Review Summary: An exceptional black metal debut from the Athens of the South
Alraune are an up-and-coming black metal band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee who play raw, lo-fi but yet progressively structured black metal. These fresh new faces are creating quite a name for themselves in the underground scene and have the backing of both Profound Lore who are releasing the CD/digital version of their debut LP, The Process of Self-Immolation, and Gilead Media who are handling the vinyl distribution. With such strong faith, great expectations are naturally to follow and on The Process of Self-Immolation, one immediately sees why Alraune have inspired this confidence in them as they build upon the foundations of USBM by adding intricate layers of musicianship and creativity.
The album starts innocently enough with a dual keyed and guitar introduction that remains distant and dissonant, echoing the mantra for the remaining tracks. The first proper song "Exordium" kicks things off nastily as a four-count cymbal introduction launches the song into a furious, violent outpour of black metal. Alraune quickly demonstrate that they aren't any run-of-the-mill black metal band as the guitar riff introduced around the two minute mark indicates. It's this constant progression of the riffs throughout the album that adds a dimension of novelty as the band isn't afraid to play around with different soundscapes or structures. Alraune, never wear out a riff just for the purpose of building atmosphere as some modern black metal bands have been accused of and at the same time don't switch rhythms haphazardly like say Krallice might, instead everything is given time to develop into a unique section of the song without becoming redundant or stale.
The opening of the third song allows for a slight reprieve as the instrumentation takes the form of a slow, meandering build up until succumbing to tremolo guitars and the bursting of a progressive black metal monster. The riffs have a genuine air of imagination as they dizzyingly wrap around the tight drum work which provides flair and breadth without relying too much on the overuse of blast beats. The song exhibits some of Alraune's progressive nature as the ongoing evolution of the track's composition leads into constantly shifting new territories. It continues in this vein before finally coming full circle and easing the listener off into the next song with a distorted melodically tinged guitar note outro.
"Kissed by the Red", the next number begins with an ominous guitar line rising from the skeletal remains of the previous outro and builds up progressively adding drums and some shouted, almost punk/hardcore type vocals into the mix before giving way to tremolo leads that are superbly executed. The musicianship again showcases all the immediacy of previous USBM stalwarts like Weakling but remains fresh and modern with subtle hints to the likes of Ash Borer. The song continues pummeling away, introducing riff after riff until scaling back a bit before the imposition of tornado like tremolo lines encompass the arrangement and then--abruptly yield to a haunting sample provided by a sung rendition of "O Willow Waly". The excellent use of the sample's inherit creepiness is a great way to end a song, much like post rock influenced black metal musician, Caïna had done before on the album Temporary Antennae.
The final and longest track on the record, "The Process of Self-Immolation" brings more of the same twists and turns in the composition, buzz-saw guitars, inspired drum work, wretched vocals and plain ol' uncluttered black metal. This Nashville foursome sound fresh and innovative on their debut while still penning quite entertaining and memorable black metal songs. Their primal, unpolished take on black metal is one of the better debut releases this year and Alraune have the potential of becoming an absolute force in the underground scene if they continue with this trajectory.
As for the mix/rip it they aren't the worse. Of course they could be better, I didn't mention in the review but it washes out some elements like the bass and lower end on the guitars at time... overall I've heard worse and for a debut I think it can be overlooked and hopefully corrected by their next release.
Like Wizard said though, I feel at the end of the year this will still rank pretty high on metal lists
much like post rock influenced black metal musician, Caïna had done before on the album Temporary Antennae.
You really know your shit dude. Totally unheard of post-bm band.
I like the way you did this tbt review, nice write-up.
As for the production, don't base it on the shitty leak or bandcamp page. I have the cd in my hand and its perfectly raw and yet I can hear everything at the same time. You can't listen to bm and gripe about instruments getting pushed backwards/ forwards in the mix. Sometimes when they distance the rhythm in murk, it sounds like an angry ghost in the fog and actually helps coalesce the atmosphere a bit better.
Thanks Wizard! I figured the album was short enough in track numbers that I could focus on each one individually.
I actually quite dig Caina and wish they got more attention. Probably will review one of their ablums soon.
That's great to hear about the production on the actual album! Yeah, I too think the mix on bm albums is nothing to really complain about as most of the time it's done on purpose and not because they just couldn't produce it better.
MoosechriS haha I totally understand. I wish vinyls were altogether like $10 cheaper then I might consider getting more
yeah, i would buy everything on vinyl if i could but money isn't particularly abundant at the moment. Can't complain though really, got the new Wiitr & pallbearer albums pre-ordered on vinyl and both Vlad Tepes splits having recently also been acquired so it's all good. Also got the 2 song demo by these dudes on it's way
MoosechriS you lucky duck. Those two albums should be great on vinyl!
Zaruyache, yeah same here. Although I have been trying to get more into it lately. That new Pallbearer track is really good. Been checking out SubRosa, them, Doom: VS, My Dying Bride but would love if anyone had some other doom metal recs in that vein