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Misantropus : The Gnomes

Misantropus do their purist thing, somewhat heedlessly of whether it actually appeals to anyone else.

I've often noted that metal bands from Italy tend to be all-in with what they're doing, showing an utter lack of self-consciousness that can be to the appeal or detriment, depending on the listener. Misantropus are a metal duo who have decided to do exactly one thing, and they boil the essence of Heavy Metal down to its primordial roots. This four-song album 'The Gnomes' (their fifth album; first on Minotauro Records) is Misantropus as they've always been: a freight train of power chords and 4/4 drumbeats which, outside of a synth pad intro/outro, includes no other instruments, sound effects, or vocals. Nor is there any pretense toward melody beyond one guest guitar solo. Each new song begins on the same chord the prior song ended on. While some bands specializing in extended monotony would be labeled "post" metal, Misantropus is more defiantly "pre" everything. 'The Gnomes' serves as a reminder of sorts that these pounding kick drums and distorted 5ths are the starting point from which all subsequent evolutions and spinoffs have sprung.

Skeletal though the music is, this EP manages to be a fairly complete concept. Each of the four songs is dedicated to one of the archangels from the Bible's book of Enoch, who are attached to the seasons: Summer's song opens the EP, which then cycles in order through closing track Spring. Cover art is by bassist Vincenzo Sanniti, while an interior illustration is credited to Mario Di Donato, provider of the album's only lead guitar spot. The music does not reflect titles very literally, as all four tracks are fairly similar. Most riffs involve riding a chord, then putting a tag phrase on the end. Like a color-study painting, or repeating a word so many times it becomes a strange and alien thing cut off from its meaning, Misantropus stare unblinkingly into their single driving idea, asking: just how far can this go? 'The Gnomes' never quite reaches the boredom point, keeping its energy level up and then prudently wrapping just after the half hour mark. The tempos help make the EP give more of a rock and roll experience than of plodding Doom metal.

For those who go in for this, the main appeal is the hypnotic, transported feeling that can result from focused listening. While Funeral Doom and Drone bands have their own version of atmospheric envelopment, Misantropus looks more in the direction of a Darkthrone-like "dirty" ambience, achieved through a concrete-clinging minimalism, and getting there in a hurry rather than gradually developing. Misantropus's playing and writing don't have to be used for ambient effect; they are that way from deliberate choice. Frankly, it's not my thing. But I can't fault their commitment.

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Reviewer's rating: 5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Gnomes (Ariel)
2. The Salamander (Mikhael)
3. Undines (Gabriel)
4. Elfs (Raphael)

Duration : Approx. 35 minutes

Visit the Misantropus bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-03-13 by Mark Rzeszutek
Thermal Mass
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