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Ave Maria: Chapter I

Billed as an experimental black metal band, Ave Maria's music does actually not strike me at all as being challenging or extreme in any way. Now that does not mean that it is not good, because it is, and there are a lot of cool things on this album. I just find that it lacks the chaos and extreme experimentation with (dis)harmonies and all those other things you hear in experimental or avant-garde black metal.

Still, Ave Maria certainly break away from, if I dare, stereotypical black metal, and Chapter I does strike me as being different from a lot of the black metal that, in my experience, is typical. I mean, the black metal elements and aesthetics that define the genre are there (the tremolo picking, the tense harmonies, the unpolished production, the bleakness etc.), but the music itself is far less tense and much more melodic than what most people might expect from black metal. Also, the vocals are more akin to actual death growls than to the type of harsh vocals normally associated with black metal. In addition, the music on Chapter I is actually quite melodic with emphasis on melodic lead guitar figures inherently melodic guitar riffage, and the drums often display features akin to those of the fill-in rich drumming of a lot of 70s rock. There are a couple of more typical guitar-chaos-and-blastbeat passages such as the beginning of 'Impulses from the Sphere of Broken Larynx' and a section of 'Meandering through the Tunnel of Trance', and these passages actually work extremely well in setting up some contrasts with the otherwise melodic music on the album. There ar ealso extended sections with clean guitars as in 'The Trembling Eye' and 'Tongues', which have a certain Paradise Lost-feel to them.

Sometimes, the band even seem to play with the listener's genre-based expectations only to deliberately not fulfull them, as in a passage of 'The Cloven Psalmody' where all other instrumentation is silent while the guitar plays a simple tremolo riff which obviously makes one expect it to be followed by a blastbeat section, but that is not what the listener gets. Instead, the band return to the midtempo paced main figure of that tune.

Chapter I is a strong album and shows that Ave Maria has a lot of potential to take their brand of melodic black metal very far. Despite the emphasis on melody and lack of black metal chaos, the sense of despair and bleakness that characterizes the genre remains, and I think that this release will appeal broadle both within and beyond the black metal fan community.

Track Listing:
1. The Trembling Eye
2. Coitus Behind Moral Walls
3. Shining Toxic
4. The Cloven Psalmody
5. Among Them
6. Impulses from the Sphere of Broken Larynx
7. With Words Like Ecstasy
8. Tongues
9. Meandering Through the Tunnel of Trance

Added: April 1st 2012
Reviewer: Kim Jensen
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2587
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Ave Maria: Chapter I
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-04-01 14:51:41
My Score:

From the grainy cover art depicting a suitably creepy image for a black metal band to the distorted, sometimes brutally intense riffage, fans of all things metal will be slamming their collective fists to Chapter 1, the debut album from German metal band Ave Maria.

While a heavy album to be sure, it is also quite melodic, thanks to the guitar playing of A (his real name escapes me). The riffs soak into your body slowly but surely, grinding and occasionally pummeling the listener senseless. To go along with the music are well executed growling vocals which often depict disturbing scenes of utter mysteriousness. The lyrics are both cryptic and extremely detailed.

The album opens with the sinister sounding "The Trembling Eye" shimmering with stark guitar chords. The notes bend and twist in an almost languid way before spoken word vocals add to the creepiness. Clean guitar parts become doused with feedback and distorted chords offering a pretty cool contrast in styles before the song ends in a cacophonous buildup of intense sounds. The next four tracks are similar in scope; all evil growls and heavy riffs while still maintaining some strong melodies.

In "With Words Like Ecstasy" there is a post rock feel, particularly in the clean guitar, before the slow churning riffs crash and burn. More cleaner guitar tones can be found in "Tongues" with the vocals somewhat similar to The Sisters of Mercy. The album ends with the ramped up intensity of "Meandering Through The Tunnel Of Trance" showcasing just how heavy this band can get.

Chapter 1 is a very good slice of melodic black metal that should satisfy your need for more adventurous music.

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