With a project name like Total Negation, it’s very difficult to be mistaken when it comes to what you’re in for. More or less taking the feeling of being pessimistic and forming it into a sound would be a start, as far as descriptors go. Total Negation is a German black metal project that takes every feeling of despair and discontent and forms it into a distant, almost apathetic sound. What Total Negation do is very differently from other similar bands taking black metal in a more depressive route – think Xasthur or perhaps even Spektr for example.
Xasthur take the theatrics and impact of black metal and render it using the most depressive and oppressive of feelings, where Total Negation, despite having many of the same emotions, abandon many of the theatrics and most of the impact. It sounds distant, emotionally uninvolved. It doesn’t have the passionate sadness, or overt despair, and in many ways this serves the album very well as it shows a side of despair that many people overlook — apathy, or in other words, fittingly, Total Negation. I certainly in no way claim that there is no passion behind the album, quite the contrary; only that Total Negation don’t go at lengths to show it. At least the band name is fitting, and it’s nice to see a band not give into incorporating gimmicks to garner cheap emotional responses.
Instrumentally, Total Negation don’t really surprise, having many of the staples of their bretheren in black metal – highly distorted guitars, heavy drum beats and raspy, desperate sounding vocals. You also occasionally hear some unusual sounding sounds and synths, all tastefully used to accentuate the sense of atmosphere and to make the album sound like something unusual and inhuman – it’s nice to see this not over-used, either. The guitars generally stay in the lead-register, many of the riffs being totally dependent on lead guitaring as opposed to the thick, tremolo picked rhythmic chords in many black metal bands. It gives the music a somewhat empty feeling, and it’s difficult to know whether this works in the album’s favor or not. The lack of moments with the rhythm guitars buzzing away do make the moments that they are utilized all the more memorable though, the riffs in the track “Einzug” a definite highlight. Most of the riffs resound well and hit just the right note; despite sounding lethargic, many of them pack power.
Some don’t, however. The track “Geist” is ridiculous because of it. The strange synths in the background, almost sounding as if they were made with children’s toys, only help to make the already bad riffs sound increasingly ridiculous, the obvious drum machine not really helping it. The track has just about nothing else to offer and as a result falls completely flat. Thankfully it’s the only sinker of the 8 tracks, though the fact it’s placed directly in the center of the album makes it very difficult to ignore. The synths get more and more ridiculous as the album goes on, which makes it more and more of an alienating experience as it goes. The only things that don’t really change are the drums. Despite being an obvious drum machine, generally it doesn’t hinder the album at all. In fact, it helps the atmosphere of human-uninvolvement that the album makes it’s sound from, trying to sound as distant as possible, often succeeding.
It’s difficult to truly get a grasp on an album that goes all out to alienate the listener and put it into words, especially since it tries to heighten the idea of alienation as the album goes on. It sounds lethargic, but it’s unorthodox. All the blueprints are here for something really fantastic and memorable but every time I feel like I’m starting to grasp the album it just throws me back out again. Tracks like “Einzug” and “Traum” are both very memorable, worthwhile tracks, but with tracks like “Geist” and “Raum” I can’t help but feel that the band are going all out to make the album as disorienting a listen as possible. Thankfully however, it’s not too repetitious an affair, drumbeats aside.
On a personal level at least, it was an album that was interesting when looking at it from the outside in, but failed to really resonate. Perhaps this was the intention of the band, in which case, great job to them – but I can’t make a conclusion on assumptions of the band’s intentions. Zur späten Stunde | Zeiträume is a mixed bag of weird and weirder, and worth checking out for those craving something rather esoteric, but not an album I would recommend over similar albums such as Spektr’s most recent output. A one of a kind experience, but not necessarily one that I was craving to hear.