Review Summary: Has a very clear and definable atmosphere while it lacks interesting songwriting and musicianship.
Death in Junes ‘But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?’ is a somber album to say the least. Crafted from an interesting genre fusion, Death In June combines an acoustic folk aesthetic with 80’s new wave influences which are encompassed in the production and the synthesizer pad sounds among other electronic influences. Apparently this union birthed a genre which was aptly titled Neofolk. While Death In June brandishes a very distinct and unique sound this album suffers from poor songwriting, filler tracks and an overall uninteresting performance.
An efficient way to describe this album is abstract. The lyrics seem like obscure observational poetry that was force fitted into bland and repetitious music. The melodies are almost nonexistent, almost like an attempt at spoken word in most instances. The vocal range is low; sometimes it even seems as if the vocalist is not capable of producing melodies at an impressive range so instead resorted to restraining himself to a low earthy voice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s unique and to some extent creative, but it has so much more potential and almost all of it was squandered. Four tracks on this album are re-imaginings of songs from Jim Jones’ The Peoples Choir. They are very clearly re-imaginings and not covers as the songs do not resemble the original tracks at all aside from slightly altered titles and lyrics. These tracks were clearly re-imagined to point out the negative truths of the original songs and to make a political statement of sorts, however this statement came about twenty years too late and became totally irrelevant.
The album is eerily depressing but it seems to offer no emotional compromise that could allow the listener to gain any perspective or commiseration with the artist. It is pessimistic, nihilistic and downright gloomy. It should stand out superbly as music for the times when wallowing in moody self righteous depression sounds like an enjoyable activity to partake in; aside from that the album has no replay value as a whole. There are a few tracks here and there that were enjoyable, primarily when the melody actually stands out. ‘The Golden Wedding of Sorrow’ is one of the more standout tracks. The chorus and a melody are somewhat memorable and the music provides an atmosphere that separates itself from the rest of the album to some extent but it comes across as so melodramatic it can be hard to tolerate. The title track and ‘Hollows of Devotion’ are also not half bad songs. Neither is a chore to listen to like so much of the album seems to be. ‘This is Not Paradise’ is just an annoying track. A basic guitar part strums a boring pattern that uses no more than three chords and multiple overdubs spoken in French are blended in an incoherent way over the instruments. It is not a good transition track nor does it make any sort of statement, it is just unnecessary noise.
‘But, What Ends When the Symbols Shatter?’ can best be compared to jar of pickled olives; to most people they are bitter, disgusting and totally un-enjoyable. However, others have grown up with them, learned to love them and/or absolutely cherish the taste. There is not much middle ground between these two extremes. This album is polarizing in the same sense; there is not something for everyone. You will either love the bleak, melodrama and simplistic approach taken, or you abhor its’ existence. The decision is yours and yours alone.