Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tome of the Unreplenished - Innerstanding (2015)

I, Voidhanger Records was already home to at least three ambient or partially ambient black metal hybrids I enjoy (Midnight Odyssey, Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore), and now it appears I've got another to add to that list, even though there might be a little more overlap here than with others that have inhabited this niche in the past. Tome of the Unreplenished, certainly a name that pops out at you if you've grown jaded with the redundant band monikers, is the work of a solitary Cypriot known as Hermes. But unlike the Greek deity of the same name, Innerstanding is in no particular rush to make its point...there are faster, blasted moments, to be sure, but the music here is fairly immersive across all tempos; an engrossing downpour of synth and chord-driven escapism over mechanized drum rhythms.

It takes risks more often than not...for example, the closer, "The Precessional March" is a nearly 10 minute, measured instrumental monolith of tremolo picked guitars over an incremental beat and swells of eerie keyboards which fluctuate between nearness and distance. There is no question a track like that is going to feel exceedingly repetitious to some, even though the actual note selection shifts across the surface. There are also pure, scintillating ambient pieces like the intro "Anima Mundi" or the"Planetary Transmission" which feel more innately cosmic in scope. That nearly half of the album is devoted to such departures may feel like the balance is off, but I felt like the mood set by these is at least coherent with the metallic tracks. Vocals here don't have a lot of structure on this record, and it's debatable whether that's a flaw or a 'feature', but they generally just manifest as a series of roaring rasps that hover alongside the guitar lines, or somber spoken words, or through ghostlike, layered choirs that come through in the selection of key tones. And like the vocals, the bass is also not'll hear some low end grooving lines in the depths, but the point on albums like this is generally just to flood the listener with the emotion of the guitar melodies with a dense, celestial atmosphere, and Innerstanding is quite loyal to that ideal.

The guitar progressions are not quite so catchy as you'd find on a disc like Firmament, which for me is still a banner-wielder of this style. Despite the implications of the album title, I found this more like a grand Outerstanding. The songs don't convey a high level of sheer isolation and sadness, but instead they've got this unearthly sense of warmth and fulfillment which coincides with a perpetual sense of motion. Astral masses and bodies consistently colliding and revolving and rotating through a great vacuum, with flashes of an interstellar light show where various elements collide. The drums feel really low-key, generally crashing and soulless like ships or satellites taking measurements of the lush audio-visuals of the cosmos they drift through. I might be overselling the spacey quality a little, since other bands (including those I listed above) feel more like I'm exiting the Solar System, but this is certainly a record which is going to appeal to fans of that singular style. I think there could be some improvement with the programming and individual riff strength, but I found myself adrift with the majority of this album's glinting guitar passages and strange electro/ambient distractions.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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