Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Black Boned Angel - The End (2013)
Country: Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Label: Handmade Birds
Campbell Kneale is a prolific and well respected artist who has crafted quite the niche for himself in his twenty-plus years of activity. Black Boned Angel has been his metal outlet for something like a decade now and this album brings that era to an end. What did these three tracks have in store?
Is there anything more terrifying than the absolute disillusionment of being? When you think about the end of your existence, what is it that comes into your head? As I am writing this, a snowstorm is outside of my window and is covering the world in white; and while that may not be what I think of when I think of the end, it certainly sets a mood for when I press play on this album. Drone-doom by nature isn't a genre that presents a listener with thoughts of pleasant ideas and a world view of flowers and nice things. Those long and drawn out chords with feedback engulfing the background, the drumwork that typically follows a style that is just as patient and restrained, and vocals that just seem to be howled from the bowls of hell (or someone's basement - you decide which is more frightening). As someone who wasn't too well acquainted with the back catalog of Black Boned Angel, I knew this would be an album that would certainly take time to digest, but I didn't expect it to take me over a month to finally collect my thoughts on it.
The three tracks that make up this sixty-plus minute album are exactly how the above paragraph described the genre. Those extremely drawn out and patience testing song lengths reach over twenty minute mark for two of the three tracks and the one that doesn't is still just as excruciating; but I mean that in the best possible way. Before listening to this album I tried to get myself used to the sound I would be hearing from the band in question, listening to the likes of the downward spiral of 2006's Bliss and Void Inseparable, 2009's epochal Verdun, and 2010's more atmospheric venture from The Witch Must Be Killed as well as a little bit more of Campbell Kneale's work in Our Love Will Destroy The World (I don't care for Birchville Cat Motel in case you were wondering), but I don't think that that did me much good in preparation for this album. The sound, for me, is somewhere in between all three of the albums I mentioned above, but still kind of it's own beast. You can definitely tell that it is still the same band, but it's not quite as collected as I feel the last full-length was or as destructive as the first two mentioned were - instead it's more of a statuesque portrait of the genre. I know that might not sound like the most positive or complimentary thing for me to say, but for me it was more of an anchored sort of sound. Like the band were returning to a more conditioned sound, not experimenting as much with ambiance and they weren't trying to utterly destroy or dominate you either. They were sticking to the sound that they know and sort of serving it to you, unfettered, on a platter.
Having said that, to say that this album doesn't feature it's moments of either full-blown ambiance or absolute destruction of sound would be incorrect. The End II features some brilliant (that's right, brilliant) usage of ambiance. It's bleak and utterly melancholic in tone, keeping with the overall vibe from the album, but acts as a sort of relief from the torturous first movement of the album and before the void that awaits in the second half. I'm not going to pretend and say that I didn't feel like I was in hell while listening to this album - and maybe that was the point, to make the listener feel like they were being tortured while listening to this. Granted, I'm sure there are a lot of people who enjoy that feeling, but for me - as I am now - I just could not deal with listening to this entire album in one sitting. Don't mistake this for me saying that I didn't think this album was well done though. I think the performances on here are well done for what they are and I think that when put into the context of what this genre is doing, this is a well done piece of work, but this was just a little to much for me to listen to in a single sitting - hence why it took me so long to write up this review. It was just one of those albums where it was like whenever I would play it on my Ipod, I would end up listening to the first track before changing to another band or song because I just couldn't deal with listening to something this oppressive for more than that. When I would put this on my turntable, I would be able to sit through more of it, but still not the entire thing. Normally, I would take this as a bad sign, but when I think about how this album made me feel while listening to it, I can't help but to actually admire it. I should also say that when I did play this album on vinyl, it did rock my speakers.
This definitely isn't the sort of album I think I could recommend to everyone, but for fans of the genre I think that this would be up there in the project's best work. Personally, I have preferred a few of the other releases done by this project in the past over this one, but when I think of what this album represents, I don't feel badly towards it. It's not one of my favorites, but from the genre, and from Kneale himself, I have heard worse. Damning with faint praise, but I respect this more than I enjoy it.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: The End II