Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spawn Of Possession - Noctambulant

Herein I shall review Noctambulant, the latter of Spawn Of Possession's two full-lengths. Since Incurso is coming so soon, I figured I'd go on a nostalgia trip and listen to these guys again in preparation.

I never enjoyed Noctambulant. Going back to it, I don't think my opinion has changed much. It is one of the poster children for the new(ish) neo-classical technical death metal movement. Noctambulant essentially has it all: technical riffs based around high speed arpeggiation, odd time signatures, and diverse rhythmic elements ranging from the belted growls and drum patterns to melodic basslines.

All of it amounts to nothing. In fact 'nothing' aptly describes everything I feel when I listen to Noctambulant.

The production might be to blame here. Everything is glossed over to the point of sterility. By that I mean literally every track and every instrument: guitar, bass, drums, and uh, synth. The bass frequencies are almost nonexistent in the mixing, leaving Noctambulant with a very inoffensive, wimpy sound. The times the bass guitar rears it's dry, progressive-toned head are few and far between as well. One such time is on "Dead & Grotesque," where a montage of riffs and a solid bassline wreak havoc on your brain before collapsing into a mid-paced (for Spawn Of Possession) solo. That track is easily one of the best on Noctambulant, and sadly there's few others that come close to matching it.

Noctambulant is a virtuosic display by musicians with no talent for songwriting otherwise. Despite cleanly played arpeggios and extensive soloing, most tracks often make jarring transitions and change time signatures without warning. Generally this is cool by me and creates an unpredictable atmosphere, but where the production is so pathetic and the riffs are so dominated by modal structuring, it makes listening to them a bore. Take for example "Lash by Lash," a track ruined with mid-paced hammerblasts and a main riff exemplifying all the guitar noodling douchery I've grown to hate.

Another big problem for me with Noctambulant is the "riff salad" nature of the tracks. The fact each song contains so many differently styled riffs and structures makes the whole thing feel like one long guitar exercise. The attempt at adding some jazz flair on "Eve Of Contempt" comes across as half-baked despite the song having one of the better solos on the album, while the useless ambient intro to "Scorched" further diminishes what I presume was supposed to be a 'brutal' track. All those hammerblasts and the metronome being set to 300 make it seem like a giant dick-wagging fest that they lose in every regard.

The redeeming qualities of the album? There's plenty of talent in the instrumentation. If you're a sucker for guitar wankery and listening to theory exercises over and over, you'll probably enjoy Noctambulant. I however enjoy my talent with a side of feeling, and that's something Noctambulant sorely lacks.

4.0 out of 10


1. Inception

2. Lash by Lash

3. Solemn They Await

4. Render My Prey

5. Eve of Contempt

6. Sour Flow

7. By a Thousand Deaths Fulfilled

8. Dead & Grotesque

9. In My Own Greed

10.   Scorched


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