Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Review: Hate Forest - Battlefields
Like all of Roman's music, Hate Forest doesn't exactly thrive on an excess of musical activity within the songs. Hell, it almost seems to thrive off the exact opposite: endurance tests supposedly designed to build "atmosphere" but in my mind are more about self-indulgent exercises in the same. "Battlefields" is composed of a few lengthy, minimal black metal tracks broken up by Ukrainian vocal-only traditionals (as I said, this album is a Statement) that no one actually cares to listen to in real life. They're sort of a scam; the sort of thing dropped into a black metal album to make it seem more immediately relevant and important than it actually is, and unsurprisingly, a lot of people think that, despite how naturally incongruous and completely meaningless to a non-Ukrainian audience they are, they most certainly Mean Something Important. Granted, no one listening to this album actually speaks Russian, but they're foreign, so they mean something, right? Right? Of course they do- they're Traditional and Reference The Traditional Cultural Roots Of This Music. A quick note: if you ever read that phrase in a review about a folk/black metal album, run.
Of course, "Battlefields" isn't actually a folk-influenced album (apart from the meaningless traditionals); it's a pretty boring, static ambient black metal album with unusually clanging sound effects and a distinct lack of riffs. Just how similar this is to Drudkh in construction is pretty incredible, actually; both bands feature songs composed of about two actual riffs each, swathed in murky, reverb-drenched production, and mostly require the "atmosphere" to carry them. Unfortunately, I've always believed that atmosphere is something generated by the music itself, not something you dollop on top of otherwise plain music like a condiment, and that's exactly what Hate Forest does here. A black metal track on this album: ten minutes long (this means it's epic,) composed of buzzing tremolo riffs and blast beats/double bass or grimly martial passages of chugging and war toms pounding away, and occasionally some synthesized orchestral instruments overhead. The songs never actually progress anywhere; they're designed to sound traditional, warlike, and dark, but just a static element of each of those rather than a narrative piece that actually proceeds anywhere. Frankly, this music is so empty that the album could probably feature a blank CDr and come across in exactly the same manner. The music isn't what you're buying this for, after all.
There's a lot of good Ukrainian black metal, but there's also a lot of terrible shit from that scene too, and "Battlefields" is a pretty distinct entry into that latter category. Devoid of character, content, artistry, or anything but an empty sense of stylized aesthetics, it's the sort of thing you think defines you as an open-minded and serious black metal listener when you're fifteen years old. After that, I can't think of a reason to listen to this.