V:28 – VioLution

This is another case of the Xasthur phenomena where a band is completely excellent at what they do, but what they do is very, very uninteresting. In this case, Xasthur’s graveyard atmosphere has been replaced by a futuristic dystopia, which is illustrated by a heavily industrial-influenced form of black/death metal. Unlike what you would normally expect from such a fusion, though, V:28 generally employs the sort of thing you’d here in Aborym’s more atmospheric portions, with midpaced, electronic-influenced drifting taking precedence over a more ‘meaty’ style of music. ‘VioLution’ is a metal album, but it is not a ‘heavy metal’ album, if you understand what I mean; there’s very little riffing, and most of the material on this disc is much more abstract than the generally concrete musical style that most metalheads are familiar with.

I like this album more when I think about it than when I actually hear it. ‘VioLution’ seems like a great idea, but in practice, I find it pretty fundamentally unexciting. This is my first experience with V:28, and so I don’t have the privilege of being able to view this within the context of the trilogy that this album and the previous two form. I guess I COULD be missing out on something, but in all honesty, I really don’t think I am. As I’ve stated before, this is a piece of music that is executed extremely well, and does flawlessly elicit the atmosphere that the band is going for. But what the natural sparseness of the music adds to the atmosphere it takes away from the power that that atmosphere might have, leaving ‘VioLution’ a weirdly passive listening experience. In genuinely good albums, you are involved with the music, feeling like you’re taking part in something greater than just a CD. With this LP, though, I feel like I’m just watching a movie take place; everything is weirdly sterile and almost forcibly denies any connection with the listener.

So as far as the actual music goes… there doesn’t seem to be much there, really. I think there’s two blast beats on the CD and about as many tremolo riffs; the rest is made up of abstract, Godflesh-style percussion and riffs that seem like Meshuggah in their more experimental moments. I don’t say this to imply that blasting and tremolo is the basis of metal music; far from it. I’m saying, though, that it’s a pretty good symptom of the album as a whole: it lacks meat and significant content. There’s little to remember apart from the atmosphere; none of the songs stick out, but at the same time, the songs are deliberately trying to NOT stick out. ‘VioLution’ is meant to be consumed as a full unit, and I appreciate that, but after you’re done with it, you’re left with nothing in particular. There’s no desire to put it on for another spin, no particularly strong emotions regarding the content of the album or towards it as a whole. It’s just sort of there.

If you’re looking into this as an atmospheric study, it’s pretty awesome. The members of V:28 really know how to craft an intricate tapestry of sterile, industrialized, dystopian chrome. Every instrument on this album sounds as if its been strained through a million filters to remove all trace of humanity from them, and to better heighten to heartless, mechanical fell. But maybe ‘heartless’ is an inappropriate word; actually, V:28 puts forth a world of robotic precision that’s not malevolent, but simply without feeling. The problem with that, again like Xasthur’s atmosphere, is that a lack of feeling is a pretty hard quality to identify with as a listener. V:28 is great at composing these atmospheres of robotic precision, and that would be pretty great if it were music for robots, but it’s not. It’s music for people (supposedly). And as much as I appreciate mechanical, emotionless music (hell, I really love it a lot of the time), emotionlessness is generally best amplified through the presence of emotion, not when it’s sitting all alone. This album, however, is expunged of any and all trace of emotion, leaving the content sort of floating around without a human reference point. It’s abstract, but it’s so abstract that it sort of loses meaning.

There’s a lot of repetition, or at least a huge amount of variations on the same basic sound. The components are all pretty samey throughout: somewhat soft, rasping vocals, dancelike percussion, abstract, angular guitar riffs, and a soft wash of keys. It’s not an abrasive album, even during its most aggressive sections: the blasting feels softened through the metallic sheen of production. Everything operates at a moderately slow tempo, which is, again, great at producing atmosphere, but is pretty thoroughly unexciting. Whenever I play this album, I feel like I’m waiting for something that never comes along; it’s like forty seven minutes of interludes with no climax to them. It’s an interesting way to compose music, but is it exciting? Not really. To me at least.

Anyway, I feel like I’m simply moving in circles, because ultimately the appreciation that one has for this album will be exclusively a matter of taste. I think that there are people who would greatly enjoy this ultra-ambient spin on extreme metal; I personally prefer my music a bit more active, but don’t let that stop you from giving this a try. This is good background music when I’m looking for something to set a mood, but it’s hard to focus on, personally, because I find so little on which to focus. Final recommendation: try it out and see for yourself. It’s hardly going to hurt you and at the very least you’ll find it interesting.

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~ by noktorn on January 22, 2008.

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