Har Shatan – Manum Inicere Alicui Review

The last time Har Shatan released an album, I barely knew what black metal was. Solo project of enigmatic Zepar, it has been radio silence from them for almost fifteen years. Whether it was long-gestating concepts, or a more sudden flash of inspiration, something prompted a re-emergence. I couldn’t tell you what that is, however. Not only because I lack a lyric sheet, but also because Manum Inicere Alicui does not speak musically of anything more profound or interesting than another one-man black metal album, albeit, a well-played one. Pulling influences from across the early spectrum of the subgenre, its synth-seasoned, snarl-led blend of second-wave, atmo-black, and even DSBM serves, but doesn’t shine.

Manum Inicere Alicui has little sticking power, which is surprising in a way, given how much is going on. This latter point compounds the first problem. Through seven tracks, Har Shatan move through atmospheric shades (“Intro/Aurora”), dungeon synth (“Secret”), grimy old-school fuzziness (“Loyalty until Death”), icy second-wave (“Blood of Creation”), and more besides. There are even low, dramatic cleans spliced in here and there. Yet it all fades away into unmemorability as soon as it’s passed. Even while it’s playing, the moroseness of the majority of the DSBM-tendencies is not moving, the frenzy of the blastbeats is not furious, and the rippling synth is not atmospheric. It leaves the listener cold. Not in a positive way, as a frostbitten black metal assault or devastatingly miserable DSBM record would. But in a way that saps attention spans and flattens a listening experience to a mirage of greyscale milquetoast monotony.

But there are redeeming qualities. “Blood of Creation” has a pleasing evil-ness to its reverberating snarls and fuzzy tremolos, though the repetitiousness tires it before its time. Despite its welcome-overstaying length, the gently ebbing waves of mournful guitar and throatily-pronounced vocals of “Lichtträger Lucifers” make it the best cut of the bunch. The only one that carries real poignancy, even if it remains relatively unremarkable. In fact, it is in the quieter and more gentle areas that Har Shatan seems to succeed the most. The musing plucked “Another World/Outro” and melancholic synth interlude “Secret” are subtly sweet, although the former does not need to be five minutes long. The singing that surfaces is not bad, adding a layer of intrigue and a bit more weight to “Intro/Aurora.” There are also moments (“Fulgens et Sole Clarior,” “Blood of Creation”) when the snarls are delivered with a satisfying punchiness and drawn-out into more of a scream. Few and far between they may be, but they’re good when they arise.

What trips the record up is its lack of commitment to any particular version of itself. Har Shatan probably could have made a decent album in any one of the various styles on display. They play each competently, though some perhaps better than others. Tacking them together as they have done certainly isn’t jarring—there isn’t that much disparity between them—but it does contribute to the overall vagueness that makes the record fairly unmemorable. Something that actually is a little jarring is the way some tracks end very abruptly, often midway through a note, whilst others fade out unappealingly. Manum Inicere Alucui might also have benefitted from a little editing. Not that forty-five minutes is especially long, but because what merit tracks like “Lichtträger Lucifers” and “Blood of Creation” possess is drained by their seeming endlessness.

I never like to disparage an individual’s musical expression. That being said, Manum Inicere Alucui is not especially successful such communication. It suffers from its subtly shifted styles that are played in serviceable but forgettable patterns, leaving it with a bland and uncertain identity. There is promise here, but that promise has not been realized yet.

Rating: Disappointing
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: The Sinister Flame
Website: harshatan666.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: December 31st, 2022


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