Smohalla - Smolensk Combustion
Self Financed
Progressive Black Metal
8 songs (32:00)
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Misha

For a change, I decided to read this French band’s bio prior to listening. Before some relatively pretentious prose, it is stated that we are dealing with music that is based on progressive structures, between violence and ambient. I hope whoever wrote this did not try to raise the impression that progressive structures are concrete rather than abstract, something that can be read in books rather than it is a musical pursuit. Of course this is merely an assumption based on the sad truth that music labelled progressive is often merely a poor echo of what used to be progressive a few decades back. However, I was glad to notice the shorter French version. Despite my poor knowledge of the language, I noticed this was a more compact version of the English story, with the addition of the terms post-rock, post hardcore, noise, ambient, electro and jazz. So many genres always tickle my weak spot for adventurous music, and although these do not guarantee my satisfaction, they will assure something special within the tight and overly defined cadre of black metal.

Either that or shitty norsecore, but I got lucky. Smohalla balanced dreamy ambience with the unavoidable down-to-earth consequence of the progressive elements they used. Odd time signatures in rock based beats just tend to have the capacity to break hypnosis. The result is certainly not dissatisfying, it’s as if progressive rock and ambience are linked with the blurred sound of true and epic black metal. Some jazzy rhythmic structures here, some industrial noise there make it interesting, but Smohalla’s control of other genres is not always as evident. A close comparison would be Thy Catafalque (Tûnõ Idõ Tárlat), especially in its postmodernism, or Ved Buens Ende, in vocals and sound. Atmospherically, Smolensk Combustion reminds of second wave black metal mostly, the apocalyptic Isvind, early Emperor, early Behemoth, Abigor around Nachthymnen, remarkably Dark Fortress (around Profane Genocidal Creations) but also of Death. The production is quite a shock on the first track, but the muffled sound is averaged by the very cold, sharp and often even spacey guitar sounds. This is one of the trademarks of black metal that they wisely kept.

The album is not as groundbreaking as it could have been, but it’s certainly a very good effort that deserves attention. It widens the mazes in the purist net around black metal a bit further, but not enough to step through (yet). I cherish high hopes for this band, but for now, they still sound too much like quite a few others.

Killing Songs :
Dead But Dreaming and Astral Cynism.
Misha quoted no quote
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