Striborg – Embittered Darkness/Isles de Morts

striborg_92406_embitteredWhat constitutes an underground black metal “success” in this day and age? Quantity! There you have it. Songwriting? Nah… overrated. Image? Well ok… That and quantity. Having said that, one may instantly think of Leviathan and Xasthur… 2 very busy artists, toiling away in their misanthropy to bring you, the loyal collector, a new release in one form or another every 4 months. Granted, both of the aforementioned artists do indeed have some damn fine music to back up their popularity, but they also have a lot of throwaway cuts that probably didn’t need to be released. Even though I love to collect as many releases I can from artists that I like, quality is far more important that some blind acceptance of everything that is presented for my consumption. With the release of “Embittered Darkness/Isle de Morts”, this is now the 3rd full-length I’ve heard from Australia’s Striborg, and even though there have been some well crafted songs that made me take notice throughout my 3 experiences, I am once again left wondering what all the fuss is about. Seriously… lo-fi black metal that envelops the cold void depression and to a lesser extent, a similar songwriting style found in Xasthur, along with a commonplace dose of Darkthrone (Trans Hunger/Funeral Moon era) sonically for good measure, really isn’t anything to get all worked up over. Once again… It’s got to be the image upheld by Striborg and the ever-expanding amount of material in this artists catalog (lots-o-demos)… many of which are impossible to obtain. That alone sparks interest in almost every black metal collector it seems. Regardless of whatever motivates someone from supporting a band, on it’s own merit, “Embittered Darkness/Isle de Morts” is easily the best of the 3 titles I’ve yet heard from sole member Sin-Nanna. Containing new material along with the 1997 demo “Isle de Morts”, this release is built upon a melancholic foundation, with crawling tempos and a gritty dissonance that piles on the awkward depression. Tracks like ‘Embittered Darkness” really churn in an unsettling mess of anguish, with sickly guitar passages that sound like they were played on an instrument with an intonation problem. So innovation and some unique ideas are definitely on display here, even though the higher pitched rasp and periodically comical croak of Sin-Nanna seem to siphon some of the seriousness out of his music (unintentionally I’m sure). Even though the guitar tone is very reminiscent of Xasthur, what sets Striborg apart from his US counterpart, is that Sin-Nanna seems to be quite a competent drummer. Even thought the tempos are largely slow, he holds the line effectively, breaking out when the song calls for more colorful fills and accents. The elements that Striborg’s music greatly lack are a missing bass guitar, which would have helped strengthen the buzzing riffs, and given an overall depth to the recording. Since there’s zero body to the guitar tone, there needs to be something underneath to make this music soak in with more of an impact. Without that added dimension, “Embittered Darkness” strikes with little presence. It’s just one riff after another repetitive riff. There are definitely some good moments on this album and I have spun it a fair number of times, but it seems like another contributing member could be useful for Sin-Nanna to bounce ideas off of before committing songs to CD. Once again… When trying to be creative, it is often a positive practice to throw something away that could be used, but may not necessarily be the most creative choice. Quality over quantity!! – Marty

~ by martyworm on January 3, 2009.

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