Apostate Time of Terror 01Apostate are one of the Ukraine’s oldest doom bands, but have only released one full-length prior to Time of Terror. Forming in 1993, they suffered a series of splits before eventually reforming this millennium to release 2010’s Trapped in a Sleep. This was a flawed but entertaining album, mixing My Dying Bride and old Paradise Lost influences with classic Candlemass riffs to create a distinctly upbeat brand of doom/death. Five years later, Apostate have undergone a change of both personnel and image. The mystical, dreamy artwork of Trapped in a Sleep has been replaced with blunt, horrific images of death, while only bassist Olexandr Kostko and vocalist Bohdan Kozub remain in the lineup. These subtle hints led me to expect a slight change in musical direction, because I am deeply in tune with art and meaning and stuff.

Naturally I was correct. Time of Terror is still a doom/death album, complete with the early Peaceville Three influences, but the music is slower and heavier, with any notion of positivity removed. The odd Candlemass riff creeps in every so often – most noticeably on “Memory Eclipse” and parts of “World Undying” – but for the most part Time of Terror stays slow and sorrowful, nestling somewhere between Anathema’s Serenades and My Dying Bride’s Turn Loose the Swans. The synths that stood out so prominently on the last album have gone entirely, the band preferring twin guitars to express their sadness, and all clean vocals have been ditched in favor of tortured growls. Perhaps the most surprising new element, though, is the black metal influence, which adds another dimension to Apostate’s sound and fits very well with their new aesthetic.

These changes have been integrated well, and musically this is a vast improvement on Trapped in a Sleep. Each song is over nine minutes long, but the arrangement and song development is implemented well enough to keep you depressed but interested throughout. The black metal sections help in this respect, but are most effective when they catch you off-guard as at the end of “Solar Misconception” or in the middle of “Pain Served Slow” (some work on song titles is still needed it seems). The interplay between the two guitars more than makes up for the loss of keyboards, while the occasional use of eerie samples generally works, adding to that nineties feel.

The production, however, is distinctly non-nineties. This is the worst sounding record I’ve reviewed here – perhaps among the worst I’ve listened to. Early nineties doom/death is hardly known for its wonderful production values, and this roughness can add to the depressive atmosphere – the guitars on Winter’s Into Darkness sound like a caterpillar farting through a sock but goddammit if it doesn’t work in context. The issue here isn’t a low budget or muddy recording though; at DR3 and with several tracks at DR2, Time of Terror is one of the least dynamic records we’ve reviewed, and boy does this one hurt.

Apostate Time of Terror 02

Fallujah’s notorious The Flesh Prevails also achieved DR3, yet sounded reasonable enough (debatably) as the mastering was handled by a good engineer. Time of Terror’s mastering was not handled by a good engineer. When I first listened to it I assumed there was something wrong with my headphones, but when I looked at the audio file waveforms, all became clear – the entire mix has been cranked up then brick-wall limited to such a degree that the waveform is square in many places, introducing all sorts of deeply unpleasant distortion. Not only have the dynamics been totally killed, the mastering-induced distortion both obscures the instruments and makes this painful to listen to for any length of time, even at low levels (ironically enough there is very little, if any, digital clipping).

This is such a shame because I really enjoy the music. I have a soft spot for old-school depressive doom/death, and this new incarnation of Apostate does the style very well. They deserve better than to have their album ruined by a terrible mastering job. If Ferrrum.com get their act together and release a remaster that doesn’t sound like nutsack, I would wholeheartedly endorse this and give it more points out of five. Give it a listen if you have hardy ears, but I just can’t recommend it in its current state.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 3 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ferrrum.com
Websites: ApostateOfficial | Facebook.com/Apostate
Release Date: Out Worldwide: 03.02.2015

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  • Jukka Alanen

    This album should be renamed “Time of Earache”. I personally gave up after two minutes of the example song. Well, at least we have another example to present our friends who say “what do you mean brick-walled?”

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      It makes me sad because I want to listen to the music more, but it’s just too irritating :(

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    I’ll be damned if that’s not my new favourite description of Winter’s guitar sound. This does hurt to listen to though, and ruins what sounds like a good album in a worse way than the random crackling on The Crown’s latest did. When will people learn that nobody wants albums that sound like this?

    • Monsterth Goatom

      Maybe Alex from Metal-Fi has already mentioned this in one of his articles here, but I’m curious: is brick-walling something endemic to metal recordings, or does the problem turn up in mainstream rock and pop recordings?

      Do record producers really have such a low opinion of metal fans’ intelligence? “Ah, just make it loud; it’ll sell more units and the fans don’t care about subtlety and can’t tell the difference between well- and poorly-produced recordings”. Pardon my language, but it seriously ruffles my feathers.

      I just don’t get it, as many metal record labels are small affairs where the people in charge of the dials are metal fans themselves.

      • Wilhelm

        I just can’t understand it either, you would think the band would step up and say “this sounds like shit, we want this redone by someone else” the fact that someone presumably got paid for this lazy job is mind boggling, especially when the proof is clearly evident.

      • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

        I’ve read somewhere (probably Metal-Fi) that initially the brickwalled stuff sounds “bigger”, so a snap judgement between A (DR10) and B (DR4) without proper level matching, listening time, knowledge, etc. would see most people picking B. When I was young and naive I actually thought there was something wrong with my copy of “World Downfall” because of how much quieter it was than my other CDs, and I don’t think that’s an uncommon reaction to more dynamic stuff initially if whoever is listening and judging has no knowledge or doesn’t care to know about compression and whatnot.

        As for mainstream stuff, to my knowledge it’s smashed to Hell generally, optimized for laptops and phones and the like, where most do their listening…it’s normally “distracted” anyway, with music as background noise. That’s why Beats are borderline genius, as much as I dislike them: they masquerade as quality cans, boost the “bass” frequencies that populate squashed masters, and make garbage sound artificially huge.

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Good points. I’m sure I’ve fallen for big sound from time to time.

      • Jean-Luc Ricard

        “Do record producers really have such a low opinion of metal fans’ intelligence?”

        Well, I did read another review of this that commented on the “great production”… :

        • Monsterth Goatom

          ¡Ay, caramba!

      • Dave

        Monsterth – if you look at the Dynamic Range database, starting around 1992 to 1993, you’ll see dynamics begin to drop across the board, from all artists in all genres, reaching current brickwall standards by 1996-1997. It’s in everything. The reason why so many of the smaller labels do it too is that they just don’t understand the issue. If you read the recent interviews from While Heaven Wept, they didn’t know that their bricked to hell albums were a problem, they just matched them to the volume of other albums they were listening to at the time (other bricked to hell albums). Thanks to fans requests for proper dynamics, their latest album sounds fantastic, and amazingly they got a BIG metal label to go along with it. -Dave-Fi

        • Monsterth Goatom

          Hey Dave, just saw your post. Thanks for replying. I wasn’t aware of the DR database. Very interesting.

          I agree that Suspended at Aphelion sounds great. SD though the quality of songs drops as the album progresses, but I can’t stop listening to it ’cause of the great production. Good to know bands are starting to take note.

          I always enjoy the articles by you and Alex. Cheers.

    • Monsterth Goatom

      As for the description of Winter’s guitar sound, I say contender for AMG simile of the year!

  • Wilhelm

    I just tried to listen to this through headphones, had to call my ear doctor for an appointment.

  • When will the madness stop?

  • Are we sure this stream is the CD quality? If so, this is so sad- the music is GREAT. The sound is rough.

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      There’s no way mp3 compression would have fucked the sound like this. It would have to be a totally different master to sound better on the CD.

    • Regular web streams on bandcamp are mp3s 128, which could potentially introduce compression artifacts in some conditions but considering the promos were encoded at 320 and present the same distortion, it is way more probable it comes from the savage brick-walling.

  • Maese Delta

    It’s a very rare time when one, as a fan of extreme music says…

    ”I don’t like this, it’s too heavy”. But, for the sake of my hearing, nope, this album didn’t work. So I’ll go back to listening other stuff.

    Hohoo, that band photo. XP

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Would be good but DR…I don’t think so, IMO It’s very ordinary material thats over compensating. Once you get past the trumpet in your ear there’s not much here..to hear…Fallujah despite their over loudness have an artistic vision coupled with serious song writing chops, this doesn’t not even close. You’ve been too kind, massive punt to the bin and file under don’t bother again for me.

  • Enemy Of The Free World

    This production may be very ungood, but honestly, I am not bothered by this. Some golden ears you’ve got there,mine must be filled with mud.