You ever have one of those albums you wish would just never end? Not necessarily because it’s the greatest album ever, but because it just feels so comfortable to listen to? There have only been two albums like that this year: Efferat’s Enlightenment, and this album. I could listen to the sequence from Beneath the Shade Tree to the end of the album for pretty much forever. But despite this, this album has not gotten as high an acclaim as one might think. There has been much controversy about this record. Initially hyped as a one man band from China, before people found out it was a 4 man band from North Dakota, this album has been labeled the SUNBATHER of this year, in that it’s not “true” black metal, and it only appeals to hipsters. Yeah, fuck those people. This isn’t hipster metal, this is beautiful metal, which is definitely not the impossibility that people say it is. Unlike many other black metal albums, which use acoustic guitars in a ritualistic “well, we need a soft section somewhere” way, this incorporates acoustic guitars fully into the albums sound, have two tracks that are almost entirely acoustic guitar. But that doesn’t make this any less metal, even with the scarcity of banging blast beats, or any kind of riffs. The metal part of this alum is in the feeling of despair throughout the entire album, though this isn’t despair in horror, it’s more despair in melancholy and sadness. And how well does it execute this? Near perfectly. There are no actual lyrics in this album, the vocals are purely screams, which to me makes perfect sense, as it’s just skipping the middle man (nobody cares about black metal lyrics) and going straight for what we want to hear. Not a bad thing. What IS a bad thing (and really the only bad thing in the album and why it doesn’t get a higher score) is that the over use of arpeggios and obvious (but not exactly TOO obvious, which is a saving grace) chord progressions that limit how much I can really enjoy this album, at least to an extent. Even with that said, I probably should give this a higher score, but I do feel that along with other minor problems, this albums short length (42 minute) lessens it’s seemingly epic scope. I feel like an extra 10 minutes tacked on the end would really wrap this up as a 9 or higher. Or even on the reverse, ending at The Silver Flower Part II would’ve given some finality to it, even if it would’ve been shorter. The end track didn’t really seem like a firm conclusion, and was more just a “oh yeah, and this is the end of the album” track.
Despite this, the album deserves all of the acclaim it does get, and anyone who’s too caught up in what’s “trve” or “authentic black metal” needs to get their head out of their ass and appreciate music for what it is instead of what you want it to be.