Monday, May 17, 2010

Emancer – Utopian Illusions

Emancer – Utopian Illusions
Extremist Records, 2001

It's nice to see young Norwegians bands still keeping the flame of black metal alive, still taking influences from rather obvious sources (Darkthrone), and still trying, at least on the surface, to offer the world something new from this seemingly bottomless pit of inspiration that we have come to know as the 'Norwegian sensibility' - new in the sense of novel variations of tried and true themes, not 'corruption' of what has come before under the pretense of 'progression'. Emancer are one of those bands (and in this I can compare them to Keep of Kalessin, who they often sound like) who have not, in any measure, forgotten where their roots are, or what bands they were first inspired by. That much is evident in their sound, their approach to writing songs (a little more on that below), the construction of their melodies and the way those melodies lead into each other or make transitions between each other, etc. This is all very traditional, and so (having a wide variety of sounds and material to draw from in their own metal scene) Emancer don't have to try very hard in order for me to like them...for example, the second song on this recording opens up with one of those overtly über-Norse riffs that draws as much from Mayhem as it does from 'Transilvanian Hunger' (the song in this case, not the album), and which just opens up so many good memories in my mind...drawing on those kinds of references will always keep this band on my good side, but it can also lead to stagnation, as I'm sure they are aware of. Certain elements in these songs would lead the naive reviewer to believe that Emancer have very little to offer...but I wouldn't be so quick to judge. And while bands who wish to be 'progressive', or at least different from all the others from their own land usually try to incorporate extra influences or at least original sounds in their traditional formulae, adding piece on top of piece hoping that at least one form will stick in someone's mind, truly there isn't any real substitute for an original point of view or compositional sensibility (see the entire Greek black metal scene for proof of that), and it won't matter in the end how many idiosyncratic 'elements' Emancer throw into their sound if the desire or will (or, let's face it: the talent and melodic uniqueness) isn't there to steer them in the right direction. What I'm trying to say here is this: when it comes to original music, it's more often a truly new take on things that succeeds and builds upon itself rather than a formula sound with extraneous/novel additions. I feel I'm being rather hard on Emancer in saying this, but this work comes at an early point in their career, and so the promise they show here (and there is plenty of that) will hopefully be channeled into finding a different outlook on their own composing instead of expanding their song craft into the homogenous combination of disparate elements. Does this make sense?

Now when it comes to the traditional parts of their sound, Emancer excel...and I'm sure that they could have written a blazing black metal album based on purely antiquated lines, similar to the early Darkthrone material. However, as I'm sure they're aware...that's already been done dozens of times. What sets this band apart, and what seems a little unwieldy in their approach - I mean the 'progressive' stretches towards originality, the clean singing, clean guitar, etc. - are probably also the parts that made them 'original' (all terms are relative in this review) enough to be signed. So this won't be any kind of reasonless, reactionary judgment here - by all means I think this band should continue writing music that they want to write, drawing from influences that are obviously dear to them, and exploring what they are capable of. I will definitely be interested in hearing what they come up with. At this point, Emancer show the desire at least, on the surface, to stand out from the crowd...and that should never be denigrated.