Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blood Stained Dusk - Dirge of Death's Silence

Blood Stained Dusk - Dirge of Death's Silence
2001, Baphomet/Necropolis

When this band first started, a few years ago now, they were mainly criticized in certain underground circles for having a sound, style, or general outlook that was very close to Emperor. At that time - this is only two years ago, I believe - I think the main intent within the USBM scene was a sort of 'turning-away' from European influences, in order to concentrate on and build a strictly American frame of references or a series of stylistic reserves that did not bow with undue reverence to Scandinavian influences. There is still a tremendous underground sentiment in this country, a groundswell towards this end, a pathological shying away from Norwegian references, and this is only as it should be. Nationalism...no - not so much as just the usual American self-determination, a certain rudeness. I think the main locus of this interruption of homages takes place around the eternal conflict of keyboards vs. no keyboards in black metal, that tired subject, bands often claiming - usually extemporaneously, or needlessly - that they do not, in fact, use keyboards and 'never will', as if this self-imposed limitation somehow makes them better musicians (it doesn't - music never has and never will be about crippling one's own melodic resources). Notice, however, that the physical limitation of not using keyboards does not automatically bring about an increase in guitar-based melodic weight, as most of these bands leave out the keyboards without seeking to build dark atmospheres with any other instrument...they just end up being, somehow, one half of a band. Now that the USBM scene has expanded and grown, stretching its inclusive stylistic boundaries, I think there is room enough for all kinds of different bands - including a sizeable niche for Blood Stained Dusk - and the arguments against keyboards as being primarily an instrument of the Europeans are no longer valid. In terms of lineage, Burzum, Emperor, and other Norwegian bands have shown beyond a doubt that synths (Immortal has always used them) can be used to effectively in black metal, not only as background coloring but also as lead instruments or the bearers of the main melodies in songs. As always in music, it is just a matter of degree, restraint, and structuring...what matters is not that you have them or not, but how you use them...

Blood Stained Dusk, then, are one of those bands that uses them, I believe, and this is only my opinion, in a 'correct' (mainly meaning that it suits my own tastes) manner - as a drapery, backdrop, and structural emphasis undergirding the guitars, much like on the first Emperor album. In the first song here, the epic, melancholy-drenched 'Moon Behind the Storm', you can hear this technique easily, as it is open and obvious - all guitar progressions go hand-in-hand with a synth backdrop or accompaniment, tracing out slow changes in melody through the time-honored (now anyway) traditional manner of tremelo riffing in tandem with key washes, huge fading and swelling waves of epic evocation. This isn't the kind of synth playing that Cradle of Filth or Dimmu Borgir manipulate, for example, where the keys are employed to create swirling vortexes of sound placed at the forefront, overriding and often outpacing the guitars (which is highly annoying to me, for the most part), but rather the honored, traditional, methodology of building extra layers to tint, deepen, and thicken the general sound of the band - sonic tapestry weaving. A very good example of this technique, again, would be in the overtly Emperor-influenced third song 'Renounce the Dawn', which leaps into my ears as high speeds, but seems - because of the synth work - to create an overriding, drowning atmosphere that negates any progressive elements or aspects of tempo. This is what was always the best part of 'In The Nightside Eclipse' for me - the fact that the drums were constantly blasting, pacing through rapid fills or tremendous cymbal work, and yet...because of the atmospheric elements the music seems to often stand still, to only very slowly shift or change shape - instead of being a linear journey, the music just appears all at once, like a summoned entity or landscape, like a half-glimped fragment of a dream, as an evocative memory...Blood Stained Dusk excel at this kind of music making.

Come to think of it, I don't believe there is another black metal band in America that sounds quite like this one...or any others that use keyboards quite so well.

What is also very surprising to me about this release is the morbid pathos present, the suffocating, darkling sadness always evident and brooding dangerously throughout all the melodies...to put it quite simply, I don't think there is a single ray of light or hope on this entire fifty minute long album. Honestly, I didn't know this band had it in them to produce something this emotionally powerful, as this is just an overwhelmingly, endlessly melancholy series of compositions. Beautiful.

Fans of black metal record art should make sure to seek this release out, as Michael Riddick has once again created a very pleasing series of images to complement the music within, and while he and the band were not exactly given a large amount of space to develop any important concepts, the art does correspond, in a genuine fashion, remarkably well with the music...it is also not the usual monochrome imagery, but instead blends, in layer upon layer, tints and tones of benighted azure, making the entire packaging an homage to a lunar, twilight celebration...

To sum up, I can't help but think that Blood Stained Dusk, with the writing and releasing of this album, has reached a new pinnacle with their own musical skills, and they should be proud of what they accomplished here. To be sure, the Emperor influences still remain, but they are being shed - one can certainly hear this in the music - and this band, over time, should step boldly forward with a more original sound as they progress and become more confident in their own internal explorations and songwriting. In any case, this is a very good album, and one that I know I will enjoy listening to over and over again...

Recommended.