Review Summary: You are alone in this wintry Hell of a place. Alone now, but not forever. Not quite.
Conceptually, at least, Have a Nice Life's Deathconsciousness
may be the most disarming album I've ever come across. It's been fawned over for its lyrics that double as an extensive analysis of medieval Italian heretics - more specifically its outlining of the life and times of Antiochus, a nearly unknown writer and religious figure. Furthermore, its connections between this lore and life lessons throughout have been equally acclaimed, and of course, they're just as complex as the figures dealings it was based off of. See, Antiochus was a man who often riled up excuses for people to be persecuted for religious reasons, as well as persuading people to commit murder and suicide and follow odd, convoluted customs. The concept alone is jarring and austere. It's hard to follow, immense (the band compiled their findings into a seventy-five page booklet that comes with the album), and it seems to influence every aspect about Deathconsciousness
So, if you were to guess that the musical aspects are just as pretentious and grandiose as the concept, you'd be right. If you were to guess and say that the compositional style is just as long-winded and odd as the concept, then again, you'd be right. As a whole,Deathconsciousness
throws any and all conventions out to sea. This is, of course, expected when the album is such a genre-mash - specifically hybridizing black metal, drone, shoegaze, post-industrial, and post-rock characteristics - however, Have a Nice Life's vision is unarguably out-there - for better or worse.
Simply put, the structural tendencies of Deathconsciousness
are inept. Much of the time, songs are unnecessarily long, which unfortunately takes away from some of the album's emotional impact. Pensive epics like "A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut" have the potential to be dazzling, but they unfortunately continue on with tired ideas for too long for the song to retain the sprawling, dark feel that it sets forth. "The Big Gloom," on the other hand, is a moving piece of shoegaze-tinged black metal regardless of its flaws. Still, on other tracks the combination of an excessive amount of boring drones and an obnoxious over usage of the hill-and-valley effect comes across as obnoxious. Luckily, the album rarely plods along (which is essential because the tracks are generally very long); still, the album is inconsistent.
Fortunately that means that Deathconsciousness
does hit. And when it does, it hits hard. When black metal sections come around, guitars lurch and grind in the distance until they reach ear-splitting crescendoes. Beside them lay the drum kit - digitalized and frenetic. Lo-fi production techniques cause oscillating tones to appear in the background and the reverberations to become amniotic throbs. Distortion sounds messy and boisterous, and it is usually here where the band culminates their influences that they come across as a truly artistic and interesting outfit rather than some artsy-fartsy, middle-class black metal project. Here, they are misanthropic.
Soon there is light.
Eventually the band stops representing the malevolent ways of Antiochus's followers in their music and they go into a more electronic-driven sect. Here's where the drums and the guitars are used to make distorted yet eerily pretty compositions rather than nihilistic pieces of black metal. The album's highlight is found on this half of the album, as well. The aptly titled "Earthmover," dances around drones and piano notes while drums and guitars again support the song with interesting rhythms and melodies, as well as an exciting climax. Afterward, the guitar drones on for an absurd length while a piano's keys are hammered ever so lightly. It all makes for a pensive eye of the storm that combines the album's characteristics and its best features, the most prominent one being its profound impact. As I said, the album hits hard several times, but it's far too inconsistent to be as grand as its concepts, both musically and lyrically, would make it out to be.