Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Album Review: Revenience - Daedalum
Darkness and metal go hand in hand, but what darkness is can't quite be defined. Heaviness does not by itself make music dark, despite what death metal will tell you, and even minor chords by themselves don't get the job done. Darkness is a feeling more than anything, one of those 'I know it when I hear it' concepts. There are days when gloomy, dark music is what you want to hear (I write this as it's raining), and there's a new band aiming to provide the soundtrack to those moments; Revenience.
The album kicks off with the short symphonic opening, "In A Landscape Of Winter", which does an effective job of setting the mood for the cold and dark music that is about to come. "Blown Away By The Wind" is the first proper song, and flows out of that symphonic introduction well, as the former track proves to not be an orchestral bit tacked on to make the album seem more grand than it really is. There is a theme of symphonic and Gothic elements that were hinted at in the intro, which makes it a necessary part of the experience.
As the song progresses, we get to hear what Revenience is all about. The guitar sound is remarkably clear, with production values that perfectly balance every element of the music. The orchestrations are suitably gloomy, and play well off the clean vocals, which anchor the song with a strong melodic component. The growls are used as a counterpoint, which is how they should be used, as the focus is put where it most belongs. A lot of bands that try this sort of thing rely too heavily on their death metal elements to make sure everyone considers them heavy and truly metal, but they render themselves uninteresting by letting the growls stand in the way of truly melodic singing. Revenience doesn't makes that mistake.
"Shamble" follows, and is the song I first encountered by seeing the music video. It's a song that captured my attention then, and still does, by blending a palpable sense of melancholy, heightened by the sparse use of piano, with a melodic hook that brings the sense of foreboding doom of a deeply twisted Vaudeville performance. It's a far better method of introducing unsettling and depressing sounds into metal than the shrieking misery of black metal. One sounds human and emotive, the other sounds like a bad joke.
"Flail" turns over the pre-chorus to the growled vocals, and that section reveals the band's biggest shortcoming. The verse's syncopated gallop, and the chorus' attempt at a massive hook are both wonderful, but there's a black hole in the middle. The band is not well suited for death metal, especially in the hollow sound of the vocals, and the inclusion of those elements as anything but background coloring is a mistake. Debora Ceneri is a strong enough singer to not need the growls to get the point across. Her work is the highlight of virtually every song here, giving the band an identity that can make them stand apart from every other band that borrows that guitar tone and plays riffs that come from the same school.
That phenomenon continues through the second half of the album, where songs like "Not My Choice" thrive on heavy atmosphere and rock solid melodic hooks, while "A-Maze" has flashes of brilliance that are weighed down by death metal forays that don't add anything to the composition. Instead of contrasting light with dark, it is dark with another kind of darkness, which doesn't achieve the desired effect.
But by the time the spritely forty minutes is over, Revenience has proven that their take on Gothic metal is absolutely relevant, and they have a ton of potential. I can definitely see how they can tweak the formula to make a truly stunning album, but "Daedalum" shouldn't be sold short. It's a debut album that makes it clear Revenience is a band that has a bright future in front of them. They don't play my type of metal, and they still won me over. That should tell you something.