Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dunnock- "A Forest of Shattered Promise" CS (Acephale Winter Productions)

A couple months ago I received an email from a new record label named Acephale Winter Productions. I've started receiving more emails from labels and bands and have been a lot pickier than I used to be, but these guys instantly had my attention when I learned they were from my beloved bay area of California. I was especially pleased when I realized that their first release, a tape from new black metal artist Dunnock, was actually quite good. As I often do when a band strikes my fancy, I ordered a physical copy so that I could really get the full experience, and it's quite pleasing to say the least.

The album opens with the sound of pouring rain. It's appropriate transitional music for entering such a reflective and isolated space. The light piano and shimmering sounds that lead into the album are slightly misleading, but provide a helpful moment of comfort as the second track approaches with a cold, remorseless assault. There is a huge sense of detachment here, as cleaner backing passages complement the denser and more blackened foreground in what feels like a struggle of duality. Many bands attempt to switch between harsh and beautiful sections, yet few successfully combine the two into a properly integrated sound. I really appreciate the rawness and filthiness of the guitar and vocals as it blends with lighter ambient tones. The clear textural nods to the denser side of shoegaze are apparent, but the music never falls into the stagnant sea of "blackgaze" territory. Eerie samples fill the few quiet moments with an even greater sense of dread, leading the music's thickness to become some sort of furious buzzing barrier that protects the listener from the real dangers that await in the silence, as documented in the chilling "She Was Cold." Overall, this album fits into one of my favorite little pockets of black metal, where the music is equally soothing and unsettling at the same time. Depending on my personal state of mind when listening to this, I find the experience can change vastly, which is an enjoyable characteristic for me. While I singled out one particular song as a recommendation, this album is best listened to as one complete journey for the full experience.

This album can be purchased through the Acephale Winter bandcamp page, which is where I found the lovely images I've used for this review. I do own a copy, but their photography trumps mine easily. If you're not sure you're ready for a full-on purchase just yet, feel free to download it and mull it over for a while. I promise this one will grow on you once you give it proper focus and attention. Additionally, the label plans on releasing a cassette from Tolkien-inspired dark ambient project Ringbearer within the next week, so keep an eye out as things continue to develop.

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