The phrase “Spain is different!” seems to roll off the tongue of many a Spaniard. And rightly so; as a country its culture, cuisine and even the architecture, are markedly recognizable in flavor, style, look and feel. So how does that relate to Unbegotten‘s debut release Proem of the Unborn? Have these mutinous Spaniards turned against their Spanish roots? Or have they perhaps added a little Flamenco or maybe some Latin pizzazz to their black metal offering? The answer is yes and no. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want every album to be distinctly country specific. Blurring the lines and mixing influences and genres is interesting in and of itself. But when you set up my expectations by referencing that Proem of the Unborn contains raw black metal as known well by followers in Portugal and Spain that leaves me expectant. The only thing left to say is: son, I am disappoint.
After a brief intro reminiscent of Shining‘s “Reflecting in Solitude” off I: Within Deep Dark Chambers, Proem of the Unborn gets going with “Into the Entrails of my Deliverance.” The track itself takes from the ebb and flow of mid-period Burzum, demonstrates the rawness of early Shining and mixes it up with the rumble of Bethlehem. Unbegotten have very little by way of information available online and that makes it pretty tough to figure out who’s who in the zoo. At any rate, the nameless ghoul on vocal duty grunts like Kvarforth combined with the trademarks of Varg. This would be a pretty sweet combination, except that his vocals lack the necessary oomph to make any lasting impression. They snap and snarl away ineffectively, barely rising above a murmur. They ultimately do no more damage other than to bring to mind a more cantankerous version of that crazy old guy who drunkenly stumbles out the back of the ramshackle neighborhood pub, making himself at home among trash cans, the tendrils of long forgotten pot plants and abandoned coolers. If you mistakenly wander out in search of a breath of fresh air, he’s muttering to you incoherently about the trials and tribulations of swimming pool installations, leftover packaging concerns and other madness’s too bizarre to even fully comprehend [This is an oddly specific description… – AMG].
I could quite literally copy and paste the above paragraph twice or thrice more, throw in a different song title, and you’d still get the just of what to expect from Proem of the Unborn. The tracks that follow (“Porphyric Curse,” “…Of Gardens and Evokations” and “Dreadful Lethargy of the Unstable”) are all largely similar in style, arrangement and delivery to “Into the Entrails of my Deliverance.” Tempo changes and stabs at creativity can be counted on one hand. Early in “Porphyric Curse” there’s a brief shift as the band slows down to a doom-paced crawl, bombarding you repeatedly with slow deliberate percussion and humming, focused guitars. Or “…Of Gardens and Evokations” where for a few moments it sounds as though Unbegotten have abandoned their train of thought. The instrumentation loses its cohesion and it seems as though the band-members chime in, whenever and with whatever tickles their fancy. And lastly there’s the sad melody that dogs “Dreadful Lethargy of the Unstable” subtly prompting me back towards other band favorites that do gutted so much better.
For an album that’s punting the kind of sound created by pioneers of the black metal scene back in the early ’80s, Unbegotten do a reasonably good job of capturing a DIY element into their sound – their guitars sound murky, their drums jangly and the bass is altogether non-existent. That said, there’s still some instrumental loudness that holds this album back from feeling truly authentic.
I’ve been a harsh critic of Proem of the Unborn. Harsh song transitions, tracks that tend towards over-long and a lack of anything exciting to really get engrossed in does that to you. After spending a considerable amount of time on Unbegotten and Proem for the Unborn, I must concede that their 5-track (22-minute) debut is a listenable album, that ends up a non-essential listen.
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Forever Plagued Records
Websites: TOO KVLT FOR YOU
Releases Worldwide: August 26th, 2015