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REVIEW: Vulture Industries - The Dystopia Journals Dark Essence Records, 2007
9.5/10
Vulture Industries - The Dystopia Journals - cover art Formed in 1998 as Dead Rose Garden, this Norwegian band underwent major transformations in personnel and musical direction, essentially forging a new identity, which they made official by re-christening themselves. Comprising the present line-up, which has been in place since 2003, are band founder/guitarist Øyvind Madsen (Sulphur; Enslaved [session]), drummer Tor Helge Gjengedal (Malice in Wonderland [Nor.]; Taake [session]), guitarist Eivind Huse (Sulphur), bassist Kyrre Teigen, and vocalist/programmer/producer Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen, who operates Conclave & Earshot Studios in partnership with Enslaved members Herbrand Larsen and Arve Isdal. Nilsen's arrival was key to Vulture Industries' switch from a doomy, goth-oriented sound to a sophisticated form of progressive metal, incorporating elements of black metal, horror music, symphonic, industrial, and experimental. Although wildly creative in its blending of diverse styles and sounds, this debut might be most impressive for accomplishing what so much avant-garde music doesn't: it rocks - consistently and convincingly.

Nothing is allowed to compromise the drive of this album or the integrity of its well-crafted songs. From the hard-hitting "Pills of Conformity" to the stately, climactic centerpiece, "The Benevolent Pawn," to the stirring closer, The Dystopia Journals unfolds with dramatic force musically and thematically. Presented as the reflections of a man tormented by the evils of the world but above all by his own inner demons, the lyrics are marked by imagery and a vivid capturing of disturbed mental states reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe, two of whose poems were used as lyrics for songs on the band's unreleased 2003 demo, The Sleeper (recorded when they were still going by the name Dead Rose Garden ). The music makes these nightmarish experiences palpable without sacrificing momentum or cohesiveness. While the rhythms evoke mounting dread, they also compel head banging and fist pumping, and the horror-style lead guitars have a neck-twisting catchiness (compensating for their occasional lack of originality). Although imaginative electronics and effects play a crucial role, they are kept smartly in the background, except in instances where a spotlight on eerie sounds such as wraith-like cries and groans is called for. The focal point, however, is the voice of Bjørnar Erevik Nilsen. Like everything else about this album, his singing is dramatic rather than rampantly theatrical. In his predominant, clean mode he projects a kind of crazed swagger, while his growls and screams (which can also be heard in his innovative black metal project, Black Hole Generator) are devoid of cartoonishness.

Efforts to compare Vulture Industries to Arcturus are based partly on what I consider a superficial-at-best similarity between Nilsen and Garm. Bjørnar's vocals have far greater power, aggressiveness, and attitude, and less quirkiness. For similar reasons, the (more genuine) stylistic parallels between The Dystopia Journals and The Sham Mirrors, the Arcturus album most often mentioned in this regard, are limited, the former being more guitar-oriented, consistently heavy and driving, less meandering and, again, quirky. If you merged Arcturus with The Vision Bleak, threw in a little Deathstars, tossed out most of the goth and overtly theatrical parts, kept only a smattering of the industrial elements, and made the whole thing more metal, you might have something approaching Vulture Industries. But that's still only a partial description. The Dystopia Journals provides a unique, captivating listening experience. Complex, cerebral, ass-kicking, and occasionally bloodcurdling, this is one of the strongest releases of 2007. Outstanding.

written by Maud

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Tracklist
1. Pills of Conformity
2. Blood Don't Flow Streamlined
3. A Path of Infamy
4. Soulcage
5. The Benevolent Pawn
6. The Crumbling Realm
7. To Sever the Hand of Corruption
8. Grim Apparitions

Playing time: 50.46

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