Another Russian band playing the Symphonic version of dirty Black Metal hits my inbox this year. Having been around since the late nineties they have released three albums of which “Gedonist” includes the group’s most fresh songs.
It begins with a somewhat lengthy intro, during which an atmosphere of tension and waiting is being built up in a pretty skilful manner by utilizing classical music influences. Several instrument layers give this opener an epic feeling and nicely introduce the listener to a world of dark phonic experience that consists of six regular tracks, an outro plus some live moments added as a bonus.
Already the first sounds of “Nostradamus” prove that STIGMATIC CHORUS is a group of musicians that know how to explore the realm of Symphonic BM. The initial synth sequence is soon strengthened to a considerable degree by the seemingly powerful, though somewhat plastic drum department (their strength here is more a result of a good arrangement with the other instruments rather than the drums being so powerful themselves) and the organic, slightly choppy guitars that after a while evolve and spread energy through some IRON MAIDEN-influenced riffs. The possessed screams, fragments with several tempo shifts among which the majority consists of insane guitar and rhythm section passages and the venomous synths adding even more to the level of madness – this recipe known from the past is to be found both here as well as in nearly every other composition by STIGMATIC CHORUS. This is also the most serious reservation I have in this case – the repetitiveness of this material, in which I can see only some shining points like the bass drums in “Padenie Roda” or a number of riffs in the first three regular tracks. These examples show that there is some serious potential in this band and the thing is to develop it and not le the good ideas disappear in the sea of musical mediocrity. It’s a pity they did not made for instance the choral motif in the beginning of the fourth minute of “Nostradamus” last longer as from the point of view of musical catchiness this seems to be – despite its lasting just for a few seconds – the most interesting fragment on the whole album.
Talking of the singing efforts, this mentioned sublime clean singing in the second track becomes somehow even more epic thanks to the sound of Russian language. The same thing regards the use of clean vocals in “Padenie Roda” though here these are less epic and much more dramatic, nearly desperate. All the way through their work the band are using their mother tongue, which as a matter of fact gives “Hedonist” a pretty special flavour not only in the just mentioned moments. Even though most of the vocal tracks are being performed using shrieking technique making therefore the lyrics hardly understandable, one can still feel that the nowadays lingua franca is not the channel chosen for delivering the songs’ lyrical concept. Apart from the more brutal approach to the singing there is a number of recited phrases sounding actually a bit pretentious and arousing associations with CRADLE OF FILTH. Additionally a female voice appears in the third track called “Intsest”, which together with “Nostradamus” and “Padenie Roda” is the best effort made by the Russian group here. Still “best” used in the context of this album does not mean that the quality of the songs in question can match the level of the genre’s masters.
Rather than being a collection of Symphonic Black gems “Gedonist” represents a work typical for the ranks of usual musical craftsmen, albums of which are well-written, yet unoriginal. Exploring and utilizing the already discovered and known sound territories is too little nowadays, even if the artistic ideas are properly executed. Perhaps if there were some more catchy motifs here the final rate would be higher but in this case an average grade seems to be the most suitable one.
(Online September 12, 2009)