Ah, another week, another black metal hybrid album. I’ve been snatching these up like candy lately, and for good reason: the only albums I’ve awarded a 3.0 or higher thus far have paired the genre’s trademark icy dissonance with a variety of other styles to great effect. Our dearest Kronos first covered Norwegian blackened hardcore upstarts Sibiir and mentioned they could be a band worth keeping tabs on, but as he’s currently incapacitated (perhaps with his quest to dismantle the power metal establishment), I’ve been granted the reigns to cover their self-titled debut LP and investigate whether they’ve improved upon their flawed yet promising demo.
It’s clear from the outset that Sibiir, aside from ripping the same art that Reverend Bizarre used for their debut, is aiming for something different from the primal, bludgeoning anger of fellow genre-benders Plebeian Grandstand. Rather, Sibiir aims for adrenaline-fueled riffs laced with the blackened aesthetic pioneered by their fellow countrymen, and the result is a fun and energized sound. They manage one hell of a first impression; the opening riffs of “Bekmörke” storm forth with a thick wall of dissonant power chords in the vein of Keep of Kalessin before descending into a brisk, disorienting hardcore chug that plays like a straightforward take on Converge. Nearly every track has similar highlights even when they don’t quite reach these heights, but with Sibiir drafting influences ranging from the black ‘n’ roll groove of modern Satyricon (“White Noise”) to the melodic acoustic and post-black traits of Deafheaven (“Guillotines”), it’s easy to find something to like on most cuts.
I was consistently entertained by Sibiir during my first few listens, but a curious thing happened around my fifth spin or so. My enjoyment of it dropped slightly as the cracks began to show, my overall impression taking a short tumble into a shallow ditch where it remains inexplicably lodged. I’ve given the album many chances since then because I am certain that I used to like it more, but once Sibiir‘s shortcomings became clear, I found it difficult not to be a little disappointed. The biggest problem is that the slower cuts, despite consistently good riffs, can really drag ass. The plodding “Apathetic” establishes few hooks and accomplishes little over the course of five minutes, while the vaguely doomy “The Spiral” relies on the same two or three riffs to carry itself to the finish line, catchy though they may be. I’m admittedly cherry-picking the two worst offenders of the album, but tracks like these, as well as fragments of a few tracks that are otherwise compelling, drag down what is otherwise a solid package.
Despite the lesser cuts, there are certainly tracks that I enjoy front to back. The aforementioned “Bekmörke” and “Guillotines” are my favorites, but I also really dig “Beat Them To Death,” which stuffs a ridiculous number of fun hardcore riffs into two and a half minutes. With a title like that you might expect Sibiir to exude a fondness for Beaten to Death, and you’d be absolutely right, because the band occasionally pairs its blackened tones with melodic, distortion-free riffs that smack of BtD. They may even do this for the album’s entirety, but I wouldn’t know, because Sibiir‘s melodious traits are far too often pushed to the back of the mix in favor of the vocals and drums. The production, though far better than the muddy sound of their demo, still can’t stick the landing; the drums are mixed as loudly as one would expect from a hardcore album, and they completely clash with the abrasive, blackened guitar tones. It certainly doesn’t help that Sibiir is roughly as dynamic as the Kansas countryside, but hey, at least the bass finds a prominent role in the mix!
I wanted to like Sibiir much more than I did in the end, as it’s certainly not without its positive traits. As a complete experience, however, it carries enough songwriting inconsistencies and poor production choices to balance out the good, though fortunately not enough to outweigh it. Ultimately, my opinion is firmly middle-of-the-road. Sibiir displays enough talent, energy and diversity to make for a successful band, but as of this album I am neither overly impressed nor necessarily put off by what they have on offer. Give the full album a listen if you like the embedded track; I’d like to see Sibiir find an audience willing to overlook its flaws, but as of now I’m not sure I’m a part of that camp.