Metal genre hybrids can be a double edged sword, especially when they begin to take eclecticism to its logical conclusion and throw a bit of everything into the mix, or taking time to step out of the Metal realm completely. Insofar as Death/Doom is concerned, it is very hard to fully visualize the huge stylistic leap from early KATATONIA to current works by this hybrid’s Gothic offshoots like LACUNA COIL without taking into account the 2 decades of gradual evolution and all the bands that bridged the gap. Harder still to picture would be any band making an attempt to sum up this long transitional period while maintaining the pure elements of its alpha and omega manifestations.
“Different Realms” is one of very few albums that really attempt this course without turning into a muddled stew of contrasting ideas. It maintains that constant sense of somber darkness that has endured in all 3 of the differing sub-genres present, while exploring a good deal of the heavier and lighter extremes in contrasting sections, and coming off as a sort of compartmentalized post-Death/Doom/Gothic deconstructive endeavor. With a few notable exceptions, the heavier instrumental elements are drawn towards an epic Doom orthodoxy as purveyed by CANDLEMASS and picked up on by KATATONIA in the early 90s, while the vocals are an old fashioned tribute to guttural extremity ala Chris Barnes, Renato Gallina and Frank Mullen. Likewise, the quieter keyboard interludes take an ultra-Ambient route, littered with both post-Rock and pre-Jazz influences.
Song by song, there is a consistent blend of common practice ideas with clearly defined borders that is both classicist and surprisingly fresh. “Boundless Life”, for example, kicks off with a misty piano intro that pays homage to the open ended, ambiguous and modal harmonic characteristics of French Impressionist composers such as Ravel and Satie (which makes sense given their influence on early 20th century Russian composers) and then switches over to a punishing drive of down tempo riffs and unintelligible barks. What are particularly noteworthy are the out and out avoidance of the atonal chromatic and dissonant note work that has often accompanied bands with a similarly brutal sound, and a continual air of lightness that even pervades the heaviest parts of the album. “Day And Night”, which is steeped in heavy edged, slow trudging power chords with occasional tremolo riffs and double bass work, has this continual tinge of Ambient Rock hovering over it from start to finish, be it a slow clean guitar drone or a passing minimalist piano part.
This 2 person Russian outfit is definitely on to something here, something that can be appreciated by fans of both “Dance Of December Souls” and “Transcendence Into The Peripheral”, as strange as that may sound given the massive divide between two noteworthy pioneers of this style. It’s a bit keyboard heavy for the sensibilities of most, and perhaps leans a bit too close to a progressive sound to reel in all of the old guard, but it does a solid job of capturing the overall hopelessness and despair that one looks for in this sort of music. Though this style is only an occasional fancy for me, I can safely surmise that this is the sort of album that someone could be content with while on their death bed.
(Online October 24, 2010)