Monday, September 13, 2010

Music Review - Raison d'Etre - The Stains of the Embodied Sacrifice

Ambient is an interesting genre that covers a lot of musical ground. There's artists like Eluvium, whose gentle and warming static and nostalgic piano tunes are relaxing, happy and joyful. There's industrial ambient, martial ambient, blackened ambient, organic ambient, and probably thousands of other combinations. My favorites tend to be martial, industrial and organic, though I am partial to Eluvium and his joyful static.

Raison d'Etre, one of the oldest and most respected artists in the ambient world, is probably one of my favorite artists from any genre. Anyone who can take normal sounds,like clanking metal and make you feel uneasy, upbeat, depressed or any other emotion really knows his stuff, and this guy really knows his stuff. The Stains of the Embodied Sacrifice is probably one of Raison d'Etres harshest albums, with a lot less emphasis on more normal, gentle ambient keyboard work and a lot more emphasis on harsh sound, at times bordering on the actual genre of noise with the grating sounds of metal and screeching industrial tones.

A lot of the tracks here follow the fairly common formula of a nearly silent beginning, a slow build up to a harsh, loud climax with a sudden cutoff, and it works really well when it's used right. The only thing I don't like about it here is that it's used a little too much and sort of ruins what the effect is going for. There's three or four shorter tracks that follow this exact formula and they do tend to blend together after a while.

The real strength of the album is in the longer tracks(ranging from about 9 minutes to well past the 15-minute mark), "The Spirit Will Not Share the Guilt",  "Desecrated by the Blood", "Without the Shedding There is No Forgiveness", "Death in the Body but Made Alive by the Spirit", and the closer "The Temple is Eternal Sacred." These are all brilliant tracks that alternate between harsh and grating noise, softer and more accessible ambient, slow and eerie industiral ambient, more religiously themed ambient (which is somehting I've always liked about Raison d'Etre) and the occasionally trippy ambient section. The closer track is one of my favorites off the album, being a track composed almost entirely of subtle, soft shimmering keyboard work and the soft but still commanding ringing of church bells which add that religious touch I mentioned earlier.

On an unmusical note, the song titles for this album are some of the coolest I've seen in a long while; and though I don't usually try and put a religious spin on lyrics/titles that don't really have one, these do carry a sort of religious feel to them. I'd actually venture a guess that the titles of the songs relate to the Christian faith in some way, but that's pure speculation on my part; the point of all that being that these are just really interesting song titles.

The Stains of the Embodied Sacrifice is a brilliant album by a brilliant artist, and while I'm not a huge fan of the shorter, harsher tracks, I feel that the longer pieces more than make up for those shortcomings. This is an album I'd recommend to fans of any kind of ambient and even to fans of more metallic music, though those who are not well acquainted with ambient and particularly the more harsh side of the genre will definitely need patience with this album. Give it a listen though, and I'm sure you'll get something out of it.

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