Alignak – Murder, Music, Magik, Medicine, Madness

AWESOME. You know, when I was first confronted with the idea of an eighty minute, eighteen track from some unknown black metal band out of North Carolina, I was understandably skeptical. But god DAMN if they didn’t prove me wrong on this one! Alignak’s ‘Murder, Music, Magik, Medicine, Madness’ somehow manages to not get boring for even a minute of this album’s sprawling running time, and it additionally kicks the ass of most other black metal out there these days. You know why? Because it has the balls to be dramatic and theatrical and BRUTAL, and realizes that you can make interesting, complex music without resorting to novelty. This just kicks my ass in so many ways.

The material on this album is probably the best combination ever: 75% Mystifier on ‘Profanus’, and 25% Nunslaughter! Alignak plays very dramatic and theatrical black metal like Mystifier with a finely honed edge of raw death metal, and the combination is absolutely sick. Mystifier’s ‘Profanus’ is awesome just because it’s an exercise in pure songwriting: the band is never TRYING to pull off something super unique or progressive, but they end up being memorable because they DO have their own style and the music is just so goddamn good. Alignak is exactly the same way: every riff of this is badass and cool, each tempo change and move between brutal and melodic is great, and every bit of theatricism toes the line of cheesy without ever quite crossing it. This is actually a very rocky style they play: not in some sort of ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky’ way, but more in the groovy, measured delivery that everything takes. This isn’t frantic music at all, and the band always feels completely in control of what they’re doing. I love grindcore and raw black metal and other varieties of very hostile, uncontrolled music, but this is absolutely great at what it does.

The riffs here are GREAT! They’re never quite completely atonal: just enough so that they have a bit of extra bite to them. What makes them great is how cooly evil they sound in the Nunslaughter way, with lots of ripping tremolo changing into big, doomy chord structures. Keys are very subtly and tastefully used, once again in the way that Mystifier employs them: as an accent that only comes in at certain points, not the omnipresent entity that so many black metal bands seem to think they must be. They only come in when necessary, to plink an evil little melody right out of a 20s horror film with a nice gothic feel before going back into the straight up death-tinted black metal these guys rock at. A drum machine is used, but it’s actually not a big deal: the emphasis of this music is all on melody and sinister atmosphere, and the drum machine is just there to push everything forward. Additionally, there’s some care taken in programming it, so you really don’t notice it as sounding very machinelike at all. The vocals, too, are JUST right: a nice, lower than normal black metal snarl that’s packed with sarcasm and misanthropy, which has a lot more personality than the boring stuff most people are doing.

Production is really good as well. It’s the sort of production that forces you to pay attention to the music: everything is packed in together and blunted in the way early 90s death metal was, so nothing in particular jumps out at you. While this makes the music almost seem less interesting at first, it’s actually really good for the album, as it forces the listener to pay attention to the riffs instead of just their sound. It forms a nice, dense musical core, which is a pretty cool change of pace from most modern production, where each instrument is carefully separated and put on its own shelf. I also love the tempo of this music: uptempo but not very blasty or excessively fast. Just enough to get you rocking at a pretty high pace, but as I said, none of this feels out of control. The one huge exception to this is ‘Of Dirt & Piss’, which is an AMAZING oldschool doom/death track right in the Asphyx style, and just slowly grinds away for its entire nine and a half minute running time without ever getting boring. Fuck, that might just be the best track on the album: it’s completely different from the others, yet sounds completely natural in both the context of the band and the album. So ambitious!

This is not only one of the longest albums I own, but one of the easiest to listen to all the way through. It’s positively sick, and every oldschool black/death fan should give this a try. I can’t believe this came out in 2006! It sounds completely like it should have been released back in ’93 with other oldschool classics. Alignak is a truly great band because they’re not hiding behind anything at all: no excessive technicality, no studio tricks, no novelty or hints of progression. Just pure evil and hatred and an incredibly intuitive grasp of how to make a heavy fucking metal song that grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. Save the money you were going to spend on the new Nightwish single and buy this or you’re gay and should get the fuck out of metal.

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~ by noktorn on September 19, 2007.

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