Iuvenes – Riddle Of Steel

I like the middle track of this album a lot.  ‘Ubi Sunt…” makes me think of a very (very, very) simplified form of Hellveto.  It has cool keyboard lines and nicely tribal drum programming.  The chanted vocals don’t even sound silly.  It’s more uptempo than the rest of the material here, which probably helps it substantially to maintain my interest.

The rest of the album, though… eh.  It’s just sort of there.  It’s passable Graveland worship and that’s really all it is.  Sparse vocals snarl, everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) is based off some sort of martial rhythm, and keyboard orchestra dominates the sound with choir or trumpet effects.  Every moment of this album is a struggle to be as epic as possible.  It kind of reminds me of a marginally more exciting Dagorlad at times, with a similarly barely metal feel a lot of the time.  The riffs are so Graveland it’s not even funny, all palm-muted strumming leading into melodic chords over the always rolling, thundering programmed drums.  I’m forced to describe it as epic because I don’t want to hurt the band’s feelings.

Half the problem with this album is the production, which is almost impossibly flat for the sort of emotions the band clearly wants to convey.  It’s hard for any real musical climaxes to occur when everything seems to be played on around two and a half on the amps, and how everything seems to be mixed together at exactly the same volume.  I can’t let all the blame fall on the production though, because the music doesn’t do itself a whole lot of favors.  For every moment like midway through the title track with some cool Slavic clean vocals, there’s a whole lot of guitar shuffling in the same martial patterns which have been heard eight other times on the album.  I understand that doing epic, medieval viking metal doesn’t lend itself to a whole lot of variation, but even in this case I have to wonder if Iuvenes are incredibly dedicated to this specific sound or just unwilling to try making something interesting.

I don’t have any particular malice towards this album and it has its nice moments, but the CD really seems to do all it possibly can to avoid connecting with the listener in any significant way, as though finding it interesting instead of just relegating it firmly to the background would piss off the thunder god or something.  As it stands, this ends up being just very nice background music, no matter how many martial rhythms and dramatic synthlines there are.  It’s nice if you like the aesthetic but my god does it repeat itself a lot.

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~ by noktorn on September 28, 2008.

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