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Silencer - Death Pierce Me Review

by Mark Hensch

Since music's inception, various artists have tried expressing emotions as diverse as anguish, despair, and insanity with mixed results. The reasons for this are clear; these three are amongst the most unhinged, wild, and chaotic of human expressions, and do not occur daily. Silencer, a BM outfit from Sweden, is one such artist attempting to musically convey these difficult feelings. Death---Pierce Me, was the act's only release, and is now once again seeing the light of day after being initially released in 2001. In keeping with such equally infamous bands as Stalaggh, Bestial Mockery, and the like, Silencer blatantly cashes in on legitimate human distress to achieve closer portrayals of the aforementioned mental states. Black metal legend has it that frontman Nattramn had a psychotic breakdown shortly after this album's release, and is only now seeing the light of the free world after many years in a Swedish mental institution. With such honest psychosis brought to Death, how does it stand apart from any number of other "depressive" or "raw" black metal projects?

The answer is clear right away---Silencer is a focusing point for what is most likely (at least judging by the music at least) honest, unflinching lunacy. While we music critics frequently use various words in the vein of "crazy" to describe heavy music, I assure you that in at very least this one instance, none of this is hyperbole. The creative forces behind Silencer are sick, twisted, and hopeless, the unnerving ravings of horrible, socially-crippling mental sickness.

And therein lays the problem. The music on Death is top-notch, being both well produced and expertly written. The black metal is trance-inducing, swirling cosmic force; the kind of pitch-black magic used by acts like (recent) Enslaved, (early) Ulver, and (in a way) Bergraven. Morbid and esoteric, all of it is beautiful in how wholly sad it is. This in and of itself makes Death---Pierce Me a challenging and exhausting listen; the vocals of frontman Nattramn, however, further complicate manners. In vocals truly befitting those of the paranoid schizophrenic, the majority of throat sounds recorded on this album are a sort of banshee-wail, a black metal air-raid siren if one will. Though it definitely gives off an atmosphere of serious, unhinged instability, the various squeaks, squeals, yowls, howls, wails, and moans are so insanely over-the-top that it borders on the comical several times throughout. What results is a listen every bit as tortured, confused, and fractured as its inspirations---Death is one uneven, crazy ride.

The title track alone shows this to be true. "Death---Pierce Me" begins with a clean passage so grand and epic in its wallowing despair it will instantly make one a few degrees sadder; from there, things get a bit less concise. A pulse of fetid, murky chords plows out of the darkness, their memorable but dirty hooks amongst the best depressive BM I've heard in a while. The vocals accompanying them, however, are another matter entirely. They sound like the otherworldly shrieks of some demented Muppet, and try as they might, they can neither add nor detract to the song's overall atmosphere. At a lengthy ten minutes, and replete with a shadowy piano bridge, this one gets a bit long in tooth but works overall thanks to its vast ambition.

Going on that tangent, "Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels" works as well. An ambient guitar chorus slowly upswells into a churning whirlpool of rhythmic fire, and the results are nothing short of stunning. The overall aura of "Sterile" is both chilly and hopeless, perfectly Scandinavian BM in tone. Besides this, the eventual Bathory meets Below the Lights-era Enslaved beatdown works wonders, and some more traditional BM vocals add points as well...until the song trips into a weepy, morose clean passage that would make Lord Grishnackh "Weeping Orc" seem macho and kickass simultaneously.

The grooving rumble of "Taklamakan" couldn't be more opposed, its manic and entertaining fun making this one the album's blazing fireball of a song. The raspy guitars, the blasting percussion, all of it are classic-era BM. It leaves one breathless, and perfectly vulnerable to "The Slow Kill in the Cold," whose sorrow-invoking and ethereal depression invokes Burzum. Once again, the vocals are a love-it or hate-it affair, but at least the shuffling, wistful despair of the physical music works cold, numbing wonders.

"I Shall Lead, You Shall Follow" is every bit as up-front as its title would suggest, sounding like a cascade of black ice coming down the mountain onto a peaceful village. Woven into its sonic tapestry are subtle melodies, always apathetic and grim, just as the forebears of old wanted them. Sadly, it turns into a finger-plucked festival of emotive sob-stories, and it sounds pretty weak despite the exquisite, soft guitar notes. Easily the shortest cut here, "Feeble Are You---Sons of Sion" is an ebony-dark piano outro that closes the disc on a quiet, morbid note. It works on both a thematic and a practical level, and shows that sans vocals, Silencer are very competent as musicians.

Again, Death is a toss-up. Silencer is comprised of extremely competent musicians, but the vocal aspirations to genuine portrayals of mental unrest are the exact opposite. In all seriousness, there is no other way for me to sum up this review. Fans of mournful, sad, black metal still possessing teeth, this is a solid choice...just don't be pissed off if the most absurd vocals in the history of the hordes make an appearance. This reviewer says approach with caution.

Silencer's Death---Pierce Me
1. Death---Pierce Me
2. Sterile Nails and Thunderbowels
3. Taklamakan
4. The Slow Kill in the Cold
5. I Shall Lead, You Shall Follow
6. Feeble Are You---Sons of Sion

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