Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Album Review: Damned Spring Fragrantia – Divergences
‘Still Alive‘, with its brooding anger and creepy taped overdubs, marks them out as the proverbial stalker. It is them taking the opportunity to calculate their method of attack before they launch upon you with brutish gang chants and sudden, dizzying changes of pace. This is the only calm they understand and it comes before the storm of ‘A Common Tragedy’ and ‘Lost Shores’ hit. And yet their creative peak arrives when they fine-tune their rage a little.
Take ‘D.M.Z.’, the track at the heart of their debut album Divergences. Named after them, defining them, it is littered with little nuances, showcasing their complete range and is underpinned by a writhing series of polyrhythmic, thunderous assaults. A clever combination of scrawl and crawl, it is real guts and glory stuff and yet it holds enough back to really hit home. Team this with ‘Drowned In Cyan’, another track that, appropriately, floods you with a little bit of everything and you’ll get an idea of just how talented this bunch really are.
Very quickly you’ll unveil their rampant Meshuggah worship, but you’ll catch plenty of The Acacia Strain‘s raging ‘core in there too. The clean, crisp production and vast dynamic range is an absolute thing of beauty allowing for a seamless blend. Yet, despite this and their obvious technical skill, most of the album can rather pass you by. All too often there is the sense that they aren’t taking full advantage here; that they aren’t ramming each point home deeply enough. The album is littered with little game-changing moments but they are too randomly scattered. This cherry-picking from their collective skill-set, can be jaw-dropping when they employ it, yet they need to use these moments to define their songs.
There’s the flicking, enigmatic tapped riff in ‘The Obsidian Fate’, the interesting split-channel switching and slow-motion shred in the title-track, and the fiendish melodic flourishes that lurk in ‘The Refusal Effect’, ‘Drowned In Cyan’ and ‘Pariah’ (which features a welcome guest spot for Heart In Hand vocalist Charlie Holmes). Even Nicolò Carrara’s regular bouts of phlegm-regurgitation or the heart-stopping sub-drops in ‘Heritage‘ and ‘The Refusal Effect‘ all excite. All these things burn brightly enough to transform a stock album into a timeless classic and yet they are just fleeting, quickly-forgotten moments.
Carrara’s one-dimensional vocal doesn’t help either.
- Almighty throat-ripping roar? *ding ding ding*
- Variety of delivery? *fart noise*
Clearly they also need a good tidy-up in the songwriting department, but his vein-bulging vocal angst that seemed such a bonus on the wall-of-sound ragers, like ‘Lost Shores’ and ‘Heritage‘, ends up being a massive weight around their neck when the music cries out for diversity.
For anyone feeling brave enough to tackle Divergences, you really need to know only two things. At its core, there is plenty of solid, workmanlike muscle. At its extremities, there is the potential for better, wilder things yet to be revealed. Damned Spring Fragrantia, hope springs eternal.