Silent Path - Mourner Portraits
Hypnotic Dirge
Funereal Black Metal
9 songs (53:45)
Release year: 2012
Silent Path, Hypnotic Dirge
Reviewed by Charles
Probably the first album I have reviewed from Iran, where depressive/suicidal black metal has not yet achieved the arena-filling popularity it now enjoys in the West. An interesting geographical note to start, certainly, but there’s no time for the patronising assignment of kudos for coming from a country where public displays of metal-ness are repressed. In fact, Mourner Portraits is a neat illustration of the cosmopolitan nature of even some of metal’s most esoteric branches- there are instant resemblances to those unhappy Quebecois, Gris, or the tonally jarring Stielas Storhett, from Russia, and no doubt any number of European acts from Burzum to Ruins of Beverast. Besides, a far more notable fact than the project’s country of origin is the fact that it ends with a DSBM cover of Jingle Bells.

Fuzzy, sickly guitar textures are the central component of Silent Path’s music, given harmonic depth by the quiet integration of synth sounds and sepia-tinged guitar leads. Unlike Stielas Storhett, which madly swerves from downbeat black metal to incongruous rock ideas, this is a focused record. It subtly and restrainedly blends together various shades of grey, with a ‘the sadder the better’ approach to mood. Empty Earth is a strong opener, which has Dunkelheit-like electronic sounds hovering in the air above an oily guitar haze. Filth of Mankind features cleverly-layered lead harmonies, forming and elegantly sad climax. And the graceful tempo and triplet rhythms of Broken Trees is like a creepy merry-go-round: not to tread on Axis of Perdition’s toes, but it feels like the soundtrack to a Silent Hill game. All of this is handled with a subdued craft.

For some reason, Hitler keeps turning up here: his speech is used in Filth of Mankind, and a sample of the BBC announcement of his death turns up at the end of Epic Suicide (seriously?). I guess this is part of the band’s intention to ‘make a sculpture from the hateful face of human wars’. Without a lyrics sheet it’s hard to decipher further. The way Saman Nu describes the project as a ‘sculpture’, however, makes sense: Forgotten Sounds, for example, is a sinister collage of abstract sounds in which brief snatches of piano ghost in and out behind a wall of thunder and rain. This willingness to divert into genuinely creepy ambiance (at least, I’m sure it would be creepy if I wasn’t listening to it in the middle of a scorching summer’s day), even if hardly a new idea, is executed effectively enough to enhance the dark character of the record.

Killing Songs :
Forgotten Sounds, Empty Earth, Broken Trees
Charles quoted 75 / 100
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