Thursday, October 20, 2011

Negative Plane: Stained Glass Revelations (2011)


I am pretty much the only metalhead who didn't like Deathspell Omega's Paracletus. There are 14 reviews on Metal Archives, with an average score of 91%, and the next-lowest score is 79%. I gave it a 40%. The crux of my problem with it was summed up thusly: "[W]hen all you have are dissonant riffs--without anything to ground them--then it doesn't make any sense."

Even though I didn't publish my review until February, and Stained Glass Revelations came out in January, it sounds like Negative Plane know exactly what I was talking about and set out to write the record Paracletus should have been. Or at least one of the forms it could have taken.

These Florida-to-New York transplants don't go for the ultra-tight, controlled chaos of the French band, but they do borrow from their school of weird, dissonant, clean guitar riffs. But they do plenty to ground those riffs in a context that you can latch onto. In fact, at first blush they sound almost like they could have been a Second Wave band. Even their incredibly unpolished production with fully audible bass would have fit in 1994 Norway. But those clean, dissonant riffs come in with their bad acid trip quality, and you're clearly transported to 2011.

Songs like "Lamentations & Ashes", "The Number of the Word", and the title track are mind-blowing. They start with something familiar, the ugliness of black metal, and twist it with something new and unusual. With this album they've done as much to evolve the form of pure black metal, without leaning on outside sources, as anyone else in recent memory.

My only complaint, however, is a pretty big one. Negative Plane are not exactly economical songwriters. The songs proper average nearly 9 minutes apiece, while the intro and interludes are over 2 minutes each, adding up to an album that's over an hour. I obviously have nothing against long songs per se. But this drags, especially in the middle where the somewhat weaker songs are present. Any one of the songs could have been shaved by a couple minutes, and if all of them had been, this would have been an unstoppable beast. As it is, there is still no shortage of awesome here.

The Verdict: This is black metal innovating from within, rather than incorporating outside influences, and that is indeed rare. However, a bit of judicious editing would have really taken this to the next level. I give Stained Glass Revelations 4 out of 5 stars.

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