Tuesday, April 1, 2008
So I'm pretty new to this whole black metal thing. I'm not too surprised by it, my progression in musical tastes made it almost inevitable for me to eventually like black metal. I've liked plain old metal for a few years, and while my favorite stuff hasn't always been strictly "metal," the argument could definitely be made for it (I'm looking at you, Big Bear). I think the first proper black metal album I picked up was Xasthur's Subliminal Genocide. I was (and still am) really into music that's heavy but has some poppy shoegazing elements to it, like Jesu. So Xasthur was a logical progression into the dark depths of black metal. But he was the gateway band that lead to my wife hating a lot of the music I listen to now. I'm still really picky with my black metal, it's definitely not all for me. I don't have any defining characteristics that make me decide whether or not I'll like a certain band, I just sort of go with it. But being new to the scene, I'm not down with the lingo that these kids are using and I don't really know what black metal is "supposed" to be like. So maybe that makes me a prime candidate for reviewing Mamaleek's debut self titled album.
According to Aquarius's review, Mamaleek is made up of two brothers from San Francisco and this is their first recording. It's a hand made self release with only 100 copies made, each one hand numbered on a red backed CD-R. This definitely isn't your traditional black metal. It's weird but in a very, very good way. It's not always black or metal. Sometimes it's just really dark, like a maroon or navy blue. Sometimes it's more ambient or even kind of a slow R&B. Whatever it is, though, it's always washed out and blown out.
The album opens with a lo-fi piano intro, then the next track, I Wish I Was Dead, slowly explodes with fuzzed out guitars and crackling drums. But it jumps from lumbering giant to furious grinding and back again repeatedly. It sets the mood for the record as being unpredictable and crazy good. Shout On, Children, the 18 minute centerpiece, opens with a surprising backwoods bluesy, twangy guitar. Eventually, it builds into the furious, distorted metal found on the rest of the record. It slows down to an dark ambient jam with slow beats. Then that fades away and the crunchiness starts again, this time creating noisier ambience. Finally, the track ends with more crazy metal. Yes.
Mamaleek is filled with depressing, howled vocals, tinkling xylophones, blown out guitar shredding, creepy opera singers, pummeling drums, and a lot of traditional black metal elements coupled with plenty of things you would never expect. This album isn't for all black metal fans, I assume, but it's definitely one that I like and hence, it is recommended.