There’s a certain satisfaction in speculating what a new artist’s influences might be. Some bands are harder to peg than others. In the case of New Brunswick’s Feral, if I had to guess, I’d say the style here emerged from a desire to hear what Agalloch‘s post-black blend would sound like if it were intensified to the sonic and emotional level of a band like Weakling. Maybe throw some Burzum influence in there as well, and the picture should be getting sharper.
There is little wonder what Feral’s goals were in making For Those Who Live in Darkness, and the ambition the multi-instrumentalist J. Feral has invested in it is clear. Song structures commonly inch around the nine to ten-minute mark, populating the time with fairly dense and progressive composition. All of this sounds great so far on paper. Feral even makes due on these lofty goals in places. However, more often than not, I’m left with the feeling that For Those Who Live in Darkness is an album that stretched itself out too thin. For all its ideas and thoughtful arrangements, there’s something at the essence of Feral’s work that just seems lacking.
I would guess that J. Feral is a guitarist first and foremost. Unlike most one-man bands, the performance is fairly solid across the board, but this sense comes across largely in the way his music is structured. The guitar riffs take a front seat in virtually every part of the album, and it’s easily the best thing Feral has going for it. Again, this seems like a case where an artist’s influences demand to be heard wherever they can. While the riff-centric guitars on the opening track, “Entering Darkness,” are redolent of the aforementioned Weakling, “Nocturnal Queen” sounds like a pure mid-era Inquisition tune from a guitars standpoint. Drudkh is heard on “Weeping Earthbound Spirit,” and Emperor on the song directly after it. There’s nothing wrong with any of these influences; I’m a consummate fan of all of them, in fact. The issue doesn’t necessarily even lie in the way they’re approached on this album. Ultimately, however, I get the impression that For Those Who Live in Darkness was an album created from many nights spent riffing, throwing all of the errant ideas and influences together without as much regard for coherence.
If there’s a way to summarize it, For Those Who Live in Darkness is another debut that gets crushed under the weight of an artist trying to pack too much into one statement without consolidating the ideas in a purposeful way. Coherence is incredibly important to the experience of an album, and nowhere more so than black metal, where the music’s rising action can make or break the resulting atmosphere. This over-ambition is manifest in Feral’s overly long songs, which tend to lack the organization that would make their lengths work. On the other hand, there is plenty that is good to be found in Feral. J. Feral’s vocals are pleasantly dynamic (ranging from a depressive shriek to post-hardcore screams), and the riffs are solid across the board. If Feral only draws back on the amount of things he’d like to say and focus on properly realizing the best of it, I’d fully expect to hear the sort of rich atmosphere that seems lacking this time around.
01) Entering Darkness
02) Nocturnal Queen
03) True Forgotten Beauty
04) Weeping Earthbound Spirit
05) The Curse
06) Deterioration of the Mind
07) Dethroning Your King