Thursday, August 4, 2011

Insidius Infernus - Pale Grieving Moon (2002)

Though the use of female vocals within the compositions of Hellenic obscurity Indisius Infernus does not place them in loathsome proximity to what I dub the 'fairycore' agenda of European Gothic and black metal, they unfortunately do not make the best use of them on their Sleaszy Rider debut Pale Grieving Moon. Perhaps the title of the album is an apt representation of the melancholy driven melodic black metal the band produce, but for reasons that shall be made clear, the band seems almost too content to lose itself in the saturated landscape of its genre, without ever doing anything truly or outright awful in the process. Pale Grieving Moon flows in and out of your ear canals with all the soothing sorrow and abandon of its strict and inoffensive mediocrity.

Rather than the howling wolves and ambient creepiness its cover art might imply, the intro "To the Stars" is actually nothing more than a somber, forgettable piano piece. Once the writhing, wrist cutting distortion of "Guests of Survival" merges into the surging double bass and thick, bleeding rhythms of the guitars, I was actually quite surprised by the strong production values here. Unfortunately, the composition itself is all too timid. Where the female vocalist 'Luciferia' opens her pipes in "Guests of Survival", "Darkest Veil of Silk" or "When the Moonlight Cries", it's merely to follow the melodic lines (or implied lines ) of the guitars, playing it all too safe. She does not have a necessarily bad voice for those into the ethereal pipes of, say, Liv Kristine, but she never does anything unexpected with it, and thus it's nearly as predictable as the black rasps. At its best ("Fiendish"), you get this subliminal contrast between the striking, traditional Northern European black metal redolent of the guitar tones and patterns, and the numbing and ghostlike presence of the female vocals, but it left me wanting more.

However, in no way do I wish anyone to take my impression as Insidius Infernus being 'bad', because really it isn't. Those into flowing, lush, solid melodic black metal which fosters the grim aesthetic without sounding as if it were recorded in a latrine, might actually enjoy this. Imagine if you could take Finland's Legenda, subtract the keyboards and replace them with a female voice. That's basically what I was thinking of as I listened through this: harmless background noise with only the vaguest tint of evil and suffering. Consistent but not compelling. Good grasp on the roots of the music, but never tracing them up through the strong trunk and to the fading, frost-tinted limbs. 'Luciferia's nigh constant presence creates a stylistic contrast to most of the other Greek bands of the medium, who at most used sparser choirs and female guests, but the music itself is no more than had come before it a hundred or so times throughout the 90s. It could always be worse could be Nightwish, Lacuna Coil or Epica.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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