Review Summary: Everything that I'd want to hear in a black metal album. Definitely my favorite BM album of all time.
To be frank; whilst I had previously written a lengthy review about this album after being initially impressed with it, I believe that it's only after you listen to this album for a while and really let its dense nature pull you in, that you can better articulate a better review about it. At least that's how it is for me, and after about the one hundredth play of this album, I can safely call this my favorite black metal album ever, and one of the absolute best in all of metal. Negative Plane, on this release, encapsulate absolutely everything I'd not only want in merely a black metal album, but simply a metal album. Adjectives like originality and uniqueness are absolutely applicable to this album, but there's something very uncannily special about this album. Something very difficult to describe, and perhaps somewhat personal. Perhaps a main point is that if there was a single guitar player's style I not only enjoy and admire, but artistically would love to call my own; it would be that of Nameless Void. Amazingly, this band is merely a duo; with the unmistakable talent of Nameless on guitar, bass and vocals - all chaotically rounded off with the equally inimitable drum work of Bestial Devotion. Interesting pseudonyms, to be sure, but that's nothing compared to these two guys' music.
So, what is it about this album? A lot, actually. Firstly, there is an absolutely staggering amount of atmosphere and incredible songwriting here; and to these ears, something Negative Plane do nearly better than any other metal band, regardless of genre. Often writing lengthy compositions running near the eight or nine minute mark, Negative Plane mold a verdure of truly dark and seething malign character that oozes from within the magnificent guitar work at all times. These songs, compositionally, are quite complex and progressive by general metal standards (even if not especially difficult in technique.) Utilizing foreboding, dense, challenging linear songwriting that is expansive and scathing, Negative Plane's music is also extremely memorable, epic, and always somehow ringing with an abstract and unmatched sense of dark grandiosity. The stressing of certain notes, the mere note choice and unheard of fluctuation between consonance and dissonance, the placement of repetition - all these small elements are masterfully executed. The essential elements of black metal are certainly in place, but Negative Plane take the sinister moods and dark sounds of the genre and weave them into voids of riffs where an unmistakable combination of sophistication and primitive black metal character come together like nothing before. Furthermore, the guitar tone and overall production here is among the absolute best to ever be created. The overall sound is very large, with the guitar tone sounding very warm and perhaps slightly Hellenic (if I must compare it to any scene, historically) yet it's also very distant. There's a refreshing, wholesome analog quality to it that keeps a very dark mood there, and the reverb-soaked, utterly sinister guitar style establishes am uncanny, trademark atmosphere on this release that is so much more effective than anything else I've encountered. Bass is nearly completely audible for much of this album (yes, fucking finally!) and is done with a very plain, clean tone that's coherent and lends an equally dark wall of thumping simplicity behind the foul veil of the six string encasing. The feel is incredibly idiosyncratic - being bleak, warm, black, open, massive, frightening, and utterly amazing on every level. This is quite possibly the most atmospheric metal album I've come across.
And the songwriting here is just damn near unrivaled. Talk about skilled composers; Nameless Void is obviously extremely skilled in a technical sense, but even more so with writing monumental compositions of enthralling "atmospheric dysphoria" as another reviewer so brilliantly put it. Packed into these lengthy songs is a jarring fluidity of mesmerizing and grand song craft, and something that truly showcases the magic of the guitar. It's a sound that swallows the listener, much like a black hole, but it's just musical enough to paint an entire world around this album as it sucks you in. The wide variety of picking, tapping, trills, staccatos, legatos, harmonics, and other tricks are arranged and composed to absolute near-perfection, and the relationship between playing styles and overall rhythms invokes a very dense and monolithic vortex of otherworldly essence. And deserving special mention are one of my absolute favorite parts about this band: Void's dysphoric and rather unnerving psychedelic leads, such as beginning at 5:21 in "Staring into the Abyss", 8:20 in "A Church in Ruin" or especially at 3:03 in "Advent of the Beast" when the guy gives new meaning to the possibilities of tapping. But nearly no note is wasted, and no riff is weaker than any other. Some may be overused here and there, as in "Death Mass", but with this kind of album, it's much easier to view them as 'useless extras' than significant detractors. But that's about it. And the album closes with "Advent of the Beast" - probably the single greatest black metal song ever. Unique, flawlessly composed and managing to be all at once more dark, atmospheric and triumphant than nearly any other band who mastered that kind of trinity (even Bathory - yeah, I'm serious.) And that solo at the end is the greatest climax in a song ever, in my opinion - one of the most transcendental and beautiful moments ever composed on anything. It's one of those songs you listen to again and again. It's prefect.
Then there's the drums, which I normally don't speak much about, but here, I must state how fantastic a drum performance is to be found here. Cohesively matching the very off-kilter musicality here, BD's drumming style is chaotic, relentless and unpredictable. Complex, intricate, and ringing with the utter chaos of fulfilling cymbal abuse, BD's drumming simply displays a great double mastery of intensity and intricacy that is often lost in metal drumming, as far as I'm concerned. The cymbal abuse, rigid rhythms, mere note choice and impish use of bell (and best of all: no triggers) is all incorporated into an unmistakable backbone here, and the drum production is equally perfect. The bass drums are flat and muffled, yet punchy; the snare is sharp, but beefy; the cymbals and hit-hats ring with dusty filth and juicy reverb clatter, the bells peek out here and there like sirens, and the toms thud with power. And it's all coalesced in a most striking and cerebral friction-laced assault. And to top it all off, the vocals are certainly the most fitting you could ever hope to hear. These vocals are soaked with reverb and echo, giving the album a delightfully ghastly character. The very delivery of the lyrics is quite unsettling, and ups the unsettling ante of this album tenfold.
To sum it up, this album is an absolute masterpiece. It makes something wholly unique and singular out of familiar elements of metal - both traditional and extreme, and is the accumulation of a variety of influences into a sound that is wholly unsurpassed to my musical palate. I had previously compared this to certain bands, but even at that, only slight seconds of songs remind you of something similar to other bands. Negative Plane are wholly original, and transcend the very character of what black metal has been into something far beyond, without ever making it feel unlike black metal should. Directly comparing them to any other band is an insult to their originality, though the band claims to be influenced by Ved Buens Ende and Mortuary Drape, and there are perhaps four or five riffs on this album that merely give off those bands' vibes. Beyond that, their macabre inclusion of organ playing and chanting/ecclesiastical elements is a perfect tint to the atmosphere. All in all, there's not much left to yammer on about. This is sheer monumental genius, and should be remembered for decades to come, as one of the most impressive creations of new millennium metal music. I said before; there's a microcosm of attractive filth shining through this diabolical creation, and it's absolutely essential in it's field.