|4.3 (1 votes):|
Let’s do the compliment sandwich… the cover art and album title Of Sleep and Death are a pretty cool. Aren’t they? Ok, moving on.
Austria’s Transilvania open their latest offering with brooding church organs and a choir that we never hear again before catching us in the eye with the untidy playing and messy production that follows us through the rest of the tracks. Black metal has come a long way since the charm and grit of homemade recordings, but sadly, this release has neither.
The contrast of heavily reverbed blackened growls sits at odds with the dry scratch of guitars, and when the echoic bass and cheap sounding snare hits… well, you would complain about the acoustics if this was a live event. Different time signatures in an opener is ambitious when the basics seem unconvincing, and the track loses all momentum as it stutters rather than stimulates. So far, so bad.
‘Hekateion’ (shouldn’t that be ‘Hekataion’? Then again, shouldn’t it be Transylvania?) seems to have garnered a few compliments online, but I can’t see the appeal – though the vocals are nicely menacing, the guitar dynamics clash and take away from their efforts at any meaningful melody. Again, the drumming sounds hollow and tinny: the tom-toms are either unpleasant or uncouth and I’m certain the snare is tuned higher at the end of the song than at the start (unless the neighbour’s kids are banging on empty ice cream tubs again).
More unimaginative thudding welcomes us with open sticks on the title track, but at least there are moments where the guitars seem to have kissed and made up: no longer competing for centre stage, they attempt to work in tandem, but still aren’t a good fit. Midway through, the track takes on a shanty-esque folksiness to it before briefly settling into a plodding old-school riff only then to launch itself rudderlessly at full pelt, like someone’s crazy aunt dancing with a waiter at your mate’s wedding after. The tracks not only lack direction, but they also lack an attention span.
‘Lycanthropic Chant’ sees a swap in what sounds washed-out in the mix – this time, it’s the guitars rather than the vocals, and panning the licks just doesn’t work; not only from a mixing perspective, but because they sound out of sync one ear at a time instead of in both ears at once. We’re treated briefly to dreamy guitars resonating warmly at the start of the final track, but awkward vocals jarringly shout over each other and we are thrown yet again into the jaws of cluttered riffs.
This is not a fun record to listen to and will have you debating whether or not to reach for the volume, the EQ, or the bin – ironically, or rather fittingly, it sounds better coming out of the tinny speakers of a half-broken smartphone than studio monitors or headphones, which tells you everything you need to know about the poor mixing and weak production. The whole thing has an amateurish quality to it, and if your clock lost time as much as the drummer it’d be 2020, which, like the album, nobody should want to relive.
Overall, the record is let down by a lack of structure, sloppy musicianship, feeble studio work, and overly long songs. To say that it’s difficult to tell tracks apart or samey would be to suggest that they are similar by design, but it’s more likely the album was rushed and the song writing process wasn’t given the respect it deserved, which is a shame as the ideas have potential. Like your school grades after messing around in the final year, you want it to be better because you know it should have been, but wishing for it won’t make it so.
I said this was a compliment sandwich, didn’t I? Oh. Erm… there’s a nice 9 second bass solo halfway through the last track. I’m not sure it’s in tune, though…
Release date: January 1, 2021
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