Caïna certainly aren’t your typical black metal band, they’re not Norwegian, Swedish, American or French as you would expect. In fact, Caïna is the labor of heartache by Englishman Andrew Curtis-Brignell and his band’s discography is all over the map. To give you some idea of what I mean, Some People Fall shrieks with the kind of sombre bleakery punted by Circle of Ouroborus or Cult of Luna, while Mourner has passages a little like A Forest of Stars combined with bitter-sweet dronings of chaos too hard to classify. Temporary Antennae dumbs down the experimentation, featuring an ear-friendly melodic mix of simple post-rock and black metal; Hands that Pluck is a foray into straight-up black metal; and Litanies of Abjection lives up to its name, an abstract electronic recital revealing a very depressed mind. You can see that a decade later, no album resembles its predecessor and Caïna have explored many genres, even to the point where I wonder if it’s even the same mastermind involved. To quote the great J.R.R. Tolkien, is Setter of Unseen Snares the “one ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them?”
“I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution. We became too self-aware. Nature created an aspect of nature separate from itself. We are creatures that should not exist…” From that sobering “Introduction” delivered by True Detective’s Rust Cohle, Setter of Unseen Snares feels like it has a deep dark story behind it and I wasn’t surprised to discover the album is an apocalyptic concept, telling of child sacrifice and of the eventual downfall of the final patriarch as the last earthly family heroically battles a giant asteroid. What makes this album so interesting is that Curtis-Brignell chose not to tell the story himself, but rather made use of the guest musings of graphic artist Michael Ribeiro “Setter of Unseen Snares,” Hateful Abandon‘s Vice Martyr “Orphan (part one)” and Cold Fell‘s Laurence Taylor “Orphan (part two).”
After the bitter aftertaste of the “Introduction,” wears off, “I am the Flail of the Lord” kicks in and you’ll be taken aback by the force and the punk rock belligerence incorporated into Caïna‘s growling black metal. “I am the Flail of the Lord” as well as the title track, “Vowbound” and “Applicant/Supplicant” see Caïna opting for the kind of raw, fast-paced murk close to what Krieg are known for, along with Brignell’s return to the days of Hands that Pluck. The four tracks follow on from each other consistently, almost merging into one another, hammering at your delicate sensibilities with force and fury. Then they pull back to show you a stark and desolate reality that’ll drag your mood downward. It’s not a pretty picture Caïna paints, but I like it.
Before you realize that the bulk of the album’s over, “Orphan,” brings the story to a jarring, almost baffling close, losing all blackened Krieg likeness. Running the longest (in excess of 15-minutes) it exposes you to nothing more than background noise rising up with the bleakness of Warning. After the minutes have ticked by and you’re starting to wonder if this is really all there is, the track develops into something much bigger, brewing into a storm that harnesses the clean sounds of Nine Inch Nails and The Cure (Disintegration era) and finally ending up in the darkest depths with the hopelessness of Morgion and early Paradise Lost. It’s by far the track with the biggest personality and splitting vocal duties of “Orphan” between Martyr and Taylor only adds to your overall confusion at the contrast of this track from the rest of the material.
The full concept of Setter of Unseen Snares isn’t blatantly obvious to the listener, but it’s an album best heard in its entirety rather than piecemeal. I see musings online that this could be Caïna‘s final album. If this is indeed the case and Setter of Unseen Snares ends up being the final entry in Caïna‘s varied discography, it’s just the chronicle they needed to tie everything together, ending on a high note. The long and the short of it is, there’s plenty bang for your bleak buck here!
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Church of Fuck (UK) and Skin & Bones Records (UK)
Websites: CaïnaOfficial | Facebook.com/Caïnaband
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 01.20.2015