Monday, May 7, 2012

Chernobyl - Chernobyl (2012)

Named for the nuclear disaster that forever changed the landscape of the world, Italy's Chernobyl aren't quite as groundbreaking. The ever increasing number of post metal bands coming out of the woodwork make it exponentially harder to craft a unique style, let alone get noticed by the world at large. But with a touch of atmospheric post-hardcore, mixed into a flurry of heavy riffs and pulsing drums, this four piece might not be far away from an explosion. Figuratively speaking, of course.

In no time, you are surrounded by a see of distortion and gloom, as "Red Forest: Day 1" commences. With each downstroke, a crashing of cymbals cuts through the air. The guitars chug away, but not without restraint. It isn't as if they are completely devoid of melody, though it does lose some of its luster in the crushing mix. Standing as the rock, the pillar of strength is the bass line, steady and constant. A crashing end leads right into the second part of the trilogy, "Red Forest: Day 2." Despite bearing the same name, the similarities between parts one and two are non existent, minus both tracks containing drums, guitars and bass. There is a more focused attention to melody here, building a harmony between each instruments that results in a more well rounded sound. The production isn't perfect, often leaving small details to pass, but it succeeds in creating a mood to the music that might have been lost with a better mix. But the subtleties are there, and they work wonders.

Ending the three part affair is the smashing attack of "Red Forest: Day 3." The rule book has gone out the window, in favor of some of the more bruising percussion you will find on a post metal album. Things do regain a bit of control shortly thereafter, settling down into a noticeable structure. The drums have taken on a somewhat hollow thud, for better or worse, leaving the overall sound feeling a little flat. Some interesting guitar effects cover the outro portion, a tin echo carrying it to an end. Building a track from nothing into a nearly eight minute opus can certainly take time, as is the case here. It is a full minute of the same riff before "Fukushima Sunrise" changes. And this is where things go awry. The production seemingly dips, and the tempo is lost. There is a much more minimalist approach at play here, though it may not be intentional. Like many of the newer post and sludge metal bands, Chernobyl seems to lose sight of the goal here, droning on with the same basic chords for far too long. There is a clear division between segments, and this could have easily been divided into two separate, and wholly different, tracks. The latter portion sees an improvement, with the addition of some clean guitars and slides.

A robotic buzz opens "Kursk," while also welcoming back those rare clean guitars and light tapping of drums. Rather than trying to overpower you right out of the gate, they instead choose a more calm approach, building with each measure. Things build to a head, and finally boil over with a burst of distorted riffs and crashing drums. Repetitiveness is a problem again, however, as the band settles in for another marathon of the same basic format. The truth shame is that as a three minute effort, this track would be a standout. But adding an extra two minutes just kills the momentum. And with that, "Vostok Lake" takes over for the home stretch. Clocking in at over eight minutes of feedback laden distortion, this is a perfect microcosm for the album as a whole. The noise that emanates from your speaker at this point could be perceived as self pandering, with a constant drum beat and bass line sitting underneath a never ending wave of grating guitar.It never really falls into line, instead puttering out.

With new albums, especially by new bands, there are two sides to the coin. First, concentrating on the positives. Chernobyl exhibit an ability to write riffs that make sense, that flow together nicely albeit in an extremely chaotic environment. There are standout moments in five of the six tracks, great ideas that simply didn't come to fruition. But as you turn to the negatives, you begin to forget all that was good. Extended track lengths repeatedly kills any sense of movement. Rather than aiming for that eight minute behemoth, sometimes it's more important to know when to stop. And while this isn't a second disaster bearing the Chernobyl name, changes may be necessary to avoid a premature meltdown.


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