June 15, 2009

CD Review: Book of Black Earth - Horoskopus

Hailing from Seattle, WA, Book of Black Earth have unleashed their Prosthetic Records debut on an unsuspecting populace. The blackened death metal act, formerly known as Teen Cthulhu, have delivered a rather punishing dose of black, death, doom, and sludge metal. Not the best of its kind, but definitely a band to keep an eye on as they begin to make their move up the ranks. The worst thing about these guys is that the album takes a while to gain momentum and truly take off. You may want to try skipping the first few tracks if you want to get right to the good stuff.

Horoskopus kicks off with a moderately promising instrumental called "2160." It is a fuzzy, atmospheric affair that goes a long way towards setting the mood of the good stuff while not giving up the good stuff in the opening minutes. Unfortunately, it leads into a couple of the weakest songs on the disk in "Death of the Sun" and "Total Control." Both of those tracks bring the intensity, but just sound aggressively muddy and not particularly good.

During these first couple of unspectacular tracks, there is something that gained much notice from my ears: the production. It is an odd, gritty sound that for a different band may sound cheap and unprofessional, but there is something about the way it comes across with this band that makes it work. It is thick, muddy, and not terribly clean, but it adds to the overall heaviness that Book of Black Earth is able to attain. Despite the way it works, the sounds attained are not all good. The snare sounds awful, not Metallica St. Anger awful, but it sticks out from the muddy heaviness like a sore thumb, bringing it undo attention.

Now we start getting to the good stuff. Track four is called "Horoskripture" and this is the beginning of the good album. Doomy sludge abounds through this and its neighbor song, "Cult of Dragon." Heavy, plodding, epic, and dirty. This strikes me as what this band is all about, combine that with the amped up death style found in tracks like "The Darkest Age" and "From Heaven."

Everything that has come before leads up to the near 10-minute epic "Christ Pathogen." This track brings together all of the elements that infected all of the songs that have come before. Atmospheric sludge, doomy overtones, brutal black, all taking us through an expanse with the growled vocals of TJ Cowgill playing host to your journey.

Bottomline. If you like blackened death, Book of Black Earth should definitely be on your "to check out" list. No, they are not worthy of rushing out with any sense of immediacy, but they do deliver the goods and stand out from the crowd.



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