Review Summary: ...because one can only take so much nature in their black metal.
Apparently, Iowa-based ambient black metal act When Bitter Spring Sleeps
like mother nature. In fact, they are so in love with the great outdoors that they choose to record all their music outside, always making sure to keep the background noise prominent in their music. You know the whole typical Cascadian black metal, WITTR-style outdoor shtick? Living on a self-sustaining farm, isolated form civilization? Well, those guys are pussies. Only WBSS love nature enough to more or less make it become the focal point of their music. On paper, this idea just might work: there are plenty of cabin-dwelling black metal bands that have successfully incorporated songbirds and flowing streams into their music.
However, unfortunately for this act, that is just on paper: whether they can make it work is another question entirely. Each of this EP's three songs begins with a nature-y sound (1: rain, 2: nighttime noise, 3: nighttime noise [with a river, joy for variation]) that continues throughout the entire duration of the track. On both of the EP's latter tracks this ambient noise lasts for over three minutes before anything remotely musical kicks in. But, of course, it continues into the music. Once again, a more capable band just might be able to pull this off to the point of it being listenable, but not When Bitter Spring Sleeps
. They overuse it to the point of all the nature becoming a mere gimmick, and then they go leaps and bounds ahead of that point-of-no-return.
The music itself is, to put it quite frankly, generally atrocious. In second track Tears For the Sounds of Darkness
, after that aforementioned overlong period of crickets and various other nocturnal insects and amphibians, the band breaks into some of the most poorly produced black metal ever to violate your eardrums. Having raw, unpolished black metal production is one thing; having a bassless, tinny, abrasive crapfest of a track is another. Of course, being an ambient black metal band WBSS breaks into about two minutes of clean guitar lines before plunging into another four painful minutes of noise, after which we are subjected to (you guessed it!) more nature sounds and tinny clean guitar. Beneath Mother Moon
is similar in its remarkable attraction to atrociously produced bullshi
t, but is mercifully shorter (7.5 minutes) than the behemoth shi
t before it (14.5 minutes).
What the Rain Knows
is a track that shows these guys aren't completely hopeless. It uses the nature theme, but it doesn't overpower the music. Also, the guitars are actually discernible on this one, and one can pick out hints of a bass here and there (strangely, there are few to no drums at all here, but it's still the album's best by far). The vocals, instead of the typically abrasive black metal shriek shown on the other two tracks (which might actually be good is the rest if the music wasn't so bad), are a strange, wail-y sounding singing. It's not an exemplary track by any means, but it's infinitely better than either before it. Maybe, buried deep inside the pointless nature worship, there is a band here that has the capability to make decent black metal. But the problem is that this band is buried really freaking deep
beneath mounds of atrociously produced crap and an abuse of ambient forest noises. Better luck next time.