Incoming Cerebral Overdrive - Le Stelle: A Voyage Adrift – 4/5
I've seen this band described as Metalcore. I've seen it called Deathcore. I've seen it called Sludge, Post-Metal, Post-Hardcore, Mathcore, Black/Doom and I know I'm missing some. It's a name I'd seen around in passing but with such a name I figured was probably some sort of grindcore, and subsequently gave it little more attention. I suppose in retrospect 'grindcore' might actually fit, but in truth the only genre label I'm truly happy about giving them is the 'Experimental' tag, and of course that actually tells you nothing. So get your blender at the ready; pick out the guitarists from 'Dillinger Escape Plan,' the drummer from 'Mastodon,' a blend of the vocalist from 'Crowbar' and 'Ihsahn' (the vocalist from Emperor, Peccatum and err... 'Ihsahn,' surprisingly), and toss in just enough of Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) to make this most unlikely combination somehow work despite every indication that it probably shouldn't. If you aren't happy with that, then I'll call it “Experimental Technical Sludge,” which is just as vague.
I've actually spent most of the last week – when I've not been distracted by other music that is – just trying to figure out whether or not I like what they've come up with. Without a base for comparison it's surprisingly difficult to tell even the most basic of opinions, let alone trying to judge it objectively for review purposes, but at the end of the day the music is well composed. It is unusual but it does retain a thick sludge atmosphere that made the genre known as 'working mans metal;' the blackened and psychedelic tinges just lending enough variety to the atmosphere to keep it feeling fresh and never too monotonous, whilst the thick guitar tone and slow doom-like crashing of the drums thunder the tracks onwards. The problems occur almost entirely when it's the “Technical” part of their sound that's considered.
There's a reason so little Sludge succeeds in being technical; the likes of Mastodon and Baroness (more “Progressive” than outright technical, but the best comparison that springs to mind without straying into “Post-Metal” territory) both significantly 'cleaned' their tone to make the intricacies of their composition more apparent, and most technical artists utilise a clean tone for precisely that reason. This compromise is one that they didn't seem comfortable in making, and whilst a 'no compromise approach' is one that I'd normally applaud, it comes with a rather obvious drawback: the more complex the music becomes, the more becomes lost. If you're expecting technicality in the form of very fast guitar work, then that becomes too at odds with the Sludge aspect and rarely occurs; likewise if you're expecting a slow Doom-grinding then rarely will this occur. There will always be a trade-off but littered about this album are examples of how well they can pull it off, and there are no other artists that seem to have figured this out yet. It's by virtue of that fact alone that I can see myself listening to this for quite some time.
Highlights: Betelgeuse, Sirius B, Rigel
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Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 18 June 2012