Friday, May 3, 2013

Thy Raventhrone - End (2013)

It's not hard to see why people would like the music of Thy Raventhrone. There is a mystery about the music, a magical quality that would surely leave many, like myself, scratching their heads. The brainchild of Jani Kalin, this one man project from Finland isn't doing what everyone else is doing; and I doubt he would ever care to. Instead, Kalin is crafting his own version of atmospheric metal, heavy on the keyboard influence, and based around a center theme.  What makes this current incarnation all the more intriguing is where it began; not geographically, but musically. His initial works in 2005, which Kalin describes as " purely Folk/Power" metal, as miles away in the rear view mirror. With this new style, he strays away from the beaten path and goes off in a direction few have walked before. His success may still be up in the air and miles further down the road, but with the new album, "End" he is well on his way to something great, even if he isn't there yet.

With the sweeping melodies that open "Desolation," you get a small taste of what could be, and perhaps what is. Joined by a quivering set of guitar strings being plucked, you have something interesting building around you. While it takes over two minutes for the track to get into its full form, the atmospheric quality of that time is not wasted. As the lightning quick snares and kicks come into view, there may be a burning desire for a change of scope. But what you hear is, in fact, what you get. There is a dream-like airiness to the backing synths and guitars, one that does bolster the main riffs. The trade off between those hazy melodies and the slamming drum work is a good one, though it doesn't seem to create any sort of advancement in the track. There is a common theme running through "Silence (Desolation Part II)," as you would expect, but the change from basic synths to the more church inspired organ sound makes all the difference. What results is a much fuller mix, one that finds a true balance rather than just a back and forth dynamic. It feels more complete, and allows for more lateral movement. But even with the added melodies and guitar work, the track length is taxing, clocking in at nearly nine minutes, while still relying on the same repeating riffs and drums. Kalin is at his best around the seven minute mark, finding a perfect harmony.

The two tracks that form the "Rapture" arc are similar to their predecessors in that they share a commonality between them, while still giving off a distinct sound. The first part stands as perhaps the most complete work on the album, despite some interesting mixing choices. rather than keep a steady hand on the levels, the synthesizers dominate around the midway point, and are quickly buried beneath a wave of distortion and drum patterns. A jovial piece of organ work in the latter stages will surely become a focal point, but the way he transitions in and out of that passage is key. Part two takes the same theme and changes the timeline noticeably, adding what sounds like a space rock edge to the mix. They are two varying takes on the same story, both centering around the machine gun drumming segments and a lone guitar melody. While they are dressed up differently, they remain very similar. But again, Kalin works a bit of magic, replacing that jaunty melody of early with a more haunting organ. "Netherdream," the shortest and not coincidentally most memorable track on the album, is a demonstration of how to make this style work. It remains ambient and flowing, without the repeating functionality. Instead, there is a structure in place that allows the track to rise and fall, while changing along the way. It feels far more organic than the rest, as if the track truly wrote itself.

There is something otherworldly about what Jani Kalin is doing with this project; something that will draw us back time and time again to see what he'll do next. But for now, with an EP and this album as the markers, there are questions left unanswered. While it could be said that there is nothing inherently wrong with the tracks as they were written and recorded, it seems as though the length is their greatest enemy, relying too much on reused pieces to pad out tremendous run times. If the first four tracks were shorter, would it negatively effect the finished product? That distinction, of course, is up to each individual listener to determine. From a musical standpoint, Kalin does create some magnificent soundscapes, thanks to his varying use of keyboards. But only time will tell if that will be enough to pad out another full length album, or if he will have to shorter the leash, and go for a more succinct output. At any rate, "End" is certainly not what the name indicates. There has to be more.


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