THERM. EYE. FLAME "Spherical"
If you’re familiar with the type of material pushed by Satyr’s label during the late 90s then you’ll have a good idea of the sound Russia’s THERM.EYE.FLAME are chasing on “Spherical”, as there is indeed a lot of Moonfoggery going on here, if you know what I mean. I must admit to not being overly excited by the avant-garde nature of this album (too DHG-like, in my not so humble opinion), but I suppose copious amounts of sampling and other electronic embellishments is par for the course when the band in question proudly states that their music is “soaked in the spirit of futurism”... Call me a narrow-minded old git, but very few bands have managed to successfully incorporate harsh Black Metal and Industrial into a cohesive/enjoyable whole, and while THERM.EYE.FLAME is far from the worst in their chosen field there is not really a lot of good or even original ideas at play here. As was the case with DHG’s “666 International” release, a lot of time is wasted on Industrial interludes, riffs that generally have no bite, and rather bland vocals. The programmed drums are also a constant annoyance and together with the overbearing use of distortion on the vocals “Spehrical” becomes largely unlistenable by the fifth track. Yes, the abrasive guitar tone occasionally manages to give proceedings a raw and purposeful vibe, and I appreciate the fact that the electronic embellishments are used solely to invoke a dark, suffocating atmosphere, but when it comes down to it the whole affair is quite disjointed and devoid of any standout songs and/or riffs. If the ‘futuristic’ exploits of bands like DHG, MYSTICUM, ABORYM, VULTURE INDUSTRIES and the like is your chosen poison then I’m sure you’ll find something of interest in these Russians’ craft. It’s sufficiently dark, and perhaps the perfect soundtrack to being held captive in a boiler room, but atmosphere alone is not good enough.
THERM. EYE. FLAME "Solar Nebula"
I’ve never been too keen on bands that mix Black Metal with Industrial/electronic elements, and while this Russian outfit’s debut album (“Spherical”) did nothing to change that, I must say that things are definitely heading in the right direction on “Solar Nebula”. They continue to stick to their self-proclaimed “modernized Black Metal” sound (i.e. Industrial Black Metal...) but on the whole the actual Metal quotient has been upped quite a bit on here, and the atmosphere is a lot grimmer and less disjointed this time around. The band might get all worked up over the supposedly futuristic sound of their music but I don’t really hear a lot of that on here. True, the programmed drums and the occasional ambient interlude have more in common with the Industrial side of things but the songs on here are, by and large, a rather straightforward mix of both old and new SATYRICON, with maybe a little early TULUS thrown in. It’s a rather mid-paced affair, and the riffs have a lot of groove to them (hence the SATYRICON and TULUS references), and while there’s nothing that aggressive to the songs they are filled with an undeniably dark, and at times plain evil vibe. The same could be said of the vocals, which reminds of both DARKTHRONE and DEATHSPELL OMEGA. Overall it’s a potent mix they’ve got going here and to be quite honest they don’t really drop the ball on any of these songs. Those who love SATYRICON’s “Volcano” album will find much to enjoy once that massive main riff to “Sixteen Levels Whip Cord” kicks in, while tracks like “Meteor Streams” and “M.W,M.R” show that this band is not solely about mid-paced grooving, as the former features surprisingly technical guitar work during its second half, while those simplistic riffs and cold, desolate atmosphere of the latter is right out of the “Transilvanian Hunger” playbook. Hell, my head is spinning over all the kick-ass bands I’ve name-checked in this review so far, and bear in mind that this is supposed to be an Industrial Black Metal band... All in all THERM.EYE.FLAME have improved in leaps and bounds with this album, skilfully navigating their way through a diverse array of styles, an finding just the right balance between traditional and more contemporary Black Metal aesthetics while they’re at it. On the strength of this album I can see great things for this band, as they certainly know their way around the genre better than most others avant-garde Black Metal acts.
THERM. EYE. FLAME "To Evolution?!"
After being disappointed by their debut effort “Spherical”, and then wholly impressed with its follow-up “Solar Nebula”, I really had no idea what to expect from “To Evolution?!”, the third album by the self-proclaimed “modernized” Black Metal band THERM.EYE.FLAME. Whereas the first album was a rather incoherent mix of Black Metal and Industrial, and the second album a more straightforward Black Metal affair, this third album easily ranks as their most inaccessible output to date, with just about every aspect of their sound either being increased about tenfold or tweaked and mangled to such an extent that the whole thing comes off as unnecessarily avant-garde. “To Evolution?!” is definitely not an easy album then, but neither is it a train smash... As the title alludes to in not-so-subtle-style, the name of the game here is evolution, which of course means that the industrial/electronic quotient has been upped quite a few notches, while the riffs and vocals are more technical and distorted throughout. This somewhat chaotic sound reminds me a lot of SATYRICON in their “Rebel Extravaganza” days, while the electronics strongly recall a band like DIABOLICUM. The songs are definitely not of the primitive Black Metal variety but the overall intensity comfortably cements this as an extreme Metal album. They do a good job of setting up a cold, hostile atmosphere, but what hurts the album is the fact that not many songs stand out from the industrial din. A song like “The Platform” manages to pique the attention mainly due to the ethereal sampling and somewhat hypnotic vibe, but on closer inspection its main motif is lifted wholesale from BLUT AUS NORD’s “Procession Of The Dead Clowns”. Nevertheless, it’s still easily the best thing on offer here and a good example of Dark Ambient done right. The following track, “Vacuum Of The April’s Waves”, then does a total stylistic cul de sac, blasting forth in abrasive Black Metal fashion. A nice change of pace. Other than these two tracks and, perhaps the very Doom-y album closer “To Evolution?! Pt. 2” (effective mix of harsh and clean vocals here), not many songs manage to stand on their own, which causes a large portion of this album to basically blend into one drawn out blur of blackened electronic atonality. As I mentioned earlier, their second album was quite good, but based on the disjointed nature of this album they are clearly still in search of a sound all their. Until they settle comfortably into their own little niche they will be an interesting though non essential band.
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