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Sunday, November 01, 2009

CD Review: Merrimack - Grey Rigorism

Merrimack - Grey Rigorism
2009 Moribund Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Fortunately for the metal community, the division lines enforcing the continental divide between France and its global neighbors--particularly the United States, as guilty as any in keeping the prejudicial fires burning--is next to nil in this scene. The ultra-talented Gojira has broken out to score opening gigs for Metallica, while Hacride is shaping up to be one of the underground's finest prog-death units around. And what happened to Phazm? Sure, two members of the band bolted after Antebellum Death 'n Roll, but c'mon, that album was one of the freshest moments of 2006!

For the black metal scene, Merrimack has usurped a leadership role in France, while their rank in the world is beginning to expand to the point a few lips mutter them in the same breath as Marduk, Wolves in the Throne Room and Satyricon. Not that Merrimack altogether resembles these groups beyond a fundamental core litany of hatred.

Merrimack has become a bit more progressive songwriting-wise following their first two albums Ashes of Purification and Of Entropy and Life Denial. Still somber and frigid as ever, Merrimack stretches out incrementally beyond their propensity for death metal and prog fissures amidst a basic Darkthrone affinity, which they uncorked to respectable measures on Of Entropy and Life Denial.

Merrimack still employs a mathematic schism to their music on Grey Rigorism to the point you still get random tempo drops and spikes amidst their creepy doom bases--case in point on the title track which lumbers most of the way before funneling into speed spirals. If there are any new tricks with Grey Rigorism, its perhaps sharper rhythms and extra detail which naturally evolves with any serious band seeking a path of richness in their craft.

There's something the homeland shares with its Quebecois metal brethren; both sectors are largely-influenced by the cyber-pulled atmospherics and distorted translucence of Voivod. At times you can hear it on Grey Rigorism with "Cold Earth Mourning," "Desaveu," "Omniabsence" and portions of the bombastic "When the Stars Align."

Merrimack is one of the rare black metal bands who are transcendental within their furnace-blasted animosity. This is not a band willing to settle for 50 minutes of windswept chords set on repeat with a wailing vocalist sounding as if he sat down upon an inverted cross. Not to belittle the black metal underground here--which has truly evolved over the years--but there's something far more interesting at work with a group whose growler Terrorizt actually utilizes some pentameter instead of screaming at lung's strain for seconds beyond the flogging beat.

Additionally, Merrimack isn't afraid to delve back into Bathory, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost along with dark prog overtures, plus the aforementioned Voivod to lend their contemporary dankness some historical perspective.

The abbreviated instrumental "Desaveu" pushes this genre's limits to the point it's nearly a straightforward prog jam, effectively leading into the bellowing fugue march of "In the Halls of White Death."

Black metal is perhaps the most violent form of music available to mankind outside of the whips 'n chain tortury of Stallagh, but black metal is also one of the most expressionistic genres available. In the hands of a band looking to do more than what is generally considered acceptable, that brings a rare element of refinement. Then again, not everyone can be Emperor.

Rating: ****

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