Celan - Halo
Exile on Mainstream Records
Ambient Post-Hardcore/Sludge
11 songs (50'15")
Release year: 2009
Celan, Exile on Mainstream Records
Reviewed by Adam
Surprise of the month
Odd musical collaborations have a way of being interesting, even if they don’t always produce outstanding results. For this reason, Celan is an intriguing idea for a band. Take Chris Spencer, founder of the post-hardcore/noise rock giants Unsane, and put him with classical composer Ari Benjamin Meyers (who has previously appeared with ambient acts such as Einstürzende Neubauten). I was not quite sure what would exit my speakers the first time I popped in their debut album, Halo, but the result is actually not too surprising, as Celan sounds much like Unsane with an ambient twist.

For those who have not previously heard Unsane, they are a prominent part of the indie rock community, though more metal leaning than many of their cohorts. Chris Spencer’s vocals are primarily a charismatic hardcore yell that commands attention. Much like Unsane, Celan are likely to be labeled with the post-hardcore tag, though they have much in common with sludge as well, especially with the added ambient element. A Thousand Charms, the first actual song on the album, starts with a sampling of singing children, which gives Spencer’s opening vocal salvo an even more powerful effect when it rips through. Ari’s contributions are a little harder to notice on tracks like this, but still add an important layer of darkness to the sound. The bass of Phil Roeder is a very prominent piece as well, and is always highly audible even in the presence of the dual guitars of Spencer and Niko Wenner. All This and Everything continues in the vein of similarity to the sound of Unsane, though with better results. Spencer’s vocals are powerful and guttural, and Franz Xaver gives a nice drum performance, especially during the chorus portions. Many of the songs are hard charging guitar romps punctuated by Spencer’s aggressive vocals, with Ari’s keyboards giving the sound an added dimension that is sometimes hardly noticeable. The two most obvious deviations from this formula are Washing Machine and Lunchbox, two drifting post-rock tracks. The former is very dark and minimal in sound, with a simple clean guitar and bass sound softly carrying its relatively short length. The latter, which is also the closing track, is more varied and contains a very slowly building crescendo that doesn’t reach its full power until near the conclusion of its near 13 minute length. All in all it’s the much stronger of the two post-rock tracks and a beautiful experience if you enjoy the genre. That’s not to say the rest of the album slouches either. Train of Thought is a furious start/stop affair, while Sinking has a more melodic approach that really stands out. My biggest issue with Halo is that I would like to hear more prominent contributions from Ari. His work is more noticeable in the latter stages of the album, as in It’s Low, where the keyboards are brought up alongside the guitars in the mix. This continues on the outstanding Wait and See, which marries a classic driving noise rock sound with various keyboards and ambience for a very fresh sound. The slow and pounding doom riff of the chorus is topped off by a particularly eerie keyboard passage. It is during moments like this where you hear what Celan is really capable of producing.

If you enjoy Unsane, this album is a must buy, though I would have no issue recommending this to fans of Neurosis and their ilk as well. Halo is the sound of a work in progress, but don’t let that deter you, as it is still a fantastic first effort. I wouldn’t really call this a true mix of the two contrasting styles of the founding members yet, but you can definitely see glimpses of where they can go with this experiment in the future.
Killing Songs :
All This and Everything, Wait and See, Lunchbox
Adam quoted 79 / 100
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 0 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Jul 20, 2009 5:55 pm
View and Post comments