Review Summary: For post-black metal, Pale definitely do not screw around.
Imagine taking a fifty-or-so-minute record and forcing a band to constrict that material into half the runtime: They might trim down a lot of it, cut out the superfluous parts entirely, and maybe even speed up what’s left a tiny bit just to make it all fit. With all this hectic chopping and squishing it could be reasonable to assume that a final product of this sort might sound a bit tense--a bit on edge
. On their new cleverly titled EP, “EP”, Japanese post-black metal band Pale sound almost exactly like that--like a band forced to stuff an entire record into an EP--and somehow sound all the more fierce because of it.
Running at a cool twenty-five minutes over five tracks, “EP” does not have much time to waste and Pale waste no time cramming every inch of the record with meaningful songwriting. Their attention to time allows them to maintain an almost constant sense of intensity that makes every section--fast or slow--feel as if it’s looking toward something new ahead of it; furious blast-beat-driven tempos might peak and then descend into slower, more melodic territory, but the gazey leads and occasionally meandering post-rock always feel a little tense, as if they’re wary of some lurking spectre not yet revealed. When things soon thereafter devolve into crashing drums and wailing shrieks again, the reasons for the previous tenseness become clear but the sense of almost-panic in the music rarely subsides; for Pale, keeping up emotional intensity seems like just the name of the game. And while this emotional build-release-build-release structuring might feel taxing for the listener, it provides more room for the band to focus on dynamics without sacrificing a near-constant sense of movement.
With what feels like a drastically reduced runtime, Pale’s five tracks don’t seem to waste any time, and have virtually no fat to trim; the songwriting seems concise almost to a fault. For post-black metal, songs under six minutes tend to be a bit uncommon but Pale somehow find the time to both fully flesh out their primary post/black/gaze influences in emotionally validating ways as well as let little rays of individuality shine through: Though a little unoriginal, opener “Turquoise” takes a short breather to channel .neon-era Lantlos with a jazzy bass-lead section, “Juvenile” has a riff that’s ripped straight from mainstream radio rock, and the breakdown halfway into closer “Zodiac” is probably the funnest surprise on the album (spoiler warning).
All in all, Pale are a new post-black metal band that heartily achieve what they hopefully set out to accomplish; their debut EP plays faster, louder, and more aggressively than most other similar acts in game today. It’s the kind of powerful record that makes you feel drained after finishing it--but not also without a sense of accomplishment. Pale are a godamn rollercoaster.