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Intaglio : Intaglio (15-year Remix)

An album that helped kick-start the Russian extreme Doom scene in the early 2000's - what's not to like about Intaglio's debut seeing a re-release?

If you know your Russian Doom history, Intaglio ('a design incised or engraved into a material') - for all their extended period of silence since the emergence of this single full-length debut in its original form in 2005 - are actually one of the heavy hitters in that scene. Not, perhaps, for their musical legacy, per se, but because this was a very young-looking Evgeney Semenov's band, and - along with his friends in Океан Печали (Ocean Of Sorrow) and Екклесиаст (Ecclesiast) - was part of the 2005 trinity of albums that provoked him to launch Solitude Productions as a vehicle for their wider release.

Now, you obviously don't need me to spell out the influence and reach Solitude (plus sub-labels BadMoodMan, Slow Burn and Art Of Silence) have subsequently had on spreading Russian - and, later, more worldwide - Doom and Doom-related acts throughout the underground. Suffice it to say that they've been one of the major, and most dedicated, players within this particular niche for quite some years - so there's really nothing wrong with revisiting what was SP.002, back in the day,and seeing where that stands in contemporary terms, in its current form.

I'm going to grumble a little to begin with - having paid top dollar for one of the limited 100 edition clear/black marbled vinyls, I was a little disappointed when my local postie handed me a wet, bent and somewhat foxed copy of the LP in a cheapskate single-layer cardboard mailer. Not necessarily Solitude's fault, as I believe the shipping was handled by a third party in Poland, but nonetheless a mild irritation. Ah well, it's far from the first creased album cover I've owned, and I doubt it'll be the last; still, as an observation for anyone dealing in vinyl, I'd rather pay a little extra for postage if it means not skimping on the protective packaging...

And, speaking of packaging in general, it's all a little basic - no insert, and minimal information on the back of the cover. My original CD copy came with a booklet including all the lyrics, some extra artwork and more information about the band and the recording - though it could be argued that since it was all printed in Russian, it didn't leave me any the wiser for having it. Even so, given the effort that has gone into resurrecting the release, it'd be nice for it to have something more of a physical presence.

Be that as it may, the more crucial side of any album is obviously the music that you're getting, not the sleeve it comes in, and this is where the rework of 'Intaglio' shows its merits. There's a slight structural change, with a reshuffle of the outro section of the original 'Wind Of Autumn' to become the separate 'Interlude', and a little trimming of the remainder. Aside from that, the effort has really gone into creating a fuller, more separated soundstage, amped up a little from the earlier versions.

It's fair to say that Intaglio were never the heaviest or most of crushing of Funeral/Death/Doom bands, and sailed closer to the atmospheric Death/Doom end of that spectrum than most. To an extent, that was a little submerged in the early '00s production and technology: here it is made very plain, and, indeed, integral to the airier mix. It perhaps doesn't make the album any more groundbreaking than it was in 2005, never mind 2020, but it does offer a clearer vision of exactly what Intaglio were aiming for in their compositions.

So, should you want this? I'm tempted to say 'yes', regardless of whether you have the original version or not. There's no doubt that Solitude, and subsequent Russian labels, have done an enormous amount to shape and promote the extreme Doom scene, whilst having to play catch-up against a 10 - 15 year lag compared to the rest of Europe. Which makes both the 2005 CD, as a statement of intent, and this revised version, as a retrospective articulation of what they really wanted to create, equally valuable glimpses into that history, with slightly different merits and focuses of their own. Deliberately emphasised, I suspect, by the way the cover art for the two versions are exact inversions of each other, trading the largely black monochromes of 2005 for a largely white palette in 2020.

In a way, I'm over-marking this, as a result. On purely musical terms, compared to contemporaries both then and now, there isn't anything unique you could really draw from 'Intaglio': it's well-executed, but on familiar ground. In terms of how it helped inspire one of the more productive underground sub- genres of this millennium, it's something of a landmark, and a valuable window into where we are now. But if you really have no interest in anything other than the audio impact, and don't particularly care about the history or shaping of Doom, fair enough - think of it as more like a 7.5 score in that context. I consider it a lot more important than that, in ways nobody could have foreseen back when it was first launched, and I'm content to consider it an essential release on those grounds.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. The Beginning
2. Dark Cherry Day
3. Interlude
4. Solitude
5. Wind Of Autumn

Duration : Approx. 43 minutes

Visit the Intaglio bandpage.

Reviewed on 2021-10-29 by Mike Liassides
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