: there are generally only two or three riffs per (lengthy) song, bound together by slight variations in playing on drums or guitar. And while these variations do add to the relative liveliness of each composition, they can’t quite mask the fact that there are, well, only two or three riffs per song, except one version of it is power chords where another is single-note tremolo, or how the drums drop out here or add double bass here, etc. The riffs are certainly more complex than on any of the previous releases, and this is a very big improvement, but simply adding more of them would create a new layer of depth to the music overall.

Of course, such a complaint is really a matter of degree than anything. ‘Drowning In Negativity’ is easily the best Happy Days release yet, and is hopefully representative of the band’s style in time to come. If you were turned off by the poor production before, Happy Days are now a band to investigate again: you’d be surprised how much you like music when you can actually hear it.

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~ by noktorn on August 28, 2007.

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