5772 by 夢遊病者 (Sleepwalker)Release date: November 17, 2017
Label: AnnapurnA Production / Sentient Ruin Laboratories
If you usually write off black metal as being a farcical genre of bullshit, bravado and ludicrously unrealistic cartoon monster sounds, this band is for you. All that shit is there, but the way it’s done is such that it feels like a hallucination; psychological horrors born of falsehood and paranoia. The vocals as always a whispered impression, though in this realm it feels psychosomatic, rather than creating the impression of a small animal puffing out its chest as some futile and somewhat amusing defence mechanism as so often is the case elsewhere. It might not be perfect but, overall it’s pretty fucking good so, those who would usually, don’t write it off, you might enjoy it.
‘Empty Urns’ immediately showcases a diversity of styles that on reflection is somewhat evident of the project’s heritage as the product of a transnational collaboration between musicians based in Russia, Japan and the U.S. The guitar scream boldly and wince intensely whilst the vocals are offer ghoulish disembodied roars in the distance. Like a memory of horror. A whispered trauma howling through into ‘White Linen’, a track that again showcases the group’s enrapturing guitar work and choked drums that sound pensive and dormant like a volcano waiting to erupt. It almost feels like the band have flipped the usual dynamics of metal on its head for a more ghostly and hallowed approach.
It could be argued that the percussive eruption I foretold finally arrives in ‘Plain Wood’, a track that offers a thrashier side of the band. It has some good riffs to offer, but I feel as though, the drums are the real star of the show there. The muffled intensity, again, has a menacingly ethereal quality. These are the demons I like.
‘Black Ribbon’ is a solid track all-round, it feels like it’s playing to all of the band’s strengths as essentially a black-gaze band. It’s funny, ‘cause I don’t really feel a particular nostalgia for shoegaze at the moment or a draw towards it as I often do in the winter, but I have to agree with the hype regarding what one of our own writers referred to as “quintessential doomgaze” in Palehorse/Palerider who stole the show in 2017 and I feel as though Sleepwalker with their heavily washed out black metal could draw a lot of people into a different zone of music with their unique take on the genre.
The penultimate track, ’No Flowers’ is probably my favourite track on the album, again, I feel as though the guitar work is excellent. A lot of my enjoyment of the track probably stems from its kind of weird, psyche metal Dinosaur Jr. vibe, accentuated by brutalist drum work. There’s probably room to be more intense with it, but as it stands I feel like it has a weird nostalgic quality to me, that is strangely wholesome.
‘Only Stones’ touches on similar ground to ‘Plain Wood’ only it amps it up and pushes it to a whole other extreme. The track feels like Final Fantasy boss fight music and that’s always a great sign of good music; I’d also say that if there’s a band to be compared to you could do worse than The Black Mages which this album has reminded me of a few times.
If you’re looking to explore black metal but, generally think most people can’t scream for shit; check this album out. It’s shoegaze and psyche soaked black metal for people who appreciate atmosphere but are repulsed by pretension and affectation. They’ve found a way around the bullshit and the bollocks.