Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stutthof - And Cosmos from Ashes to Dust (2004)

I'm going to admit, I'm just not sure how I feel about a black metal (or any underground metal) outfit lifting film or opera scores straight from the source to their albums. Stutthof's sophomore album And Cosmos from Ashes to Dust does exactly that, with two of the operatic themes from the occult suspense thriller The Ninth Gate serving as book-ends to the core metallic content. Now, let's just assume the best case scenario: the Greeks are given permission by the composer and studio to use these pieces. It's STILL going to feel slightly hammy and contrived, no matter what. Not that there is some thematic dichotomy between glorious, haunting classical pieces and the aesthetic underpinnings of black metal, but because it's just not that original. Yeah, I know bands have used classical samples to great success in the past, but with The Ninth Gate being somewhat contemporary to this album, it just does not work for me here.

That aside, the sophomore feels more ambitious than its predecessor, if only in the sheer length and weight of its compositions, and the tidier production values throughout. Towards Thy Astral Path... was a decent if not compelling slab of grandiose Scandinavian black metal in the vein of masters like Bathory and Emperor, and this poisoned apple does not fall far from its boughs. There is this one 20 and a half minute long piece, "Crossing the Ninth Gate to the Kingdom of Shadows", which seems to conceptually follow the same film as the album intro/outro are taken from. Now, any track of this size is likely to breed some degree of monotony unless it is well, masterfully composed, and this is not, but considering the potential for boredom, they do not do a miserable job of cycling through a handful of storming, tremolo riffs and maintaining constant atmosphere. But the other three tracks, which all range from about 9-10 minutes, all conjure this samey vibe that does make the overall work rather lackluster.

"Wampyric Metamorphosis" is probably the best of these, with a nice breakdown of clean and affected guitars in its bridge, but the rest of the fare bleeds on with little deviation and little to show for itself except for its sheer volume and magnitude. The rasps are your standard black fare, the guitars content with zero innovation and individualism, and a sense of dynamic variance is alien to most of the black metal here, even when they've given themselves almost 21 minutes to play around a theme. However, And Cosmos from Ashes to Dust is far from horrible, unless you plan on writing it off for using the movie themes. It's quite a bit more substantial in length than its' predecessor, which was a restrained 33 minutes and better overall, but I've heard worse. If your standards are confined to the realm of Norse and Swedish style black works from the 90s, then Stutthof's traditional flourishes might appeal, but I don't find them to make a memorable impression, even under these epic inclinations.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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