Depressive Black Metal is a tag that often ties my eyebrows in a knot. Of course, some of that ilk are more than capable of persuading to reach for the razor but just as many induce altogether more positive reactions. SELF-INFLICTED VIOLENCE are a case in point.
“A Perception Of Matter And Energy” is very much a movement of cobra and mongoose, the implicit threat and consequence of one is parried by the joie de vivre of the other so that the sinuous progress is harried by the constant nip of brighter thought. This mix of the morose and the merry actually works very well and the interpretation will very much depend on the listener but for me, whilst I can accept that there is a bleakness to the rhythm guitar, much of the lead work serves to imbue a sense of joy within. That lead guitar sparkles with emotion that has a pure quality to it, as if it has been cleansed or at least gone through a catharsis, it shimmers like a falling sun reflected on a rippling lake and the mental lift that brings to most is available here.
Before I get carried away with contradictions, there is no doubt that the vocals drip with despair and thus lend to the labelling above, they also serve to add a stark contrast between the affirming melodies and their own wretchedness, the bleakness of their prospect an earnest attempt at nullifying the light and airs of the guitar. This vocal style is one of most perilous in music, so often it can sound preposterous or grate on the nerves to the extent that listener does not, thankfully the balance is maintained here such that even with the weight of woe, credibility is maintained. The music here is often filligreed but don't entertain the notion that it is vulnerable, it possesses a strength of conviction that adds reinforcement to the ethereal structure of this album and there is further balance in the emphatic moments where SIV weave a thicker tapestry such as the second half to “A Mental Cancer II.”
It has to be said, even when considering how much the genre has diversified, that there is a strong argument that this isn't Black Metal, such a claim has merit but misses the point, “A Perception Of Matter And Energy” transcends classification and rests on its laurels comfortably and deservedly. I'm sure labels such as Post Rock and Ambient could be pinned to the sound but again it is an irrelevance, as this album repels definition like oil to water and stands on its own secure in its identity. There is a power here born from an acceptance of its place in the universe and though there are cosmic flourishes, they aren't particularly pronounced, this sense of scale is perhaps best exemplified through “Realisation” which evokes vastness through its simple minimalism and untainted beauty. Such pulchritude is the most obvious on this closing track but is evident elsewhere throughout, frequently during the albums syrupy advance this allure is manifest and draws you in like Sirens draw sailors onto rocks.
SIV have crafted a work that falls and rises on an emotional tide, bleak yet splendid, melancholy and vivid, it is far more than a Metal album and if things were right in the world, its influence would range far and wide. Discussion over whether this is Depressive Black Metal can be laid aside, I think we can all agree it is certainly emotive, and utterly essential.
(Online March 18, 2010)