Monday, January 10, 2011

CURVED BLADE "BE LIKE DEATH" (Hospital Productions)

Ultra-primitive dirging black metal regressionism from this mysterious outfit, so poorly played that it's difficult to determine the degree of seriousness with which to take this tape. Released in a small run on Hospital, whose black metal leanings obviously run toward the more harsh and obscure, Curved Blade adds to the roster fittingly but struggles to really find any sort of meaningful place in the black metal macrocosm. "Be Like Death" is a ridiculously short demo (two tracks in nine minutes) that more or less pounds away at black metal simplicity with something of a half-hearted attitude and no real passion or engagement. Side A is a four minute chromatic blast of palm muted power chords, some sort of horrific stumbling Melvins riff gone dumb and wrong over which a vocalist wails and a sprinkling of keyboards attempts to add some atmosphere. It's over near as soon as it starts and leaves zero impression whatsoever.
Side B is significantly better, opening up with a little keyboard requiem and then plowing straight into a half time narcoleptic stumble. Keyboards lead the way here, creating a sick warm nest for the considerably creepier almost spoken vocals. A lone guitar continuously hammers on an open string in the background. Every now and then the drums speed up and race for some invisible finish line only to fall back into the exhausted plod of before. This track drones on for about five minutes and then cuts out, having mapped little new territory to explore or branch out in. Maybe that's the best way to describe Curved Blade at this point. Whether future efforts will show any sort of progression artistically or proficiently is completely up in the air. Right now the only aptitude "Be Like Death" conveys is one for dormant stagnancy and a fetid pool of recycled ideas.
This release illuminates a larger issue in black metal- that of amateurism masquerading and being paraded as aesthetic choice. Minimalism and lo-fi have their place, perhaps in this genre more than any other (if you've read this blog before you know how much i love repetition and minimalism), but it requires real musicianship and dedication to strip so much away and still have a piece of music that engages and rewards upon multiple listens. A band like Bone Awl or Trist can deliver on the minimalist template because they imbue their music with the requisite aggression and emotion, respectively. Curved Blade imbue their songs with neither, instead choosing to embrace a void and hope their association with a noise-centered label will excuse the lack of depth found on this demo. While Hospital's ideology is certainly served by "Be Like Death" it fails to satisfy the tenets of the black metal genre as a whole, a problem this label consistently struggles with. When noise and black metal intersect meaningfully it can be absolutely triumphant (as in the case of Hospital's own release, the Akitsa/Prurient split) but when it's used as the justification it crosses quickly over to total failure. Curved Blade and, to a lesser degree Hospital Productions, need to understand that if they're to truly add to the genre.

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