Review Summary: What happens when a quality band forgets what made them a quality band
In many ways, Feeding the Crawling Shadows
is atypical for a Sargeist release. From a band that has become quite adept at feeding traditional black metal sounds through a filter that largely removes the more questionable aspects of the genre, it is interesting to see that their fourth full-length record manages to let some stagnation drip through. Granted, the album is far and away the most raw and abrasive LP these Finns have unleashed, but they don’t take full advantage of this potential as much as they should have. Whereas Let the Devil In
shot around riff after riff of unabated black metal ferocity, Feeding the Crawling Shadows
sometimes wallows in pools of rotting, cliché black metal licks. Granted, Sargeist are still one of the best at reproducing the “pure” black metal vibe in a day and age that has moved on from that motif, but in order to release a quality record in this vein there needs to be enough inspiration to make the music rise above the many albums that try – and fail – to successfully replicate the sounds of the early 90’s.
Sargeist do use non-traditional vocal techniques to attempt to conjure some sort of variation, and indeed these deeper growls do sometimes throw the music back on track, but in the end it’s not enough to separate Feeding the Crawling Shadows
from the plethora of other modern black metal bands playing an “old-school” (if second-wave black metal can be referred to as such) style. The album is a vortex of whirling guitars and crashing drumming which, while certainly solid enough to warrant some technical praise, is not supported by songwriting with an equal penchant for quality. The atmosphere is about as stagnant as possible, with little change in pace or style that ultimately causes it to fall flat. Feeding the Crawling Shadows
manages to take what good riffs it contains and run them into the ground through near-constant repetition, making for a tiring listen that holds little replay value – something entirely unlike what Sargeist has done in the past.
With their previous albums, there has always been this sense of deja vu that can be attributed to the fact that the band does not try to do anything new, but they overcome this by instead twisting an already venerable sound to their will through quality songwriting and the ability to unleash some serious black metal riffage. Feeding the Crawling Shadows
does not do the same. Instead, it is so intent on cutting the production and being impossibly heavy that it forgets that the songwriting needs to be able to support all of this weight. Massive it is, indeed, because by making an album sound so rough and having a near-constant barrage of black metal chaos swirling around it requires some clever tricks to make it all work. This creativity, sadly, is quite absent, because while tracks like “The Unspoken Ones” break quickly into a romp of headbanging fury, in the end it always circles back to that same tired-sounding motif that comprises the core structure of each and every track. Almost nothing is non-traditional, and for that the album suffers greatly. It is a good thing that “Funerary Descent” closes it all off with a hint at what Feeding the Crawling Shadows
should have been – atmospherically suffocating, aesthetically varied, and altogether evil – because that allows us a glimpse into what the album is capable of when all of the weight is carried.
Sadly, this is the exception rather than the norm on Feeding the Crawling Shadows
, an album which does nothing poorly but does little greatly. It is an album with aspirations that could have made it special, but they were executed in a way that, instead of making those aspirations reality, makes them seem even more lofty a goal. What is left is black metal that sounds like black metal, a designation that nowadays is not exactly the best label. It is good in short bursts because it reminds us of a time that has long since passed, but when taken in as a whole 10 track, 50 minute album, it reveals why this kind of sound has largely fallen by the wayside. There are countless albums out there that do this kind of thing better – hell, even Sargeist themselves have done this kind of thing better several times – so what point is there in Feeding the Crawling Shadows
? I’m still trying to locate it, but if the only thing offered here is increased rawness at the expense of quality songwriting, there might not even be one.