Review: Zatemno “In The Noose” [Aesthetic Death]

Review: Zatemno “In The Noose” [Aesthetic Death]

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Score 76%
Summary
76 %
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For all intents and purposes, I will be using transliterations and translations of the band and track titles, as I do not have access to Russian characters, nor do I have any knowledge of the language.

Emerging from the dark trenches of Russia, black metal band Zatemno delivers their first full-length via Aesthetic Death Records, entitled In The Noose. Though on the shorter side in terms of length, with a run time of about 36 minutes, each track is its own journey through atmospheric/avantgarde set pieces of horror and dread, with four tracks all at least 7 minutes in length. Longer track lengths for some, and even me at times, are a significant turn off, as they entertain the possibility of boring the listener with stagnant variation and high caliber repetition. Nevertheless, band members Vasily and Japetus challenge the notion of stagnation on In The Noose, offering four tracks rich in passages of not only black metal, but folk, post-rock, avant-garde and ambient as well.

Stylistically, while not presenting a total combination or fusion of the genres, the band offers a cavalcade of segments and passages that flow together intravenously. For example, the second track, “Lish tol’ko veter” or “In the wind”, opens where the first track left off, a spoken word/ambient movement, before switching to a more minimalistic/folk piece with heavy emphasis on simple drumming and accordion, and finally then finally moving on to become more of a piece centered on post-metal and folk/black metal. And though I leave out the more nuanced and precise moments of change in the styles, within the context of the actual music, it’s done wonderfully. Whenever a new change in style or tempo comes in, it never feels jarring or out of place relative to the music and sounds incredibly natural with regards to flow. This flow however doesn’t apply to the album in its entirety. While tracks 2 and 3 sound great independent of each other, going from one to another is a bit abrupt. Here, track 3 “In The Noose”, opens with a more traditional, and quicker tempo black metal beat right after the ambient/acoustic end of the second track. It’s not the worst, but it caught me a bit off guard with how much more mellow track 2’s ending was. All in all, this is anything but pure black metal, and the continuous of shifting genres and sounds is not only captivating, but imaginative, almost acting like a storybook or epic tale rich in atmosphere and chilling darkness.

Easily the most black metal rich song on the album is the final track, “Kopot’yu solntsa” or With Ashes of the Sun”. Though the track has the previously mentioned interludes of avantgarde, its presence is shadowed by the behemoth of black that is the riffing and blast beating on this track. Though I’m not particularly a fan of blast beats, the effect of only hearing them used so intensely on the first and last track is kind of artistic in a way. You get a taste, and then the album waits patiently to fully unleash itself again on the final track. This track is the band’s awesome barrage of fury, darkness and almost mystical sound. The only downside is that it slowly winds itself down to a crawl with nearly 4 minutes of pure ambience and (admittedly captivating) eerie, spooky synthesizers. This conclusion again isn’t the worst, and thanks to the amazing ability of the band to tie these genres together, it doesn’t ruin the track for me, but it’s almost a betrayal of the energy they had going for them. Maybe this ending alludes to the track title itself: “In the Noose”, a dark, moody, lifeless end to the once invigorating and lively sound held before. If that’s what they were going for, good on them for the symbolism, but I can’t dig it all the much. At least the organ is cool though!

As for the presentation of the album, everything is pretty on point. The mix is never overbearing with however many instruments are playing at time, and everything sounds great. The riffing guitars range from the post-metal/atmospheric sound as if they’re soaring through the heavens to the bleak tremolo riffing all to common in black metal. The bass is surprisingly thick and audible for black metal, especially on the final track, and even held my attention on it for some time before returning to the music. Every instrument has the right amount of echo to it, adding even more to the atmospheric presence it graces the listener with. The only thing holding back the album in its entirety however is the lyrics. While the album does come with a booklet of lyrics, they’re all presented in a handwritten style, and are all Russian as well. It’s a shame too, because the topic of which the band (apparently) discusses, is that of obscurantism, or willingly presenting info in an imprecise manner. Coupled with the fact that these guys are from Russia, it can only make me imagine what they’re singing about, and cool or interesting it is. Hopefully someone will transcribe and/or translate them one day, as it would hopefully be an interesting perspective on info or whatever.

Zatemno have delivered an exemplary debut album, rich in a variety of style and atmosphere. Despite its shortcomings of wonky track in-betweens, a lyrical message lost in translation, and a lackluster intro track, the album is above and beyond in the areas in which it succeeds. Even if black metal isn’t in your library of taste, the album is worth visiting for its sections of experimentation alone.

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