The Dystopia Journals
11/7/2008 - Review by: Etiam
As if Norwegian metal's experimental scene weren't already dynamic enough--'post' is joined with 'black metal' by some without a hint of sarcasm or satire--a new group called Vulture Industries has joined the fray. Highly touted, but by relatively few, the dubiously-named quintet face difficult competition in the likes of Arcturus, Ihsahn, Solefald, Enslaved, et cetera ad infinitum. Indeed, elements of the band are admittedly familiar, with the strongest corollary being Arcturus: quirky interweaving of avant-garde, black metal, jaunty rock, and circus curios through a tuneful tapestry. Too, the vocals of Bjørnar Nilsen are also rather like Garm's in his mid-era, with a bold, almost strident, clean timbre belting out his rambling melodies. But despite the odds, 'The Dystopia Journals' is still unique, and fans of the aforementioned bands will almost assuredly enjoy this debut.
Of primary importance to this album's success is the balance of the instrumentation and the overall production, which are both exemplary. Walking basslines in the piano complement the gliding violins; the guitar tone balances punchy gain with articulate harmonies; percussion is crisp without being too sibilant; the low end is fuzzy, but still defines notes well. Bjørnar's harsh vocals are relatively infrequent, only making their first appearance on the third song, 'A Path of Infamy', and alternate between lows (that sound almost inhaled) and mid-highs in the vein of V:28. With its mad narrative interlude, heavily phased guitar, and chorus-edged piano, this track invokes Unexpect at times, while its droning bridge, replete with flanging electronics, and closing blues solo are classic Enslaved. As the album progresses, both vocal styles are featured, but, fittingly, Bjørnar's cleans remain dominant as he narrates the protagonist's bizarre odyssey.
As often occurs with debut albums, Vulture Industries have stacked their best material--memorable melodies, effective structures--towards the beginning, so around 'The Crumbling Realm' (track six) the momentum begins to tail off. Bjørnar's vocal lines and the songwriting in general is more listless, though not from lack of effort, for at no point does this album smack of the slapdash or unprepared--only a tad short on standout material. All in all, the majority of 'The Dystopia Journals' is memorable, invigorating, and above all comfortable in itself. Rather than pushing towards new extremes to make their name in a highly competitive scene, Vulture Industries unearthed an attractive niche in the proverbial middle ground of the experimental and proved it to be both productive and fresh.
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