Review Summary: An atmospheric black metal release with real substance
One can’t fault American black metal act Arizmenda for not trying to branch out too far, not only for the introverted nature of atmospheric black metal to remain locked in its own closet but also for the fact that Within The Vacuum Of Infinity
was a fine example of how to play the genre correctly. The mood was not so much a product of the music as the music was a product of the mood. Think of it this way: for an atmospheric black metal to really be a success it is vital for the atmosphere to be palpable, not some contrived veil that is as thin as a sheet of paper and as durable as one as well. That’s where Arizmenda succeeded, because instead of building some bull***, cliché sense of melancholy and desolation that anyone even relatively familiar with the genre can pinpoint in an instant, they created something that was dynamic and changing, taking the music along for the ride. With the release of Without Circumference Nor Center
, Arizmenda took what they had and ran with it. The same dissonance and that familiar meandering pace is back, and for better or worse the album does what it can without stepping away from familiar territory.
Underneath a production that is notably worse than Arizmenda’s debut, the mash of the guitars with the drums and bass cycle through seemingly endless riffs that slide themselves in behind a high mixing of bass guitar that coats the production in a muddy, distant tone that suits the music itself rather well. The rawness of the album lends Without Circumference Nor Center
a whole set of positives, beginning with that notably bleak tone that suited the atmosphere of Within The Vacuum Of Infinity
so well. The riffs themselves are so buried that when the occasional tempo shift makes itself known and all the instruments die down save a reverb-laden string of notes it adds a huge sense of variety to what otherwise could be seen as a monotonous, hour-long grind of no-frills black metal. Alongside the distorted chords and ringing melodies the vocals remain much the same as they had previously: smartly set far back so that the unintelligible wails seem like an instrument themselves and as such are treated with no special emphasis. To that end, the tone of the album is more or less spot-on, and while some may be swiftly reaching for their speakers to turn down the bass, they will miss out on an integral aspect to the whole experience of the album.
The compositions themselves aren’t extraordinary in terms of their content, but instead the way they are arranged allows for a, relatively speaking, smooth listening experience that lacks the harshness of more intense, rawer black metal. Without Circumference Nor Center
is a surprisingly varied album, with tempo shifts littered across its six tracks that allows for the building and cresting nature of the album’s longer numbers (that is to say all of them) to run their course in an almost natural way. Nothing feels forced or out-of-place here, an interesting and almost confusing notion considering the kinds of useless arrangements and attempts at variety seen in other atmospheric black metal releases. The guitars rise and fall along with the extremely buried drums that cycle through the obvious blast beats and even the more adventurous rhythms that would benefit from an increased role in the finished product.
I wasn’t so sure about Without Circumference Nor Center
after the first few tracks I heard. Things seemed jumbled and incoherent beneath that sea of bass guitar, and the riffs didn’t want to get along with each other. After a while, though, things began to fall into place, and the two-part album (divided into three-song sections called “Odes of Prurience” and “Odes of Satiation”) really showed its colors. The songs complement one another and form a complete album that, while not quite as refreshing or well-written as Within The Vacuum Of Infinity
, comes damn close. For that, I couldn’t be happier, not only because of the bombardment of low-quality atmospheric black metal albums as of late, but also because of the fact that Arizmenda have a good thing going for them. This is a complete package when it comes to the genre, and is the second in a row from Arizmenda that I can easily recommend as more than worthwhile listens for anyone wanting an immersive piece of atmosphere that proves its strength and backs it up with a listening experience that leaves little room for criticism.