“Earthbound” is the third release from Greek eccentric avant-metallist ABSTRUSE, after 2007’s Transgressions demo and 2010’s Ivory Tower album. The previous issues I hailed for their inventive approach to combining metal music with experimental composing techniques and Gothic atmospheres. Now they – or he – is back with a second full length, and though the main approach and style is retained, some of the spell has been broken.
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments here that stand out in alluring aesthetic fire, where mysteries of harmonies and timbres are hinted at and subtly unveiled. However, these sparks appear too seldom and too randomly, occluded by too many unwanted elements. My major gripes with this album are these:
– The production. Even though the sound is clear and atmospheric, it is imbued with the jangliness and thinness plaguing many home productions. The many elements collide with each other, fighting for space, and blurs and distracts the listener. Perhaps that was intentional, but it makes this a tiresome listen.
– The vocals. Nothing wrong with the clear vocals; the Gothic speech-vocals are quite good actually. But, and this is a massive but, the semi-harsh, groaned vocals sound strained, restrained and sometimes even like a joke, as if not taking it serious. Hadn’t they been on top of the whole mix, square in your face, they might have been tolerable. Now it isn’t so.
– Tightness. The drums often sounds like they’ve been played on pads, with fingers, by someone who is drunk. The rumbling and rambling percussions are indeed strange, but strange doesn’t necessarily entail good. The clusterfucks on some tracks are simply bad.
– Arbitrariness. Elements, sections and segments come and go, and even though there is a certain structure or narrative audible behind it, many songs tend to drag, churning irrelevancies, moving seemingly nowhere. This isn’t a constant, but happens much too often to be enjoyable. The album at times comes across as a series of outtakes and ideas, in random order.
– The LENGTH. It’s almost 80 minutes. Half of it could be scrapped, and this would have been a great album. Now I have to listen to it in segments, three songs at a time, only to discover that the last 3-4 songs is where it happens, where the good songs are. The physical limitations of the vinyl LP should be taken into consideration at all times when bands consider filling an entire CD with music. No-one wants to listen to 80 minutes of anything.
Despite elements that are highly enjoyable, avant-rock bizarreries that challenge the listeners in a good way, reminding of for example Chris Cutler and Fred Frith’s more playful moments, it is too often that the listener is challenged negatively. Earthbound becomes a test of endurance, especially considering its exuberant and ridiculous length. Much of the Gothic and surreal aura and atmosphere from the earlier releases is lost here – to me at least – and the moments of beauty are lost amidst the heaps of rubble and meaningless wank. Perhaps I am outweirded by ABSTRUSE. The enjoyable sections and segments are in a minority, dragged down by the majority that only inspires me to turn it off.
ABSTRUSE follows & perseveres in their singular vision, still as unique as ever, and I respect that. I will however not be expected to salute the outcome of those visions.
Stand out track(s): Desert Tempest Mind, Earthbound, Disclosure. Skip the first 40 minutes.
Release: Autumn 2012
Avantgenre: Avantgarde Metal Mess
Duration: 79 Minutes
Official site: http://https://www.facebook.com/pages/Abstruse/378911368826393
Review online since: 31.01.2013 / 15:52:38
1. Forest God