Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thrall-Aokigahara Jukai


"Aokigahara Jukai", which is named after the suicide-plagued Aokigahara forest in Japan, is the latest release from Australia's Thrall. Formerly known as Thy Plagues (under which name they self-released a 2007 demo called "Warath Enteranl") and seemingly lead in all aspects of life these days by Tom Void (vocals, guitars, bass and drums) this Tasmanian act offers up a concept album on their third full-length release. While not exactly a new act for me, which we will cover shortly, I had a hard time recognizing the version of Thrall that stands here today. Said to serve as a "conceptual exploration of themes relating to the suicide forest" (something I'll have to take their word for as the vocals are pretty much unintelligible!) the album is slightly over 45 minutes, but it feels much longer frankly! Where is the adventurous nature of this that I remembered so well? It's not here as this release features fairly typical (read: unremarkable in every aspect) black metal. The thing is while the concept is interesting (besides the high rate of suicide associated with the area demons also factor in according to Japanese mythology) the music is anything but. Even by black metal standards this release was tough for me to sit all the way through. While it promised a "unrelenting, furious, void-ward journey from the opening track to the final deathlike strains of emptiness" it instead delivered 45 minutes of uninspiring and directionless material! As I've covered this act in the past (their last album, 2011's "Vermin to the Earth" was a real treat for my ears!) I had high hopes for this one. Instead I ended up feeling like a stretched out balloon with all of the air let out of it! Now, the promos brief notes do not make mention of a specific line-up (which is one thing that drives me crazy!) so I'm not sure if this was all Tom Void or if other musicians were brought in to share in  the "merriment". Not that it matters much frankly as either way this release is nothing special so no special credit should be given. It's not likely to send shock-waves through the black metal scene or anything. Hell, it's not likely to make even the slightest a "ping"! Sorry Thrall but it takes more these days to make it then just playing the same tiring riff over and over again. What happened to you guys? Seeing as there are likely hundreds of black metal bands creating new and exciting material as we speak (with hundreds more waiting in the wings for their chance to appear under the "spotlight") a release like this just sets you back. Thrall's latest just doesn't cut it for me. Maybe album number four will be better?

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