Fractured Despondency is the second release from Edinburgh based multi-instrumentalist Alan Emslie, recording here under the pseudonym – Snow King. He is joined on several tracks by guitarist John Irvine and trumpeter Mark Geelen appears on Strontian. Cards on the table that when I was first approached about reviewing this latest release from Plastic Noose I was – well let’s put it kindly – dubious. Described as “Misanthropic Industrial Metal” a genre I know very little (nothing) about – well other than I have a son who is into many sub-divisions of extreme metal – if that counts? The deciding factor to take on this album was a prior knowledge of the main man behind the music, a high calibre musician who I have come across over a number of years and a musician who has been involved in some fantastic and often challenging music.
Thankfully despite my early misgivings Fractured Despondency turned out to be a more varied and interesting album than anticipated and as the saying goes – the best is saved until the end. So in for a penny…
Album opener features a programmed synth line and down-tuned guitars which modulate between the driving riff hungry verses, complete with sampled male voices, through more floating chorus sections. Doomladen, as the title might suggest, is a powerhouse metallic onslaught with growling vocals. The drumming is the key here and rather than resorting to any sort of manic double bass drum workout – it remains ultra tight and drives the track. Love the outro section which again drives, but this time with a strong melodic guitar hook. Respite comes in the form of Strontian, a brief dark and ambient piece with Mark Geelen’s trumpet sitting hauntingly in the mix.
Let All Mankind Burn continues the use of programmed keyboard layering, initially with a pumping bass end, but employed throughout and in general lightens up the intensity of the guitars and vocals. Possible the most intense track on the album and echoed in the lyrics. In contrast For Me opens with a simple picked guitar motif and something which might have been heard on the first Black Sabbath album. Not much to say about Sorrow – the sort of odd sounds that Hendrix would have elicited from his guitar as he destroyed and set fire to it on stage.
So to the album closer and the sixteen and half minute epic, Suicidal Crisis, which as it turned out, and despite its length, the most accessible piece on Fractured Despondency. Musically the track takes all the time it needs – building initially from sweeping wind samples, through a simple arpeggiated chord sequence and textured keyboards, which collectively paint a dark and desolate landscape. Adding to the canvas are several ‘found’ sounds, increasing levels of power chords, strings and sampled choirs. The stately pace, beautifully controlled by the drums, is once again the key here, allowing the ever intensifying layers of sounds to fill the spectrum. John Irvine turns in a masterful solo that weeps and wails throughout its duration. This track on its own is more than worth the admission fee – and if Pink Floyd had ever gone down a more metallic route, then this could well have been the outcome.
This release is certainly going to appeal to those who prefer their music towards the heavy end of the spectrum, but it is not without its subtleties and depth, and certainly the aforementioned Suicidal Crisis would appeal to those with an appreciation of instrumental post rock. The album is also available on vinyl and I would love to hear the growling bottom end of some of the tracks, especially Suicidal Crisis, through a ‘proper system’.
01. Going Down (4:43)
02. Doomladen (5:35)
03. Strontian (1:06)
04. Let All Mankind Burn (4:35)
05. For Me (6:30)
06. Sorrow (2:35)
07. Suicidal Crisis (16:29)
Total Time 41:33
Snow King – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Percussion, Keyboards & Programming
John Irvine – Guitar, Keyboards & Programming
Mark Geelen – Trumpet (3)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: UK
Year Of Release: 2013
Plastic Noose – Website