Just in 2013 alone, we've seen a lot of different flavors of black metal. There's the Indian influences in Dressed in Streams, the orchestral works of So Hideous, and the woodsy hammered dulcimer of Botanist, just to name a few. What else could be left? Well, how about pop black metal? I don't know if that's the best description of Loss of Self's new full-length, Twelve Minutes, but it's the phrase I keep coming back to. It may all sound a bit nutty, but just hang in there--you're going to see some very un-black metal adjectives used in this review.
The opening track, "Paradise Overgrown," is a strange, twisty affair, and although it's a great song, it's both a good and bad introduction to the rest of the album. You'll hear some of the elements that are common to the rest of the record--raspy black metal vocals, jangling guitar lines, and what could almost be described as "relaxed" blast beats. The song hangs just on the edge of chaos, but what comes up in the next track, "Isolt," is even stranger. The guitar riff could easily be from a guitar-pop or indie song, and check out that ascending, melodic bass line. Does it sound...happy? What kind of major-key madness is this? Granted, even with these poppier sounds, we're not hearing some kind of bubblegum black metal. The riffs sound like they started out more or less happy in life, born into an introspective rock songs, but they've spent some time on the bad side of town, drinking and getting into trouble. Deep down, they're the same riffs they were born as, but behind the smiles and preppy clothes, there's something dark and sinister about them.
This vibe runs throughout the album. I'd even call the bass downright bouncy in some tracks. But understand that I don't use words like "bouncy" or "happy" as criticism--like some of the strangest metal I love, this mash-up of sounds adds a surprising freshness and uniqueness. And this is still black metal (even if some might argue that point), so there's plenty of menace on tap. "The Free Intelligence" has a grumbling, sludgy guitar riff set in opposition to the jaunty bass line, and of course, those vocals are as harsh as anyone could want. The more I listen to this album, the more I hear, even though most of the songs are fairly short--none of them even breaks the four-minute mark.
I suspect that some people will find the contrasting elements a bit too much to take, and I can understand that, but I think this is an album that rewards an open-mind and repeat listens.
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