Ancient Nation Productions, Negative Existence (2011)
1998 / October 3rd, 2011
Release length: 42:53
Obviously, despite the fact that it was issued in 1998, the audio quality here does come through a little rough due to the fact that this release is casette only, which is perfectly find and rather expected given the Black Metal trend around that time and how it’s grown exponentially in the past decade. This gives the album that rawer atmosphere, especially as the tapes degrade overtime from mishandling and general wear, but even then you can still pick up a somewhat digital for it’s time recording quality to the release. The vocals here are perhaps the most dominant, despite being a little deeper in the mix then the rest of the instruments. The rhaspy and energetic performance stands out well, spitting out ruthless and venomous lyrics to accompany the often varied atmospheric and brutal, angry Black Metal material. The guitars come through as sharp as they can be represented through the rawer technological medium, though the bass really holds them down with a far more blunt edge that makes the production far deeper then sharp. The drums can sometimes be lost to them at times, but when the music caters to the more chaotic you cannot help but embrace the louder cymbols and thicker snares that pound away with the thudding bass that is a little harder to hear, but mixes in with the music well enough that it’s presence can still be felt. There’s also some keyboards that appear throughout the release, but never overstay their welcome, demand they be the center of attention, or come in at the most forced, random places. Their time here is well executed and often not that long, though they clearly do come through a lot louder then anything else here. These can set a nice tone for the music, though much of the release doesn’t necessarily carry a strong atmosphere. The rougher quality does give Dying Emotions Domain a good aggressive sound with some haunting material and keyboards, as well as some chanting in the vocals that can come through rather eery, but it’s track like the title song, “Dying Emotions Domain,” that really set an emotional tone to the environment thanks to taking advantage of the keyboards without going too overboard, again limiting them and having the guitars take over to fuel a stronger edge to the music instead of the more beautiful yet gothic haunting sound of the clearer instrument.
Like many bands of this style that try to evoke a raw audio quality to the recording, the album starts off rather loud and clear actually. The instrumental track “The Black Woods Theory” is a keyboard piece that sets up sort of a b-grade gothic era horror flick from the seventies or early eighties, which works out nicely for the environment to many fo the following songs. But right away it’s obvious this track is going to be the loudest, clearest track of them all as that raw sound kicks right in the furious, angry “Fiery Mysticism.” The music hammers away at the listener with catchy riffs and an anger fueled second wave Black Metal sound that continues that horror vibe from the previous track well. The venomous vocals spew lyrics wildly against the haunting, yet rather crushing music that offers up enough unique material through the song’s nearly nine and a half minute lifespan to keep the listener intent the entire time. And that’s basically the approach of the album, outside of the long track lengths. Much of the material here just comes off eerie and despair-ridden, though the song “Path to Burning Space” does usher in a bit of a different vibe. Instead of that, the keyboards give off more of a Folk-driven sound, but that’s not everything. Shortly after the song’s more upbeat start, we’re given what seems like either cymbol or more keyboard fueled Black Metal, though only slightly and actually in a bit of an annoying fashion, while also coupled with a saxophone for quite some time before the song throws those two elements to the side and favors the traditional second wave Black Metal sound once more for a while. It seems the song doesn’t really know what it wants to do throughout the varying atmospheric instrumental, all the while leading listener to be unclear if they should be unnerved or joyous with a tankard of ale and striking up a celebratorious viking chant. However, the confusion is quickly rectified at the five minute mark as the song just seems to fade out really fast while the song is going on, as if someone felt the rest of the recording was absolutely pointless and cut away to go back into more aggressive, haunting Black Metal.
Given the fantastic start that Dying Emotions Domain has, it’s rather saddening to see the strong music come to such a grinding halt like that. Thankfully “Necromantical Screams” kicks back in, and brings the listener a much stronger sound that takes advantage of the keyboards well, having them in the background more, all the while accentuating those venomous vocals with spiteful sounding abrasive Black Metal that just goes for the listener’s juggular. But, again, we’re sidetracked a bit with “Ad Infinitum (Dark II)” which just doesn’t really seem to fit inw ith the rest of the material. The eight and a half minute track does a good job at providing the listener enough unique material to keep him or her interested, but at the same time half of that music feels more like cheapened Halloween music with an astral atmosphere and wailing clean vocals that border back into the Folk/Viking territory at times. When the band goes into the more traditional concepts of the style, the song doesn’t quite feel so cheesy and shows the stronger side of the band, though nowhere near as menacing. Luckily this is the last less-then-enjoyable track of the release, and Dying Emotions Domain does end on a much better note, musically and atmospherically, all concluding with an instrumental outro that’s as strong as “The Black Woods Theory,” though the wind on this one sounds an awful lot like someone just whistling into the microphone, which it more then likely is. But, the small keyboard input really does feel like a suiting conclusion to this more gothic horror driven release.
The 2011 Negative Existence reissue is literally nothing more then the album being reissued in it’s entirety. The main difference here lies more in the artwork alterations, which are actually more vibrant compared to the original and look pretty impressive. But, this is just going to stem largely on your taste in the artwork and how well either one better suits the music. This is something you coould easily expect given that the release was originally put out on casette, and now is being made available on disc.
The audio itself still feels as raw as the initial release, and that’s largely due to how the reissue was clearly handled. Obviously this is not taken from any recorded masters, and instead just transfered from a cassette someone had found. The quality can sometimes become pretty rough here, as some tracks can simply sound faded and worn, or even just get louder, then softer, and repeating for quite some time like during “At Nightfall.” Honestly, it’s hard to argue as to whether or not this is the way this album should be. It’s clear there are times where the music comes through a lot clearer and just sounds rawer due to the faded quality of the source material, but at the same time that wear and tear ends up benefitting the release nicely by giving it a much rawer sound which helps out the atmosphere of the material. In the end, the reissue ends up being more a personal preference, especially if you already have an original pressing in your collection.
Overall, Dying Emotions Domain is a nice little treasure that, for a good decade, has been lost to many Black Metal fans despite the band still going strong. Astrofaes made a nice debut recording here, and took it to the underground, feeding that fanbase’s obsession with a cassette pressing that works for this style of music to allow it to age like a fine wine. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the tracks will immediately be good, and unfortunately there are some that seem out of place, confused, or just not all that interesting if not all three. This release makes a nice piece of history to the style if you have it, and if you enjoy digging up these Black Metal gems then it’s an effort worth looking into for the reasons already outlined. Luckily, if you do want to give it a listen, there’s now a reissued version you can pick up without having to break the bank just to get a hopefully playable copy.
01. The Black Woods Theory – 1:39
02. Fiery Mysticism – 8:59
03. At Nightfall – 4:34
04. Path to burning Space – 5:02
05. Necromantical Screams – 4:50
06. Ad Infinitum (Dark II) – 8:09
07. Dying Emotions Domain – 6:28
08. A Song of the Night Birds – 1:21
|Overall Score: 7/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Negative Existence Records.