A brief initial glance at the cover made me feel enervated as the visual percept divested me of all the zest needed to listen to what the picture had blanketed, let alone review it. That is not to say I regard appearances with blind veneration, yet to overtly convey the listlessness that stabbed me as I lay my eyes on the focal feature of the illustration: a sword. Whether or not the staleness of steel has distorted the exterior is in the eye of the beholder, but the fact that it alienated me at the very beginning is undeniable. That is why the likelihood of having my head turned seemed quite fragile, hence UNDERVERSE’s mission much more exigent. However, holding on to a more critical sense of purpose, there seemed to be no objective in taking things at face value; therefore, I had to peek through the cover so as to see what the interior held in its most symphonic depths.
Genealogically speaking, UNDERVERSE’s Finnish blood endows them with an identity that declares them indigenous to the symphonic scene. The lineage could be traced back to the late 1990s, at a time when ...AND OCEANS and THYRANE debuted to deservedly earn the plaudits of thousands of listeners. However, in spite of the many similarities UNDERVERSE share with their ancestors – both experimenting with Industrial music as of late – they seem to be xenophilous enough to feel more fulfilled assimilating to foreign sounds, hence having more characteristics in common with BAL-SAGOTH and early AGATHODAIMON. Although UNDERVERSE succeeds in crossbreeding the two sounds, the former’s genes seem to be more dominant in their progeny than the latter’s—especially that the melancholy that used to give the latter’s music its shape is subdued by the feel of victory the former’s induces.
What I most dislike about UNDERVERSE, however, is their overdependence on synths and keyboards, which, albeit well-orchestrated, strike me with absolute tedium. The song-writing is not necessarily uncreative, but knowing that the music is the product of five brains, which have collaborated together since 1998, causes it to sound quite lacking. Basically, “Enigma Of Steel” is an issue of skill versus talent: though UNDERVERSE are suggestively ‘born on the battlefield’, their ‘battle magic’ is rather acquired than innate. In other words, they seem to have gained most skills required to write and perform good music, but they lack the talent to fill it with the amount of helium necessary to make it float higher than the rest of what has come out in the last fifteen years. However, if the purpose of these twenty-five minutes is to prove that UNDERVERSE has potential, I declare the mission accomplished; nevertheless, the flamboyance of it all has not really impressed me.
(Online July 16, 2009)