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Peril - The Desert

Peril is somewhat of an outdated word in our English lexicon; so, what exactly is it? I'd define "Peril" as "the presence of dire, deadly serious risk" and this Granmercy, Louisiana band definitely deserves the moniker they chose. After all, what is more of a dire risk than fusing such disparate genres as black metal, doom/death, and Southern hard rock together as a band's Yankee smashing sonic signature? I'm blowing things out of proportion a little, but on 2005's The Desert, Peril never let the listener get very far from the danger that seems to be their very life's blood. 

Grim in The Quick and the Dead sort of way, these epic tunes have molested the majesty and rough legacy we Americans typically think of when recollecting our "Wild West" era, and turned those fond stereotypes into the desolate, blood-soaked purgatories the West really was. Thought the band is quick to point out black metal influences, it is more of an emotional connection via the lawless abandon they play with, rather than the actual music itself. In fact, the cornucopia of metal genres present in this Desert range from warm, organic portions of blistering black metal heat, chilly doom/death nights, and even the odd oasis of soaring, melodic prog ala Opeth perhaps here and there.

Things kick into grandly epic gear with "Pharaoh's Return," whose serpentine grooves, chugging bass, and sinister melody flourishes should get almost anyone's blood pumping. "The Black Sage" is the REAL starting point of the album, it's cocky riffing slicing like a Bowie knife and periods of wise melodies flare up, like grace amidst all the bloodshed. A bass bridge mid-song is pretty wicked, and a stoner groove follows which really sets the stage for the last assault of blasting blackened death the band uses as the brunt of their attack. "New Orleans is Overpopulated" slinks in on a really sweet bassline, before the band blasts off into a pillaging invasion of aural rape. 

"Gunslinger" kicks an immense amount of ass, it's brawny grooves hitting you again and again with the metal version of a beer bottle in a barroom brawl. "Lonesome Flight to the Moon" is an excellent interlude amidst the anarchy, its simple, wistful campfire melodies and lush string effects melding into a lunar eclipse of dark, stately proportions. Graceful, exquisite, and mature, the song shows a very skilled band at their best. "Immortal Storms" comes in off the last fading notes of "Moon," and then shimmers in between moments of soaring clean portions and footapping metal. As long as that final moment before the quickdraw, this epic track showcases the very best Peril has to offer and will have various memorable moments for each and every listener. 

"Crimson King" comes across as decent, but for the first time I don't think the band really shows the true range of their tastes and abilities. "Crypt of Death's Betrothed" also suffers from the same, the raspy screech of earlier songs being replaced by death growls and more straightforward extreme metal blasting rather than the more varied approach earlier tracks have. 

"....And Onward to the Empires of Ice" sets up the forthcoming album The Lands of Ice with frosty, chilled ambience that seems a bit anti-climatic despite all of its beauty. A decent end to the album all in all, especially thematically, but a little more fire and brimstone would have been to my personal tastes. Regardless, anyone who hears this final track will have to admit the racing piano keys is pretty cool.

In summary, The Desert appears to be an album of fresh ideas that haven't always been fleshed out yet. There's a lot to love here....the natural thrums of guitar, the surprisingly versatile bass work, the blasting drums which are rarely overdone....Hell, the theme, concepts, and ideas are more than enough to intrigue. However, The Desert does have a few dry stretches, with the vocals being mixed rather haphazardly and never really fitting the music super well in my opinion. The screeches, growls, and howls contained herein sound like a buzz-drenched coyote, and I don't mean that in an entirely good or bad way either. Let's just say bit more work on the production would really bring out the anguish. I also believe that many of these tracks were possibly recorded at different times in different studios, so it can be a bit jarring to hear three songs that are crystal clear and then two following them which sound like lo-fi nonsense. Studio time sucks, and the tracks are always decent and listenable, so I won't get too annoyed with that either. 

If you're looking for a new approach to several tired, flagging genres, try this mixture of most of them. It isn't always pretty or shiny or even kind, but then again neither were the locales and people I'm assuming the band took inspiration from. It is that grit that makes The Desert both a pleasure and a pain, so tread the dunes carefully...a mixed bag, though one that definitely caters more to the great than the forgettable. Three and a half stars. 

Peril's The Desert
1. Pharaoh's Return
2. The Black Sage
3. New Orleans is Overpopulated
4. Gunslinger
5. Lonesome Flight to the Moon
6. Immortal Storms
7. Crimson King
8. Crypt of Death's Betrothed
9. ...And Onward to the Empires of Ice

Rating:

Peril - Lands of Ice Preview

When one stops to think about it, the concept of a band like Peril really should have manifested itself a lot earlier than it did. In a nutshell, Peril describes their sound as a mix of blackened death metal with southern rock leanings. From Granmercy, Louisiana, the band had roots planted in the thriving NOLA scene earlier with the band known as New Sky Black. That act, a Southern fried hard rock band, imploded after barely tapping their true potential or really expanding their sound into the realm of heavy music. With the band roughly halved, a few of its old members decided to forge on, mixing the Southern rawk of their original act with their love for all things black and death metal. That new band, Peril, is well on their way to forging a very distinct sound and being something to write home about.

The reason I feel that a band of Peril's mindset should have existed earlier is pretty simple. Though many equate black metal (and rightfully so) with that genre's early 1990's epidemic in Scandinavia, the early black metal movement's lawless, anarchaic actions and random violence fit in well with what a band like Peril strives to achieve both musically and thematically. In short, there is lots of the Wild West in black metal Scandinavia, or maybe there's lots of Northern Darkness in the outlaw plagued nightmare world Peril exists in. There's tales of epic journeys, barren desert wastelands, gun-slinging vigilantes, and ass kicking galore. With USBM currently a thriving scene in many respects, a NOLA act eschewing many of black metal's earliest stylistic tics makes for a very intriguing combination.

Such vast potential is a bit hard to find at times in the band's 2005 work, the simplistic credo known as The Desert. On the one hand, the songs I have previewed from that album (with a full review coming soon I might add) are full of excellent drumming, absolutely chilled guitar tones that slice you like ice daggers, and even passages of biting mesa sunrise ambiance, like those first rays of sunlight over the desert that should warm you but really don't do anything but provide a confusing illusion to your senses. Tracks like the mystical "The Black Sage" slithered with rattlesnake shifts between shadowy clean passages and thermite-smoked riffs of piping hot black metal, while "Crypt of Death's Betrothed" doesn't fool with any experimentation and instead focuses on pure blasting death/black metal fusion assaults. The scathing "New Orleans is Overpopulated" is a misanthropic rant kicked off by a hummable bass line before all of it is blown to pieces by rabid black metal picking and take-no-prisoners evil. All of it is interesting, distinctive stuff, but some points of contention exist. 

First off, the production gives the guitars a ebony sheen of buzz that is pretty wicked, but the drums occasionally sound mechanical, flat, or simply out of place as they are not mixed the same way. Worse of all is the vocals, the likes of which struggle to exert themselves over the guitars with a level of ferocity that it desperately needs. I doubt that it is the frontman's fault; it just seems the mixture left the screeches he emits sounding hollow and maybe even a little strained at times.

So, if I'd bother pointing out such flaws, what makes this band so special it deserves a special feature in these hallowed pages? The answer lies in the strength of their (already) much matured new material, to be released later this year on the album Lands of Ice. Allowed to preview a song, "Northern Mountains" captures what you'd think a band playing blackened death southern rawk would sound like. The guitars still maintain a sharp, venomous tone to their flaying riffs, all of which soar on blackened wings here. Peril have also upped the songwriting department, with "Northern Mountains" swaying between blasting blackened death, moody shoegazing southern folk, and even textured, confident rock swagger. Everything is very memorable, brutal, and even melancholy all at the same time.

So confident do I feel about this odd little band I'm going to go out of my way to feature articles dedicated to them in the next few weeks. We're starting with a full CD review of 2005's The Desert, courtesy of Thrashpit's hardhitting underdog Matt Hensch. Later, I'll be chatting up with the whole trio of roughriders and probing their collective mindsets for more info on this compelling project. Finally, sometime before the year is out, we will be featuring another full CD review of Peril's sophomore full length release, Lands of Ice. Rest assured you won't want to miss the growth of this exciting new venture, so saddle up the darkhorse and ride!


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