wizened experienced writers on staff say it’s best never to go back and read your early reviews. This is the first occasion I have had to really ponder the wisdom in these words. Unreqvited’s Mosaic I: Mosaic I: L’amour et l’ardeur was just the third n00b review I penned for these venerable pages and it is the first band I am reviewing here for a second time. Although only a little over a year ago, it’s ridiculous how long ago that feels. In that time, I have had a baby shark pup, which changed pretty much everything about my life, and of course graduated from Nameless_n00b_17 to my current exalted status indentured serfdom. It also now feels somewhat ridiculous to have said in my Mosaic I piece that I don’t like black metal, given the amount of BM that I not only reviewed but also enjoyed in 2019. But whether in 2020 I am any closer to having relevant insights to offer is a largely irrelevant question, since Mosaic II: La déteste et la détresse is not a black metal record. What then is it?
On Mosaic II, one-man Ottowan post-black music-making machine1 Unreqvited picks up where he left off on the excellent Mosaic I. By turns uplifting and harrowing, the front end of Mosaic II is beautifully atmospheric, with layered synths and keys both delicately evocative, and the tortured, wordless howls of its creator again act almost like an additional instrument. Feeling darker and more direct than its predecessor, Mosaic II envelops and smothers the listener, sometimes pausing to draw breath – second track “Wasteland” features a soaring refrain almost worthy of Opeth in their metal days, while “Pale” is a gentle and delicately uplifting affair—at others bouldering right on.
Indeed, opener “Nightfall,” the multi-part “Wasteland,” and “Disorder” all see the guitars coming more to the fore than on Mosaic I, and while this is hardly Riff Central, there are some nice leads. The Zeal & Ardor-esque riffage on “Wasteland” is as surprising as it is welcome. The drums and percussion retain their battering, claustrophobic edge, which gives way at times to tripped-out—and indeed trip-hop—sections (“Wasteland”) but it can also feel a little over-programmed. So much for the quality front end of Mosaic II.
The back end of the record comprises a three-part piece,2 which at nearly quarter of an hour is epic in length but not in any other respects. Each part of this closing trio spends a long time generating its own ‘mood.’ The trouble is twofold, however. First, that those moods are seriously tedious and, secondly, that they don’t go anywhere with the ambiance once generated. “Transience I – The Ambivalent” sounds just that to be quite honest. “Transience II – The Gentle Void” features a delicate and enjoyable-enough piano backbone that runs through it but is ultimately utterly forgettable, while for “Transience III – The Static,” it suffices to say that the title is descriptive. The production is similar to Mosaic I, meaning that if you enjoyed the sound on that record, you’ll likely enjoy what’s on offer here. If you thought that Mosaic I sounded compressed and slightly flat, you’ll probably still think that. You’ll be wrong but that doesn’t mean you won’t think it.
I wanted to love this Unreqvited record. Mosaic I was an emotive, and indeed emotional, record that got a lot of spins from me. It was the first 4.0 I awarded here and, to date, I have awarded only two more since.3 But this is a record of two halves. If Mosaic II finished at the end of fourth track “Disorder”—or, better still, continued with more of the same quality—this would have been my fourth 4.0. As it is, the lackluster and pointless ambling of the three “Transience” tracks drags the album as a whole down. Before we got the promo for this, the ever-wise occasionally-lucky Muppet said he was worried about Mosaic II off the back of The Ember, The Ash, which neither of us loved. I shared his concern but tried to keep my positive shark mask on. While half of Mosaic II is great, sadly, Muppet’s concerns were valid to an extent, as the back end feels like pure filler.
- Since Mosaic I dropped in November 2018—already Unreqvited’s second full-length in that calendar year—there have also been two EPs, Rain and River, with several others scheduled to drop early in 2020, plus releases from his side project The Ember, The Ash. ↩
- The notes accompanying the promo suggest there may be another track, “Can’t Help Falling Apart,” which is a bonus with the artbook version of Mosaic II but this was not supplied with the promo, so I can say no more about it. ↩
- Although, I don’t know whether that says more about my inability to haul good shit from promo swamp or the level of overrating that goes on from the bastards around me. ↩