Review Summary: A polished yet visceral listen.
The beginning of "Introduction" couldn't have been more fitting of a setup for Setter of Unseen Snares
. An ominous choir piece sits nicely in the background of a choice quote from Matthew McConaughey's character in television series True Detective regarding human consciousness being a natural misstep in evolution. Now if that sounds a bit dark, keep in mind that Caina's sole member Andy Curtis-Brignell has spent his entire career focused on darkness. After playing around with a more ambient/post-rock influence in recent releases, this album is a nod to the raw black metal sound of his past. This doesn't mean Curtis-Brignell has made a purely black metal album this time around; there is a sprinkling of everything from hardcore to ambient, creating a uniquely beautiful and visceral listen. Instead of the smattering of influences detracting from the end product, all of the elements mesh together naturally, forming a coherent and compelling end result. The dry production helps the heavier sections achieve a high level of catharsis, but it also possesses a forlorn echo to it that helps the more ethereal moments stand out as well. Standout track "Applicant/Supplicant" is best served by the production here, as Curtis-Brignell's thunderous roars of "We are/the damned" sound phenomenal against the atonal guitar lead. The subsequent quick transition to an absolutely evil (and insanely fast to boot) black metal section is out-of-the-box enough to be interesting, but not left-field enough to stagnate the flow of the song. And when the choir piece comes in later on in the song (the same one from the intro track, mind you), it is neither cheesy nor expected in any way.
The proof is aplenty here: Andy Curtis-Brignell certainly knows how to vary his songwriting. Whether it be the hardcore elements of "I am the Flail of the Lord" or the more traditional black metal sound on "Vowbound", Caina has provided the listener with just enough deviation on Setter of Unseen Snares
to keep it interesting without making it sound like a disjointed mess. While the first five tracks of this full-length pass by with nary a misstep taken, the fifteen minute behemoth "Orphan" leaves quite a bit to be desired. Given this song has the added pressure of concluding the album, it's doubly disappointing that the song flounders about halfway through and doesn't really possess the masterful songwriting displayed elsewhere. It effectively dismantles the oppressively dark atmosphere and fails to keep with the elements that made Setter of Unseen Snares
so exciting to listen to. The clean vocals present don't add any depth to the affair, and the plodding pace kills the momentum. Even so, Caina has created an album that is more immediate than most black metal releases this year. Curtis-Brignell sounds positively reinvigorated after nine years of toiling through different genres, giving listeners his most refreshing and varied take on black metal yet.