Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Primitive Graven Image - Traversing The Awesome Night
Primitive Graven Image have done absolutely nothing but copy every black metal band in the world. They have ripped off countless riffs, written generic songs, and not done a single damn thing new. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they actually copied and pasted part of early 90's black metal together and just renamed the songs. So while every song is pretty generic black metal in most literary meaning of the word, Primitive Graven Image have also been able to capitalize on one minor - but major - thing: that black metal doesn't have to be new and different to be completely awesome. Traversing The Awesome Night is generic but every song is absolutely unique and different from the other songs on the disc with two exceptions, opening track "Bringer Of Dark and Light" and "Design," which both have similar syncopation styles. Regardless, Primitive Graven Image is a worthy contender for anyone looking for blistering black metal.
Though I liked the legato production on their first demo, Hellish Figurines more than the crisp and staccato production on their debut release, the production helps tracks like "Design" and "As I Wander" sound new and more intense than the demo's more cavernous and atmospheric style. In a sense, the production on Traversing The Awesome Night is more metallic. The treble is way up there in the stratosphere, the bass is way down there in the dirt, and in between, well, a lot of pressure. This isn't always good, in particular the drums are way overbearing at points. A prime example being a minute and a half through opening track "Bringer Of Dark and Light." I originally though my disc was skipping. The cymbals during this segment sound more like television static than anything close to percussion. The kick drum sounds great though. It's audible without sounding like a two year old banging on a typewriter. The guitars are harsh with tons of sustain on them, and clear when the drums aren't being dynamited. They suit the music well though lack any kind of atmospheric texture which ultimately has to be made up in the songwriting - something Primitive Graven Image have manages to do.
There are some awesome highlights on Traversing The Awesome Night worthy of the attention of any black metal fan. Moments that even the most elite, cassette demo worshiping prick would find highly enjoyable. I know, because I am. The first time my attention really gets caught after the excellent riffs of "Bringer of Dark And Light" is during second track "None Shall Stand." The song's overlapping melodies and marching feel provide a perfect setting for dual vocalists Dokkalfur and Ljosalfur to spread their hatred. "Fear and Fire" is another highlight for me. Pure blackened violence is apparent in this track's opening salvo. Though the track takes many twists and turns, it never loses itself in its own journey. It breaks apart and solidifies again like molten lava turning into rock hard stone. "As I Wander" is a slower track, meandering through distant horizons and dimensions than other songs in a painfully slow drawl that builds and builds. Each cycle of the main riff gains momentum, by way of subtlety. It takes a full two minutes for any kind of speed to be incorporated but in this span of time, "As I Wander" has already done its job - snapping your attention to the sweeping harmonies in the opening minutes but they only get sweeter - in a bloody murderous maniacal kind of way - and denser and more captivating.
"As I Wander" is a phenomenal track and stands in excellent juxtaposition to other songs on the album due to it's tempo, melodic strengths and simple structure. Other tracks on the album are also quite good. Traversing The Awesome Night is well paced, with another mid/fast paced track after "As I Wander," called "Earth's Wrath." Though few of the songs after "As I Wander" are as immediately enticing as the earlier tracks, "Battleride" starts out with a haunting riff, "Victorious" returns to the slower tempo found in "As I Wander" and also contains strong melodies and creepy harmonies and accompaniment before blasting into quicker territories. "Victorious" reminds me of a less meandering Opeth circa Orchid or Morningrise though Primitive Graven Image refuse to be as adventurous structurally. Traversing The Awesome Night is sure to be enjoyable to fans of black metal, though I do see some minor problems which Primitive Graven Image may run into.
Primitive Graven Image have styled their band around the traditional version of black metal, much like bands such as Watain, Keep of Kalessin and even Melechesh minus the Sumerian themes but have not proven themselves to have nearly as much instrumental virtuosity. Why does this matter? Because the audience which will give Primitive Graven Image a chance to become a household name in black metal will be those listening to the aforementioned bands. I'm not saying that others won't enjoy them and spread their name, but the easiest way for Primitive Graven Image to get somewhere would be to wow certain audiences and sadly, they don't seem up to par if you compare them knot for knot as I expect many people will be. It's sad too, because they have something to offer which Watain and certainly Keep of Kalessin don't have on the shelf - more than one kick ass memorable song per album.