Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Morodh/People Are Mechanisms - Lost In Life (Split) (2012)

Something is stirring in the darkness. Somewhere in Russia, among the shadows, a new wave of depressive black metal is building. When you take two of the newest, and most talented, bands from the frozen east and put them together on a single disc, something good is bound to happen. People Are Mechanisms, from the city of Ryazan, and Morodh, from the city of Vladimir, both have a crushing grip on the principles of classic black metal. But where they have similarities, particularly in the art inspired pieces, there are also key differences. On this split EP, "Lost In Life," both bands have a chance to show their grim outlook on black metal past, present, and future.

Leading off, Lesnik Stasik - the sole member of People Are Mechanisms - gives you a lasting first impression. A torrential downpour gives birth to a haunting piece of synthesizer for "Unfamiliar Trails." There is a rich, ambient quality here, rising from nothing to a wall of distorted guitars and the tapping drums. It isn't the lightning fast, reckless style that has come to be associated with black metal, but a more thoughtful one. The recording, while rough around the edges, doesn't go to waste in a sea of murky feedback. Even the heavier moments remain focus and straight forward, even finding a balance between a roaring thunderstorm and the layers that surround it. A lot of that artsy quality isn't present on "Empty Midnight Streets," opting for a mix of traditional tones and shoegaze inspired riffs. The drum beat, while simplified, is the perfect framework for the guitar lead. A raw feel dominates this track, shedding off the thin layer of polish that worked so well on the previous effort. This isn't a mistake, necessarily, but a departure in vision from one track to the next. There are numerous tempo changes over the course of seven-plus minutes, some shining a light on explosive percussion, while other turn more to a pained scream. Where the two track unite is in their ability to come full circle; quiet to loud, and back again.

For Morodh, there is a common ground in moments of "Desperation," but not with their split mates. Instead, some of the haunting melodies are more akin to French post-black artists Alcest, finding a nearly impossible home between glowing and grave. A layer of screeching vocals comes and goes, leaving a trail of howling distortion in its wake each time. The moments where merely the instrumental remains are some of the strongest, painting a picture out of grays and black shades that is both somber and beautiful. Vocalist Astaroth completes the portrait with harsh shades of red in every grating scream he emits. And while it makes sense for a depressive band to have a song titled "Hopelessness," this particular one is anything but. Light drum beats and a clean guitar open the track, forming the foundation of a melody that is rarely heard in the darker metal styles. This is where the guitar work gets to shine the brightest, creating a mood that only a smoothly played riff can do. In a flash, the world catches fire, and a devastating set of double kicks blasts through the mix and into your waiting ears. This is the black metal that most of us know, but with a refined twist. Rather than wear you down with a sea of reverb, they choose to go back to that same stripped down piece that started it all.

Fans of black metal, there is an entirely new world of music waiting for you. More importantly, for those who have yet to explore the darkest of the dark, this split may in fact be your opportunity. Both artists contained here embody the three objects that we all crave: the scrapbook, the mirror, and the window. Both People Are Mechanisms and Morodh, as the scrapbook, flex the more traditional muscle throughout their respective  halves. As the mirror, they show mastery of what black metal has evolved into, including a much more clear production and writing process. But, most important of all, they are both the window; with each song they write looking out into the world, at what their art form could be going forward. Maybe "Lost In Life" is exactly where we need to be.


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