Carpe Tenebrum - _Dreaded Chaotic Reign_
by: Adam Lineker (
Opening track "Abiding Our Time" features a hammering motif akin to banging a door with a lead pipe that sets the tone without need for intro; Astennu's third Carpe Tenebrum album is no-frills death metal. The source of his power is the sharp and prominent drum sound that provides most of the impact. Guitar sound is raw but not crushingly heavy and while it is harsh and cold, it is too ill-defined and woolly-edged to stand alongside the icy trains of Immortal. The bass is a constant metallic growl underneath everything, giving overall depth and doing its job. Astennu growls out husky vocal over his guitars, as they carve out the melody. There are no keyboards, save for on instrumental "Aetherial Benefaction" and these are not in the league of Dimmu Borgir but they still paint an adequate picture. There is some effective lyrical imagery and Astennu must be commended for trying to make it all rhyme, but sometimes this leads to awkward turns of phrase. As with a lot of death metal, the lyrics are only comprehensible when read from the booklet, a result of the traditional vocal style. There is use of the old one-two stereo imaging in guitar lines, a very traditional technique for texture, but sometimes the single guitar line can seem too weak in contrast to the metal produced with all instruments in conjunction; this may be because of the employed distortion. Rather than "ripping everything to shreds" as the bio professes, this album feels more brooding. "To See Your Name" showcases some of those black metal roots, in Astennu's blending of harmonies and discords. "The Telling" boasts one of the more immediate hooks, and more hammering figures -- an emerging trait of this album. This is solid death metal, somewhat devoid of bassy splurge but not as clean as the Florida sound. Dark and atmospheric with some degree of power, Astennu shows that he can shred effectively but his style is not explosive or aggressive. It is also easy enough to understand but suffers in its lack of exciting moments. "What of This Place" has some of the more aggressive and powerful riffage and "Hope Is Near" conjures up the faintest images of Slayer. We are treated to expansive passages of chord progression and kick drumming that has more cold Immortal shades in "Conscious Hide!". Astennu varies styles and changes and also controls tempo fluctuation, often in accordance with lyrical phrasing. In this manner he prevents his songs from being too plodding or too thrashy. We get guitar solos on occasion, which are effectively employed. There are moments that shine brighter than others, often those more melodic moments amongst perfectly respectable death metal riffs. It is a shame there aren't more of these. Also, the album is dogged by a number of detrimental fade-outs. It is a shame the first track fades out, when using the hammering figure would have been a perfect closure to a solid work of metal. The last track also fades out, leaving a slight air of dissatisfaction. A third album under Carpe Tenebrum finished and Astennu has offered up a work of consistent quality that would easily fit into anyone's collection; having said this, it isn't the most inspiring or absorbing death metal release in the world and I doubt it would have anyone running out to buy T-shirts, but he probably doesn't have any available anyway.
(article published 9/1/2002)
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