Upon initially listening to CANOPY’s “Serene Catharsis” I was pretty much convinced that it was a piece of crap. Upon my second listen however, I was convinced that it was a masterpiece. The third listen yielded indifference. In every subsequent listen to this album I have managed to form a new opinion on it; sometimes I enjoy it, sometimes I hate it, and sometimes I’m just drifting in between. It’s not like “Serene Catharsis” is some Avant-garde odyssey that can only be appreciated at certain times; in fact, this album is about as straightforward as it comes.
When forced to articulate what exactly about this album causes me to fluctuate so drastically, I can only think to say that “Serene Catharsis” is missing ‘it’. You all know the it I’m talking about; that special something that makes an album truly good. I feel in CANOPY’s case, that the certain missing element is passion.
The entire mood of this album seems to fit squarely around the theme of its title. The album has taken the genre of Death Metal, one of the most extreme within the realms of Heavy Metal, and sucked all the vitality out of it. Instead, this album is something I would indeed describe as serene, although the words ‘mellow’, ‘sedate’ and ‘tranquil’ also come to mind. Canopy don’t achieve this feet through the use of prolonged acoustic sections or drawn out progressive build-ups. The ‘serenity’ of this album is implied more by the brooding atmosphere, and the way in which the album never seems to build to that final blasting, snarling climax you want it to.
The music here is all rooted firmly within the category of mid-paced; there are virtually no quicker sections that really kick your ass, and occasionally some slower, Doomier sections (“Firmament Part I”). The riffing is tastefully melodic without ever stumbling into the painfully familiar AT THE GATES / IN FLAMES territory. There are occasionally some bouncier parts thrown in (“Firmament Part II”), which actually provide the major highlights of the album. Also, basically every song features a bland yet passable melodic solo; no jaw dropping, air-guitar inducing face melters, but the kind that just seem to be there in order to give a bit of variety to the music.
The vocals are possibly one of the most frustrating elements of the album. They aren’t bad at all- in fact, I would probably call them solid. But they seem to be severely lacking in aggression, much like the rest of this album. When I hear the deep guttural growls of a maddened Swede I want to have all the hairs on my body stand up in fear. Instead, I’m left with basically no defining thoughts, which is more or less an indication of how unremarkable they are.
This review has already gone on for far too long, but there is one more thing I need to get of my chest before I cut to my concluding paragraph, and that is the production. The sound is goddamn annoying in the fact that I can’t place exactly what it is about it that I don’t like. Suffice is to say, that I really, really hate it. One thing that does spring to mind though is the bass. It isn’t particularly audible in the mix, which doesn’t really bother me, but occasionally it comes through so loud that it almost drowns out the other instruments. And it doesn’t sound right at all during these brief moments- the sound is more akin to someone sliding there fingers up and down a bass guitar string than to actually plucking it. I don’t know a whole lot (read: anything) about the mixing / mastering process of an album, but I’m tempted to attribute these annoying injections of bass as a slip-up during that process, as they serve no discernable purpose.
Well, this is probably the longest review I have ever written, and about 90% of it consisted of me bitching about this album, which is probably unfair to the guys of CANOPY. From what I can hear, this album is an attempt at writing a morose, melodic and dreary Death Metal album. This album is probably a very successful one at that. The thing is, I want to hear Death Metal that is pissed off, heavy and aggressive. I would strongly recommend “Serene Catharsis” for those who are interested in both Death Metal and Doom Metal, as it is obvious that it is intelligently written and performed. Unfortunately, I simply cannot connect with what Canopy are tyring to create here.
(Online January 18, 2007)