|Art by Brandon Geurts|
I found Genevieve's new album, Escapism, tricky to write about. That's partly because it draws influence from multiple genres--I've read it described as experimental black metal elsewhere, and although I can't completely discount that, it only tells a small part of the story. But I fear the bigger risk is that whatever I say (or don't say) might put you in the wrong mindset to absorb this music.
As I said, black metal, even with the "experimental" modifier, doesn't completely cut it. After a mood-setting opening track, "Charnel Flow" and "Memory" does put me in mind of some of the more discordant and jagged black metal that you might expect from the French scene right now, like Deathspell Omega or Aosoth. But Genevieve sheds expectations pretty quickly. To begin with, the instrumentation is slightly unusual. On top of drums and bass, you get a baritone guitar for extra bottom-end punch and a fretless guitar, which adds a slippery, sometimes Middle Eastern feel. Check out the absolutely lovely title track, which is solo guitar with a bit of classical/flamenco flair. It has the loose feel of an improvisation without drifting far from its melodic center. Making the title track an instrumental unlike anything else on the album is quite a statement, even if your humble reviewer isn't quite sure what that statement is. Perhaps, "Ye who enter, abandon all expectations"?
Genevieve throws in plenty more non-black metal elements. The vocals range from growls, yelps, screams, and, in the case of the beginning of "Fell," a mix of singing, proclamation, and harsh whispers. Not content to rest in a quietly menacing place, this track gets angry in a hurry with blasting, some righteously heavy bass lines, and surprisingly melodic guitar lines. Is "melodic blackened grind" a thing? I think it might be on this album.
And that shows where my difficulty is. At times, the album sounds blackish, deathy, grindy, mathy, doomy, and everything in between. But, aside from the outro track, which in my opinion is a bit too long, the album works. It jumps around in a frenzy, with the occasional breather here and there, but strange as it is to say, it's also restrained. The songwriting doesn't try to leave the listener behind, as it can in some challenging music. I'm not sure I fully understand the album yet, even after many, many listens, but I feel pulled along by it nonetheless.
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