Review Summary: Your typical symphonic black metal album, except 100 times catchier.
Mere Contemplations is Enslavement of Beauty’s latest studio album, released four years ago in 2007. Their lyrics are somewhat erotic, which is nothing that hasn’t been seen before by bands like Cradle of Filth or Black Countess, with the exception that they are much more poetic and influenced by Marquis de Sade and Edgar Allan Poe. Quite frankly, the music fits the lyrics and vice-versa. Enslavement of beauty have released a total of three studio albums, but are relatively unknown and have also left a very long gap between their second and third albums.
Mere Contemplations is nothing revolutionary in the world of symphonic black metal, and even music itself. Their songs have typical structures of verses and choruses and their lengths are also average (about 4 minutes each). Let’s not get started talking about the instruments and elements in the album, because they are nothing to write home about. Mere contemplations has raspy –high pitched male vocals, typical female chants used from time to time, lots of keyboards and a guitar to drive the band. Its pretty much your run of the mill in symphonic black metal these days.
After noticing the lack of variety and innovation in structure, length and instruments, what makes Mere Contemplations stand out from the thousands of bands playing similar genres out there? The melody and catchiness of course. They save the day after mish mashing what is almost the expected for symphonic black metal. The keyboards are the saving grace, guiding the tracks together with the guitars, sometimes even overpowering them. Their atmosphere ranges from melancholic to beautiful, and really makes the album much more worthwhile. Every song has them, and are a complete necessity here, giving a much needed life and atmosphere to the songs.
The album is mid-paced, a rarity in the genre though. There are not blast beats to be found, as they would detract from the enjoyable melodies played by the keyboards. The guitar is fairly repetitive, playing in the same tone at all times (unlike the keyboards), but combines in an excellent manner with the keyboards. The vocals are fairly easy to understand, which is a definitive plus since the whole point of the album is to flow like a poem. They are distracting either, kept below guitars and keyboards like they should.
Lack of innovation is also present in other aspects, most importantly the song-writing. There is little variety to be found, except some in some recordings, shifting from guitars to keyboards and sine being heavier. In addition, the classic song structure also drags the album down so much. Many riffs are extremely memorable, but the lack new ones with equal level of quality is surely a missed opportunity. On the other hand. Mere Comtemplations isn’t too repetitive either, it can still be listened and some variety is present. The main highlights are the extremely captivating nature of the songs, so much more than other bands. Enslavement of beauty are aiming at melody much more than atmosphere or heaviness. They have a promising catalog of albums but they still need something to make them truly stand out.
Perhaps if they combined some of the atmosphere present in their first release, and mingled some more with progressive elements and longer tracks, their next release would be much more enjoyable. I really think longer tunes can give the band more space to play around with their techniques, without using the typical chorus-verse structure. It is also worth saying that if they added more layers of synthesizers and keyboards they could achieve a sound they would be proud of by improving their already special symphonies. If there is a bass present, it isn’t heard much, or even needed, since the keyboards basically take over that role of giving the rhythm.
Overall the band has done a good job with Mere Contemplations, their output has all of the elements your average symphonic black metal band has, but so much more enjoyable. It is surely one of the most melodic and beautiful extreme metal albums out there. What Enslavement of Beauty needs to do is grow even further on their strengths, while improving songwriting, and perhaps adding classical instruments. The repetitive nature of the riffs will always be present in symphonic black metal, but they need to have a purpose, as well as progression.