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(44:23; Profound Lore Records)
Track list: 1. Thelema 0:48 2. Arp 9 5:28 3. In the Nest 4:20 4. Skin Walker 3:27 5. Slow Ray 7:12 6. Sea Harps 5:08 7. Tarnish 3:53 8. Windless 8:38 9. Daath 5:29 LINEUP: Dana Schechter - bass, lap steel, synthesizers Ashley Spungin - drums, percussion, synthesizers
Prolusion. US band INSECT ARK have been around for just about a decade by now. Composer and musician Dana Schechter has been the constant member throughout, later on joined by Ashley Spungin, and in recent years with Andy Patterson as the second member. "Marrow Hymns" is the second of the band's three albums so far, and the only one to feature Spungin as a main member of the band.
Analysis. While the most recent album by Insect Ark struck me as a production probably closer to being an example of post-metal than anything else, this second production by the band explores some rather different territories throughout. Or, perhaps, two rather different territories might be a more apt description. As an album experience this becomes a slightly odd one, even if the moods and atmospheres are fairly uniform there are some stark differences to the material explored as well. A common denominator is what might be described as a minimalist spirit of experimentation though, bordering the avant-garde. It should also be noted that this is a dark, bleak and strikingly introverted affair. The most appealing aspect of this album by far, at least as far as I'm concerned, is when the band hits out on the harder edged parts of their repertoire. Booming bass guitars, heavy set drum patterns and hard but firm guitars are core or recurring elements in these excursions, with slide guitar details, textured riffs, noise music tendencies and occasional cosmic laden effects flavoring the soundscapes presented. At times with something of a post-rock sheen, on occasion finding themselves in moods not too many light-years away from Floydian atmospheres, and arguably more often venturing into noise rock and doom metal related landscapes. Often bleak and despairing in sound and mood, and at times strikingly introverted but also strangely hypnotic. The less appealing aspect for me is when the band opts to ditch the rock and metal orientation and go more full fledged experimental in landscapes with more of a dark, dystopian ambient foundation. Industrial elements are brought in here along with cosmic sounds, the noise rock tendencies are put to use here as well, although noise music might be a better word here, and often layers of surging, floating and fluttering sounds makes up the arrangements here. While the patterns woven are more intricate than on the harder edged parts of the album these creations also strike me as more one-dimensional in a way, as I really don't get the feeling of these creations moving anywhere. And the sounds and effects woven together doesn't quite manage to have that hypnotic effect on me either. These cuts are certainly well made, interesting experiences too, but ultimately not all that engaging either. The impression I get is that this is an album that will be somewhat challenging to engage in as a full album experience by many listeners, and like me there are probably some that will cherish one aspect of this album to a higher degree than the other. Subjective taste will obviously dictate which of the directions that will be seen as the most intriguing one for the individual listener.
Conclusion. Insect Ark's second album is a creation of dark, bleak minimalist experimentation, providing half of an album with tie ins to doom metal, post-rock and noise rock while the other half appear to revolve more strongly around ambient, industrial and noise music. Well made and challenging music, and while I suspect that people who treasure the entire album will be more sparse than those who enjoy either one or the pother of the main types of material here, those with a general taste for dark, bleak, introverted minimalist experimentation might well want to spend a bit of time having a go at this album.
Progmessor: December 2020
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