Mütiilation - _Remains of a Ruined, Dead, Cursed Soul_
(Drakkar, 1999)
by: Alvin Wee (8.5 out of 10)
Long talked about, much sought-after, but unavailable to all but the most dedicated underground followers. A move that caught most fans unaware, the release of a new album by the French legends brings both joy and regret to the die-hards. For the material, while previously unreleased, is not entirely new, and the liner notes proclaim sad news: _Remains..._ heralds the withdrawal of one of the most enigmatic French Black Metal personas from the scene. As Meyhna'ch, the sole force behind the cult reveals in his farewell notice: "Black Metal is dead... so what the use to go on?" And rightly so, for the music on this album is nothing less than a true example to the watered-down pap which passes for black metal today. In parting, five tracks dating from 1993 have been exhumed (after the failure to release it earlier), and together with two tracks from the _Vampires..._ sessions, they make up one of the most important French albums in recent years. Opener "Suffer the Gestalt" had me somewhat worried with its undeniable Abruptum signatures: torturous screams amidst slow, droning guitars and cursed drumming... better than any of Abruptum's non-music at any rate. Things take a more traditional (and comforting) turn with "To the Memory of the Dark Countess", an exercise in Burzumic shrieks, uniquely plucked riffing and Fenriz-style drumming. Totally dark and brooding, surprisingly melodic for music of this nature. Mid-paced, melodic riffs on the following tracks remind one strongly of demo-era Sorhin... ahhh, the good old days... The rough four-track production shines through in the simplicity of the music, being faithful enough to the oddly memorable melodies (think Vlad Tepes or Burzum), yet raw enough to give the music a deeply affecting atmosphere of great obscurity and darkness. Anyone who has enjoyed _Transylvanian Hunger_ will know what to expect. Interestingly, it is the newer(?) material from 1996 that fails to deliver much more than standard demo-quality black metal fare. With the introduction of keyboards, much of the raw, primitive atmosphere has been sacrificed for a pseudo-symphonic/cosmic effect that falls way short of Emperor's pioneering works. Ending up more messy than anything else, the two closing tracks prove a somewhat bitter end to an otherwise ripping album. Still, any old-timers shouldn't need my urging to pick up this timeless classic, and if you've ever treasured those old times when bands like Necromantia and Mortuary Drape were still kings of the underground, _Remains..._ may be your best chance to capture a final piece of the ancient French underground. But if _Vempire_ was your first black metal album, and if you think _Stormblast_ is classic Dimmu Borgir, then stay away from this one. Stay very, very far...

Contact: Drakkar Prod., B.P. 420, 84071 Avignon Cedex 4, France

(article published 25/5/2000)

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