Thursday, March 10, 2016

Album Review: "Snow//Heritage" by Chiral

In no genre of music is the one man band more prolific than black metal. I understand why Varg Vikerness of Mayhem and Burzum fame had to go it solo after having killed the guitarist in his previous band, but why have so many others (Old Man’s Child, Xasthur, Myrkur, Leviathan, Panopticon to name just five of hundreds) gone this route? 

Maybe it is difficult to find other musicians with the ability or desire to play this most extreme of music.  Or maybe the misanthropic mindset which leads one into this genre just doesn't allow for dealing with bandmates. Whatever the reason, it often leads to an uncompromised product of the creator's artistic vision.

This is certainly true of Italian one man band Chiral’s soon to be released instrumental EP “Snow/Heritage”.   The artist does not categorize this album as strictly black metal, rather opting for the tag of atmospheric-post black metal neofolk.  

Certainly elements of black metal are there on the first and last songs of this four song EP, “Sage Moon ” and “Whiteness (The Snow and the Borrowed Lights)” .  Some of the hypnotic sections which feature blast beat drums surely sound as if they are ominously emitting from a frozen Norwegian forest.  

In the early days of black metal this unique distant drum sound was unintentionally created by bands attempting to record their drums with rudimentary and inadequate equipment, but has since evolved into an art.  

The drum sound on this Chiral EP is almost perfect.  

The two black metal influenced tracks contain the requisite tremolo picking, which at one point during “Sage Moon” culminates in a unique flange effect.  

Given the EP only contains four songs, it was a bit disappointing to me to learn “Sage Moon” is not a Chiral original, but rather a cover of a ‘Woman is the Earth’ song.  Still, as I had not heard the original it was new to me, and I appreciated it within the thematic context of the EP.  

I especially like the guitar tone on “Whiteness” which is full of the fuzz and crunch which is the single best thing about metal.

The middle two songs, “Now Her Weeping (Soils Heritage I)” and “Nowhere the Kingdom Fell” (Soils Heritage II) are a complete departure from any semblance of black metal, falling more closely into the arena of folk music. 

These songs would be the best thing you ever heard at a Renaissance Faire, and I mean that as a compliment. Chiral clearly has a mastery of the finest elements of medieval music.  Maybe it was imagined, but there is even a hint of traditional Italian music during a passage near the end of “Nowhere the Kingdom Fell”.  

These songs are completely clean acoustic tunes, devoid of a single distorted note or crashing drum, as though these two tracks are the calm between the storm of tracks one and four.  I kept waiting for a crushing power chord through a Marshall stack, but it never came, and stayed true to the folk genre.  

Most bands submit promotional material with their album which includes a photo of the band.  Chiral did not, opting instead for a picture of a dense forest.  My first thought was not to include this picture in my review, but upon listening to the EP it became clear why this was the image forwarded by the band.  

This album begs to be listened to in the solitude of the deep woods.  The listener should not be envisioning the music’s creator, but rather its subject.  There are no vocals on this EP, yet it is clear, beyond even the titles of the songs, this is an album about nature.  To best experience the environs of Northern Italy without actually visiting Europe, I recommend this EP from Chiral as a soundtrack.  

Release: 3/22/16
Genre: Atmospheric-Post Black Metal /Neofolk
Label: DIY

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