Book of Black Earth: The Cold Testament

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Book of Black Earth: The Cold Testament
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Book of Black Earth: The Cold Testament
Black Metal, Death Metal
Prosthetic Records
May 24th, 2011
Release length: 36:31
Myspace
Book of Black Earth is a band that has a decent reputation behind them. The group is known well thanks to their time with 20 Buck Spin Records and Prosthetic Records, and has grown a decent following for their anti-Christianity themes. However, time has not been so kind to the group. Over the years, the band has issued two full-length efforts, with the second taking on some pretty low scores amongst the fans and critics. For 2011, the band issued The Cold Testament, and again the scores for the group around the net dropped. Is this album really as bad as everyone makes it out to be, or are the elitists just unhappy with the band’s label choice or some other small, pointless stigma?

Well, it can’t really be the audio quality that many people disliked about the release. The Cold Testament is a name that perfectly suits the group’s sound on this release thanks to the atmospheres incorporated. The album sounds bleak thanks to the combination of Black Metal and Death Metal, and even though it has a cleaner sound, it’s not sterile. The guitars here sound a little lighter than you would really want, though the bass does help out with a slightly deeper sound to it that kind of makes up for it. The drums also have the slight different in pitch, but the bass kicks have a good click to them while the snares and cymbals come through loudly without drowning out the rest of the release and add a little extra kick to the music. When the music is faster and presents a more intense sound, the audio really feels rich, as well as deep at times. But, when it focuses more on a Black Metal atmosphere and second generation foundation, the higher pitch does come into play a little more and feels lighter than it should. This hurts the music bad when tracks like “I See Demons” kick in, using a stronger Black Metal approach and leave behind much of the Death Metal sound. The vocals to the album are as deep as they can be given these issues in pitch, as well as their performance of a shouting yet slightly guttural sound that seems to be done to play it safe and match both worlds the band brings with them.

While the audio could do with a little fine tuning, it’s not really something that holds the release back. The main problem here is the music. The band’s mixture of the two styles is alright, but many of the songs here are just not that interesting despite the cold and dark atmosphere they have. “Weight of the World” kicks off the album and really becomes the prime example. The song itself has a strong Black Metal foundation with some well transitioned Death Metal passages, which all works out for most of the song. However, as you reach the end of the track, you can clearly tell the band is just beating a dead horse, leaving a good minute or more of repetition in to pad out the song and make it the longest track here. It won’t take long before the constant shouting of the same line over and over against the same music gets really old, really quick.

This isn’t the only time the longer material fails the listener either. “Irritating Spectre” ends up being a horrible track as well. The song lasts a good five minutes, and a good chunk of it comes down to atmospheric straight Black Metal. The problem is that the music itself is not played fast enough during some of these moments, such as around the half way point when it goes into a melancholic approach, and leaves the material sounding really empty. The higher pitched audio also doesn’t seem to help much in this issue either. At first the song sounds great, but when the catchy rhythm’s head bang inducing sound wraps up early on, it feels like some good, simple ideas that the band just couldn’t capitalize on, which is sad since some of the passages did have some potential to be aggressive and sharp. But this isn’t how it is for every song, as the shorter cuts on here are far better in comparison.

Take “Cross Contamination” as proof. The song’s more aggressive sound mixes the two styles together a lot better, and the faster speed just works in favor of the two, allowing blast beats and better transitions. The song still carries a simpler structure like “Weight of the World,” and with that having a shorter length keeps Book of Black Earth from going into musical overkill with repetition and filler, allowing for a solid experience from start to finish. Even “Irritating Spectre” makes for a good track despite its near five-minute length. “Termination” also stands out with its faster pace and more dominant Death Metal structuring. There’s not a lot of intensity, but the music sounds far richer in this track, and the varying Black Metal elements that do come into play here and there help to keep the song fresh most of the time. There’s plenty of riffs here that will find you moving your head along to the rhythm, even after the song goes into a breakdown about two and a half minutes in. The music is accompanied by an audio sample that does fit the slightly crushing sound of the track, making it a little more enjoyable than it would have been without the clip. This also acts as the introduction to the furious Black Metal influenced “Research and Destroy,” which picks up immediately with old-school sound to it to immediately drive the track into the listener’s skull. But, almost as quick as that energetic introduction hooks the listener, it quickly let’s go due to simpler, even boring material reminiscent of “Weight of the World,” as well as a section later in the song that finds the drums acting solo for a bit, but not an actual solo, until the guitar and bass kick back in and just gradually pick up speed, which ends up just being absolutely pointless and seems like the group is showing off a bit more than allowing an actual solo from either instrument to come into a spot it would have been very well suited for.

The closing track, “I See Demons,” gives off a bit of a mixed feeling for the listener. The track itself is another long venture, the longest one to be found on the entire release actually, and for the most part the band keeps it interesting to the point where the listener stays attentive and not wanting to shut the song off. But, at the same time, there are parts where the audio does mess with how strong the song itself sounds. There’s also the distortions on the guitar that kick in near the end of the song that feel more like a Progressive Metal or even a Space Rock approach that in no way compliments the atmosphere, or even the general aggression the band brings into this release. While this song shows great promise for the band, they wind up falling prey to audio issues, as well as screw themselves over with the most out-of-nowhere effect they could use.

The Cold Testament has its good moments, but it also has its bad ones. The shorter material here does manage to offer up some solid, hard-hitting Metal that’s tight and lacks any real padding. However, the longer tracks usually find the band trying too hard, or even doing things that intentionally hurt themselves and/or the song. Book of Black Earth may have once been a pretty strong group, but with this effort, it’s clear that the group needs to have a deeper audio, as well as has to refill the barrel of ideas so they’re not scraping the bottom of it.

01. Weight of the World – 5:59
02. Cross Contamination – 3:25
03. Antarctica – 3:00
04. Irritating Spectre – 4:59
05. Termination – 3:48
06. Reseatch and Destroy – 4:48
07. Road Dogs from hell – 3:05
08. I See Demons – 7:29
Overall Score: 6/10
Book of Black Earth (Band)
Book of Black Earth (Logo)
Digital review copy of this release provided by Prosthetic Records.