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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Album Review: Srodek - Forfall by Devin Walsh

Srodek - Forfall
2011 Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation
Devin Walsh

Srodek has just released Förfall, and I must say, this is not your typical doom/depressing metal listen. First, I can honestly say at times the music could be on the album of an alternative band, a punk band, or even a classic band of the '60s. I think these guys fit the metal genre mainly due to the dissonant distorted sounds and screaming vocals, but some of the musical pieces were so easy to listen to--and I mean this in a positive way--that I forgot I was listening to a “metal” album. For me, the simplistic musical writing of this album is something to take note of and it's worth listening to for even that reason alone.

The first track "Echoes From the Past" is quite a fitting title as the auditory experience perfectly fits that specific title. The track begins with guttural ambient atmospheric sounds that are soon met by echoes of a faint female voice. The voice almost reminds me of a cross between traditional Native American sounds and an ancient Celtic voice. This track serves as a proper mood-setting number for the rest of the album as it slowly fades out and into the second track.

“Bleak” moves right into things with a simple yet emotional drum beat topped with a hypnotic distorted guitar riff that also has clean guitars underneath. This offers up a real unique sound as it doesn’t jump right out as any particular genre. I really like the backing clean guitar tones, as they add a cool element without being overbearing. The vocals come in and right away I am hearing too much reverb and they just sound way too distanced from the music. The timbre of the screaming vocals isn’t bad, nor is it anything exceptional. My biggest issue though is with how the vocals were mixed as they seem to take a back seat, but then again, maybe that is what they were after. The song continues on with the same musical riffs, but the more I listen to the music, the more into I get. It’s very clean and refreshing in its simplicity. The song moves on to wrap up at just shy of seven minutes, which I feel is slightly too long for the song considering the lack of movement and change within the music. While the song is still decent, I feel the band could have gotten their point across in three to four minutes.

The next track is titled “Förfall,” which starts off with another grooving guitar and drum part that once again has a real smooth flow to it. I’m really becoming more and more of a fan of Srodek’s musical writing. It comes across as sort of alternative and almost pop at times, but by no means is it either of the two. Once again as the vocals enter, there is just way too much reverb and they sit way too far in the back. I think either a new approach to the vocal mixing/performance or even a new vocalist could take this band even further. In the middle of the song there is a unique little break that offers up a “happy” sounding riff as it just flows and moves so well. Once again, the musical writing of Srodek is quite different, yet very appealing in a way I really haven’t heard before. Like the previous track, this one moves into seven minute territory; however, I feel this one was able to effectively fit that time.

“Rotboskogens Djup” begins with a circus-sounding accordion that later has a spoken vocal part over top. The song then moves into the music which consists of ringing power chords over real nice harmonies. I am once again impressed with the music itself and its simplicity. There is nothing over-complicated or impressive about the musical performance, but the writing ability is excellent. It is very rarely that you come across such well-written music that is also so simple. Rather than repeating myself, I will say the vocals remain the same as the last two tracks, and I have already made my thoughts on that clear.

The next track is “Vagtjärns Svarta Vatten” and it begins the same as the rest – a beautifully written musical piece with vocals that take away from the excellence. The vocals are not horrible, but I truly feel a different style could really take this music to the next level. As before, I am once again very impressed with the simplistic yet very effective musical writing of this band. The guitars, bass, and drums all fit so well together and are perfectly executed. I can certainly hear good vocal ideas at times, but the execution and mixing of them just doesn’t do the music justice. The song breaks in the middle for a brief clean interlude which then kicks back into a new riff that moves very well. I also really like the subtle guitar harmonies these guys use that add that extra spice to their music.

“Ödestad” is the second to last track and begins with a bit more of a sombre feel as the bass guitar plays off of the sporadic clean guitar notes. After the brief intro, the song proceeds into a moving section that has motifs of the intro but a little more life with the addition of more active drums and vocals. Of all the tracks, this one seems to be the most “depressed” sounding and dissonant. The guitar tones also remind me of the classic rock band The Doors, and this isn’t a comparison you hear very often, especially in the black metal genre of today. The bass guitar seems to play a more prominent role in this song as it carries the melody while the guitars add layers over top. The song wraps up with the continuation of the groovy, depressed beat that has carried the entire song. As with most of their songs, I feel they could all be two to three minutes shorter and still accomplish what the song needs to say.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when putting on the new Srodek album, but since I am not really the biggest fan of doom and depressing metal, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when I read those were some genre comparisons for these guys. While I understand why they are grouped in those genres, I feel Srodek offer something different--namely the music itself. My biggest criticism would be the vocals and their mixing as well as style, but I was pleasantly surprised with the music itself and how simple, yet effective it was. I can say this is some of the most well written music I have reviewed in awhile. It is at times so basic and easy, yet this seemingly simple task is something very hard to do and takes serious talent. I commend the musical writing skills of this band and feel they could go even further with a different vocal approach. In the end my experience wasn’t all that bad. If I am to listen to them again, it would purely be for the musical enjoyment – not the vocals.

1 comment:

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