Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sadness - Close

I’m not making this up, but there is a depressive black metal band called “Sadness” and the project’s apish debut release, “Close,” really reminds me of that gorilla that could allegedly use sign language. (Koko is the gorilla’s name.) Here’s why the two are similar: first, let’s compare Koko’s purported reaction to learning her pet kitten had died with the titles from the tracklist on “Close.” Koko, using sign language: Bad, sad, bad, frown, cry, frown, sad. Sadness: Lonely, Useless, Sad, Life would be so beautiful…, suicide.

The most striking similarity is that Sadness and Koko both redundantly use the word sad to say that they are sad. This is revealing because in other words, the artistic complexity here is on par with the direct and awkward simplicity of interspecies communication. Here’s the problem though, Koko the gorilla never actually displayed verifiable marks of understanding language. The signs were prompted by her handler and rewarded with bananas without Koko understanding their meaning. Here, Sadness shares Koko’s shortcomings and is unable to actually articulate emotion and simply provides track titles and music prompted by the depressive suicidal black metal subgenre in a Pavlovian response to the promise of bananas, i.e. modest album sales/praise or even just the sense of completion of an album.

As you can imagine, the music is just as boring, Pavlovian, and unsophisticated as the track titles are. Strum a minor chord 12 or 16 times, then another one, all the while doing some excessively woeful and saccharine minor chord tremolo picking or arpeggio melody on top and you are off to a good start as to how this album goes. In terms of music-geography, Sadness might be palatable for people who felt that Amesoeurs were too heavy and intricate, that Hypomanie were too subtle, or that Xasthur was too ugly. It all sounds very familiar even without being able to point to which particular band’s style is being melodramatically aped.

Beyond being boring, the album is actively irritating in two major areas. First and most importantly are the very very high-pitched vocals in the all too familiar style of ghostly wails lacking any sense of melody or even hints of representing words. These vocals are really the major tie that Sadness has to black metal and they couldn’t be more out of place with the music, as their random spurts loudly distract from rather than adding to the bland chord progressions. The second major issue is how blunt and melodramatic the mood is. This gives off a terribly cliched vibe. Each of the numerous times we hear a soft, sad, acoustic guitar section, it is more like a gorilla grasping at hand motions until it gets a banana rather than a human being communicating emotion through music. Most of the riffs are immature guitar experiments with the minor scale, and poorly played as well.

As a solo project (surprise surprise), the rest of the instrumentation outside of the guitars and vocals are perfunctory. This leaves little to comment positively on. Sure the post-rock riffing and clean guitar sections aren’t abrasively awful (aside from their silverback emotional level) but the triteness so overwhelming that “Close” isn’t even close to being mediocre. All that prevents this from being completely excruciating is that the hackneyed transitions from soft or acoustic sections to generic post-depressive-whatever at least provide for some variation to break up the monotony. “Close” is still quite a grueling chore to get through, much of it is nakedly stark and bland fumbling - just as engaging as trying to listen to a gorilla communicate without the fun of having a gorilla around.

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