Theologian - _Some Things Have to Be Endured_
(Crucial Blast, 2013)
by: Dan Lake (6.5 out of 10)
The press kit for _Some Things Have to Be Endured_ lobbies hard for the record's extreme metal cred, namedropping "black" and "death" no less than seven times in a single paragraph. Maybe the goal is to sell sonic deconstructionism to the gore-streaked Christ-hater crowd. Not that we find fault -- we say hook in the new flesh any way you want to -- but that desperation seems unnecessary. Anyone familiar with Theologian's prior work knows to expect unsettling industrial sound sculptures among hauntingly spare musical ideas that require a dozen listens before they can really sink in and make their intended impact. If you don't have that kind of time or attention, then surely Metal Blade's releasing a few bargain-bin deathcore albums this week. Go get'em, tiger.

To those of us left, Theologian welcomes you. And not just with alienating abandoned-cellarscapes, either. _Some Things Have to Be Endured_ is a concept package of sorts, appearing to celebrate feminine wiles and trials in both method and presentation. The DVD case immediately ensnares with a gorgeously colored (all blues and greys) image of a woman draped in a gauzy shroud with slits that bare her breasts, one of which appears to be pierced by a series of acupuncture needles. The track list, lyrics, and album credits are arranged in dignified copper type beside a somewhat less tranquil image of a woman breathing (or not) beneath another translucent material.

All of this is just an introduction to the undulating, gnarled noise within. The project's mastermind, Leech, assembled these 45 minutes of seething synths with the help of ten female vocalists, each of whom contributes vocal "source material" and/or lyrics to one of the album's eight tracks. Where the label's promotional blurb finally gets it right is its description of the album's combo of "industrial dread" and "ethereal coldwave beauty". Some tracks share a central repulsive shudder, while others float on an icy glimmer, unmindful of the crooked throb that propels everything onward. Every piece here seems illuminated by queasy interstellar booster failures and quasar-carving pulses; every track attempts to sell crunchy edges as smooth, to peddle serene pools as spiky and off-balance.

Amid all the subtle female talent that brings this set its character, only late cut "Grand Guignol" marries all these unnerving textures to bona fide melodic beauty, courtesy of Delphic Oracle's Christiana Key. A short time later, closer "Welcome to the Golden Age of Beggars" plunges in the opposite direction, all skull-boring metallic churning and cold, echo-chamber alto narration. Ultimately, _Some Things Have to Be Endured_ doesn't stand out as an essential listen, a career-defining moment, or even much more than fitting background music to a psychologically rich sci-fi novel. If you gobble up any kind of layered, processed ear pollution, though, then the new Theologian album should make your month.


(article published 6/12/2013)

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