Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bereft - Lands (2017)

Prosthetic Records is a label I generally equate with the popular or trendy strains of metal, having championed a lot of metalcore or melodic death or technical death thrash, often to some great results, and often to some forgettable ones. But in truth, they do cultivate a pretty wide variety of artists, so when I saw that they'd picked up an act going for a more atmospheric sound, I thought it'd be cool to check out for myself what had piqued their interest. Add to that the really awesome cover here, with a skull split by an axe and a rune against what seems to be a half-felled forest, and I figured I might be in for a treat here. I know I had heard another Bereft record in passing, and forgotten about it, but I think that might have been from another band out of the L.A. area.

I've seen Lands described as a mix of doom and melodic post-metal, and I think that's a somewhat accurate brand, though the 'black metal' aesthetics I've also heard seem restricted solely to a vocal style that is no longer exclusively found in that category, and an occasional blast sequence which reminded me a little of something Goatwhore might throw into a tune. They use broad, gnarly snarls, but with a lot of sustain to them, and often doubling up the voice with one that's deeper and louder in the mix. The rhythm guitars are enormous and crushing, but with a seat of groove to them that helps them set up the more dynamic melodies which earn all the credit for making this sophomore album catchier than it might otherwise feel. The fundamental riffs here are all extremely simple, panning out over a wide span of influences including both their sludge contemporaries and the grandiose Gothic doom style pioneered out of England, rarely anything more than predictable, but how the band builds upon them or doesn't rely on them exclusively is what makes this ultimately listenable, with a lot of cascading, higher pitched guitars, often with some effects to give them a more lamentable or bluesy vibe.

Now, when I say it's listenable, I'm not saying it's great, just that it doesn't become too boring, a danger when you've got only four tracks in 45 minutes. There's nothing here that really sticks or stands out on the mind, but I was able to process through the entire record numerous times just because of how it manages its valleys and summits. The production on the thing is just so huge that it feels like you're listening through it in some canyon space, and I like the fattened subtext of the bass guitars and the pairing of the rhythmic drudgery with the ascending, sorrowful melodies. Vocals do work better then they form their own grisly fusion, or rare harmony. The percussion on the whole disc is like balanced thunder, with fills that feel like a tribal war is about to break out, yet a lot of more subtle, crashing symbols and thudding, effortlessly shifts into blasts for the scarcer fast material. I'd say that this was a very well put-together record which just lacks nuance in its riffing schematics, if these Wisconsiners can dial that quality up then they'll be a bonafide beast. As it stands, they already sound like one is forming in some abominable sonic womb, but hasn't fully gestated into a distinct form.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]


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