Sjenovik – Circle One

This is certainly an interesting idea: haunting black/death deeply influenced by dark ambient and drone doom.  Perhaps even more interesting is that it’s executed well and in a surprisingly listenable way.  Again surprising is that it’s not gimmicky or overdone in any way; its latent weirdness is rather subtle.  It’s strange enough that most people will detect that something’s off, but it doesn’t need to shout its unusual influences from the rooftops.

I really love the first two tracks on this demo; throbbing, ritualistic black/death with a very heavy, resonant, and oppressive production.  The riffs, primarily tremolo based, and always simple, repetitive, and ambient in texture, are clearly influenced by ambient black metal artists, but there seems to be a sense of early ’90s death metal theatricism about them as well, sort of like Incantation’s slower works but more interesting.  I love the guitar tone; it’s warm and yet it seems like it’s electronically manufactured, playing riffs that alternate between smooth malevolence and upwardly climbing Summoning-style atmosphere.  Vocals are a very rich, throaty growl, not unlike what you’d hear from a Demilich worship band.  Keyboards are very, very quietly, almost subliminally used as an additional melodic voice.  The production is phenomenal; murky, submerging the (acoustic) drums under a mist of guitars and monstrous vocals.  Both tracks are fantastic and point to a band with absolutely amazing songwriting abilities and conceptual understanding of how to make good extreme metal.

The final track will be more polarizing.  ‘In The Tomb Of Sleeping Children’ is a twenty minute electronic drone track that very slowly shifts tones and drone layers in a totally ambient fashion.  Almost inaudible samples of voices dart under the drone tracks, essentially unintelligible, and the only real musical change comes near the end, where a tribalistic drum beat steps in.  I’m not sure if it works or not; sometimes it captures a dark, occult atmosphere, other times it’s, well, a twenty minute electronic drone track.  Bigger drone fans would probably appreciate it more; I think of it as an extended outro from the first two songs more than a full-fledged experience myself.

Even if you don’t dig the third track, the first two are more than enough reason to acquire this demo.  Sjenovik makes a totally unique and masterful style of black/death metal that deserves a lot of attention from the underground scene; it carries the atmosphere of extreme doom and puts it into a more listenable form that loses none of its potency in transit.  Definitely worthy of exploration and study.

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~ by noktorn on June 1, 2008.

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