Aussie black metal is unchartered territory for me, but if not, why not, right! From my early judgments, it doesn’t appear that black metal dominates or has the Aussie metal scene on its knees cowering in fear of the Dark Lord’s return, but certainly a few names lit a fire and I suppose you could say, spiked my interest. Ruin‘s Place Of No Pity kicked off my grim journey of discovery, delivering mighty appealing song structures and evolvingly doomy interludes. Gospel Of The Horns followed suit with ex members of Bestial Warlust making up their dank mix and finally, Deströyer 666‘s Phoenix Rising hit all kinds of home. Their brand of blackened death-thrash can only be described as packed to the hilt with truly bestial riffing and it set the bar and my expectations sky-high for Thrall.
Thrall‘s Aokigahara Jukai rose from the ashes of their recent Japanese tour, and as the title suggests, the albums concept is loosely based around Aokigahara or the Sea of Trees – a suicide plagued forest lying at the north-west base of Mount Fuji. Now for all intents and purposes, putting the words “suicide” and “black metal” together in a sentence SHOULD send all kinds of happy shivers down my spine, but to put it bluntly, Aokigahara Jukai is more snooze-fest than excitement inducing. Where to begin…
“Longing For Death” is aptly titled and a remarkably good indicator of the excitement levels induced by the track. The track has a bit of a Vreid feel and rocks along at a good pace. Unfortunately it’s riddled with repetition in the extreme and a mucid, sticky fuzziness that dampens out all sense of variation. All you’re left with at the end of the song is that cloying taste of under-produced metal in your mouth [Tastes like… aluminum foil. — Steel Druhm]. The problem is exacerbated in “Aokigahara Jukai” and “Of Hate” and by the end of the latter, my eyes feel heavy and I’m fighting sleep off with fervid desperation.
Things improve slightly towards the back-end of the album, “The Pact” starting off with the density of something I would expect from say Candlemass. Just like the Aokigahara forest, “The Pact” is a lengthy track at just over seven minutes which, while it ended up probably being my favorite, the length makes it tough to cut your way through. “Ubasute” and “Slaves” give a pretty good taster of the piercing, beguiling screams Em Savant is capable of unleashing. Unfortunately despite ample vocal capabilities and the varied styles used on the album I’m struck that the vocals are mixed too far back and lost in the quagmire and outside of the odd word slipped in here and there, it’s damn near impossible to pick up on the album’s brutally dark concept.
Unlike Deströyer 666 and Ruins who layer doomy passages and ear-catching tempo changes with well layered vocals, all culminating to create the level of dissimilarity that one so craves, Thrall seem to strive to be as consistently boring as possible. If you’re looking for attention grabbing Aussie black metal check out Deströyer 666 and Ruins and especially mega-obscure Vyrion, but if you’re looking for an album that’s repetitive and sleep inducing, this is one for the Sunday afternoon nap-time playlist.