Friday, January 25, 2013

Miseria Visage - Vanish Into Dark (EP) (2013)

Think about the way we, as music fans, break down an album. First, we see the artwork. Then, we hear the music. But the third part is what separates the best albums from the forgettable ones. When the album is all said and done, and music is gone, we have to feel something. What that something is varies from style to style, album to album. But whether it is happiness, sadness, morose, or triumph, it will define where that album fits into our lives for years to come. So, when Theta, the sole member of avant symphonic black metal band Miseria Visage records an album, there is a certain degree of emotion to be conveyed. His ability to translate those feelings of misery into a wide variety of instruments makes his work so ambitious. His success, then, won't be known until the final notes of "Vanish Into Dark" have faded away.

Right from the onset of "Phantoms of the Unhallowed Crypt," there is an immediate emphasis on symphonics. Taking the drum patterns from the typical black metal fare, it is an interesting mashup of styles. On one side of the mix you have high speed drums and raw screaming vocals; on the other, you find light use of synthesizers and piano. And while it may seem like a bizarre combination, it comes together well, thanks to the middle ground of the guitar work. The main riff is a good one, easily whistled along to. It is in the title track, "Vanish Into Dark," that you get a more in depth look at Theta, the musician. A strong bass line permeates the mix, sometimes darting up and down the neck, other times moving with grace. Haunting synths form the backdrop here, while raw, unaltered vocals take the fore. It is also here that you get a taste for how the production work takes shape, allowing the layers to remain balanced, while still giving off the unpolished feel you would expect. Perhaps the most exceptional track on the album, "Luciferian" seems endless in its appeal. With church organs ringing out in all their glory, and a detailed guitar lead, momentum is at a high. His voice cutting through your ear canal as if Satan himself is whispering to you, Theta spins his dastardly tale. The high energy segments are incredible, with machine gun drums driving everything forward, while the rest of the instrumental follows.And the outro leaves you chilled.

Serving as the first official single, "Offering" is a heavy handed piece that incorporates some elements of thrash into mostly blackened exterior. It is this extra dimension that takes things in a new direction. It isn't often that black metal gives you catchy guitar riffs, but that is exactly what you trip and fall into here. Pushed backwards in the mix, the drumming makes way for some interesting instrumentation; whether that be the synthesizers or effects laden guitars, the reverse order is a nice touch. A standout track, "The King's Incantation" may be the man at his best. The verse sections are particularly strong here, something that overflows into bridge and chorus. Keyboards fill a starring role here, leading to a brilliant portion just before the two minute mark. The true genius is in the balance between light and dark, something that comes into play in the latter stages, when a string melody is greeted by a deep growl. The closing track, "Paths," takes the raw vocal to a new level, standing out completely from the backing instrumental. Coincidentally, the instrumental itself may be at its strongest here. A constant presence in the background, the synthesizers are so important when it comes to holding things together. Whether in full out assault mode, or the down tempo atmospheric passages, that airy element is key. The bridge section, hovering around the four minute mark, shows the versatility Theta has as a musician, something not wholly common in black metal.

The ability to go off the beaten path at will makes Theta intriguing as a musician, and makes his Miseria Visage project all the more enjoyable. He hasn't reinvented black metal, nor do I think he is trying to; but by bending the rules over the course of the album, he keeps his sound fresh without be careless. And while the genre does have a signature production sound, the mix does well to honor the classics while still moving a step into the new generation. More than that, though, is the ability to translate the misery of the artist into real, tangible emotion for the listener. On that front, they couldn't have done it much better than "Vanish Into Dark." By the time the last notes fades away and the album comes to a close, you may feel added weight on your mind. That is perfectly normal, and absolutely expected.


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