Posted by Nick Skog on Sunday, November 25, 2012 Under: Album Reviews
From: Sonic Abuse
Published: November 25, 2012
Reviewed by: Phil
Published: November 25, 2012
Silent Path is the name taken by Saman N. (also known as Count De Efrit) for his solo work. Hailing from Iran, Saman takes his cues on this release from the icy, crystalline riffs of black metal and the dank atmosphere of doom. ‘Mourner Portraits’ has had a long and painful gestation, the album originally having been written and recorded in 2009, with label problems leading to the record not actually being released despite having been sent out to websites and magazines for review. Hence ‘Mourner Portraits’ arrives with an extensive booklet offering black and white photography from WWII, lyrics, liner notes and, in an unusual but interesting move, reviews form the period. It is typical of excellent label Hypnotic Dirge to pay such attention to detail and fans will undoubtedly appreciate the effort that has gone into a release that they have been awaiting for such a long period of time.
‘Mourner portraits’ is by no means an easy album. Saman’s love of black metal has clothed the album in a dense, near-impenetrable production that is both grimy and frost-coated. Guitars ring out of the fog, often distorted by the treble wash of the cymbals and rendered opaque by the layers of echoing reverb that drench the recording until it forms a solid wall of noise that leaves the listener gasping with the cold. Musically, however, the sound is linked with the primitive doom metal of the early nineties, with references to Paradise Lost’s perennially under-rated first album, Finnish doom lords Thergothon and the dry horror of early My Dying Bride all eating away at the listener’s soul, with only a hint of Black metal represented with nods to the dense, ideological misanthropy of Burzum informing the tortured riffs that pour forth from the speakers. Such a dry, icy sound is not without its benefits and it is arguable that the production perfectly matches the content and intent of the music, but it is, equally, a love it or hate it sound that will alienate as many listeners as it inspires. For true fans of doom, however, the one unarguable fact is that ‘mourner portraits’ is a pitch dark album that creates a strong, oppressive atmosphere redolent of failure, hatred and despair over the course of its fifty-eight minute run time.
Opening track ‘empty earth’ perfectly sets the tone with its ravaged riffs and funereal percussion underpinning vocals that are gasped and gurgled out as if with a dying breath. It’s spectacularly bare – as if Samon has stripped his churning emotions down to their bare essence and poured the whole foetid, putrid mass into his primitive riffs and the resulting sense of horror is as palpable as that of Colonel Kurtz’s renegade commander, trapped in a metaphysical prison of his own making. Follow-up track ‘Filth of mankind’ juxtaposes simplistic riffs that weave and coalesce into a melody that is as beautiful as any post-rock work from Mogwai and then shoots echoing samples through its heart, hypnotising the listener with its lengthy, ever-evolving sound. ‘Broken trees’ is similarly expansive, the music ebbing and flowing as it moves between subtle, atmospheric passages into full-blown metallic assaults, the melodies hidden but ever present, always drawing the listener further into Silent Path’s heart of darkness.
Although the majority of the songs are lengthy on the record, ‘Last men, last dreams’ is particularly epic, clocking in at just over seven and a half minutes, and while on one hand the corrosive atmosphere makes those seven minutes last a life time, conversely the music is so endlessly fascinating that it passé sin the blink of an eye – a contradictory state of affairs that will be familiar to anyone who has admired doom or drone over the years. Deeply melancholic and beautifully melodic, it pierces right to the very heart with its open wounds and whispered vocals and it is clear that Silent path have developed the deathly path laid down by Thergothon and improved upon it, developing the songs so that they still bleed atmosphere but maintain a level of melody that is as memorable as it is bleak.
Thus the album delivers upon the promise of its artwork, and heritage. The music is simplistic and yet, for all that the riffs might not be technical, the magic lies within the emotion that underscores the playing. Samples of rain and storms permeate the record (as at the outset of ‘forgotten sounds’), vocals are gargled, screamed and wrenched out in a variety of manners, depending upon the track and the overall feeling is that the record works best as a mood piece, deeply disturbing and atmospheric and necessarily absorbed as a whole and in order. That it is not music for everyone remains undisputed – the production is wilfully grainy and far-removed form the over-polished studio sheen that typifies much of today’s musical output whilst the dank, unutterably nihilistic nature of the music will be, for some, as unbearable as the sound itself. However, within its genre this is an unsung masterpiece. It is devastatingly cold, and inhuman; the music may come from a place of deep, churning emotion, but its result is to leave you frozen, numb, as if a shot of Novocaine has been administered direct to the soul via the scarifying riffs and mesmerising vocals. It is a brave work also, weaving dense melodies into the tapestry of the songs and utilising a number of effects to create a sense of mood that neither lightens nor breaks across the whole of the record’s run time.
Overall this is a work that will appeal to a relatively small section of metal fans, but for those who worship at the altar of funeral doom or atmospheric black metal, it will prove to be a valuable addition to the collection indeed, and for those hardy souls willing to embrace the blackness there are rich rewards to be had indeed.
Reviewed by: Phil
In : Album Reviews
Tags: silent path mourner portraits depressive black metal funeral doom iran saman nu ekove efrits inner trip