Review Summary: "Nocturnal Emissions For The Blackline Elite"
For all "raw black metal" may imply, it is still not an apt descriptor for Carved Cross: "near unlistenable" is far more appropriate. Simply put, many of you won't enjoy this - that's the point. Carved Crosses music is not meant for those tip-toeing around black metal's depths, but those who have already taken the figurative plunge. This may come off pretentious and enormously elitist- I assure you that is not my intent. You see, to appreciate black metal of this caliber requires not only patience, but a desire to explore the truly abrasive. For those who have taken the time to understand, Carved Cross' 2014 release is an excellent example of the genre in its bleakest hour.
Most of black metal's traits already make it thoroughly unenjoyable for the majority: Carved Cross takes what would arguably be the most grating of these characteristics (production, repetition, minimalism) and make them the focus of their third demo. Even seasoned raw black metal listeners will have trouble stomaching the "no-fi" aesthetic this release so heavily adheres to. However, as it usually works with raw music, the production inevitably works in its favor, perpetuating the atmosphere to reach euphoric heights. In the opening track "Only Hope Offers Disappointment", as simple guitar progressions coalesce into wintry ambiance, it's hard not to get lost in their swells of melody and dissonance. The two are one here, helping to fully realize the hypnotic standard the group was undoubtedly aiming to achieve.
Carved Cross have carved themselves
-pun intended - a niche in the underground black metal community, partly thanks their aforementioned penchant for raw production values, but also the use of repetition as a foundation for their sound. "Intertwined Emotions of Joy and Grief" is the greatest offender of that device here, but like Burzum, Darkthrone, or numerous other black metal greats, one of Carved Cross' greatest strengths is their ability to utilize the potential in repetitive structuring. The song is harsh and minimalistic, but memorable as well. Traversing through punk and traditional black metal influences, it's the dichotomy between the simplicity of the former, and the epic nature of the latter, that keeps the track entertaining despite its best efforts not to be.
This Australian trio creates black metal at its most inaccessible, and they do it very well. Demo III is easily the group's most refined release to date, yet it sacrifices nothing in the way of quality, or aesthetic. After two years of creating blasphemous racket, Carved Cross have finally begun to gain recognition, not through a softening of their approach, but consistently delivering tortured music without compromise. As internet culture progresses, more and more unwitting metal fans take a path that will eventually plunge them into the darkest music the world has offer; there they will find Carved Cross.